This post is Part 4 of 4 of our series on Where to Travel with Kids. Catch up on Part 1: Where to Travel with Babies and Toddlers, Part 2: Where to Travel with Preschoolers and Young Children, and Part 3: Where to Travel with School-Age Kids.
Travel with kids just gets easier and more rewarding as they get older. Of course, traveling with teenagers has its challenges, but let’s give this oft-misunderstood age group a break: taken outside their comfort zone and their social sector, they make for some of the best travel companions. Below, find four general types of travel teens enjoy, then read on for specific trip ideas for teens.
4 Types of Travel Your Teen Will Love
1. Outdoor Vacations with Extreme Sports or New Skills
Teens love to challenge themselves in a safe setting (usually away from their peers at home), and family vacation is a great place for it. My newly minted teen has enjoyed kayaking in Ucluelet, BC and navigating a ropes course in Big Sky. Kayla, a teen behind the site Albany Kid, describes learning the sport of skim boarding, complete with information on where to learn skim boarding while traveling.
2. Volunteer Opportunities
Teens are old enough to actually help during relief and ongoing volunteer efforts and young enough that the experience will challenge and enlighten them (as it does for us all). Teens don’t have to go to a third world country to volunteer and make a difference, however. For instance, outdoor retailer REI hosts a trail clean-up stewardship effort teens can get involved in while traveling, as does Sierra Club.
3. National Parks
I know I’m a broken record about national parks, but kids never outgrow them, right? Not only are teens now old enough for long hikes and difficult terrain, but they’re mature enough to fully appreciate what makes our national parks so special.
4. World Travel
Not only is world travel now easier on everyone, but it’s more enriching, as teens and tweens will better understand the world history, culture, and travel experiences offered to them.
5 Great Trip Ideas for Tweens and Teens
So where, exactly to go? Read on for our list of great trips for tweens and teens.
In his post on 100 Routes Across America, Paul Entin describes this whitewater rafting center in Charlotte, NC as ”Disney World for the active outdoor enthusiast.” The US National Whitewater Center has the largest man-made whitewater route in the world and is an Olympic training ground with lots to offer families with teens. In addition to rafting, kids can zip-line, hike, eco-trek, and more. Best of all, it’s affordable: teens can enjoy all of the offerings for significantly less than a day at Disney.
It’s no coincidence that of all the fantastic national parks on offer, Olympic gets my pick: as most female tweens and teens know, it’s home to Forks and La Push, setting of the popular young adult books series Twilight. Even if your teens are beyond the Twilight stage (or skipped it altogether, lucky you), it’s fun to see where a fantasy series has come to life. Teens can take a guided tour: check out this video from the Dazzled by Twilight Tour captured by The Vacation Gals.
Alternatively, if Twilight really isn’t your cup of tea, teen travel expert Travels with Teens and Tweens offers this list of top ten things to do with teens in Yellowstone National Park.
3. Sand Dunes of Ica, Peru
Outdoor adventure takes on a wild edge in Ica, Peru, where the teens behind Family on Bikes had a blast sandboarding down southern Peru sand dunes with an Ica tour company. If you need to stay closer to home, amazing sand dunes can also be found in Death Valley National Park, and I’ve seen tweens and teens haul snowboards to the top of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park.
4. Crow Canyon, Colorado
Tweens and teens can volunteer with their family side-by-side with archaeologists at this Puebloan dig site outside of Mesa Verde Colorado. You might not think you’re on vacation while in the dirt, hauling buckets of mud, but teens are learning a profession, personalizing anthropology they usually see only in museums, and getting their hands dirty. Worldwide volunteer opportunities abound, too: Family Vacation Critic lists top family volunteer vacation operators parents can trust.
5. Rome, Italy
Teens are ripe for international travel, and what better place to start than one location with nearly everything: ancient history, interesting sites, nice weather, and incredible art. And hey, what teen doesn’t love pizza and gelato? It only takes a few days to hit the major sites in this culture-rich city, but half the excitement of Rome for teens is riding the public transit, walking through the eerie underworld of the catacombs, and seeing what they’ve only glimpsed in text books in the Vatican.
Where have you traveled with tweens and teens? What locations and activities would they give two thumbs up (or do teens even do that?)?