Posted By: Tony Blakey | Dec. 16 2013
We have many families with teenagers come on our bike tours each year. As a keen cyclist and father of two boys, I can certainly see the appeal. Activity vacations are a great way to keep teenagers interested in traveling with their parents – even as they become bored with more traditional vacations. For me, it’s a great opportunity to help foster independence while being there to share in the experience.
I’ve collated some simple DOs and DON’Ts to consider if your planning a trip with kids.
DO allow your kids to help choose the destination and the type of riding they want to do. This can work for the trip as a whole but also day-to-day. Planning the next day can be a nice after dinner activity to do together. Like the apocryphal horse drinking water – you can lead a teenager to a bike but you can’t make them ride.
DON’T compromise on safety. Helmets are a must as is bright clothing and/or safety triangles. But, a reluctant kid might accept a florescent triangle strapped to a trunk rack where they would declare “totally uncool” one tied around their waist. AND DO make the rules of the road compulsory BUT you might let a guide to lay down the law. We all know how much easier it can be for a teacher or other authority figure to get our kids to do things where they seem deaf to our instruction.
DO ensure everyone is comfortable and safe riding on public roads. Take some practice rides before your trip to help tune skills and spot any areas of worry. Your local bicycle coalition or bike advocacy group might be able to help with road awareness training. Ride with one adult at the front and one at the back to increase safety.
DON’T forget to stay hydrated. Kids are generally forgetful when it comes to eating before being hungry and drinking before being thirsty. Even a mildly dehydrated kid can become moody and bad tempered – and all for want of a sip of Gatorade. Stop often and lead by example – drinking often.
DO use a local cyclist or guide service to help avoid routes that aren’t suitable for your group. You don’t want to find yourselves riding into town on a busy highway where there is suddenly no shoulder.
DON’T make it all about the bike. Take plenty of days off from riding. Whitewater rafting, kayaking or a whale-watching trip can all be good “rest day” diversions.
DO Plan a route to match the weakest rider not the strongest. Allow the group to break up if it feels right. Maybe mum goes with the stronger riders into the hills while dad stay with the younger rider to explore the bike paths. Then everyone has something to share at dinner when you meet up again.
DON’T base your trip around adult experiences. The California Wine Country has some great riding but watching your parents rave about pinot noir while you’re being reminded you’re too young to join in such pleasures is likely to lead to a meltdown.
DO think about fun things to do on arriving at your destination. Using hotels with pools is a winner with most kids. Tennis, bookstores, museums will work for other kids. Being “stuck” in a stuffy country house hotel in the middle of nowhere is not usually a great recipe for happy kids.
DON’T forget your iPad to allow the kids to update Facebook with what a great time they’re having … despite of their parents!
Finally, consider using a guiding service: either a private trip with a dedicated guide or join a larger group. If you’re doing the latter, you might want to make sure your family is a good match for the group – and not a posse of empty nesters celebrating being kid-free at last! Self-guided trips are also a great way to go with guide briefings and support vans on call as needed; they also take care of moving your luggage.
If you’re planning a trip with young children, check out our Bike Tours for Families with Young Children posting.