The Dunn Thing

Travelling with Teenagers

Issue 5 - 2016
By Andrew Dunn, founder of Scott Dunn · Illustration Dan Williams

"One year, children want to be with you, enjoying family time, playing on the beach. The next, they yearn to break out and be on their own"

Issue 5 - 2016
By Andrew Dunn, founder of Scott Dunn · Illustration Dan Williams

"One year, children want to be with you, enjoying family time, playing on the beach. The next, they yearn to break out and be on their own"

The teenage years are notoriously volatile, and never more so than on holiday. One year, children want to be with you, enjoying family time, playing on the beach. The next, they yearn to break out and be on their own. They follow yards behind, so others won’t make the mistake of thinking they’re anything to do with you. All natural, but it could influence the holiday you choose.

For example, I’ve noticed that our teenagers – Ella, 18, and Polly, 17 – have moved away from the villa holiday. The idea of sitting by the pool, reading, no longer enthrals them, while in their early teens it was perfect. So, what to do? Well, I find activities often work. Late teens and twentysomethings love an African safari. They’re learning a lot at this age, so the Masai Mara and Serengeti are an incredible lesson. Egypt is tragically a bit difficult at the moment, but it’s also amazing, with the pyramids and Luxor. For later teens, I’d recommend a North America trip, which is cool and full of interest. Australia is another terrific option.

Sports often appeal too, and skiing is a big hit with teens. Last winter, we saw in the New Year in St Anton with friends. Great fun – and the girls went to a nightclub afterwards. One thing we always do is ask our teens to abide by a curfew: 12.30 or so. We tell them to gently tap on our door to let us know they’re back. Two years ago we went to Hossegor in France, where my sister has a house. After supper they wanted to go out – the beach is a big night-time draw with a surfer crowd – and we let them; but I admit I went as a discreet chaperone.

Sometimes teenagers want to bring friends on holiday. This has benefits as they can explore together and look out for one another. But of course, you are responsible for them, so make sure you’ve spoken to their parents about all the possibilities in advance. At Scott Dunn we try to be alert to these life stages and offer holiday options. We’ve just set up Crew for the over-11s in our resorts in Greece, Croatia and Cyprus, which allows children well into their teens to take part in exciting activities for half a day, including scuba, stand-up paddle-boarding and wake-boarding, then lets them off the lead for the rest of the day. When there’s no rigid timetable, teenagers don’t feel herded, which they hate.

At the same time, as teenagers they’re doing all kinds of school and university work that may be enhanced by a holiday. So a historic capital city is fantastic for them. I love Rome, while Ella enjoyed the museums in Paris. Though I’d urge you not to overdo the learning. With my daughters I even have a “museum code”: one tap means “bored”; two taps “please can we go”; and three taps: “Out. Now.”

Another bone of contention is tech. Nobody likes to see their child glued to an iPhone all holiday. At our mealtimes, mobiles are banned (for adults too) and we discourage endless posting on social media. There’s also the issue of teens not pulling their weight with cooking and cleaning. I’m quite relaxed about this. Young people need to recharge their batteries too. If they bring a friend, they tend to be better: maybe they want to show how grown-up they are. And if you opt for a multi-generation holiday, they may get on better with grandparents: after all, teenagers are usually irritated by one or both parents at any given time.

The key is to be tolerant and enjoy each other’s company. And remember, there’s one big plus about children getting older: as they become adults, they behave more like our peers. You can have a (moderate) drink with them, their gastronomic tastes broaden, and they enjoy conversation. It’s very rewarding.

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