Drag that wanderlust out of the too-hard basket, dust it off, and get travelling with your teenagers. We chat with Nicole Edgar, who has a tip or two about making the most of overseas trips with older children.
By Sophie Cullen
Some might call Nicole Edgar’s itinerary ambitious, others plain crazy. She insists that with the right ingredients, it was a walk in the park. In fact, parks weren’t the only stops covered by Nicole and her 10 and 13-year-old daughters on their recent exploration of Europe. The family ticked off London, Paris, Munich, Salzburg, Zagreb, Ljubljana Dubrovnik, Venice, Florence, Rome and a cruise of the Mediterranean. Here are Nicole’s top pointers for easy international travel with teenagers and older kids.
Get your teenagers involved in the planning
Giving teens a role in the lead-up to your trip is a fail-safe way to snag their interest, insists Nicole. “Ask them what they want to see and do,” she says. Looking at guidebooks and maps together is a good start. Placing teenagers in charge of their belongings and delegating responsibility during the trip is also important.
Shake it up
Combine new experiences with creature comforts, learning opportunities with photo opportunities. “We mixed major tourist icons like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, with Disneyland Paris and German war history,” says Nicole. “Our trip was educational, it was scenic, it was touristy and it was fun.”
Make it relevant
Europe makes it easy to experience history, literature, art, music and sport. “My daughter was studying Pompeii at school,” says Nicole. “When we went to Pompeii she was so engrossed in what she was seeing because she could relate to it and was interested in it.”
Keep travel diaries
“I’ve always had my kids write travel diaries in their own words,” says Nicole. “They can keep a memento of their perspective at that age – what they got excited about and what comments they made about things.”
Bring electronic devices
While usage should be limited during the day, Nicole is all for her kids packing their iPads and cameras. She sees devices as a tool for keeping teenagers engaged and as a welcome distraction after lots of sightseeing. “Get them to take photos of the trip from their perspective and keep in contact with their friends,” she says. “Load the device up with books and movies to help kill time on long flights and train journeys.”
Start a tradition
For Nicole’s family, this has been to get a selfie in front of every major monument they visited. “We’ve got a family selfie at the Eiffel Tower, on a Venetian gondola, on the London Bridge and the Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria. We’ve got good memories all over Europe!”
Keep it simple
When it comes to logistics, straightforward is always the way to go. “We travelled through Europe by train, for example,” says Nicole. “Everywhere I picked to stay was within a 10-minute walk of the station, saving us money on transfers.”
Slot in time to relax
Treading the cobblestones and seeing major monuments in the peak of summer heat is exhausting. “I tried to pick accommodation that had air-conditioning and swimming pools, so we could get home, jump in the pool and cool off,” says Nicole. “Try not to be constantly on the go; allow some downtime.”
Have an emergency plan
Nicole gave her girls tags with contact numbers with their international codes, in case they got lost. She recommends having a plan in case you get split up in crowded places, and also having the hotel address and telephone on hand. Carrying the hotel’s business card in a pocket or on a lanyard around their necks is one suggestion.
Have plenty of food
Nicole recommends starting the day with a good breakfast. “If breakfast was included,” she says, “we might take some fruit and an extra croissant in a snap lock bag for a snack.”
11. Allow independence
Nicole’s eldest was 13 at the time of their trip, but for older teenagers especially, freedom from Mum and Dad can be a relief for everyone. Where possible, Nicole booked interconnecting hotel rooms so the family could have separate but secure bathrooms and bedrooms. She suggests setting ground rules but allowing teenagers to come and go to the pool within a resort, for example.