When you picture your upcoming Disney vacation, you don’t usually imagine a surly-faced teenager in the corner of your pristine vision of the experience your family will have. It’s never lost on me that most of Disney’s marketing images seem to skip over that 13 – 17 age range that can seem to make a full-time job out of disapproving. I’m lucky enough to have two teens who now go the other way entirely, becoming child-like fun when they enter the Disney theme parks. However, that wasn’t always the case; it was touch and go there for a while. So, today I thought it might be a good idea to share some teenager survival tips to keep your family vacation moving smoothly and keeping their emo tendencies to a minimum. Here are a few of mine to start.
Get Them Involved From the Beginning
My experience with teenagers is that most of their feelings stem from an internal power struggle. Now, I’m no psychologist, but it does make sense to me that as my kids are growing, it can be hard to find the balance between independent autonomy while also being held to a certain standard of rules. I can see how this internal conflict could spill over into situations where they seemingly don’t have much to complain about, which is why I’ve learned to bring them into the management team from the beginning.
People feel included when their opinion is valued, which means that a great way to keep your teen’s temperament under control is to start in the planning stages by asking for their opinion. If your kids are like mine, you might find they have a whole new perspective and some great ideas that you hadn’t considered.
Allow Time for Solo Adventuring
Everyone in the family will thrive with a little personal space, though it isn’t something we easily come across on vacation. When the situation is already made difficult by growing personalities, allowing time for everyone to take a breath by themselves can save the day.
This one depends on the capability of your teenagers and how comfortable you are with being separated from them, though even the simplest things can make a huge difference. For example, sending them down to the pool for a swim alone or letting them stay behind and catch up on that ever-important Insta feed while you go for a walk can be the few minutes they need to get things into perspective. As they get older, you might even consider designating a few hours in the park to split up and let them find their own adventure; it can make for excellent dinner conversation when there are different experiences to share.
Adjust Your Expectations
If you take an annual Disney trip and like to replicate the same experience each time, you might need to adjust your expectations in advance. If you have a moody teen, they might not want to have the traditional photo with Mickey Mouse the way they used to, and to avoid the argument, it could be better just to accept that. It might be a nicer idea to send them off to collect the snacks rather than force them to stand in line and smile at the camera.
Giving in on the little things might give you the bargaining power you need to get something that is really important to you sorted without a hitch, like a family photo or an attraction that is special to you.
Plan Something New
A great way to keep teens engaged is to add in a new activity. It might be something that they were never old enough to do before, or maybe just an exciting turn that is unexpected; adding a different activity can create new excitement and even better conversation. It might be the perfect time to try the Aerophile Balloon in Disney Springs or maybe a round of golf on a nearby course. Disney has so many recreational activities to offer; you are sure to find something new to enjoy together.
Give Them a Job
Play to your teen’s strengths. If they are obsessed with Instagram like one of mine, give them a job such as a photographer role that challenges them to get the best Instagram snaps. Finding ways to incorporate what they like (even if it drives you crazy) into what they can do during the day might just open them up to the situation and family experience. Whatever floats their boat might be a bit of fun for the whole family. Indulge the TikTok dances they want to do on the resort lawn or challenge them to get those perfect Insta-worthy food shots.
What are your best tips for engaging teenagers in your Disney Vacation? Share your experiences below.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.