It is summertime again and the vacation is coming! I am sorry to say but long gone are the years when the parents decided what the vacation would be, when it would be, and which activities would happen. Sorry, now you have teenagers.
If, as a parent, you are consciously trying to give more autonomy and responsibility to your teens, and teach them the things that we know as grownups, then it is time to include them in the planning. Just because you have gone someplace every year, seen certain relatives, or always done a certain activity, does not mean that, now that your kids are teens, it would be their first pick.
Respect and love in family vacation planning mean that everyone gets to do what they love, or at least some of what they love. Chances are good that in your family, like mine, you have very different personalities. One person wants to do an all day zip line safari, one wants to edit a chapter of a book she is writing, one wants to kayak, and one wants to see a museum.
You may be lucky and have malleable teens who will do what they are told, and never complain, but that does not mean they are happy or learning how to make a memorable vacation happen. More likely, if you have not included the teen in the planning, you have a teen who seems reluctant during the planning, not very excited about the trip, says "do I really have to come?" or worse ye, is sullen and withdrawn during the entire vacation.
Any reluctance or ambivalence is a clue that your teen does not feel included in the planning, and is likely not going to have the best time in the world. Fear not! It is never too late to include them. Haul out the map, or the go to the Chamber of Commerce in the city where you will be visiting via the Internet, and tell the kids it is time they helped plan the vacation. Depending on your plan, the teens in the family can be given a day to plan, or an activity to pick, or a place to stop along the drive. Letting them pick some of what they do will add to their excitement and make them more tolerant of doing the things other people in the family want to do.
A few other hints: 1) have media-free time during the day - whether it is an hour or until after dinner, people can only interact if they are not focused on a screen or the music blaring in their ears; 2) food should be included in the planning and be a high point of every day - let them help plan, shop, prepare, serve, and clean-up; and 3) parents - unplug - no work, checking messages, answering email, etc... family is the most important now!