There’s no shortage of things to do in New York City, but keeping teens interested and engaged can be tricky. Combine boys and girls and you up the ante even more. I’m just back from a trip with two families and four kids ranging from 12-17 years old and we had a blast. Here are our top travel tips, some of which I learned back in my days of doing travel stories for TV. These apply to any vacation, regardless of location:
1. Include the kids in the planning. Before we left home, we asked for input on what they wanted to do, what they wanted to eat, etc. We combined their ideas with ours (their parents) and everyone had a great time. And if they're way too cool to give you input, tell them without it, they'll just have to go along with your itinerary.
2. Create a schedule and make it stick by buying tickets ahead of time. It will keep your group on track and eliminate deciding what to do on the fly, which is usually a disaster with kids involved. (“I want to go there!” “No, let’s go here instead.” “Ugh, that’s so stupid!” Yeah… good times, good times!) On the days we didn’t have a schedule, we floundered more and did less. So create an itinerary. Even better is a schedule with some things sprinkled in that the kids have chosen.
3. That said, don’t over schedule. Leave a little time for meandering along the streets, wandering into stores or cafes and stopping to watch the many spectacles that are part of the Big Apple, like the body-painted, nearly-naked women we saw in Times Square, a huge hit with the boys and a shock to the girls!
4. Getting from one part of a big city to another can eat up valuable time and become frustrating so be sure to schedule things that are in the same area on the same day. You’ll save time, money on transportation, and frustration.
5. Be sure the teens have spending money, whether it’s their own or you give them a bit. It puts them in charge of their financial decision making and gets them off of your wallet.
6. Schedule in some down time, even if it’s only a couple of hours in the evening. This is supposed to be a vacation, right? Play cards in the hotel lounge, have a family movie night, or play a game. We often travel with our fave game, "Catch Phrase." It's portable, loads of fun and has been the source of much hilarity.