The best been-there approaches to some of the most maddeningly familiar phrases uttered by teenage travelers.

By Erin Gifford

You work your whole life, all year long, to get 10, maybe 12 paid days off...that are then ruined by your kids and their teenage attitude and elaborate eye rolls (and slow-burn side-eyes) and backseat harrumphing—as if you were torturing them and not, in fact, taking them on a trip that you would have given your left leg for when you were their age. Yeah...no. There is no way in hell that’s going to happen this year: Your kids will not drag you down on your vacation.

When Your Kid Says: Get your camera out of my face, Mom. I do not want my picture taken!

Your Thought Bubble Is: 

“Says the girl whose  Instagram feed is roughly 95% hip pop–skinny arm–duck face selfies and 0% camera shyness!”

The Approach:

Ask once and let it go. Here’s the thing about teenagers: More than anything, they want to appear cool and grown-up. When you take them out of their native habitat, when you bring them someplace where nothing is familiar and no one knows them, they might be perceived as not cool and not grown-up. And nothing is less cool and less grown-up than huddling with your siblings on the rim of the Grand Canyon while your mommy takes a posed photo to use for a holiday card. Also, of course: Sneak photos when your kids aren’t looking—especially since candid pics often look so much better than anything posed (just use the collage option for that holiday card!). And if you want to play it next-level duplicitous, ask your daughter for advice on how to take good selfies or have her show you Facetune...then snap a picture of the two of you together.

When Your Kid Says: “Guh. Do I have to spend my birthday at the Louvre*?”

*Substitute as needed: a national park, Buckingham Palace, the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial...

Your Thought Bubble Is:

“I’ve raised an incurious ingrate!” 

The Approach:

Start by being honest with yourself. When left to your own devices at home, are you really the type to spend a full day wandering around a museum? Of course your kid is going to call BS on waiting 30 minutes in a scrum of tourists to catch a fleeting glimpse of the Mona Lisa (she’s so little IRL!). Before you go wall-to-wall culture vulture, remember to alternate the fun (people-watching, shopping, thrill rides) with the edifying. Bear in mind, too, that planning a vacation doesn’t have to fall entirely on you—especially when your big itin reveal might trigger some major  ’tude. Involve your kids in the process; ask them where they might want to go.

And when your daughter asks, “Do they have Sephora there?” and your son wants to find an Under Armour outlet, maybe click around and do a little research, then translate it into a language they’ll understand: hashtags and handles (#antelopecanyon, @londoneye). You can also consider doing hands-on experiences: If your daughter likes to bake, suggest a macaron-making class. When all else fails, appeal to their Instagram devotion. So if you find yourself in Paris, splurge on the tour that puts everyone in their own vintage motorcycle sidecar, being piloted around by a savvy local hipster. Most importantly, as you’re big-picture plotting the whole trip, be sure to schedule in alone time—for your kids as well as yourself. If they’re independent, give them a long leash and split up for an hour or so, then meet back in the same place. Let them go to the pool by themselves. Let them roam. Let them be teenagers. And let yourself drink a glass of wine.

When Your Kid Says: “Go away. It’s way too early. Come back at noon.”

Your Thought Bubble Is:

“Get your lazy butts out of bed! I’m the chump who’s going to end up driving in rush hour unless we hit the bricks half an hour ago.”

The Approach:

 It’s one thing when your kids sleep the day away at home, where you can putter around your house and chip away at your to-do list. But it’s a whole other thing when you antsily kill time in some soul-blackening motel lobby waiting for Aurora and Rip Van Winkle to grace the world with their awakenings. The compromise is letting them sleep as late as possible...within reason. This could mean that you wake up, eat your own breakfast, gas up the SUV, pack the trunk, stash some bananas and granola bars and those little go-cartons of  OJ in the backseat...and only then should you stir his lordship and her ladyship and entice them to continue their precious slumber in the car. If there is a day on your itinerary when you truly have to move at some ungodly hour—even by human, non-vampire/teenager standards—do them (but mostly yourself) a favor and give them plenty of notice. Like, warn them three days ahead of time, then two, and then again the night before.

When Your Kid Says: “Mooommm, if they don’t have chicken fingers, I’m not eating. And, ew, their ketchup tastes too tomato-y.”

Your Thought Bubble Is:

"Grow up. You’re 15. You can’t eat chicken fingers your entire life!” 

The Approach:

First of all, do not blame yourself. Taking your kids out into the larger world has a way of making you confront all your imagined shortcomings. Yes, you meant to cultivate their sophisticated palates over the past decade the same way you meant to drop 10 pounds before getting into a swimsuit on this trip. Then, in the interest of their blood-sugar levels and (subsequently) your sanity, meet them halfway and stick to places with at least a few menu go-tos, like burgers and pasta and fried anything (useful foreign terms: frit, frito, Francese, Schnitzel).

If you find yourself in a foreign McDonald’s—girl, it happens—dare your kids to at least try something they can’t order at home (poutine in Canada). And never underestimate the power of cruising the snack aisle at the local grocery store, no matter where you are in the world.

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