By Nancy Schretter
Cruises can be one of the best vacation choices for families with teens. Today’s cruise holidays are filled with teen clubs, high-energy activities and exciting shore excursions. If your family is cruising with teens, here are a few tips to make your vacation easier and a lot more fun:
1. Get your expectations in line. Understand that your teen won’t want to be with you constantly and plan your vacation accordingly. Set times when you expect your teen to be with you, such as for meals and certain family activities. Make sure you and your teen have reviewed these before booking the cruise.
2. Choose cruise ships with lots of activities. Teens tend to be miserable when they’re bored, both on land and at sea. If your teen likes to be physically active, look for cruise ships that offers a wide variety of activities, such as ziplining, ropes courses, ice-skating, bowling, rock climbing, surfing, miniature golf, and basketball courts. Cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have ships that easily fall into this category.
3. Pick a ship with dedicated teen spaces. Cruise lines understand that teens like to have their own places to hang out and they’ve designed their ships accordingly. Not all teen clubs are created alike, however, so research the spaces on the ships you’re considering to make sure they’re awesome.
4. Check on teen program age categories. Cruise lines have different ways of grouping teens for their programs. Choose the option that works best for your family. Make your teen go to the teens’ program activities on the first night of the cruise and again the next day – even if he/she resists. Teen friendships and cliques form within the first 24 hours of the cruise.
5. Look for late night activities and snack options. Most teens tend to be night owls, so choose a ship with teen clubs and activities that stay open late.
6. Pick an itinerary with fun shore excursions. Cruise lines offer a wide variety of destinations and itineraries from which to choose. Select one with plenty of port stops and lots of exciting onshore excursions, adventure tours, and water sports activities that will appeal to your family’s interests. Discuss shore excursions options in advance and try to avoid selecting too many that depart early in the morning.
7. Consider separate cabins. While some families choose to remain in the same cabin, others purchase two staterooms or connecting cabins to give teens some separation and more room to spread out. This arrangement also allows parents to have an easier time dealing with late-rising teens and enjoy some time for themselves.
8. Set the rules in advance. To avoid having your cruise turn into a vacation nightmare, establish the rules in advance and be prepared to enforce them. Let your teen know when you expect to see them at meals, discuss activities in which you expect them to participate, set a firm evening curfew, and ask them to let you know where they are while onboard. Many parents use walkie-talkies or a dry-erase board posted on their stateroom door to communicate with their teens on the ship. Review cruise line rules or codes of conduct with your teens and make sure they’re being observed.
9. Establish a budget. Set a daily amount that your teen can spend as they wish, such as on video games, specialty food items, or in the gift shop. Monitor your account to make sure there are no surprises. Review rules for cell phone usage and other outside expenditures before booking and again after boarding the ship. In addition, buy the unlimited soda packages if your teen loves soft drinks.
10. Let them sleep in late. Teens love sleeping in on vacation. Room service and 24-hour dining options make it easy for everyone. If you have a shore excursion that leaves early in the morning, make sure to remind them the night before.
Nancy Schretter is the Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network.
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