We may only get eighteen summers with our kids, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find other times to travel with teens. School breaks and holidays might be some of the busiest, but they are typically the only times available to travel, especially if your kids are in public school. It might take some work to find the best places to travel, but we promise these are some of our favorite ideas for an amazing vacation with teens.
Where Should I Take My Teen on Vacation?
This is a great question, and one that doesn’t have an easy answer. All teens are different, so start with them. Ask them where they want to go. What are they interested in (art, outdoors, the beach)? We have three teens and each one likes something different, but there is crossover.
Make a list of family vacation ideas and have everyone give their input. Having teenagers invested in the decision making is the best way to ensure they have a great time.
How do I travel with a teenager?
It may come as a surprise that you will need to be more flexible with traveling teens than you were with small children. Having traveled with teens for the last seven years, I’ve found they can be quite demanding with their travel expectations. A couple of things to remember:
- Don’t schedule too many early morning activities. Teenagers enjoy their sleep and will hold you accountable if they have to wake up before noon.
- Be mindful of screen time. They are going to want it all day, every day. Try to find a balance that works for the whole family.
- Consider booking a vacation rental property (like VRBO or Plum Guide) so everyone can have space to themselves. If you can have separate rooms for the teens they will surely appreciate it.
- Give them free time. Let them go off exploring on their own. This allows them to meet other travelers or locals. It’s the best way to give them some independence.
- If you have adventurous teens, research ahead of time for outdoor activities that might interest them. Ask them which ones appeal to them and book those activities ahead of time. (We recommend using Viator or Get Your Guide).
- Always have snacks. Teens get cranky when they’re hungry and having food on hand is a great way to avoid conflict. (Use our easy to pack snack list for ideas).
Implement all of these and you are sure to have a successful family vacation.
Best Vacation Spots for Teens
1. Head to the Beach, Any Beach
The beach is always a great vacation for teenagers. There are teens who love to relax on the beach and then there are teens who want to be active. They can swim in the ocean, try paddle boarding, or rent jet skis. Inclusive resorts usually have fun sports games to play on the beach, such as beach volleyball, paddle tennis, or soccer. No matter what your teen prefers, they are sure to love some time on the beach.
2. Experience a new culture
One of our favorite things about travel has been learning about other cultures. Different destinations bring new experiences that we can’t find at home. The teenage years are a great time to really foster your children’s knowledge of the world and how others live. Talk to your teen about cultures that interest them and then book a vacation that helps them go deeper.
Maybe they’re learning French? Why not head to Quebec City or Paris? Are they interested in mythology? If so, Greece is the perfect place to learn about their culture and gods. If you have time, book an extended stay so you can dig a bit deeper into the local culture .
3. Explore a Big City
When you travel to a big city, there are tons of fun places to visit. Choose a big city that interests your teen traveler. There are plenty of fun adventures for teens in US cities like New York City (Statue of Liberty, shopping, and shows), Chicago (The Art Institute shouldn’t be missed), and Phoenix (outdoor adventures in spades!). Every big city has countless options that are unique and fun.
Ask your teen if there’s a big city they’ve always wanted to explore. You can even have them do the research and find the activities they would like to do during your trip.
4. Visit the National Parks for some outdoor adventures
It is always fun to see how many National Parks you can visit as a family. Each one is special in its own way and has some great outdoor adventures to explore. There are some pretty awesome National Parks to visit during the wintertime, including Joshua Tree and White Sands. There are plenty of other great National Parks to visit any time of the year, such as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Even if it is not a National Park, try to find any outdoor adventure your teenager would enjoy! Some of our kids best memories were on our family trip through Arizona and Utah. We had an amazing off-road adventure outside of St. George we would highly recommend!
Another great place for outdoor adventures is Costa Rica. We went white water rafting, zip lining, snorkeling, whale watching and more. It was one of our favorite trips to date.
5. Take a Road Trip
Road trips are always a great idea and are good family vacations you’ll want to do every now and then. With road trips, you get to spend lots of alone time with family, simply enjoying each other’s company.
Try one of these US road trips for families or let your teen choose the route. If your teen is old enough, it will also be exciting for them if you let them drive during your road trip too!
6. Live it up at a Theme Park
Many teenagers love adventures that get their adrenaline pumping during a vacation. There are plenty of amusement parks around the world that do just that. From Universal in Orlando to Disney to Six Flags, your teens are sure to have a good time. Even if you’re not a fan of roller coasters, you can always find other ways to enjoy the trip.
7. Try a Group Tour
Group tours are another great option for a vacation with teens because someone else does all the work! Tours will usually take care of transportation, accommodation, guides, and much more.
Simply choose which tour company covers the destination you want to visit and relax while they do the work. These are a great option for teens because they can hang out with other teens and meet people from around the world.
We’ve taken an Adventures by Disney tour of Costa Rica, National Geographic with G Adventures in Morocco, a tour with Epic Travel in Portugal (they also do the Azores), and I have friends who’ve used Hidden Iceland to plan an epic Iceland trip. No matter the destination, you are sure to find a group tour that fits your family.
8. Splurge for an All-Inclusive Vacation
If you’re looking for all-inclusive resorts in North America, you’ll need to head to Mexico or the Caribbean. The best thing about staying at an all-inclusive resort is that everything is taken care of so you can focus on spending time with family. Typically your transportation, meals, and hotel are included. If you would rather not stress about all the details, choose one of these!
Most all-inclusive properties have several restaurants on site, teen-friendly activities, water sports, and live entertainment. Our teens love the freedom of staying at a resort where they can explore the property on their own and choose the activities they enjoy. Favorite spots included: Beaches Turks & Caicos, Finest Playa Mujeres, and Dreams in Puerto Vallarta.
9. Make it easy and plan a Staycation
Sometimes all your family needs is a staycation. Find activities close to your home that excite your teen, and just do that for your family vacation. Try to make all the meals that day your teen’s favorite foods. With a staycation, you get to sleep in your own bed and can go at your own pace. If you want to take it up a notch, consider booking a stay at a local hotel.
Often it is the simple things that teens will remember the most. You can make it unique and just as fun as traveling somewhere. Check out our favorite staycation ideas in the US!
10. Sign up for a Volunteer Vacation
Everyone should consider taking a volunteer vacation with their teenage kids. There is just something special about giving back, especially with your entire family. You’ll find countless countries all over the world filled with opportunities to volunteer. You might even find that your family prefers these vacations!
You can help build homes in third-world countries, help make clean water and other products for a small city, and so much more. Find a project your family is passionate about; this will make it all the more memorable.
11. Plan a Bucket List Trip with Teens
Create a family bucket list, and try to cross them off one by one. Make sure to include everyone in the process, so you are doing what your teens actually want to do. Whether that is a cruise, a National Park, or a faraway destination, it will be a special vacation if you do something your teen gets to choose.
12. Search for Your Roots
If you know where your ancestors come from, make a plan to explore those places. Research some family history, try to find places your ancestors have been and lived, and make a plan to visit. Even if you don’t find much information, you will still appreciate seeing a country or place with a family connection!
13. Head to a Dude Ranch
Dude ranches are such a blast, even for teens, as there are countless adventures! Usually, you stay a week at a ranch of your choice and explore that lifestyle. Teenagers will especially love ziplining, archery, horseback riding, and so much more. These are some of our favorite family friendly dude ranches!
14. College visits
If you have a soon to be college student, consider taking a trip to see potential schools. Plan a road trip, or fly somewhere and then explore from there. You might not be able to tour every campus (make reservations in advance), but at the very least you can get a feel for the school and the surrounding community.
This will be special family time and an opportunity to discuss the important things your teens need to know before heading out into the world!
15. Have fun at the Water Park
Water parks are another one of the best vacations to take with teens! Universal’s Volcano Bay is one of our all time favorites. There are many Wet N Wilds and Six Flags water parks around the United States.
There’s even a place that’s all about water parks, Wisconsin Dells, which is known as the waterpark capital of the world. Whether they love the lazy river or the daredevils slides, we’re sure your teenager will love any water park they visit.
16. Hit the slopes on a Ski Vacation
Does your family love to ski? Go on a fun ski vacation with teens. Most ski locations will have teachers available to guide you so you can ski properly, and you can rent ski equipment there as well.
If you’re looking for a ski resort in the US, consider Colorado, Utah, or Lake Tahoe. There are also many ski resorts in Europe would make for a great family vacation with your teen!
17. Try a Cruise
Cruises are a great option for a family holiday because you can find activities all of your family members can enjoy. Some of our favorite teen-friendly cruises have been on the Norwegian Bliss (they have race cars on deck) and Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas (with an iFLY simulator and a Virtual Adventure Zone).
Most newer ships even have a teen lounge space where they can hang out. Cruise lines have put a lot of effort into making their ships a teen-friendly destination, so try a cruise, you’ll be surprised how much you’ll enjoy it!
Any vacation with teens will have ups and downs, but they are all worth it. Take the trip and make the memories!