7 Travel Planning Tips with Tweens and Teens

It's summer time and I'm sure many of you are planning your vacations, if not planned out already. I have friends who made arrangements as early as last year pa! We don't travel often but when we do, I take a considerable amount of time and effort to plan each trip, whether it's to a local or an international destination. Iba kasi when traveling with kids -- major considerations would be the budget, interests, and comfort. But there's always a compromise when it comes to our itinerary.

Every family has their own style when it comes to travel planning. In our case, I plan and arrange for everything, but I don't stress too much about it anymore coz my kids are big enough to be independent (it's a different case when you travel with much younger kids). Plus, all you need are readily online now. For this post, it will be all about traveling by plane.

I'm no expert here, but having these two little adults with different interests have been a challenge for me when planning our trips, near or far. I made a lot of mistakes in the past and we all need to adjust as they grow older. In the meantime, here's what works for us, and hope this helps all the mom-planners with tweens and teens like me.

7 Travel Planning Tips with Tweens and Teens

If they are all studying, and spouses have full-time jobs, you can't just pack up and leave anytime you feel like it. So, in our case my first consideration would be the WHEN. When are we all free to take a vacation?
  • When are the school breaks?
    • Summer
    • Sem-break
    • Christmas
  • How long can you be away?
  • Summer season
    • Holy Week
  • Year-end holiday
    • Can you be away on Christmas or New year?
My kids have different school years, so magka-iba din ang summer breaks nila. That means we only have Holy Week plus 3 full weeks between end of May to mid-June to enjoy our "summer vacation" and about two weeks during the holidays. J must file a proper leave of absence in advance before we can finalize anything. We discuss our options as a family, agree on the dates, then I research on interesting local and international destinations that would be nice to visit during those periods.

After knowing when the whole family can travel together, time to think about WHERE you wanna go. (Some would pick a destination first before fixing their schedule, and that's fine. Do what works better for you.)

Since you already know how many free days you have, choose where and how you want to spend it.
  • Narrow down choices to your top 3 para it's faster to decide - ask the kids for suggestions
    • Be sure your passports are all valid if you plan to go abroad
  • Prioritize the different interests of each family member and what they want to do
    • Take it slow and easy? Do you want an adventure? Shopping spree? Tour and sightseeing? Island-hopping? Food trip?
    • Visit amusement parks, beach, museums, entertainment centers, resorts, gadget shopping, etc.?
      • Surf online booking sites to get ideas or ask friends for recommendations
    • Make a rough list of the specific places of interests and have a general idea of what everybody wants out of the trip
  • Consider the safety, efficiency of public transport, food choices, and cost of living in that country. At this age, they can easily ride a train or taxi and pwede na rin sila mamasyal on their own or as a group.
  • How's the weather in that area during your stay?
    • Do you want to stay seaside, mountainside, warm climate or to a much colder place?
    • This will dictate how you will spend your days in your chosen destination
    • Will the climate in that place affect any health conditions of a family member
  • Let them research on their own about the country or place they want to go to so they can convince the parents to pick their choice, hahaha... tama naman, diba? =)
Mahirap mag-decide especially if one wants to go somewhere cooler while the other is thinking of a tropical paradise. The family has to vote on it and compromise. Since they are big enough to make decisions and know what they want, expect a friendly "debate". Prepare for another round when it's time to make the itinerary! =)  At this point, once you know where you're going, start booking!

Whether you go local or international, you should know how much you can and are willing to spend per trip.
  • Decide where you want to splurge or save - set your priorities
    • Budget or luxury (for hotels, airline, food, car service, etc.)? 
    • Watch out for seat sales or hotel promos for your travel dates
  • Do the kids plan to purchase or experience something specific that you need to allocate a budget for?
  • Check the age cut-off for airlines and hotels (even amusement parks and bus rides) -- for 11 or 12 years old, it's either under "kids rate" or adult rate na
  • Check the exchange rate; decide if the kids get to handle their own shopping money or set a budget for them

After deciding on the destination, comparing rates and setting your budget for the airfare, book and confirm your flight details with your chosen airline.
  • Check everything online
    • If you are already sure about your dates, some airlines give lower rates for advance booking so confirm as early as you can
  • If you love to travel, it's good to have those airline travel cards for each member of the family so you can earn miles/points every time you fly
  • Choose flight schedules, preferred seats, other optional flight services you want
    • We all prefer early to mid-morning flights coz no one wants to wake up too early (but again, it will depend on the travel time per destination)
    • My kids prefer window seats all the time, so I make sure I get it for them
      • Some airlines have a surcharge for specific seats so be sure of your selection

There are so many choices for hotels and resorts that it can be overwhelming. Again, will this be something you want to splurge on or be more practical?

Go back to your budget and narrow the search fields based on your criteria and family preferences.
  • Compare packages and rates from direct booking to third party online booking services
  • Consider customer reviews and service ratings
    • Is the place family friendly?
    • Enough attractions to entertain the big kids?
  • Add or remove add-ons like breakfast, airport transfers, etc.
    • We have picky and light eaters so it's not worth it for us to avail of the hotel breakfast buffet (no choice if part of package)
  • Choose room/s that your family will be comfortable in for the duration of your stay
    • Check room size and bed arrangements -- are your kids adult-sized?
      • This is tricky especially if you have 3 or more big kids -- a separate room would be best if within the budget
    • Amenities -- do they have a pool? Gym? Game room? Wi-fi?
    • Number of people allowed per room
    • Availability of daybed or pull-out bed
    • Adjoining rooms available?

I was able to find a very good price for this resort hotel via Traveloka and the whole booking process was smooth and easy. You can also book activities and attractions through Traveloka.

After checking direct rates and comparing different hotels in the area we want, I hit the jackpot booking this two-bedroom villa with a private pool! Hopefully, the service and amenities will meet our expectations. 

Dati kasi kasya pa ako and the two kids in a king-size bed, while J gets the extra pull-out bed. Since they are both much bigger now, hindi na talaga kami pwedeng magsiksikan sa isang kama. Sometimes they want their own beds pa! So finding the right sleeping arrangements would really make or break our stay.

After choosing your final destination, map out a realistic itinerary for the duration for your stay.

List down all the places and activities you want to experience and work out a schedule from there. There should be a consensus.
  • Survey your teens and tweens on their preferences and make a priority list for your "must-see / must-do / must-eat", and a secondary list for other activities and places of interest if time permits
    • Amusement parks, beach, museums, public libraries, gardens, entertainment centers, concert, gadget shopping, outlet shopping, etc.
    • Food destinations - markets, famous restaurants, street food, etc.
  • Create a day to day schedule to maximize your time while still allowing you to immerse in the culture and enjoy the activities you choose to do at a relaxed pace
    • Avoid cramming too many activities in a day (My kids don't want to leave too early and prefer to be back at the hotel before dinner time. We usually just dine at nearby restos. They are not foodies, so they don't really plan about where to eat.)
    • Allow at least one request from each kid (Since they usually want to experience different things, dapat mag-bigayan sila so everyone will be happy.)
    • Don't get upset if they'd rather bum around at the resort or hotel room instead of going out with you (sira ang plano, but I learned to let go -- this happens every time)
  • You have the option to join a tour group or go on your own
    • Online booking sites also have special day tours -- this would be good if the whole family is willing to follow the strict schedule, otherwise, better plan your own
  • Allocate a "free day" where there is no specific activity or tour is scheduled (at least leave half of the day open)
    • You can use this time to explore the hotel/resort or nearby areas, do shopping, go to a park, or simply to relax and do nothing
  • Book your chosen attractions, activities, tours, and transportation services before you leave
    • Print vouchers as needed

When we went to Hong Kong Disney two summers ago, it was close to being an epic fail!
The kids are not big Disney fans and we knew they've outgrown this stuff na. BUT we all have never been to a Disneyland before, so we went for a day trip. It rained. No one wants to queue longer than 30 minutes. The attractions were not attractive enough for them to want to stay longer. In our case, it was not "the happiest place on earth" hahaha! So, when we went to Tokyo, we never considered going to Disney Sea anymore, kasi sayang lang ang one day namin dun if no one will be patient enough to line up for the different rides and attractions.  This is something to think about the next time we plan to go to another amusement or theme park.

I will check out Traveloka again before we leave coz we all want to go to Universal Studios in Singapore. Traveloka is a leading Southeast Asia online travel company that provides a wide range of travel needs in one platform — offers flights, hotels, activities and attractions from various destinations.

For me, when traveling with children big or small, there has to be a balance of fun and learning so I try to incorporate educational tours and attractions that might interest them. I also send links to my kids so they have an idea about the different attractions and tourist spots we are planning to visit. Of course, there has to be some down time kasi we don't want to feel exhausted at the end of each fun-filled day.

If you are going to a resort or to a country when it's their winter time, I think you know what you need to pack. Check the weather at least a week before your departure, that way you can still do some last minute purchases to complete your wardrobe. Pack light. Try.
  • Let the tweens and teens pack their own bags or luggage
    • I still give them a short of list of what to bring, but they can cover the basics already
    • Gadgets are allowed for use at the hotel only, they bring their own cellphones for emergency calls and for taking pictures
    • Footwear is as important as bringing a jacket -- at least bring a second pair appropriate for the destination
  • Moms, we are in charge of the first aid kit and ALL essentials, haha -- walang takas
  • Bring an extra foldable bag or two - so useful to carry pasalubongs and extra shopping load for hand-carry
  • Bring a camera and other paraphernalia - if your kids are hobbyists, then they can bring their own gear
  • Have each kid bring their own backpack or sling that they will carry every day
    • can carry small bottle of water, light snack, hand sanitizer, tissue, cell phone, key cards, tickets, travel journal, etc.
  • Don't forget your valid passports, and be sure to apply for any visa requirement
    • Print all the vouchers and e-tickets and keep in a travel case or envelope
    • Prepare any other travel documents or certificates you may need

We all want a memorable and stress-free vacation and getting the big kids involved during planning will help set their expectations and be more cooperative. I think they will also appreciate our efforts even more knowing that we value their choices and inputs for an enjoyable the family vacation.

How's your experience traveling with children? Do you have tweens and teens too?
Share your tips!

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