What No One Tells You About Camping With A Teenager

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I know first-hand how hard it is to gather the troops for a family vacation.

I’ve owned a lodging facility for 26 years and folks confide in me daily that sports, work, shuttling kids, homework, and yardwork make it almost impossible for families to get together on vacation.

I have the distinct advantage of personal and business experience to urge everyone to make commitment to vacation with their family a priority!

The folks who review my business online typically say it was so great to have the kids off their phones and technology. Camping is a wonderful way to accomplish that!

Let the meltdown begin…

Do you remember how hard it was to quit smoking or stay true to that keto diet? Well folks, that’s what your kids will be going through even thinking about it!

You’ll get eyerolls, probably a few slamming doors, someone exclaiming, “Shoot me now!”, and maybe, if they pull out all the stops, a few tears.

Try not to take their apprehension personally, remember how anxious you were when you had to give up chocolate to be on the keto diet?

Before You Go

  1. Choose Your Destination with Everyone In Mind.

You know your tween or teen better than anyone. Do they like to climb? Are they drawn to water? Would you be wise to to camp near an activity or attraction?

The destination may not be their choice-and learning that they cannot get their own way all the time is a great life-lesson.

A good compromise might be to choose where you want to go and make sure the campground has an activity or attraction that will wow them and encourage them not to whine too much.

Some fun activities and attractions might include:

• Fishing • Hiking • Water sports • Water parks • Theme parks • Shopping mall • Horseback riding

They are probably not too happy and willing to thing outside of the box – so think for them!

  1. A Tent Of Their Own – Or Maybe a Hammock

If your beloved teen is rolling their eyes about even going camping, don’t expect them to do a dance if they have to sleep in the same tent as you.

Teens typically crave their own space – a separate tent would probably suit them fine! Even a hammock would be a welcome private space for some.

I did a quick search online and there were many tents with great reviews, that would be perfect for 1 or 2 teens ranging in price from $32 to $80. Not a huge investment to give them some private space. Walmart, Lowes and Target all have great selections that won’t break the bank.

  1. Plan the Trip with Them

There are lots of things you can decide on before the vacation starts:

• The destination • What type of campground • Attractions to visit • Create a list of outdoor activities • Borrow/rent/buy gear like kayaks, canoes, tubes, life jackets, bikes • Cook and bake food to freeze and bring • Plan meals • Decide if allowing your teen to bring a friend • Gather some card games and board games to bring • Decide what part technology will play in your vacation

Hopefully, your teen will feel better if there’s a give and take in the planning process and make the whole process more enjoyable for your family. The vacation is not all about them but getting them on board should help get the vacation off to a great start.

  1. Discuss the Use or Ban on Technology

Technology to teens is like their lifeblood. I’ve seen teens that have a total meltdown when their phone broke.

Textrequest reports that teens send an average of almost 4,000 texts a month. (https://www.textrequest.com/blog/texting-statistics-answer-questions/) With those numbers, you must realize that to completely ban technology on vacation would be a big problem for your teen.

A great compromise might be to allow your teen to decide what times during the day they can text/game/call/surf and still keep the majority of the day tech free.

Finding a balance will be key to preventing your vacation to be ruined with an angry and resentful teen.

When my son was young, I allowed him to play on his Game Boy anytime we were in the car. Although I wasn’t happy that he was gaming, it sure made him want to go for long rides. It made our trips cross country in an RV seem like heaven on earth!

You might consider making evenings tech free. Teens might think that nights are a bit boring without TV and gaming so you could break out the cards and games to pass the time.

Remember too that access to WiFi and cell service may not exist where you are going. If you know that in advance, you need to decide whether to share that info with the kids.

Work out the details and get the discuss out in the open before you leave. The last thing put the hammer down on technology enroute to the campground.

  1. Are Friends Allowed to Come?

Bringing a friend can make or break your vacation. Choose wisely.

Your teen might be a bit anxious about not being with friends, not texting friends if you ban technology, being in an unfamiliar place, not having all the comforts of their home and room, and having to spend more one-on-one time with you than they are used to.

If you choose wisely, bringing a friend can be like winning the lottery! Your teen will have someone to go exploring, play at the waterpark, go fishing, hang out, play cards and maybe, even have fun with!

Bringing another teen has the potential to ruin your vacation too.

If you end with a Nellie Negative about everything from bugs to outhouses to meals to the weather, it could be a disaster.

A negative teen is a force to be reckoned with. It will drive you nuts and your teen might feel peer pressure to take on the same point of view so now you’ll have two complaining teenagers instead of one!

Have your child find a friend that really wants to camp, either because they have had a blast in the past or that they always wanted to camp.

Remember that you will be spending gobs of time with their friend, including sleeping in close quarters. It should be someone that you know quite well and has an energetic personality.

If your plans include athletic activities make sure this friend is up for the challenge too.

This is the one time you don’t have to feel guilty about steering your child to invite a teen that you know will be a good fit. This is your vacation too!

OK, Now We’re Here!

  1. Give your teen some responsibility

Teenagers think they are oh so smart and we are stupid. If you want to give your teen tasks to be responsible for, discuss it with them, assign the tasks, and don’t micromanage.

Give your teen (and their friend) space to try, make mistakes, and win! They will never learn how to put up their tent if you always jump in a rescue them.

Even if they are not jumping for joy about setting up their part of the campsite, it’ll keep them busy and hopefully help them feel proud of themselves.

Here are some tasks that teens can be responsible for:

• Setting up their tent and any equipment they bring • Meal preparation – catching a fish , chopping veggies, making a dip, etc. • Helping with the cooking – even if it’s just making toast or sandwiches • Campfires – gathering kindling, going to the camp store to buy wood or finding it in the woods and keeping the fire going all night • Send them to the camp store to buy things you forgot or an ice cream for everyone

  1. Giving Them Some Alone Time

Being stuck for an extended period of time with your parents is not a dream come true for most teenagers, even if you are on vacation!

Your best bet is the night before, give them your schedule for the next day and let them figure out when they want to head for bed and get up in the AM.

Teens like to hit the hay and rise and shine later than us old folk, it’s their vacation too, let them have some control over their day.

Having them in their own space will give you the freedom to get up and at em without hearing your teen grumble about you making noise and waking them up.

If they have their own tent or hammock, stay out of it unless you suspect some fowl play. It will probably not be tidy, get over it. If you’re remote camping, I would peek in to make sure there’s no food left out. Your teen wouldn’t be too thrilled if one of Mother Nature’s creatures paid a visit during the night!

An activity that might be fun for some tweens and teens is a scavenger hunt.

About 30 years ago, I did what was probably the first “Selfie Scavenger Hunt” in recorded history. We got a list of things to photograph – this was so long ago, we had to take the photos with a Polaroid camera (remember them?)

We did this hunt by limousine and it was one of the funniest nights of my life!

Try to recreate this fun game with your kids. Give them a list of things that you feel safe about them photographing and tell them that the photos must be selfies or twofies to qualify. Make the prizes for the most selfies be things they REALLY would want. Maybe more tech time would interest them?? HA!

By the way, my group won because the list of scavenger hunt items included a cow. We were in downtown Boston on this hunt. I grew up in a suburb of Boston and there was a famous steak house that had life-size cows out front. We ZOOMED down Rt 1 in our limo, jumped on the cows, had someone take a picture of us, got 150 points for it and WON! Yeeehaaa!

  1. Enjoy Each Other and All Those Activities You Pre-Planned

When planning your day, make sure you bring any of the following items you think you might need:

• Rain gear • Water • Closed toe shoes • Sunscreen • Snacks • A fully charged cell phone (see how to keep the phone charged while camping) • Medical kit • Hat • Pocket knife • Safety items including but not limited to flashlight, compass, gps, waterproof matches, whistle

If you’re headed out to a water park or other man-made activity, bring wads of cash too!

The memories you make on this trip will last a lifetime.

Keep your sense of humor by your side and try to spark conversations about what your teen loves. This might help them enjoy the whole experience.

There will definitely be great and not so great moments on your camping trip but hopefully, all the suggestions above will make this trip your best yet!

feature image credit: Photo by Collin on Reshot