I guess I am lucky in that my kids' friends actually like me and never seem to mind me hanging around. They even let me sit with them at the movies and keep parents company during parties. This special status means I clean up after them a lot, have other people's kids in my home almost constantly, and that I do a lot of driving since most of them are not old enough to have teens in the car while they drive themselves. It also means that when a chaperone is needed, I am usually on the top of the list.
This summer brings me two wonderful opportunities to travel with groups of teenagers. The first trip, where I am right now, is a nine-day performance tour to Germany and Austria to watch my daughter's school orchestra and chorus perform. This trip is with about 40 parents, teachers and teens, and includes air travel, hotels, restaurants, and tours that were organized by a tour company. Stay tuned for Part 2 of "traveling with teens," when I will tell you how the trip went.
The second trip in July is a community service trip to Howling Acres Wolf Sanctuary in Oregon organized by my eldest daughter that includes driving and camping with six teenagers for a week. This will be the third summer that we have made this trip, but the first two summers involved sleeping in a volunteer house, with running water and a kitchen. The teens make a menu and a grocery list while we drive, do the shopping, and help with the cooking and cleaning, in addition to their chores each day at the sanctuary. This summer is camping, and I admit, I am a little less enthusiastic.
The first year we did this the kids raising $300 and adopted a wolf named Esew that had been abused by his owners. Now, we go up each summer and work with the staff of the sanctuary, and next year hope to do a two-week trip. While we are at the wolf sanctuary each summer, the teenagers give tours to visitors, feed and groom the wolves, as well as clean their cages, and do assorted sanctuary maintenance.
The amazing part of the trip each year is the welcome the kids get from the wolves, who remember them and greet them like old friends. As we drive up the driveway each summer you can hear the howling start which does not end until the kids enter the first cage to be licked and greeted by their old friends. This relationship they have with the wolves has taught us a lot about wolves, and what it means to be part of a pack. Stay tuned for Part 3 of "traveling with teens," when I will tell you all about the trip.
I am blessed that all of the teens who go on these trips are obviously well-grounded kids who think working their butts off for a week is fun, or who play a musical instrument or sing with enough commitment to perform for strangers. Given that these kids are mature and pretty independent, traveling with them is fairly simple, but still takes some preparation.
Preparation When traveling with teens I have learned that it is important to give them a very detailed packing list and limit on how much they can bring - the first year we had four laptops and no adapter for the car. When I say detailed - I am talking detail - bug spray, sunscreen, feminine protection, lip balm, hat, jacket, Pjs, tooth brush deordorent, underwear, socks, reading material, spending money, etc... - if you do not list it, they will not bring it. It is also important to get a list of allergies from parents and a permission slip signed by parents that allows you to administer first aid and assorted remedies to avoid or treat sunburns, heat exhaustion, bug bites, muscle pain, blisters, splinters, cramps, and headaches.
In the way of prep, it is important to let them help plan the trip, deciding how far we drive each day, how the chores will be divided, what touristy things we see, how much reading or personal time they have each day, and to tell them how much free time they will have, what the behavioral expectations are, and what happens if they do not follow through with those expectations. Prior to Leaving I have found a reminder the day before works well, and at departure, make sure that any medications are in your carry-on luggage, that all the baggage is marked, and that each child has their passport or picture ID, money, and tickets. Once on the plane, it is important to retrieve all important documents and keep them together until needed again.