Highs And Lows Of Traveling With A Teen And A Tween


Take Your Kid To Work Day is this week (April 28th to be exact). My blogger-buddy, Mummy-T (from TravelsWithANineYearOld) suggested that some of us traveling parents join in with the fun – even though many of us aren’t currently working – and write about traveling full-time with our kids instead. (Links to posts by the writers contributing to this project are at the end of this post).

My boys are 10 and 14 respectively. You couldn’t pick two more radically different personalities if you tried. It never ceases to amaze me that two such different people came from the same parents. Our year-long, 24×7, all-together, all the time experiment is as much about the dynamics of four people traveling together as it is about traveling with a 10-year-old who is still mostly a child and a just-about-an-adult 14-year-old.

10 is the perfect age to do a long trip with a child. Your child is young enough to get child discounts and likely small enough to share a bed with Mom or Dad if necessary but old enough to understand, appreciate and remember what he learns about other countries and cultures on your travels. He’s young enough to be happy with a playground stop every so often but starting to pay attention to the wider world and open and eager to learn all he can.

Practically, a 10-year-old can carry his own pack, self-entertain (mostly) on buses and trains and doesn’t need any special equipment or considerations. If he’s fit and healthy, he’s more than able to lead your way on long, steep trails and bike rides. Our BigB does not like the attention we get from friendly mothers and grand-mothers as we travel about but I like the way this opens the door for me to be able to talk to them about their kids. The only challenge we’ve had with him on our trip has been keeping him in reading material, for which the Kindle has been an invaluable resource.


The photo on the left above of CAM, my 14-year-old and me, was taken last October. The one on the right was taken yesterday. In six months he’s grown almost six inches and changed from a child into a young man. Although we didn’t plan it this way (who would?) we’ve spent the last six months in the eye of his adolescent storm as all of the physical and emotional changes associated with this important time in a child’s life hit in full force. Given that, if I say that 14 is a very tough age to travel with, you can appreciate that I’m speaking from a fairly extreme experience. Take a minute and think about what you were like at 14. Now think about what you would have been like, at 14, if you’d been spending all day every day with your Mom, Dad and brother. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further.

That said, traveling with a teen does have some great benefits: we can go out in the evenings leaving our kids safe and happy in our hostel; CAM’s pack is bigger than mine and he’s able to carry more than me. He’s not so much learning direct facts about the places we’ve been as synthesizing information about world history, events and personalities and developing his own theories. We recently spent a couple of hours on a train discussing the motivations behind the U.S. involvement in South-East Asia in the 60s and 70s, the Cold War and the Vietnam War. I have to work to keep up with such conversations.

Speaking of work…
If you have more than one child – or can remember your own relationship with a brother or sister – you know that siblings fight. Sometimes the fights are genuine “I hate my brother” fights but more often it’s a constant hum of bicker, bicker, bicker. It’s enough to drive anyone nuts. There are times when they’re both happy but only because they’re both fighting with us and then times when one is happy but the other isn’t. The saving grace about all of this is that even at 10 and 14, they’re still kids and so have a kid-timeline on almost everything. A grumpy morning doesn’t necessarily mean a grumpy afternoon and vice versa. And kids are silly. We were sitting in a cafe the other day, all four of us laughing ourselves silly over I don’t know what and I found myself thinking “this is just so much fun”.

Murph and I are already scheming about how to fit longer vacations into our lives after we return to the normal work-school routine. CAM, our very reluctant traveler, has started talking about “doing a trip like this with some of my buddies when I’m older” and “when I’m telling my kids stories about this trip, I’ll tell them about …”. BigB is a little more reserved in this enthusiasm, but even he says that “being together as a family is pretty cool”.

You can read about extended travel with kids of all ages from toddlers to teens by clicking through the links below. Happy reading!
Take Your Child To Work by
The Best Age for Traveling With Children by
Travels With A 10-year-old by
Long Term Travel With Young Kids Under 6 by
The Age of Perfection by
What’s Like To Travel With a 3-year-old by
The World Is Our Playground by
Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers by
The Amazing Adventures of Baby Cole by (and this babe’s got his own travel blog here too).

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About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

28 thoughts on “Highs And Lows Of Traveling With A Teen And A Tween

  1. Rita K

    Terrific post! Makes me wish we had done a trip with our kids when they were young – however, knowing my daughter’s personality she would have been more than a bit difficult to travel with at 14!

  2. Shawna

    I would have complained the entire trip if I had traveled this way with my parents when I was 14. And it would have been the best time of my life. It is great that you are doing this with them now.

  3. Fiona

    I have a tween that I also home school. Understand entirely the issues of being together constantly. The value of having other friends around to vent to cannot be underestimated!

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  6. Theodora

    My parents took me Eurorailing at a similar age. The embarrassment was hideous. But now — what a great thing for them to have done with me!

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  11. Marilia

    I guess teens are the more challenging ones. Thinking about this makes me more at ease of the difficulties I find with my 4-year old. You boy changed so much in only six months!

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  13. Nicole

    I do remember 14, especially a family trip at that age when I wanted to crawl under the seat rather than be seen with my family. I’ve only got a year and a half till I have one. Yikes! :)

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  17. Heather Greenwood Davis

    Good point about teens and parents. You’re right, they would’ve been the last people I wanted to be with at 14. Still I’m sure in the long run he’ll look back on the trip as the life changing experience it is. Enjoying your posts.

  18. The Dropout

    Oh, the poor teen and poor you!
    I can imagine you had some pretty rough times but I’m sure he’ll look back on the experience with much fondness (like Theodora does).
    Great post, completely different from traveling with a baby!

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  22. Lisa

    Just came across this post after Colleen posted it on her roundup on Travel Mamas. “The constant hum of bicker, bicker, bicker” – that describes my girls perfectly!! :)

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