My son is a whiz at nav­i­gat­ing all things hav­ing to do with air travel. Yet when it came to plan­ning road trips he seemed con­tent to de­fer to me — that is, un­til the teen and young adult years. Here are some things I (we) learned about trav­el­ing to­gether on sev­eral re­cent road trips in the South­west.

A ho­tel with a pool is im­por­tant, un­til it’s not

I booked a room at the Man­dalay Bay in Las Ve­gas so my wa­ter-lov­ing (I thought) teenager could hang out at its 1.6-mil­lion-gal­lon wave pool. He wasn’t even tempted to put a toe in the wa­ter.

What did he do in­stead? He sat on his bed in our up­per-floor ho­tel room and watched the planes take off and land at McCar­ran In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

What he said: “It would have been bet­ter to be at the pool with a friend. Don’t go to Ve­gas with just your mom.”

Some­times the buffet is best

My son is an ad­ven­tur­ous eater, so in Las Ve­gas I booked some­place a bit dif­fer­ent for din­ner. Ja­leo, a Span­ish tapas restau­rant at the Cos­mopoli­tan, was a mis­fire. It was im­pos­si­ble to fill up this cham­pion chowhound with even a large as­sort­ment of ex­pen­sive small plates.

A Ve­gas all-you-can-eat buffet would have been a prac­ti­cal, more bud­get-friendly choice.

What he said: “Some­times the best choice is the sim­ple choice. Pizza is com­fort food, and you can al­ways find it. I also like dives — usu­ally cheap.”

Strike a bal­ance when it comes to ac­tiv­i­ties

He won’t want to go to all the mu­se­ums you want to visit. Ask him whether there’s some­thing spe­cial he would like to do.

What he said: “Mom, this last trip to New Mex­ico was re­ally your trip. Way too many [five] mu­se­ums. Don’t push it. It’s called a va­ca­tion for a rea­son. I did like the Taos Pue­blo and Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe’s house in Abiquiú be­cause they were like walk­ing into his­tory.

“I want to be out­side hik­ing, horse­back rid­ing or river raft­ing. The raft trip we took on the Rio Chama was a good save on your part.”

Don’t be afraid to take your off­spring to the theater or opera

He might sur­prise you. We had gen­er­ally pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences at the Utah Shakespeare Fes­ti­val in Cedar City and the Santa Fe Opera.

What he said: “I need to know about this stuff at least 48 hours ahead of time so I can men­tally pre­pare for the bore­dom. But it wasn’t too bad. The ar­chi­tec­ture at the Santa Fe Opera was unique; it was great be­ing able to see the hori­zon and the sun drift­ing away. The opera was kinda cool [Puc­cini’s ‘The Girl of the Golden West’], with a saloon, gold min­ers and a hero­ine who packs a pis­tol. I wasn’t ex­pect­ing that.”

Ken Howard

FOR ONE TEEN BOY, a trip to the Santa Fe Opera was sur­pris­ingly en­joy­able, in part thanks to the ar­chi­tec­ture that opens to the New Mex­ico land­scape.

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