Family holidays when the kids are little are often a breeze. Think lazy days on the beach, buckets and spades, ice-creams and kids club. Okay, they’re not always idyllic – especially if the youngsters get ill or if their routine flies out the window. But family holidays seem to get trickier as your off-spring enter their teens.
Here are the best ways to enjoy a break, with a gaggle of teens in tow. We’ve kept it local for Covid-related reasons, but these are great tips whether you’re exploring your own province or heading abroad.
Get buy-in early
Teens have a permanent case of FOMO. They can’t bear the thought of missing out on parties or action while they are away with their parents. Don’t take it personally. Expect a little resistance, especially when lockdown eases and they have the choice of hanging out with their friends or holidaying with their folks. The best way to overcome initial murmurings of dissent in the ranks is to get your teens involved in the planning from the get-go. Road trips are fun to plan. Let your teens explore different routes, consider pitstops and even have a say in the final destination. Excited teens are happy teens.
Find balance – and boundaries
The last thing you want is for your teens to be glued to their phones for the entire trip. This is about family bonding. We all need to relax and unwind, and the constant sight of them on devices may just send you over the edge. Banning devices is not the answer (cue immediate mutiny). Discuss fair boundaries with your teens and decide on a plan. For example, you may agree to devices in the car and for an hour in the morning and the evening. Outside of the agreed times they need to be out and about with the family, reading or exploring.
It’s also important to consider everyone in the family group. Younger kids may want to visit a bird park or aquarium, while teens might want to take in a movie or potter around the shops. Consider splitting your days, for example, taking one afternoon to focus on one child’s needs – and balancing the scales the next day with another.
Throw in adventure
Of course, this one depends entirely on the interests and personality of your teen, but most teens love a dash of adrenaline.
Here are just a few ideas:
- Take them on Africa’s longest toboggan run – a 1.7 kilometre track whooshing through Mpumalanga’s Long Tom Pass
- Step into Graskop’s glass elevator for the 51-metre descent in the Graskop Gorge (those brave enough can sign up for the bridge swing too)
- Get your blood pumping zip-lining at the beautiful Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort just outside Citrusdal
- Go canoeing along the waterways and estuaries of St Lucia’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park, keeping an eye for hippos and crocs along the way
- Explore Jonkershoek on a Mountain Scooter with Scootours in Stellenbosch
- Experience some of South Africa’s best white-water rafting on the Ash River just outside Clarens
Sharmila Ragunanan, Marketing Manager, Dream Hotels & Resorts, believes that we’re spoilt for choice in South Africa: “Whether you’re fishing at Jozini Tiger Lodge, or hiking at Little Switzerland in the Drakensberg, kids will seek out fun and adventure. It makes for memorable family holidays!”
Give them space – and independence
When it comes time to chill out, Fancourt Estate in George is hard to beat. Hop on a few bikes from the Leisure Centre, lace-up your boots for a stroll along the walking trails or flop at the pool – the teens will quickly discover Fancourt’s laid-back Teen Lounge (with Internet access) where young guests can kick back and make new friends during their holidays.
For Peter Dros, Sales & Marketing Director of Fancourt, space and independence are both key ingredients for a happy holiday. His top tips for travelling with teens:
- Choose a destination where they feel safe to roam. They’re spreading their wings, and keen to enjoy the holiday their way, but you want them to be safe and secure.
- Find activities which bridge the generation gap. The Garden Route has plenty to keep everyone happy, including boat cruises and game drives.
- Make sure there are other kids for your teens to hang out with. Fancourt’s Teen Lounge is a relaxed space, and particularly handy if the folks want to hit the golf course or spa.
- Spend time outdoors.
Make sure the independence extends to your brood packing their own bags, helping pack the car, looking after valuables – even budgeting a little holiday pocket money.
Make sure there is a great wi-fi
Kids love to be connected. And honestly, your best options are either zero wi-fi (completely off the grid) or strong, free, unlimited wi-fi for multiple devices. There is nothing more frustrating than hearing kids moan about sketchy reception all day. Make sure your accommodation has great wi-fi – and then agree on the boundaries discussed above.
Keep them fed – and let them sleep
There’s no doubt about it, teens can be hormonal, moody and temperamental. Take a deep breath and remember that it’s not their fault. Most moods can be managed with good food, snacks and plenty of sleep.
Your teens may also be night owls (especially if the Covid-lockdown has played havoc with their body clock), trooping off to bed at odd hours and sleeping until noon. Best advice? Leave sunrise excursions for another time, let sleeping teens lie, and plan all adventures for later in the day – after a massive brunch.