Bon Jour! Travel and Boundary Setting Tips for Parents of Teens!

Karla Lester, M.D. advises about being flexible when traveling with teens and not hesitating to set healthy boundaries for yourself.

I recently got back from France after a lovely and adventurous trip along the French Riviera and through Provence with my family.

We rented a car in Nice, France and drove through the towns of Provence, saw lots of Roman ruins, swam in the Mediterranean, ate a lot of yummy food, had amazing experiences like swimming in Rive’ Gauche under the Pont Du Gard, had lots of fights and all the things.

Yes, it was truly an episode of “European Vacation” at some points “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” at other times.


Back to the fights.

It’s hard to navigate France, especially when the navigator gets carsick and is horrible with directions. That would be me.

Chalk up a win for GPS and purchasing the liability insurance for that scratch or scratches the car incurred while my husband, Darek, the driver was backing out of a dead end in the middle of Avignon, France.


Travel tip:  If you go to France and rent a car, figure out where you will park first. Medieval roads and towns are not designed for cars.

Parking was a nightmare in some cities, but we lived to tell the tales.  Stories of barely making it onto the plane from London to Nice and I almost forgot, our flight from DFW to London was cancelled right before boarding!


Travel tip: Be flexible.

Don’t cause yourself second arrow harm by ruminating on things you can’t change.  The cancelled flight was the first arrow out of our control.

That’s different from feeling all the human emotions that come up in the moment like shock, anger, frustration, disappointment, or sadness when your flight gets cancelled.

There was a lady in a cute fedora hat who was watching the screen before our flight was to board. She was the first to yell out, “CANCELLED!” She then shouted an excuse my French, very appropriate profanity, and made a beeline to the agent’s desk to be the first in line to rebook. My family got a huge kick out of her.


Travel tip:  Have at least a loose itinerary.

When you arrive at your destination, your fun begins but so does the multitude of decisions about what to do and where to eat.

Traveling with a family of five means there are going to be times when not everyone agrees on what to do and what to eat.

Some of us wanted to grab a sandwich and others (1 person) wanted to sit for another French café experience trying out the local cuisine.


Traveling with a family of five means there are going to be times when not everyone agrees on what to do and what to eat. Click To Tweet


I can’t stand it when my family fights at restaurants.

We have strong opinions and thoughts on lots of things and lots of ego which manifests as wanting to be right and constant point proving.

In other words, there’s lots of talking and not a lot of listening.

I have a low tolerance for it, depending on the day and my mood. In my mind, it’s not hard for a human to rise to an occasion in public and shut your trap.


I have been known to get up and walk out of a restaurant and go walking around the town when I feel like I need to.

That’s a boundary I set for myself, and it happened in France. We were sitting in the bible of Rick Steves recommended restaurant in a quaint Provencal town (think Beauty and the Beast) after a stressful day of driving.

I don’t remember what we were talking about.  Probably politics or something neutral like that.  Maybe we should go to Switzerland and have all neutral conversations.

Anyway, back to the fight. We also learned that bees are all over the place in Southern France and my husband got stung sitting at dinner.  Mood setting.


When I’ve had it, I just say, “I’m out.”

I get up and walk out and let it go. I do.

I enjoy my walk and time alone.

Sometimes, I go back to the restaurant and eat if I hadn’t eaten and other times, my husband gets it to go for me.

The food isn’t the problem. I don’t try to work it out afterwards. I don’t bring it up. I don’t blame anyone (maybe I do on occasion).

It will happen again.  My getting up and walking out will not change anyone else’s behavior. I’m not deluded.

It’s like taking my own roundabout exit. As my mom used to say, “I don’t give a hoot” what anyone thinks.

It’s a healthy boundary I set for myself after lots of coaching and realizing I had a belief that kept coming up for me, “I’m trapped,” in situations like this.


My getting up and walking out will not change anyone else’s behavior. I’m not deluded. It’s like taking my own roundabout exit. Click To Tweet


Travel tip: Get some alone time in everyday to walk around, journal or do what you need to do to get centered and check in with yourself.

As a parent, sometimes it can be tough to set boundaries for ourselves.

It can be especially shocking for other people when they have a manual or checklist of expectations for you.

Don’t second guess yourself.  Setting boundaries for yourself is healthy and is an excellent way to role model self-compassion and self-love for your teen.


Travel tip:  France has a record number of roundabouts which you can just keep going around and around until you figure out where you’re supposed to exit..

Feel free to get off the figurative roundabout at the exit of your choosing and do your own thing.


Self-love superpower,

Dr. Karla


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