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Vacationing with your teenagers?

The TV commercial urges you to give your kids a vacation they’ll never forget. The question is: How will they remember it?

One national survey found that 75 percent of vacationers cited “being together as a family” as the most important reason for summer trips. They probably didn’t quiz the kids. Adolescence is a normal stage of life when teenagers are searching for identity outside of the family, not within it.

While teens look forward to excitement and exploration alone, busy parents may see extra time with their kids as an opportunity for quiet sharing and long, heartfelt talks. These opposing expectations can doom a vacation before it starts.

To make sure that a good time is had by all, put your expectations on the table before you get the suitcases out of the attic, says one expert. And if you want a vacation that suits the whole family, ask everyone to get involved. Try the following:

  • Have a planning session. Ask each family member to come up with a wish list of vacation ideas.
  • Be honest. Vacations often put a strain on the budget, and parents who are worried about money are not going to be relaxed. Tell your kids your financial limits before you begin.
  • Be creative. If traveling is out, have all family members plan unusual day trips. The British call them “mystery tours.”
  • Negotiate. Remember, a week has seven days, so balance your need for rest with your teenagers’ need for action.
  • Compromise. When dreams and desires don’t coincide—mountains versus seashore, for example—put one at the top of the list for next year.
  • Be democratic. See that everyone gets heard and try to reach a mutually satisfying decision.
  • Finalize. Be sure to establish a verbal agreement so everyone becomes fully invested in the final plan. If you can’t achieve this, start over.

One last suggestion: When the vacation is over, arrange a debriefing session. Sit down and talk about what worked and what didn’t. Doing so will give you a fine start for next year’s planning session.