Whilst many teens would prefer a minor acne outbreak to spending time with their parents in public, take them to an exotic location, somewhere that’s far outside their comfort zone. You’ll not only earn serious kudos as a parent, but create a situation ripe for serious family bonding, too.
“Holidays with teenagers is an opportunity for you to learn something together as a family, an experience that can put you on an equal footing, despite the age gap,” says Stubborn Mule traveller, Kerry, who recently returned from Costa Rica with her two children aged 14 and 16. [See our Costa Rica family holiday section for more]
According to your feedback, what that particular experience is, whether that’s wandering through a Moroccan souq, exploring the temples of Angkor Wat or Bagan, hanging out at a trendy beach hotel or white water rafting in Nepal, doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much as the fact that you’re encountering them together.
“Teenagers can get a bad rap, but we didn’t recognise the moody, grudging stereotype at all,” said Richard Harris, who, while his wife was working, trekked with his two teenage sons in Nepal last year.
When we asked him about his trip, he said: “Tom and Ollie loved every second and we came back a stronger family unit for it. Sure, it was tough at times, the trekking could be a little challenging and there were the occasional whinges, but overall, we laughed together more than we have in years, we got fit together rather than just lounge by a pool and as a consequence now have memories that we’ll treasure for a lifetime.”[See our trekking blog for the low down on the best family trekking holidays or read more about Nepal family holidays]
A plea we often hear from parents when researching a trip, is, ‘I just want to get them away from their iPad.’
Whilst tech definitely has its place (tablets or phones are a godsend on long haul flights), and teenagers are going to want to keep in touch with friends back home via social media, we find that if you keep your kids active enough through the day, it negates the need for tech for the vast majority of time.
“Any parent will know that for holidays with teenagers to work, you need to include something that will engage them” says Liddy.
“That’s the beauty of a tailor-made holiday. There are so many variables that go into making a successful trip – not just where to go, but what to do, existing family dynamics, age differences and personality types, it’s not surprising that the closer we work together with families the more harmonious and enjoyable the trip seems to be.”
“If you’re tempted by imposing a total tech ban through the holiday, though, our experience is don’t,” she adds. “Teenagers do need their down time, they like to keep in touch with friends (for boasting or bonding) and when you’re spending so much time together, probably more than you have for years, it’s good to have an outlet that doesn’t require too much brain power.”
Top picks for holidays with teenagers
Based on your feedback, we’ve cherry picked a few experiences that make for fantastic holidays with teenagers.
1. Hike through Wadi Rum in Jordan
It’s one of the most ‘other worldly’ places on the planet, a backdrop for many a film including Laurence of Arabia and Star Wars. This hike takes you along a narrow cliff along side Jebel Rum, where the huge expanse of desert stretches before you. Overnight, you stay in a Bedouin camp for a night under the desert sky. See our Active Jordan for Teens trip for more.
2. Cruise Havana in a Cadillac
The streets of Cuba’s capital, Havana, must be one of the coolest hang-outs on the planet, a place which has inspired poets, revolutionaries, artists and musician for decades. Cruise along in a vintage American car (no boy racers here), sip mocktails in a café, listening to the sounds of samba, sit back and relax as you make the most of the Latin vibe. The ideas in this ‘Havana for Families’ blog will keep you busy for days, then check out our two-week family trip to Cuba. To get in the mood, listen to Camila Cabello’s Havana on YouTube.
3. Adrenaline activities in Namibia
Swakopmund is Southern Africa’s adventure capital and a magnet for adrenaline junkies. Quad biking, sky diving, camel riding, sand biking and more are all on offer. See our Nambia Highlights trip for more information.
4. Learn to cook like a pro in Asia
5. Cycle around the Pink City of Jaipur
If you can peel your teens out of bed before 9 (a wet sponge seems to work for ours) they’ll be rewarded by the sights and sounds of a city waking up, hawkers selling their wares, people scurrying to work whilst cycling through the streets of Jaipur during our Wonders of Rajasthan trip.
6. ‘Summit’ to challenge them
Move over, Duke of Edinburgh Award! See if your teens can rise to the challenge of summiting Mt Kinabalu on our Active Borneo trip or the highest mountain in Africa on our Family Mt Kilimanjaro climb in Tanzania. If our consultant, Helene Cooper can get her 5-year-old daughter to the top of Borneo’s highest mountain, we think it’s in reach of most teens, too. See her experience, Climbing Mt Kinabalu with Kids here.
7. Hilltribe trekking off – grid
8. Get active in Halong Bay
Most teens will have seen pictures of the karst limestone scenery that dominates Halong Bay (if not, show them this!) They may even have studied it in Geography. What they won’t have done is really feel part of the landscape by canoeing through the waters or maybe diving off a junk boat and going for a swim. It’s a way of bringing the landscape to life AND getting them active and involved, all in a jaw-droppingly beautiful location. Check out our Vietnam Highlights and Northern Vietnam itineraries.
9. White-knuckled white-water-rafting in Peru
The urge to update Insta or Snapchat disappears pretty much as soon as you step into the inflatable boats during a white-water rafting trip on the Urubamba River in Peru’s Sacred Valley – what with the white knuckles and generally hanging on tight. Parents get major kudos, too, for coming along for the ride. A brilliant bonding experience for the whole family, just go easy on lunch beforehand. Rafting is available on both our 2-week Highlights of Peru trip and 3-week Highlights of Peru trip.
10. Go Ziplining in Costa Ricaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa !
Like the above example, we also find that Ziplining in Costa Rica makes that smart phone or i-phone completely obsolete, what with the clinging on for dear life (we exaggerate, but those hands will be fully occupied, we promise!). Costa Rica is well set up for adrenaline-fuelled activities and there are several zip line and canopy activities throughout the country. Our favourite? The one in Arenal Reserve, where there’s also an ‘aerial tram’ for a slower place through the canopy – where 90% of forest animals live
11. Swim with sharks, sealions and turtles
Swimming with sharks. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but just how WOW is that for teens to brag about to their friends back home? In Shark Alley, Belize, snorkelling amongst these creatures is a unique experience, a place where you’ll also see rays and plenty of other fish in the tropical waters, too. Take a look at our Belize Adventure Highlights for more. If swimming with sealions and turtles is more your thing then a family trip to the Galapagos takes some beating. Here’s our top 10 things to do whilst there.
12. Catching some (sun) rays in tropical paradise
When our teens started to catch a glimpse of themselves in the shop window / car rear-view mirror / mobile phone screen, that was the moment that we realised that looking their best was important. Maybe returning home with that slight tan is why sunbathing whilst staying in snazzy beach hotels will always be a top draw of the long-haul holiday when travelling with teens. Belize [check out this article about snorkelling in Shark Alley], Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Thailand, take your pick.
More about holidays with teenagers
For even more tips on holidays with teenagers see this article in International Traveller and then do get in touch with us. We’d love to help. You can ring during office hours on 01728 752751, use our website contact form or email us directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.