This post is part 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.
Where to travel with teenagers?
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, Montana. Over the years, my kids have enjoyed zip-lining, snowboarding, and rock climbing. They shouldn’t have to endure days and days of lessons to have fun. Memorable moments can be enjoyed on one-day adventures, including kayaking, canoeing, surfing, sky diving, parasailing, and white water rafting.
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 all of us. Teens don’t have to go to a third world country to volunteer and make a difference, however. There is Habitat for Humanity to consider. Another example is outdoor retailer REI. They host a trail clean-up stewardship effort teens can get involved in while traveling, as does Sierra Club. Local church groups often go on mission trips as well as do more local work.
3. National Parks
I absolutely love national parks. It is hard to “outgrow” them. 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
With the internet to research and to plan ahead, world travel today is much easier than world travel in the past. It will be very enriching for them now that they are older, 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 where to travel with teenagers and tweens.
1. US National Whitewater Center
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), it’s fun to see where a fantasy series has come to life. And it is a beautiful place, filled with lots of outdoor activities to enjoy. Spend the day rafting, kayaking, or biking. You can even horseback ride through the rain forest.
3. Sand Dunes of Ica, Peru
Outdoor adventure takes on a wild edge in Ica, Peru, where teens can have 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 as well as at the Great Sand Dunes in Mosca, Colorado. I’ve also seen tweens and teens haul snowboards to the top of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park.
4. Crow Canyon, Colorado
Tweens and teens and their family can volunteer 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. However, teens are learning a profession, personalizing anthropology they usually see only in museums, and getting their hands dirty. Worldwide volunteer opportunities abound, too.
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 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 have they enjoyed?