Vacationing with a teen in tow is always delicate business. On one hand, you’re showing them the world, introducing them to new sights and cultures, and all-around giving them the adventure of a lifetime. On the other, it’s a good bet they’ll be either sullen and bored or simply glued to a screen the entire time—especially if you take them somewhere they’ve been before.
But with a little creative thinking, you can have an amazing time and show your teen a great one, too. (And without too much effort.) Spoiler alert: The secret trick is to visit a locale their friends haven’t seen (bragging rights) that also features a healthy dose of thrill-seeking (adventure makes for great social media content). Trust us: the only reason he or she will reach for the phone is to post envy-inducing shots on Instagram. And for more sage parenting advice, learn the 40 Lies Kids Say That Parents Always Fall For.
Total freedom on a cruise.
Sorry to say, but the last thing your teen wants to do is spend time with you. That’s why cruise trips—if you can stomach them, of course—are actually really good all-family trips: Every ship is loaded with families—and other teens. Between the arcades, deck-side pools, rock climbing walls, ice skating rinks, and mini golf courses, your kid’s likely going to spend the week galavanting around with other kids their age in a veritable paradise of teen-friendly fun.
But it’s not quite like sleep-away camp; you’ll still get to spend some time with them, at least, whether that’s on an off-shore scuba dive or a nightly dinner. If you’re looking for a cruise to book, you can’t go wrong with Royal Caribbean. The 26-ship fleet has won Travel Weekly‘s reader choice award for best cruise 15 years straight. And for some more personal travel, pay a visit to the 15 Best Under-the-Radar American Escapes.
College prep in Boston.
There are 40-odd higher-education institutions in the Boston area, which means a trip to town is essential for any college-minded teens. Thankfully—since, for significant parts of the year, much of the population is yet of drinking age—there’s a whole lot of teen-appropriate entertainment.
Many of concert venues (including the legendary Paradise Rock Club) don’t impose 21-plus age restrictions, and the New England Aquarium is reputedly among the best in the nation. Between sights, pay a visit to Newbury Street and Faneuil Hall for boutique shopping and world-class dining, then head to the North End for a late-night, straight-from-Italy cannoli. And when your teens (inevitably) want to split off, you can tackle the boring adult stuff, like the Freedom Trail and Paul Revere’s House. Before you send your kid off to school, though, you may want to learn how to teach them to be a responsible drinker.
Spellbound sightseeing in London.
Three words: Harry. Potter. Tour. Yes, that’s right. Strewn around the city are hotspots inspired by every weirdo teen’s favorite fantastical icon. Check out Platform 9 3/4th (there’s an actual sign and fake cart in King’s Cross Station) before heading to Leadenhall Market (the shopping center served as a location for Diagon Alley). Then, venture out to Leavesden (it takes about 45 minutes by transit) and check out the official Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour to peek real props and sets from the films. Just be sure to come with a prepared answer to, “Mom! Dad! What house are you?”
Hanging ten in Huntington Beach.
Every teen wants to be cool, and few things are cooler than surfing. So if you’re not an overprotective helicopter parent, considering taking your teens to the crested-wave paradise of Huntington Beach. Between lessons in learning how to hang ten, consider turning up the adventure level to eleven, and pay a visit to any of the jet-ski or parasailing rental places on the boardwalk. And for more seafront serenity, check out The 30 Best Beaches in America.
Visiting space in Florida.
For anyone with science-minded kids, a visit to Florida’s Cape Canaveral is a must-visit destination. Tour the Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s principal astronaut port, to give any kid the only entertaining info-dump they’re receive during high school years. To make the most of your trip, consult with the Kennedy Space Center’s launch calendar, so you’re around to witness a jaw-dropping rocket launch. Your teen will instantly become the most popular kid in school (at least on Instagram). And if you really want to visit space, check out The Crazy Plans for Russia’s Super-Luxe Space Hotel.
Kicking back in Barcelona.
Consider your teen’s schedule. Late-night meals, mid-afternoon naps, and nearly-noon wakeup alarms. That’s the rhythm of life in Barcelona, so any teenager is sure to fit right in. And the food, well… It’s one of the few cities on the planet (Paris being another, for instance) where every door to every restaurant is seemingly a magical portal to culinary bliss. And if your offspring are on the younger side, check out The 5 Best Trips to Take With Kids.
Living it up in Manhattan.
Shopping in Soho. Dining in Tribeca. Shows on Broadway. Put them up in a luxe hotel on Fifth Avenue and show them how great the greatest city in the world can actually be.
Partying in the Bahamas.
The Atlantis Resort, located in Paradise Island, Bahamas, features the CRUSH nightclub. From 8:00 p.m. to midnight, on weekends, the club is the world’s best 13-to-17-year-old dance club, and features air hockey, foosball, pool, and every modern gaming console, not to mention pop-spinning DJs and dancing. And parents, you needn’t worry: It’s booze-free. And for more amazing travel coverage, check out our correspondent’s first-person account of traveling like a billionaire.
Midsummer skiing in the Andes.
Yes, you can ski in the summer—you’ll have to head south of the equator, though. Your best bet is Valle Nevado, a 7,000-acre oasis of powder in the Andes Mountains, about 30 miles away from Santiago. Stay at the eponymous, on-mountain hotel (rooms start at about $400 per night in June) for painless ski-in ski-out access—and wifi, so your kid’s never too removed from whatever social media is en vogue by then.
Tasting adventure in… Pennsylvania?
Skytop Lodge is, simply put, 5,500 acres of fun, nestled in the Poconos Mountains. Between a towering 30-plus foot rock climbing wall, a heart-pumping through-the-trees zipline course, and three different paintball fields, it’s a perfect escape for any adrenaline-seeking teen. And while your younger travel companions are out-and-about having a blast, mom and dad can score some much-needed serenity amidst the idyllic Poconos landscape. And wherever you’re going, be sure you know The One Drink Flight Attendants Don’t Want You to Order.
Befriending exotic animals in South Africa.
Fact: Everyone loves animals. And a safari adventure ranks among the best—and most exotic, exciting—ways to see a lot of animals. The folks at andBeyond operate 29 luxury safari tour-lodge packages around Africa, all stocked with top-of-the-line amenities, so any teens that require pampering (in other words, all of them) won’t feel too far from home.
Playing video games in Tokyo.
Every kid loves video games, and in the heart of Tokyo, there’s an entire district (Akihabara) dedicated to them. In addition to countless multi-story arcades—all of which are stocked with games you can’t play stateside—Akihabara is packed with gaming-themed shops and cafes. Once your teen is done mainlining gaming culture, take them to the VR Zone, in Shinjuku, for virtual reality tightrope walking, haunted house touring, and—best of all—Mario Kart.
Biking through the Italian countryside.
It’s no secret that every teen under the sun loves pizza. And while we’re not saying Americanized pizza is exactly “authentic” Italian food, the core ingredients—carbs, cheese, puréed tomatoes—are all there.
Bring your kids on a palette-expanded adventure through the Italian countryside. The folks at Duvine offer culinary tours across the country, from the Riviera waterfronts of Cinque Terre through the sleepy vineyards of Piedmont and winding roads of Tuscany. Your kid can get a taste of more “adult” food (like truffles), or settle with the ultimate iteration of what they’re used to (pasta and red sauce).
Camping in the middle of nowhere.
Toasted marshmallows, unlimited fresh air, and the instant bonding that comes innate when you’re a few degrees removed when spotless cell reception. A camping trip is surefire way to steal some quality time with your teens before they go off to college—and bigger and better things.
Sending them off to summer camp.
Because you really deserve a break. And if you’re looking to fill the time with some personal travel, check out the 15 Jaw-Dropping AirBnBs From Around the World That Won’t Break the Bank.
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