Holidays with teenagers

Family holidays are tricky at any age.

I remember jamming a cot into a hotel bathroom in Singapore so we could watch a bit of tellie when the toddler went to sleep at 7pm and the night yawned ahead of us.

Fast forward 14 years and I’ve gone road tripping to Byron Bay with teenagers.

I’m writing this the wrong way around, giving you the unvarnished version first.

I’ll do the glossy postcard blog later – I just took the most gorgeous sunrise photo to go with it.

The drive to Byron was the first long haul I haven’t been badgered to play ‘I Spy’ the whole time, which was blissful, though a poignant reminder that the fleeting years of childhood are over.

The youngest and I chatted and listened to her favourite music on the way up. When the eldest joined us at Casino station, my attempts at conversation were met with deadly silence because they’d all put their earbuds in.

Actually, meal times sans earbuds haven’t been much chattier. The teens are keen to eat and run so they can return to non-verbal socialising on their phones.

The eldest thinks family holidays are akin to torture because they involve being without their friends, which is apparently quite harrowing when you are 15.

Even bringing one of the friends along hasn’t softened the blow, as it still means being separated from all the rest of them. I was informed last night that they’re ready to go home.

I blithely booked a week in a beachside townhouse a year ago, thinking it would tick boxes for everyone – the youngest could sunbake and go swimming, the eldest could enjoy some live music …

I might as well have booked a shed in an industrial estate, as the eldest has decided they hate the beach, water sports and virtually everything else other than eating fast food, looking at their phone and sleeping.

The youngest has been for two quick dips in the surf, but prefers to lie in bed watching TV on her phone.


The holiday would have been a total bust for the eldest if it wasn’t for spending two days at Bluesfest.

Day one was a huge hit – I let the 15 year olds loose at the entrance in the late afternoon on Good Friday, with instructions to meet me back there after Iggy Pop.


Iggy was ah-mazing. My gawd he still has it at 72. The eldest absolutely loved thrashing around to his set.

Click here to read a fantastic review of the show that captures its magic, including: “‘Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!’ he hollered into the microphone at one stage, as he sipped red wine from a crystal chalice.”

The youngest wasn’t so enamoured with Iggy – although she thought his expletive riddled banter was a crack up –  so I ended up dancing like a loon on my own while she curled up sleepily on a chair.

Our second night of Bluesfest started with the eldest moaning that there were too many people there and asking if they could hang around outside the concert grounds instead.


So they slouched off to buy themselves some steampunk googles from a stall, watched the Melbourne Ska Orchestra, then had to be dragged reluctantly home halfway through Jack Johnson because the 51-year-old was exhausted by 11pm.

They begged to be allowed to stay for the whole Jack Johnson gig and catch a bus back to the townhouse at midnight on their own.


Who’d have guessed a 15 year old with a safety pin in their ear would be so into Jack Johnson???

The 13 year old wasn’t, though she was a good sport earlier in the night and kept me company leaning on the stage barrier for Meshell Ndegeocello (That’s her head in the pic above).

I think the youngest was quite fascinated to be so close to a live band. And Meshell did a pretty awesome version of Prince’s Waterfalls.

Aside from our treks to Bluesfest, the townhouse has been like a morgue until lunchtime every day, when the teenagers finally emerge from their beds seeking sustenance, preferably in the form of bacon and soft drinks.

I tried making them eat carrot sticks with their sausage sizzle lunch yesterday, but they were deeply reluctant.


(Actually not entirely implausible in Australia in 2019. A friend when I was in my 20s managed to get it. True story.)

Left to my own devices, I’ve been wandering down the street to get coffee, going for dips in the glorious surf, reading a book and wishing I was as accomplished at sleeping as teenagers because being up until after midnight at music festivals is exhausting, but my brain still springs into action at 5.30am.

I’ve been wondering if there’s a better way to do holidays with teenagers. Should I just save my money and put family getaways on hold for a few years?

Although … I reckon they’ll look back on it as a pretty awesome time. I mean – Iggy! That’s a forever memory!

Today we’re doing an op shop crawl in Ballina … when the kids finally get up. It’s apparently one of the op shopping capitals of NSW – there are 10! The 15 year olds are about as beside themselves with excitement as dour, black-clad teens in Docs get.

And, if I grab them a Go Bucket and a Pepsi Freeze at KFC, their day will totally rock.


Then there’s just the nine-hour hoon back down the Pacific Highway to the real world.

The 15 year old has already informed me they will not be speaking for the entire trip …

Song of the day: TLC “Waterfalls”

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