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.
Where to travel with teenagers?
Types of Travel Your Teen Will Love
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best Ski Resorts for Kids with the Best Kid Friendly Activities
Best ski resorts – For our family, skiing and traveling go together.
We love to explore new parts of the US while we’re sampling the slopes.
I advocate taking even very young children on a family ski trip, which is made easier by resorts with activities especially for kids.
You can ski green too and protect the earth in your travels.
Here are my picks for the best ski resorts with kid-friendly activities in the United States.
Keystone Resort, Colorado:
Keystone is #1 for kids amid top Colorado ski resorts, and it’s no wonder why.
First of all, there’s an abundance of lodging options in all price ranges at Keystone.
We like to stay in the River Run village for ski-in, ski-out convenience and proximity to the ski school, rentals, ice skating, and pools, but families can get deals elsewhere as well.
Keystone’s legendary Kidtopia offers kid-friendly fun every afternoon from 3 pm – 5 pm as kids get off the slopes.
These planned activities range from live DJs to face painting, and always include a free cookie hour afterward.
Families can also ice skate in two locations at Keystone, take sleigh rides, and try out snowshoeing or nordic skiing.
Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont:
Smuggler’s Notch, or ‘Smuggs’, has — hands down — the best ski resort child care in any resort we’ve visited.
What makes them special?
Their excellent care givers, of course, and the fact that they take babies and toddlers, which many resorts cannot.
Smuggs also has a huge indoor Play Zone for all kids after skiing and many kid-friendly restaurants.
Be more eco-friendly and walk!
A bonus is that the village at Smuggs is within walking distance of almost all lodging, which means a family can park their car, and not have to use it for the length of their ski vacation.
We love the way Smuggs packages their ski vacations in a way that allows parents to purchase child care, lessons (or ski ‘camp days’), lodging, and tickets all at once, for a reasonable price.
No more worrying about what things cost while on the mountain, or deciding at the last minute whether to spring for a lesson.
Northstar California Resort, CA:
Even though we live in Oregon, we consider Northstar California to be our ‘home’ resort.
We love this Tahoe skiing destination due to the friendly, easy-to-navigate pedestrian village, great snow-making (which means kids are never disappointed by poor snow conditions), and proximity to beautiful and bustling-with-activities Lake Tahoe.
When at Northstar, we make sure we stay in or near the village, so we can take advantage of ski-in, ski-out accommodations and quick dining.
After meals in the village, we walk over to the outdoor ice skating rink for free skating and s’mores roasted in one of many communal fire pits.
In fact, s’mores is a nightly ritual at Northstar.
You’ll see their mountain employees handing out chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows to all families coming off the slopes each afternoon.
Northstar has two athletic clubs with heated outdoor pools and hot tubs, and most of its lodging offers private hot tubs as well.
The village candy shops and ice cream parlors make kids happy.
Frequent family-friendly events overtake the village center many times per winter.
Snow Basin Resort, Utah:
In general, family-friendly ski resorts offer large base villages where families can dine, stay, and play, but there are exceptions, such as the Snow Basin Resort.
What this Utah resort lacks in a ‘village life’, it more than makes up for in low crowds and a fast car-to-lift commute.
Best of all, the ski school, gear rental shop, and child care are all located in the same building, making the pre-ski day easy on parents.
Even though Snow Basin doesn’t offer an array of base activities for kids, I recommend them for their great pricing.
Kids can get outfitted, enroll in ski school, and ski all day for a very reasonable price.
Parents will enjoy the tougher terrain at the top while kids learn, and then families can meet up for group runs until the lifts close.
Silver Mountain Resort, Idaho:
Bring your swimsuits for a ski vacation to Silver Mountain!
Yes, Silver Mountain has one of the biggest indoor water parks we’ve ever seen (think Great Wolf Lodge big) attached to its resort, allowing families to take a day off of the slopes to splash indoors during bad weather or every day, after skiing.
We’ve tried their surf simulator, and let’s just say we’ll stick to skiing!
There’s also a full spa at Silver Mountain, and great package deals for families: stay, swim, and ski for as low as $49 per person in the winter.
On the slopes, it’s an easy gondola ride from the resort to the base of the mountain, and families can simply return to their lodging for nap time.
Things to Look for When Bringing Kids to a Ski Resort
It’s nice when everything is close by, preferably walkable.
The best ski resorts will promote their kids-programs and lessons geared for kids.
Fun amenities for kids such as a swimming pool and kids’ club will make it more fun and easier on the parents too.
Where do you ski as a family?
What makes it kid-friendly?
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.
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.
Sand Dunes of Ica, Peru
Outdoor adventure takes on a wild edge in Ica, Peru, where teens can have a blast sand boarding down southern Peru sand dunes with an Ica tour company.
I’ve also seen tweens and teens haul snowboards to the top of Logan Pass in Glacier National Park.
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.
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.
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 have you traveled with tweens and teens?
What locations and activities have they enjoyed?