Take your teenage children on the Camino de Santiago
Doing the Camino de Santiago with your teenage or young children can be a great plan. Not only will you enjoy a family holiday, but the Camino de Santiago will also help you deal with the tensions of growing up.
Adolescence is complicated for everyone. It is an age when childhood has already been left behind, but you are not yet an adult. This transit between developmental stages means that many parents do not find adequate plans to share time with their children.
Adult plans are too big for them, while children’s plans are boring. That is why we recommend that you think carefully about doing the Camino de Santiago with your teenage children the next time you have a few days off. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Complostela is an experience that adapts to all kinds of people, and of all ages.
In fact, 28% of the people who apply for Compostela, after completing the minimum 100 kilometres, if they do it on foot, or 200 km, if done by bike, are under 30 years old. We wouldn’t know exactly what proportion of them are teenagers, since the Pilgrim’s Office does not provide an age breakdown of this group, but from what our eyes have seen, we could say that a significant part of them are, in fact, teenagers.
If you are interested in doing the Camino de Santiago from Sarria to feel all the essence of the Camino through the green forests of Galicia, its gastronomy and the experience of other pilgrims, then do not think about it anymore. Tell us when you want to live this experience and let us take care of preparing everything.
Advice for doing the Camino de Santiago with teenagers
In this article we want to give you some tips for doing the Camino de Santiago with your teenage children (or younger), based on our experience as a specialized agency and the experience of some of the families who have travelled with us. Read on and dare to try out a different plan for your children!
Don’t ask teenagers, just take them with you on the Camino de Santiago
If there’s one thing that characterizes adolescence, it’s opposition to parents. When asked, “What do you think of us all going together to do the Camino de Santiago?”, chances are they would answer, “Have you gone mad?”
We’re not saying you don’t take your children’s opinion into account, but they don’t need to determine your schedule either. Teenagers generally know little about the Camino de Santiago and all they will see in the plan you propose is to walk for hours, for no reason.
To avoid this, it is best to inform them of your intention to do the Camino de Santiago as a family, if possible, tell them that the reservations are already made and that you cannot back down. Even if they initially complain, they’ll finally thank you.
Don’t take a teenager on their own
If you do the Camino Frances, which is the most popular route, it is very likely that your teenager will end up meeting other boys or girls to chat with. However, it is recommended that you do not go with a single teenager so that he or she does not get bored.
If you have two teenage children, you won’t have a problem. They will find their own talking points as they walk. But if you only have one child in their teens, we recommend that you take a friend with him or her or travel with other parents who also have teenage children.
Teenagers understand each other very well and having your child go with a friend on the Camino de Santiago does not mean that you do not have the opportunity to share time with them. On the contrary, you can share time with them, but you’ll also have time for yourself, while they talk about their stuff.
Choose a Camino de Santiago thinking about the tastes of teenagers
The Camino de Santiago is a network of routes in which each itinerary has its own wonders. For example, if your children like the beach, doing the Camino Portugues Coastal Route or the Camino del Norte could both be a good option.
The Camino Frances is an excellent alternative to do with teenagers because it is the most popular and therefore, your children will find more opportunities to make new friends while walking. If you are interested in this path you can consult our guide to the Camino Frances.
On the other hand, you should also consider the difficulty of the tour that you plan to take. If in the family they are not used to making trips to the mountain and are not very athletic, you can opt for the Camino Portugues Central Route, as it is one of the simplest, as well as the Camino Portugues Coastal Route. You can learn more about these paths in the article we dedicate to the Camino Portugues.
If, on the other hand, the trips to the mountain are a usual family plan, you may want to challenge your children and dare to try the Camino Primitivo. However, to do this you must be very sure of your children’s abilities because it is the most difficult of the pilgrim routes. You can check the guide to the Camino Primitivo here.
Short and sweet is twice as good
Don’t plan on completing an entire route, but about bringing your children closer to pilgrim culture. If you enjoy a good experience, it is very likely that in a few years they will ask you again to go with them on the Camino de Santiago.
First think how long it takes to do the Camino de Santiago. Then think how many days you think your children will be able to resist away from their usual environment, and without the adventure becoming a constant: “I want to go home”.
We recommend that you plan to do the Camino de Santiago in 5 days, because the first four days are the hardest, and because the body is getting used to doing so many kilometres every day. Remember, the goal is for them to come home with good memories.
Don’t demand too much of them
The usual thing on the Camino de Santiago is to do between 20 and 25 kilometres per day, if you go on foot. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
To prevent blisters or typical injuries suffered by pilgrims from spoiling the journey, plan shorter stages. On the Camino de Santiago, as well as walking, you can do many other things that will be interesting to teenagers.
Fill the Camino with curiosities
Prepare a guide for your kids. Find documents about legends, curiosities or other topics that help you attract the attention and interest of teenagers.
In this way, you will have fun researching and they will learn much more about the Camino de Santiago. If you want you can check our blog to find out about topics that you think may be of interest to them.
Reserve your accommodation
Many pilgrims do the Camino de Santiago without making prior reservations, as a large number of them use the public hostel network, that cannot be booked in advance. However, we recommend that if you are going to do the Camino de Santiago with teenagers, do not risk it.
Having your accommodation reserved will prevent your children from becoming annoyed halfway through the stage and not wanting to walk anymore. The end of each stage will already be defined before leaving home.
On the other hand, you will avoid getting to the end of the day and not finding a place to sleep. Arriving at an accommodation where they are waiting for you will give your children the feeling that everything is under control and that you have done your adult duties. Leave the adventures for when you travel alone!
At this point, we recommend that you stay in hostels, hotels and cottages to make sure that children rest properly. In addition, many hostels do not allow minors, as the rooms are shared with dozens of people.
As far as possible, do try to keep the accommodation located in the urban centre of the towns where the stage ends, especially in the case of small villages. So the kids can go out alone for a walk in the afternoons.
Do your physical preparation as a family activity
To do the Camino de Santiago, it is always recommended to train physically for a few months in advance. Take the opportunity to organize trips with your children to the mountain, the countryside or the beach.
Control snacks and water
Doing the Camino de Santiago requires extra physical exertion, so the body needs to consume more calories. Therefore, it is important to always carry on some snacks (nuts, biscuits, fruit, etc.) to snack on during the stops. As an adult you have to make sure they are not missing, don’t leave these items to the kids.
Another issue you’ll also need to monitor is that everyone carries water with them. It is recommended that everyone brings their own bottle of water, but make sure your children are drinking water during the tour to prevent heat stroke or dehydration.
If you would like to know more about recommended food and nutrition while on pilgrimage, you can check out this blog post. In it, we also tell you about some typical dishes that you cannot miss.
Contract a baggage transfer service
If your goal is for the kids to enjoy the experience, don’t demand too much. Although you may have idealized that the real pilgrim is the one who carries his backpack on his back, they probably won’t see it that way.
And the truth is, they’re right. Doing the Camino carrying a backpack doesn’t make you more or less of a pilgrim.
We advise you to hire a transfer service that allows you to carry lots of clothes for days for the whole family. So you won’t risk your teenage children getting injured on the Camino de Santiago, through carrying the extra weight of the backpack, nor do you take the weight of carrying the whole family’s luggage.
In addition, by hiring this type of service you can carry more luggage and you will avoid having to dedicate part of the afternoon to washing clothes for the next morning. Especially, if you think your children will be reluctant to fulfill this part of the pilgrim’s routine.
If you want to, you should consult your children before making a decision on this topic. In case you decide to carry the backpack, check out our blog post explaining what to take. If you opt for the baggage transfer service, in the following link you will find all the information on how to hire it and its prices.
Avoid unforeseen events, count on Santiago Ways
To make everything go as planned and that the experience is satisfying for both you and your children, it’s best to reduce unforeseen events as much as possible. In that sense, it is best to use a specialized travel agency on the Camino de Santiago that takes care of the whole organization.
We are lovers of the Camino de Santiago and we have accompanied many families with teenagers on their pilgrimage. We have advised them on the route to take and on the stage distribution, we have assured them the best accommodation and we have taken care of the transport of their backpacks between stages.
We have also offered them a support phone number to be able to contact in case of doubt and an assistance vehicle, in emergencies. Everyone has returned highly satisfied, including teenagers!
To learn more about the advantages of using a specialised agency to do the Camino de Santiago you can consult this link. In this other article we talk to you in more detail about the different services that are included in the organization on the Camino de Santiago.
If you prefer, you can always call us or write on our Facebook page, and the Santiago Ways team will explain all the details to you. Don’t forget to mention that you are going on the Camino de Santiago with teenagers.