You want to know serious torture? If the government really wanted to break prisoners to get information they would send them on a trip with a teenager. Seriously the first day we would get a call back from them with all the information if we would just Please. Take. Back. The. Kid.
I love my son I really do. The biggest problem is that HE I JUST LIKE ME. Who wants to go on a trip with their unique faults wrapped in a snappy mouth and surly attitude? I do! I do!
Overall my trip with my eldest was fantastic. We had a tremendous tour with Karen Pastofski on the day of his birthday (but more on that later....much more) but other than that we toured and visited places completely on our own.
Which went a lot like this:
Get on tram (or train).
Get on tram (or train).
Go to bed.
So many people have asked how I enjoyed travelling with my son. It was a lot like living with him so while others may have wanted me to shove him in a trash can to shut him up I really did enjoy our trip. We had a lot of laughs. There was a point we were walking in Berlin and saw a Johnny Cash sign and both broke in to Fulsom Prison Blues at the exact same moment in the exact same moment in the song. He asked such thoughtful questions and made very telling observations that made the trip worth it. He didn't even complain too much when I got us locked out of the hotel in Prague, or got us lost (also in Prague...I wasn't at my best in Prague).
But I did come up with some ideas for others if you want to travel with a teenager.
1. Let them sit away from you sometimes. Do you really need to sit right next to each other? They aren't going anywhere. If you get on a train or tram, let them wander away and show their independence. As long as they know where to get off they will be fine.
2. Plan for half the days to be late at night so they can sleep in. Science tells us time and again that teenagers have different sleep patterns than adults. Respect that. They really can't help it and you will find a much happier teenager later if you just let the sleeping bears lie.
3. (If you are travelling for longer than 4 days) Have a day for doing nothing. I don't mean a day that you are travelling to another city. I mean really a day that you have nowhere to be and nothing to do. Everyone needs to recharge. My son found all the places to be and see very stressful (more than I would have imagined). So having one day to just lie around and wander the local area was really fun and relaxing.
4. (If you are in a safe city) Let them go off on their own. Our rule was if we got separated meet at the the hotel. One night he got hungry late so I let him run to Micky D's for a late burger and fries. Most European cities are very safe from any violence and if he or she is only carrying enough to cover a burger pickpocketing isn't the end of the world.
4a. If you do get separated on accident (Eldest decided he didn't like our meeting place in KaDeWe and went up a floor. Without telling me. Needless to say, we met at the hotel). So he had to find his way back. He learned quickly that the best place to find English speakers to help you in any city is in HOTELS. So tell your teenager that if they feel lost. Find the nearest hotel and ask for help.
4b. Buy a travel card with unlimited travel. This way if you do get separated they just need to hop on the nearest public transportation to get you to the hotel.
5. Let them choose restaurants every other day. If they want to eat at Micky D's let them. Once. This way you both can enjoy the local cuisine but they still feel like they have some control over the trip.
6. Let them talk to their friends. We got Internet access every few days and I made sure that some of that time Eldest was able to chat with his friends. Keep up to date on the happenings back home are important to you so they would be important to him or her too right? It's not a statement of how much they wish they were home partying with their friends (OK maybe a tiny bit it is), but more a psychological need to know they aren't forgotten.