How to Travel with Teens & STILL Enjoy Your Vacation: Part II

With apartments in Rome and Venice secured, we were off to a good start. Of course your accommodations don’t count for much if your kids decide to be whiney and generally unpleasant during your vacation. So the other tip I have for you to ensure a wonderful vacation with your offspring is to threaten their lives. I found that to be quite helpful.

When dealing with kids, I find threatening their lives to be helpful. Click To Tweet

Before we left my husband told our kids in no uncertain terms that fighting on this trip wouldn’t be tolerated. And for the most part it worked. Whenever my kids started in all I had to say was, “Don’t make me feel like I’m back in America,” and the bickering stopped. I don’t know what it was, why that statement worked better than anything else I’ve ever shouted at my kids, but I do know I’m going to start yelling it at home, too, and see if it still has the same effect.


When we landed in Rome, we were shown to our apartment where we were given a brief tour by the owner’s representative before he wished us a pleasant stay and slipped out the front door. As I stood in the foyer and watched the door click shut behind him it occurred to me I was in Italy with absolutely nothing to do. It was 11:00 A.M. on the first day of our trip, and I had not one thing planned. The day followed a feverish 24-hours in which I raced around, pitching shoes and skirts and hats and everything else I might need for a 7-day trip into my suitcase before shoving my laptop and passport and flight information into a carry-on as the driver pulled up outside the house to take us to the airport. As the driver waited, I flicked off my computer, which I’d been working on until that moment, grabbed my bags and hustled out the door to take the trip to the airport where I boarded a six-hour overnight flight across the Atlantic. In the lead up to the trip I never once opened a travel guide, Googled an itinerary or downloaded a map, which may sound stupid or lazy or both but was really just a factor of time. Ordinarily, I research a destination until I could be a local guide myself, and I schedule every second down to the half-hour block of hammock time between 4:00 and 4:30 P.M. on day two, but with this trip I ran out of time.

We’d taken care of the main thing, though. We’d gotten ourselves there. And my husband and I had been to Italy once before so we didn’t feel the need to cram in every possible site to give ourselves the feeling we were having the best possible trip. So on that first day with no plan or schedule, which ordinarily would’ve sent me into heart failure, I drifted out of the apartment and into the bright morning light, not knowing where I was going. But I didn’t care. I was in Italy, and that was enough. My husband who was better prepared than I had downloaded a map app on his phone. As we headed down the cobblestone street, he gave it to our son to navigate us around because who cares where you wind up when you’re in Italy and there will be wine at the next stop?

That’s another thing I recommend – copious amounts of wine. Take every opportunity to sample the wine because it’s the best way to truly immerse yourself in the culture. And it keeps you open to anything your family wants to do, which was wander around and eat gelato. The perfect first day.


When we returned to the apartment that evening, though, I began to panic. A week was a long time to wander aimlessly, and I did actually want to see some historic sites and maybe one of the 7 Wonders of the World while we were at it. Rushing to my suitcase, I snatched my laptop and began frantically Googling tours of Rome and Venice. What if I was too late? What if everything was booked up? With my nose to the screen, I scrolled down the page as my eyes darted back and forth trying to scan all the tour descriptions at once. I needed a tour of the Vatican for four for tomorrow.

That day, the same one we landed in Rome, I miraculously managed to book all the tours for our trip. Of course, beggars can’t be choosers, and I feared I’d booked the bottom-barrel tours run by shady, unlicensed immigrants with no knowledge of the sites but what they gleaned off tourist brochures, which no one but those who couldn’t get in anywhere else and had travelled all the way to Europe with nothing planned took.

But that turned out not to be the case. The tours were all highly organized and professional, lead by enthusiastic, knowledgeable guides filled with fascinating facts. This good fortune only bolstered my spirits further, which I honestly didn’t think was possible. After the Vatican I was on a natural high although I don’t think the tour had the same effect on my son by the miserable expression on his face. But that’s the other thing – and this is key to having a wonderful time – you must ignore your children. I was so caught up in the stories of the artists and sculptures and paintings filling every square inch of wall space in the Vatican that I was oblivious to my son’s misery. It wasn’t until the end of the tour that I noticed his blank, little face, his eyes emotionless, black holes, staring back at me through the crowd. Still, he never once complained. For all of the three-hour tour, he was a trooper. Plus, we promised him gelato after every outing.

This part is crucial. In order to have a good time with your #kids, you must ignore them. #ParentingTips Click To Tweet
How to travel with teens and STILL enjoy your vacation. I got all the travel tips to vastly improve your quality of life with kids while you're on vacation. @OneFunnyMotha

After one of many gelato stops that day, we headed back to the apartment to get ready for dinner, and here is my final piece of advice for you. Listen closely because what I’m about to tell you is critical to the success of the mission: Allow your children a couple hours a day back at the room to play on their phones. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Whenever my kids were sluggish, trailing behind us on the crowded streets of Rome or looking bored and gloomy on the walking tours in Venice, all we had to do was mention electronics, and they perked right up. Quality time alone with their devices restores the natural balance. Electronics allow children to refuel and regain the vital energy they lost during the boring tour of the Sistine Chapel, and once they do, they are much better for it and much more agreeable dinner companions. Although I’m usually opposed all things electronic, I beseech you to employ this travel method. It will vastly improve your quality of life.

How to travel with teens and STILL enjoy your vacation. I give you all the tip, tricks and hacks to enjoy your trip with your children. @OneFunnyMotha
Gondola Shot.

While the whole trip was rigged together, I don’t think it could have worked out any better if we’d planned it. Maybe because I’m the type of person who’s always waiting for something to go wrong, when nothing does, I’m completely overjoyed. And, on this trip nothing went wrong. In fact, everything went right, and nobody was more surprised than I.

If you like this, you’ll love, I Just Want to Be Perfect, the fourth book in The New York Times best-selling series. It doesn’t have anything to do with travel, but it is funny. And, I’m in it. What more could you ask for? Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or order a signed copy direct from me: info @ onefunnymotha (dot) com.

How to Travel with Teens and STILL Enjoy Your Vacation

You actually can enjoy your Italian vacation – or European vacation or island vacation or some-sort-of-nice-destination vacation – with your kids. So if you want to take that trip to do something like whale watching california, then you should do it. I’m living proof. I’m the last person to say those words lightly, and I never would have had I not experienced it for myself. On this vacation I discovered many things not the least of which was that traveling with teens to places I actually want to visit is possible. My family traveled to Rome and Venice and while the cities were beautiful and enchanting, perhaps the singular best part of the trip was that my kids never once bickered. That’s 8 days and 7 nights of non-stop togetherness in fairly close quarters. It was so surprising, unexpected and delightful, it inspired a meme. Going on vacation with your family can be a big adventure. It’s often the most looked forward to time of the year, which shouldn’t be a surprise, as there are loads of places that people go to, in order to enjoy their vacation. If you are trying to plan a vacation, but have no idea about where to go, then as a suggestion maybe you should take a look at visiting somewhere like Chicago? You can easily find accommodation at the Crowne Plaza Chicago West Loop. However, there are so many other places that you could also visit. Perhaps you might want to go to Rome or Venice like me.

Part of the reason I think I enjoyed the trip so much was that it in no way resembled my regular life. I don’t just mean I was in a new, beautiful location (although that helps) in carefree vacation mode (that helps, too). I mean my life abroad was so unbelievably pleasant it was unrecognizable. From the time I got in the car to head to the airport to the moment I touched down back on American soil, my life was trouble-free, something with which I have no prior experience.

Is this really how some people live? Could I live this way if I relocated to Europe?

The spell, I was sure, would be broken soon enough, but I still wanted to move to Europe to find out for certain.

Upon my return when my parents enquired about the trip, I replied, “The kids never fought once.”

“Out of every thing you did,” my father remarked, “that’s the most memorable part of the trip?”

Yes. It was. Because if the kids argued or complained or were sullen or grumpy, it would have marred everything else, making our wonderful Italian vacation miserable. But the kids were happy and agreeable. Something I never saw coming.

Before we left I had serious reservations about the trip. In fact, I was against it. At 13 and 15, my kids were old enough to travel abroad, but were they old enough to appreciate the trip? If not, we were laying out a lot of cash to listen to them complain in another country for a week. Should I have done what my friend did and buy a motorhome with help from Auto Finance Online Ltd and just travel in my own country? But this trip taught me my kids are eager and enthusiastic travelers. Like me, they delight in adventure.

Going in, though, it was a gamble, and I was convinced the trip was going to be a disaster. So I wasn’t actually eagerly anticipating this vacation. But on this trip I learned a few things, and these things that I’m about to share with you are guaranteed to make any vacation a success.

First, the best thing you can do to ensure a fantastic time is to dread the trip and not plan a single thing for it. That’s what we did, and it’s undeniably the best approach to travel. That way when things work out, you’re completely astonished not to mention thrilled at your good fortune.

Although we’d known about the trip for well over a year and kept planning to plan for it, we never actually planned for it. At least not until the date on the calendar indicated our trip was 3 weeks away, and my husband and I became fairly certain we were embarking on a one-week stint to be homeless in a foreign country. That’s where the beauty of Airbnb came in. With T minus 20 days, we whipped out our laptops, logged onto Airbnb and launched simultaneous frantic searches for accommodations in two cities on our side-by-side laptops.

After some scrolling Kevin found the most beautiful, two-bedroom apartment in all of Rome. It was way nicer than anything I called up in my $99 searches. When he turned his laptop toward me to reveal the photos of what my life could be, I gasped. I sat, starring at the screen in stunned silence. When I could speak again, my first words were, “Contact Lorenzo immediately.”

With bright, sun-filled rooms, romantic antique furnishings, and stunning floor to ceiling windows that opened onto a rooftop terrace, I had to have that life – if only for three days.

You CAN travel with teens and still have a good time. The apartment in Rome where we stayed.
This is where I’m moving when I come up with the money.

The place was slightly different from the one we stayed in during our first trip to Rome 17 years earlier. Before we were married or had any money, my husband and I travelled together to Rome. I did most of the planning and research and booked a room in a great location near the Spanish Steps. It was in a pensione and while I had no idea what that meant, after staying there I think it roughly translates to English as Motel 6.

This time with Airbnb, we were moving up in the world, but since we’d never used Airbnb before I didn’t know if it was just a way to swindle people out of their money when they arrived in a foreign country and no one showed up to meet them with the key and their increasingly frantic emails were suddenly left unanswered. But it wasn’t. Lorenzo did, in fact, have waiting at the apartment his representative who, as he let us in through the little door cut-out of the massive, original door, informed us we were staying in a famous apartment building. Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister – you know, the one involved in all the sex scandals with young women and prostitutes – had an office in the building. I was honored. I kept an eye out for wild parties and orgies the three days we were there, but I never saw a thing.

You CAN travel with teens and still have a good time. I'm living proof. By @OneFunnyMotha
The view from the rooftop terrace.

With one apartment down we turned our search to Venice where we found not quite as lavish an apartment but one right on a canal. As thrilled as I was to be staying on a canal I had no inkling of what that meant for us other than it was very Venetian and that if my kids grumbled or fought I would toss them out the window into the fetid water. Aside from that, I had no concept of what view lay outside the window.

This was the view. Every afternoon before dinner I sat in the window with a chilled glass of Soave gazing out as the gondolas lazily floated by. I doubt I’d ever get tired of that view. It hardly looks real.

You CAN travel with teens and still have a good time. I've living proof. I took my kids on vacation to Venice and Rome and a great time was had by all. @OneFunnyMotha

Our apartment in Venice was on the aptly named Calle del Paradiso. Everyday as we navigated our way through the maze of narrow streets and single-width alleys, Kevin and I marveled at the beauty and questioned our reality. We half expected to turn the corner and run into Goofy or Donald Duck or some D-list cartoon character because we were actually in a Disney resort engineered to look like Venice instead of the city itself. The scene was all too perfect.

Calle Del Paradiso

Paradise it was.

I’ll have more travel tips for you next time, but I think I’ve said enough for one day. Maybe I should call this series (or my blog) the Practical Guide to Traveling with Kids. There’s so many travel articles out there, but none of them tell you how to survive and thrive with kids. Here, I give you bonafide, proven strategies guaranteed to get you that vacation you’ve always dreamed of but never thought possible – a pleasant one with your family. More on that next week.

If you like this, you’ll love, I Just Want to Be Perfect, the fourth book in The New York Times best-selling series. It doesn’t have anything to do with travel, but it is funny. And, I’m in it. What more could you ask for? Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or order a signed copy direct from me: info @ onefunnymotha (dot) com.