Parents of a certain age might recall Harry Enfield’s take on teenagers in the form of Kevin; the truculent, moody and rather vile televisual incarnation which was hilarious, precisely because it was so well observed. (If you haven’t seen it, check out the episode where he turns 13).
Whilst we may struggle to recognise our burgeoning adults as they juggle with hormones, hurdles and hand-held devices, your feedback suggests that adventure holidays abroad with teenagers can be transformative. Not only can they inspire a new-found confidence in your teen but you may also find that sharing adventures with teens on a more equal footing can transform the family dynamic, too.
Indeed, whilst many teens would prefer a minor acne outbreak to spending time with their parents in public at home, take them to an exotic location, somewhere that’s far outside of their comfort zone and you create a situation ripe for serious family bonding….
Even more shockingly, parents have told us that when holidaying with teenagers some of them actually put their phones down for whole, successive, voluntary, sulk-free HOURS at a time.
We were amused by the revelation from our tech team that one of the search terms used recently to arrive at our website was ‘Where the f*** to go on holiday with teenagers who hate everything?’ Perhaps we’ve got the answer.
Here’s our handy guide of holidays your teens will thank you for.
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. Get active in Vietnam’s 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 (a traditional sailing 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.
2. 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 path running along the edge of 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.
3. Cruise Cuba’s capital 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 musicians for decades. When holidaying with teenagers, don’t miss cruising along in a vintage American car (no boy racers here), sip mocktails in a café, listen 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.
4. 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.
5. Learn to cook like a pro in Thailand
Teens will love being guided around a local market discovering and stocking up on new and exciting ingredients before learning how to cook traditional dishes such as tom yum or pad thai from a local expert. How hot can they handle, that is the question… Authentic cookery lessons can also be undertaken in China or Vietnam. With a bit of luck they may be keen to show off their new culinary skills to friends and family once home, too!
6. Cycle around the Pink City of Jaipur in India
India can be a riot for the senses, exciting even the most reluctant or truculent of teens. If you can peel yours out of bed before 9am (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.
7. Go on safari in Africa
Whether you choose to safari in Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia or South Africa, parents often cite African safaris as THE bucket list holiday choice before teens get too cool to want to hang out with ‘the olds’ and travel with their own friends instead. (Weeps…) For a really iconic trip-of-a-lifetime (and only open to teens of 15 above) take them trekking to see the gorillas in Uganda – it’s coming soon to our website. Contact us directly for a sneak preview. (Also check out our Tanzania with kids – Top 10 activities round-up)
8. ‘Summit’ to challenge them in Borneo
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 or check out our Family trekking holidays blog.
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. Come face to face with Pandas in China
China is a fabulous option for holidays with teenagers, offering some adventurous options like trekking the Tiger Leaping Gorge which simply wouldn’t work with little ones. Adventure aside, it doesn’t matter how old your children are for them to be awestruck at the sight of Giant Pandas in real life. Whilst most people head to the research centre just outside of Chengdu to see these rare creatures in the flesh, teenagers interested in conservation will thrill at the chance to spend the day as a volunteer at the Dujiangyan Panda Centre. Before you know it, your teen will be cleaning out the panda enclosures and collecting panda poo for inspection. See our example China itineraries.
11. Swim with sharks, sea lions and turtles in Belize and the Galapagos
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. (Check out this article about snorkelling in Shark Alley). Take a look at our Belize Adventure Highlights for more. If swimming with sea lions 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. Go Ziplining in Costa Ricaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa !
Like the above example, we also find that Zip-lining in Costa Rica renders the smart 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. When holidaying with teenagers, this is a must!
13. Swim in emerald green pools in Oman
14. Catch some (sun) rays in Sri Lanka
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. Costa Rica, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Belize, take your pick.