Traveling with older children is a mixed bag. You don't have the childcare issues you did when they were younger, but you do have to deal with mood swings
, attitudes, and the occasional, "I don't want to do that!" response. But you can still plan a great family vacation, even if you have a tween at home. Just remember to give your child options, and ask for their input. And then you can enjoy your vacation together.
Put Them to Work
The best way to get your preteen excited about the family vacation, is to include him or her in the planning process. When it comes time to plan the vacation, offer up brochures, magazines, and travel books, and have your child write down places he'd like to go. Even if you don't make it there, it lets your child know that his opinions matter. When you narrow down your choices, ask for your tween's input on the final destination.
Be sure to keep your preteen busy while on vacation, because tweens bore easily. He can be in charge of the map and of tracking your progress with a highlighter. He can also be on the lookout for places to stop for lunch or dinner. Once you arrive at your destination, ask your preteen to keep a list of items you might need from the grocery store or pharmacy.
Bring a Friend on Your Family Vacation
Consider bringing one of your child's friends along on the family vacation, especially if your child has no siblings, of if his or her siblings are much older or younger.
Pack a Goody Bag
You thought your child left goody bags behind when he entered middle school? Think again. Even preteens enjoy receiving a bag of fun, so be sure to pack a bag full of car or plane activities
, treats, books, a journal and maybe a hand-held computer game or two. The activities will keep your child busy on long car or plane rides, and the treats will hold your child until it's time for the next meal.
Give Them Options
Be sure you give your tween options while on the trip. You can have your tween pick from two restaurant suggestions, or you can have your child choose between two activities
. Giving your child some control over the day's events is important, and may be enough to prevent the brooding and pouting that often go along with the family vacation.
Allow for Downtime
Preteens need a little downtime every now and then to recharge and regroup. Be sure you child has time alone to watch television, read a book, text friends, or just rest. For some children, 30 minutes is all that's needed. Others may require more time in order to regroup. Be sure you allow for some time alone every day on your family vacation, and if your trip is going to be an extended one, be sure to build in rest days every now and then. For both you and your child.