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Traveling with teens can be incredibly rewarding, but no matter what age they are, it also comes with a fair share of challenges.
These challenges alter, as your kids get older, needing new strategies and quite often – a whole new type of holiday.
When kids become teenagers, they have a whole new set of needs, requirements, and challenges to take on themselves, generating little anxieties like ‘fitting in’ and ‘fear of missing out’.
Their friends become far more important to them as they start to fine-tune their interests and develop their adult personalities.
Trust me, we have 2 kids, one is of tween age and the other well into her teens. We’ve had some incredible adventures with our two girls in their teenage years, and know that a fair bit of understanding, and leeway, is required if everyone is going to get along on holiday (or at all).
In this guide, we share our tips for traveling with teens so you can make the most of your family vacation…
- Tips for Traveling with Teens
- 1. Involve them in the planning process
- 2. Try a new destination
- 3. Do unique experiences
- 4. Choose your accommodation wisely
- 5. Revisit your youth with the YHA
- 6. Make sure there's plenty to do
- 7. Find activities that will challenge both of you
- 8. Accept the fact the smart phones are coming on holiday
- 9. Be flexible and allow plenty of down time
- 10. If at all possible, avoid holiday plans that require early starts
- 11. Get them a travel journal
- 12. Let them be in charge of their own packing
- Best Places to Travel With Teenagers
- Final Thoughts
- More Family Travel Tips
- Save It On Pinterest
- More Family Travel Posts
Tips for Traveling with Teens
1. Involve them in the planning process
Don’t just schedule the entire itinerary for them, ask them where they’d like to go and what they would like to do.
They might have somewhere in mind they’ve always dreamed of going, or have found a hidden gem whilst scrolling on Instagram.
This is their holiday too, so let them be a part of the planning process. On our teen New York trip, Kalyra chose The Cursed Child on Broadway, and exploring Greenwich village on a NYC food tour. In London, she chose Harry Potter Studio tour, and Matilda in the West End. On our 4 Week Europe tour, she chose Cinque Terre, which our tween also thought was the best thing we did!
2. Try a new destination
Take them somewhere they’ve never been before, somewhere exciting that will build anticipation and give them bragging rights in the school playground.
Don’t just go back to Disney World in Orlando or visit the same destination just because you enjoy it. Get out of your comfort zones and discover a new place together.
3. Do unique experiences
Think about fueling their adrenalin, beyond action movies, computer games and theme parks.
Instead, choose activities like jet boating in New Zealand, scuba diving with bull sharks in Fiji or pot holing at Jenolan Caves. Our daughter, Kalyra loved swimming with the pigs in the Exuma Islands.
While they’re young and have no worries about work, retirement, or the struggles of adulthood – give them fond memories to look back on in years to come. They won’t stay young forever, so help them to enjoy this period of their life.
4. Choose your accommodation wisely
Whether your budget is large or small, you are going to need more room with teenagers, and seriously, separate rooms.
If your budget decrees separate tents rather than separate rooms, fine, just make sure they’re separate. You can book two adjoining rooms that can be connected, if you prefer.
Kalyra loved our Avalon Waterways river cruise as her and Savannah had their own suite across the hall from us. That’s invaluable independence for a teen. You can read more reasons why she loved our Danube River cruise as a teen.
5. Revisit your youth with the YHA
There are plenty of budget options for places to stay for bigger families, and contrary to what you might believe, hostels are not just for backpackers.
Youth Hostels are a great idea for families, most of which now have double rooms and family rooms, so it’s possible to find a combination of the two that works.
You don’t have to stay at all inclusive resorts to save money, just book a hostel!
6. Make sure there’s plenty to do
Make sure your chosen destination has a range of activities suitable for teenagers – whether that’s surfing, horse riding, volleyball or football.
Nothing bores a teen more than watching everyone else have fun without you, watching your younger brothers or sisters enjoy activities that you’re not invited to because you’re over 12.
7. Find activities that will challenge both of you
There is no greater bonding experience than facing those challenges together, whether that’s facing a fear of heights at the top of Auckland Sky Tower, a black run down the mountain or trying scuba diving for the first time.
When you come through the other side unscathed and pretty damn pleased with yourself, you’ll have bonded in more ways than one.
8. Accept the fact the smart phones are coming on holiday
This is the digital age and you will just cause massive melt downs trying to get them to leave their smartphone at home.
Allow them to take it with them and get them a local sim card so they can stay connected. This will be important to avoid “roaming mobile bill shock”.
Ensure the hotel or resort you’re staying at has free Wi-Fi, find out the cost involved and if necessary, plan a visit to a cafe every now and then so they can use the internet there.
Smartphones are how they stay connected to their friends back home. It’s important for a teen to have that connection to avoid FOMO. Plus, I love seeing what my girls capture on their phone camera. It gives me an interesting insight into what they are enjoying.
9. Be flexible and allow plenty of down time
It’s exhausting traveling, and everyone needs a little “me time” even when you’re traveling as a family.
Take days off, or what my kids like to call “lazy days,” between adventure days. It’s okay – you’re on holiday, so it’s acceptable to spend at least one day in your pyjamas watching in-house movies.
Ensure there is free time every day, so they have time to rest after exploring attractions and can upload their selfies to social media.
With teens, it’s also easy to leave them in the hotel room or apartment if they’re tired and want to relax. This happens a lot with our teen. By the end of the day she just wants to lie on the bed. Craig and I detest doing that so we head out for more exploration and evening fun (close to the accommodation) while her, and Savannah chill in the room.
10. If at all possible, avoid holiday plans that require early starts
Sleeping in seems to be a human right that teenagers hold dearly. You may think they are lazy, but sleep is actually important for their emotional and physical growth, so avoid waking them up unnecessarily.
If you don’t want to sleep in yourself, or want to catch a sunrise, use the time to have breakfast in peace or go for a walk. Take the alone time while you can!
11. Get them a travel journal
If you want them to put down their phone and get off social media, then get them a journal to document their adventures.
Older kids will especially love this, as they begin to develop deeper thoughts and opinions about things.
12. Let them be in charge of their own packing
One of the easiest things you can do to make teen travel easier is to give your teen responsibility to look after themselves.
No one likes an overbearing parent, so let them do them.
Give them their own case and allow them to pack it themselves, and look after their own belongings.
One of the biggest life lessons they will learn is independence, and travel is a great classroom for that.
Best Places to Travel With Teenagers
We’ve had many family holidays with our teens and know it’s not easy to pick destinations.
As we mentioned earlier, be sure to share family vacation ideas with your teens and have them weigh in on where they would like to take their family holiday.
Below are some suggestions for the best vacations for families with teens that are fun for the whole family.
Most teenagers dream about a vacation in Europe. The best city for teenagers is one of the most popular – the romantic city of Paris.
Paris has a unique local culture and a ton of things to do with teens. We visited Paris in the summer of 2023 with our teens and they loved it.
They will love seeing the Eiffel Tower, shopping along the Champs-Élysées Avenue, and marveling at the works in The Louvre. It was their favorite destination on our Europe trip.
Another city with a ton of attractions for teens is London. The big city of London has everything from history, world-class museums, and iconic landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace where they can snap a selfie or two.
It’s also where Harry Potter fans can get the true experience. You can visit The Harry Potter Experience at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, as well as take walking tours and watch Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the West End.
London has a bustling scene full of music and arts, with numerous theaters, live music venues, and street performances to keep your teens engaged.
Be sure to visit trendy neighborhoods like Camden or Notting Hill for a taste of London’s creative energy.
New York City
New York City is an exceptional place for teenagers because it’s packed with iconic landmarks, from Times Square to the Statue of Liberty, with each landmarks providing excellent photo opportunities.
It’s also well known for cultural diversity. Teenagers can explore neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy, immersing themselves in different cultures through food, shops, and vibrant street life.
With museums like The Met, MoMA, and the American Museum of Natural History, the city is full of world class museums that offer incredible art and educational exhibits that engage and inspire young minds.
And let’s not forget Broadway Shows. It doesn’t matter what kind of teenager you have, there is a theatrical production to cater for every taste.
Chicago is another big city that makes for an excellent destination for teenagers, offering a blend of culture and entertainment.
The city is home to world-class museums like the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry, which can broaden and inspire young minds.
The Navy Pier, an iconic waterfront attraction, is a wonderful place to visit. It offers rides, games, and an array of entertainment options, including the famous Ferris wheel and boat tours on Lake Michigan.
If you have teenage boys who love sports, Chicago is a sports-loving city, with teams like the Cubs, Bulls, and Bears. Teenagers can catch a game and experience the electric atmosphere of a live sporting event.
And for those who love to shop, head to Magnificent Mile, a renowned shopping district that showcases high-end stores, trendy boutiques, and a variety of dining options, making it a paradise for teenage shoppers.
Chicago is also famous for its comedy scene, with legendary improv theaters like Second City and iO Chicago where teenagers can enjoy hilarious performances (well, if age appropriate). Check out all Kalyra and I did on a mother-daughter getaway to Chicago.
Yellowstone National Park
For active teens who prefer outdoor adventure, consider a road trip through Yellowstone National Park.
Visiting Yellowstone National Park offers adventure, education, and natural wonders. It’s famous for its geysers, including the iconic Old Faithful. Teenagers can witness these geothermal marvels up close and learn about the park’s volcanic history.
Yellowstone is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including bears, wolves, and herds of bison. Teenagers who love animals can go on wildlife safaris and capture amazing sightings.
The park offers endless opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and even whitewater rafting. It’s a chance for teenagers to disconnect from technology and connect with nature.
Above all, Yellowstone is an educational experience. There are educational programs and ranger-led activities, allowing teenagers to deepen their understanding of ecology, conservation, and geology.
Teen travel is one of the best ages to travel with since they are becoming young adults and have more opinions and ideas about what interests them.
We hope this guide helped you plan your next vacation as a family and gave you some inspiration for traveling with teens.
More Family Travel Tips
Need more inspiration for traveling as a family? Here are some other helpful guides…
More Family Travel Posts
Save It On Pinterest
Do you have any tips for traveling with teens? Let us know in the comments.