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5 Really Good Reasons Teens Should Travel

Anyone with teenagers will tell you that once your kids hit a certain age, the family vacations become a thing of the past. But my husband and I still make it a point to plan at least one family trip every year, whether it's a few days in the mountains or a week in another city.

This past summer we took a trip to London and Paris, something we'd been dreaming of for years but never managed to pull off. A health scare convinced us that there was no time like the present, so we took the plunge (and a big chunk out of our savings) and crammed around six months of planning into four weeks to pull together a two-week overseas adventure. (I know all the tricks for getting a rush passport, in case you're interested.)

Still, this one took a little convincing to get our daughters, ages 17 and 19, to come along. There were friends and boyfriends that would be left behind, parties that would be missed and gigs that would have to be cancelled. And let's face it, two weeks in a hotel room with your parents no longer has the charm it used to when you were a kid. But they finally relented after we used the "This may be the last time anyone is going to pay your way to Europe" line a few times.

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Besides wanting to spend more time with our girls, one of the main reasons for these trips is that we want to instill in them the love of travel. It's easy for teens to get complacent and too comfortable in their own world (and in their dorm rooms and in front of their computers) and miss out on the excitement and wonder that travel has to offer. Here are a few reasons to convince your teens to venture out into the world, whether it's a weekend in a faraway town or a journey to another continent.

If we're going to raise more tolerant, accepting and open-minded human beings, it's vital that they get exposed to different people and cultures.

1. Feeling independent

Being on your own on your home turf is one thing, but there's nothing like the feeling of accomplishment when you find your way around a strange city. Just ask our girls. They were on their own in London for an evening and managed to find the royal stables and chat up the guards who take care of the Queen's horses. Come to think of it there's such a thing as too much independence.

2. Expanding their culinary palate

Our girls have always been adventurous eaters, but they were really put to the test a few years ago when we were visiting relatives in Japan and they found out the meat atop their favorite ramen bowl was goose. Yes, they ate it.

3. Learning to navigate

We relied heavily on our girls to find our way around the subway stations in London and Paris. They use public transportation here at home so they're used to finding their way around, but it's totally different when it's a completely different system and the signs are sometimes in a different language. (Yes, we can say that it was to hone their navigation skills, but the truth is my husband and I are completely inept at using Google maps.)

4. Seeing things IRL

It's one thing to see a picture of Half Dome in a book, but an unforgettable, breathtaking experience to drive through Yosemite and come upon this humongous rock in person. On our trip to Paris I was determined to show my girls the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, even though in the end they were more intrigued with the throngs of people trying to take selfies with this masterpiece.

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5. Experiencing other cultures

This sounds cliché, but I feel it's still the single most important reason for traveling. If we're going to raise more tolerant, accepting and open-minded human beings, it's vital that they get exposed to different people and cultures. A former co-worker recently took her family on a road trip to visit Indian reservations in New Mexico, and some friends are about to take their nature-loving tween on a rain forest adventure in Costa Rica. It's a big world out there—why not encourage your kids to experience it first hand? (Just reassure them many places have WiFi.)

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