How do you combine the most magical place on Earth with the most awkward and antisocial period of a person’s life? Well, first and foremost, save yourself the drama and don’t drag a teenager kicking and screaming to Walt Disney World. If, however, you have an average, moody teen in your family, here are a few suggestions for how to have a peaceful, if not enjoyable, vacation with them.
If you have to make decisions based on an entire group (never my preference) this can be tricky, but if you have any flexibility at all, try to tailor some of your decisions to your teen. With a toddler, you’d plan your trip based on his schedule and know that if you strayed from the routine, you’d meet resistance. I hate to break it to you, but you need to take this mindset, at least somewhat, with a teen as well. Does she sleep till noon, given the opportunity? Perhaps you shouldn’t drag her to the park the moment it opens. Is he a thrill seeker? Suck it up and wait in the lines to the rides you know he’ll love. Does she hate the heat? Keep in mind that Florida summers are brutal, due to extreme heat and humidity. Heat stroke is very common and can ruin a vacation faster that you can say “pass out.” Consider planning the entire trip during a cooler time of the year. The goal is to make as many choices possible to improve your chances of having fun with your teen. (Getting the sense that this is a lot like gambling? It is!)
Remember that this is his vacation, too, so focus on what brings a smile to his face. There is something about Disney that brings out the kid in all of us. The trick is finding that something for your teen before the day is over. For starters, there are four parks within Walt Disney World. While you might be fascinated by the World Showcase, many teens find EPCOT to be boring. Animal Kingdom is for serious animal lovers. There are very few rides and more of a focus on shows and experiences, but it does have Expedition Everest, a rollercoaster with big drops and unexpected elements (I won’t spoil the surprise!). Hollywood Studios is the most teen friendly, with several thrill rides. Meant for the movie buff, this park has lots of performances and experiences, as well as the famous Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. The coup de grace of Disney is, of course, the Magic Kingdom, and while it does seem targeted to small children, it really is a lot of fun for all ages. With tons of rides, games, shows and food, this place is a cornucopia for the senses at any age.
When I asked my thrill-ride-loving-16-year-old what her favorite part was, she said the Peter Pan ride. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a super short, very juvenile ride that you wait a long time in line to experience, but she said it holds a special place in her heart. I would have sworn the answer would have been Space Mountain (a rollercoaster that you ride in complete darkness)! So, you never know what will strike a chord with them once there.
Remember to bite your tongue when it comes to some of those teen behaviors that drive you crazy. Pick your battles, and take a vacation from your usual battles. If she’s glued to her phone, try to ignore it. When something really fun is happening, she’ll put it away…and then she’ll immediately take it out to tell her friends all about it! Do what you can to bridge the communication gaps that often exist with teenagers, and try to speak his language, even if that just means for one day only, there will be no nagging. Take advantage of the Disney PhotoPass because one day, you’ll both look back fondly on this vacation.