There are some aspects of parenting that, like fine wine, improve with age. Vacationing with your kids is one of them. Here are seven reasons why traveling with teenagers beats traveling with toddlers:
They can pack themselves.
While it behooves any reasonable helicopter parent to double check that the ski gloves are in fact in the suitcase as opposed to on the floor next to it, for the most part, your teenage children are capable of figuring out what to bring along on a trip. It's important to let them know the anticipated weather of the location and what, if any, dress up occasions will be required of them. But beyond that, they tend to be pretty efficient packers.
As for when they forget their underwear, remember it still beats schlepping diapers.
They will handle all your electronics.
Trust me, not a phone charger will be forgotten at home, at least not theirs. My kids are so thorough, in fact, that after we thanked our Boston friends for housing us for the better part of a week, we swept them clean of all their chargers and drove away. With her phone battery on life support, our hostess sent us a last-gasp text: "U have r chargers. Pls return!" OK, so maybe she won't be inviting us back any time soon, but heck, all chargers look alike, right?
Electronics are the new Traveler's Prayer. They pack small, entertain large and teenagers would sooner forget their underwear (and do) than their smartphones and tablets. They will also download movies to watch on the plane, make sure Magic Jack is installed on all phones before overseas trips, and invariably will have apps that can convert money, translate from Russian, and identify what Reggae music is playing in the Kauai surf shop. Teenagers, with the fastest texting thumbs in the world, were able to flag flight delays before the airline announced them, book an airport hotel room on the spot, and have Siri tell them which pizza place delivered to the middle of nowhere.
Toddlers? You still must entertain them for hours and their stuff weighs more.
Teens on vacation don't care about meals unless you do.
If you're down with it, your teenagers will be happy to call a bag of chips and some watermelon slices "dinner." They also can sit two tables away in a restaurant and be thrilled if you let them text their friends the whole meal. Hey, they're on vacation -- and you are on a vacation from asking them not to do that.
Toddlers, on the other hand, scream and carry on if you forget to feed them. They behave irrationally when presented with new and different food. And if you try and sit them two tables away, someone from child protective services is likely to object.
Teenagers make good sherpas.
My son turns into the personal butler I wished I had whenever we are traveling. I think going through the TSA metal detector activates his testosterone and he gets all macho on me, insisting on carrying the heaviest bag, holding open doors, and without mocking, points out that my glasses are on top of my head when I can't find them. I wish I could clone Traveling Teenage Son.
Younger children may insist that you let them carry their own backpack, but dollars to donuts, you can count on that thing winding up on your shoulder.
You can once again have sex on vacation.
OK, come on. Did you really think that you were the first person on the planet to know the sands of St. Lucia in the biblical sense? All that went away, of course, when you started your family and began to bring the kids along. Once you got them settled down for the night, chances are you were too tired to do anything but start the sheet show yourself.
The good news is that when your kids get older, the last thing in the world they want to do is join you and their dad as you walk along the beach in the moonlight. Coast is clear again.
Teenagers push you to do things.
When kids are young, we hide behind their need for naps as a reason to cut short the afternoon's museum visit. And why yes, we just might snooze a bit ourselves while they sleep. But when you have teenagers in tow, they keep things moving.
This explains how we came to getting picked up at 2 a.m. one Maui morning by a van that would deposit us on top of the Haleakala crater to watch the sunrise and then have us race down the volcano on bikes.
Teenagers don't need you to play with them, although it's still fun.
It's one of those parenting laws: Eventually our kids outgrow their need for us. When it comes to having a family vacation, I want it to be more than just a few photos snapped by a passerby of the four of us standing in front of a famous building. I want it to be that we shared the experience as well.
My teens now ski better, surf better, run faster and do pretty much everything involving any degree of athleticism better than we do. But we make accommodations. I'm fine making a few runs in the morning and then enjoying my spiced apple cider on the ski area sun deck. I'm equally fine paddling out into the ocean with my kids and watching them ride the waves to the shore from my perch. Maybe what I like most is when we all kind of just hang out by the pool reading our books. We also have taken cooking classes together in Italy, poked around the ruins of Ephesus together, and ducked out of some of the world's finest museums in search of the perfect gelato.
Toddlers? They still throw sand in my face and think it's fun.