High-adrenaline activities keep teenage complaints at bay. If you're a family of nature-lovers, consider vacationing at a place such as Out'n'About Tresort (treehouses.com) in Takilma, Oregon, where visitors sleep in tree houses, swim in a tree-top pool and get around on a mile-long system of zip lines. Families that prefer horses to zip lines might want to check out a dude ranch such as Triangle C (trianglec.com) near Jackson, Wyoming. Its teen program includes overnights and rafting trips, discos and cowboy classes. If your budget's tight, a camping trip to a nearby state park is a fine way to find adventure on the cheap.
A family friendly resort will prevent your teenager from raining on your sand and sun dreams. Junior Club Med, at Club Med resorts (clubmed.us) in Florida, Mexico, Guadeloupe and the Dominican Republic, provides structured activities for type-A teens and relaxing hangouts for those who prefer to chill with their peers. The massive Atlantis Resort (atlantis.com) on Paradise Island, the Bahamas, is an aquatic playground for all ages, incorporating marine habitats, dolphin encounters and a water park with an amazing slide that plunges teens into shark-infested waters -- inside the protection of an acrylic tunnel.
Teens love returning to school and telling their friends they spent summer break in a place such as the Big Apple or Hollywood. Big cities are a excellent vacation options for families with older kids. Teen-friendly attractions in New York City (nycgo.com) include bike tours, Broadway shows, Central Park, live TV tapings and the Museum of Modern Art. If you prefer to go west, the Los Angeles area is overflowing with attractions for star-struck teens, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Wax Museum (hollywoodwaxmuseum.com), Paramount Pictures (paramountstudiotour.com), Santa Monica Pier (santamonicapier.org) and Malibu.
Try a sports-themed vacation for active and athletic teenagers. A ski destination such as Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort (skiutah.com) in Utah might be the place for you. Snowbird Resort offers ski lessons and slopes for all ages, along with snowshoeing, luge sledding, ice skating, and snow tubing. If your family prefers warm weather activities, they can learn to surf in Hawaii. Moana Surfrider Resort and Spa (moana-surfrider.com) in Waikiki offers surf lessons from expert wave shredders and canoe trips for those in search of quieter ways to enjoy the waves.
Hawaii has no shortage of water-related activities. Boys and girls can learn to surf at North Shore Surf Girls Surf School (northshoresurfgirls.com) on the North Shore of Oahu. Qualified instructors offer lessons for all ages and abilities. Kids and teens will be thrilled when you take them on a catamaran and snorkel outing. Hawaii Nautical (hawaiinautical.com) offers a Dolphins, Whales, Snorkel, Sail package, which includes a sailing day trip on a catamaran, snorkeling, breakfast and lunch, plus guaranteed dolphin or whale spotting. You will all be in water heaven at Wet'n'Wild Hawaii (wetnwildhawaii.com). This is a 29-acre water park with tropical surroundings and more than 25 rides and attractions, including the Tornado and a lazy river.
For quality bonding time, explore the natural beauty of Hawaii with your family. Haleakala National Park (nps.gov/hale) on Maui is a remote area, with coastal, rainforest and volcanic landscape. Just the 22-mile drive up is a fascinating journey of winding roads and various ecological zones. Waimea Canyon (hawaiistateparks.org) on Kauai can be accessed by a long and slow 11-mile drive. The drive is well worth the mesmerizing views this 3,500-foot deep canyon offers of waterfalls, birds, the Pacific Ocean and greenery.
Take your junior foodie on a gastronomical adventure with Hawaii Food Tours (hawaiifoodtours.com). The Hole in the Wall Tour is a day spent tasting the foods of Hawaii, including a two-hour tasting tour of Chinatown, a trip to two bakeries, plus samples of Korean barbeque, Portuguese doughnuts, crack seed and dim sum noodles. The Dole Plantation (dole-plantation.com) is a sprawling pineapple plantation with tons to see. Hop on the Pineapple Express train for 2 miles of lovely scenery, along with a narrated history of Hawaiian agriculture. The plantation also features a permanent botanical maze that is almost 2 1/2 miles of paths and showcases a giant pineapple in the middle.
The educational activities of Hawaii are so fun, kids and teens will not even realize that they are learning. Imiloa Astronomy Center (imiloahawaii.org) is an astronomy and Hawaiian culture center. The center features exhibit subjects ranging from the cosmos to Hawaiian canoeing, plus a native garden and planetarium. The Polynesian Cultural Center (polynesia.com) is a 42-acre recreated village, where exhibits and performances bring to life traditional Hawaiian culture. Have your youngsters check out an ancient form of checkers (konane) and bowling (ulu maika and moa pahe'e).
Historic Banning Mills
Located in Banning, this course allows visitors to view a hidden gorge, the only one of its kind along the Snake Creek in Carroll County. Originally a home to the Creek and Cherokee native American nations, the courses zip those ages 8 and older along six different levels of fun. Depending on experience and desired length, families can choose the course that is right for them, among the six available. According to its site, this course is the world's largest zip lining course. Reservations must be made in advance, and can be done by phone at 770-834-9149. Visit historicbanningmills.com for more information.
Kids as young as 4 to 6 can test their skills at the Chick Pea course here at Treetop Quest, one of six courses available for zip lining. Zippers get to zip any course they choose for a full 2.5 hours with the price of admission. Reservations are required and can be made by phone at 770-904-3547. Visit treetopquest.com for more information.
Lake Lanier Canopy Tours
Lake Lanier Canopy Tours aren't just for those staying at the connected resort. Guests can enter the resort in order to zip. Based in Chestnut Mountain, the park invites those ages 8 and older to choose from six different zip line tours, all of which include zips that go right over Lake Lanier. There are also several sky bridges. The courses vary by time and difficulty. One takes place in the evening hours, through the dark, but children must be at least 12 years of age to participate in that course. To reserve a space, call 770-828-7654. Visit lakelaniercanopytours.com for more information.
Callaway Gardens TreeTop Adventure
Kids must be at least 54 inches tall to zip at TreeTop Adventure. Located in Callaway Gardens, in Pine Mountain, courses zip guests along lines more than 3,000 feet at heights more than 70 feet in the air. This hot spot includes 10 zip lines, including a new Lake Course, which was added in March 2013. It includes five zip lines over water with four additional obstacles. To make a reservation, call 1-800-CALLAWAY or visit callawaygardens.com.
Warm Weather Spots
The Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas is tailor-made for families with teens. Active teenagers will enjoy the huge water slides, river rides, rock climbing or swimming with dolphins. If your teen shrugs these off, he may prefer to try out the elaborate gaming systems the resort offers. A creative teen can hone his film making skills in the performance gallery, or try an arts project in the well-equipped arts and crafts program.
The Big City
For teens captivated by the energy and glamour of the big city, few places rival New York City. Your teen might want to try a Broadway play, wander a few of New York’s famous art museums, or visit Lady Liberty and the Empire State Building. For the avid shopper, there's Fifth Avenue, Macy's and the West Village. Sports fans might enjoy the NBA store on Fifth Avenue, a game at Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden, or cycling or skateboarding through Central Park.
Cold Weather Fun
For families with teens who love winter sports, the Smugglers Notch winter resort in Vermont offers many fun activities. If she’s just learning to snowboard, the resort offers snowboards that have an easy flex and beveled underside, which make snowboarding easier for learners. Also offered is cross-country skiing, with training and special learning slopes at their own Snow Sport University. Other activities include dog-sledding, indoor swimming, arts and crafts and ice skating.
Going on Safari
San Diego is an excellent choice if your teen enjoys outdoor adventures. In addition to having a beach nearby, animal lovers will enjoy the world-famous San Diego Zoo and its nearby Safari Park. The open-bus safari takes visitors through its 1,800-acre park, offering views of giraffes, cheetahs and rhinos, among others. Adventurous teens will love the zip line that’s two-thirds of a mile long. There's also a summer camp adventure for youngsters up to age 17.
Local Campground or State Park
One effective way to save money on a family vacation is to eliminate travel costs like airline tickets, travel agent fees and hotel reservations. Almost every region in America has something to offer in the way of local attractions. By renting a cabin or pitching a tent at a local campground or state park, your family can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Often, attractions like these offer water parks or access to small lakeside beaches that are perfect summer getaways at a fraction of the cost of a traditional vacation.
For families within driving distance of major tourist cities such as Washington D.C., a sightseeing day trip can cost only the price of food and gas. Many big attractions, such as the Smithsonian Institution or National Zoo offer free admission, and it's always free to stroll through a historic city or battlefield, photograph the architecture and read the placards. Coupled with dinner in a nice restaurant, this type of family day trip can be an educational and economical mini vacation.
For families with their hearts set on a costly stay at a popular beach resort, a little online research can go a long way toward saving big bucks. By booking earlier or later in the year and avoiding holiday weeks -- like Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day -- families can save hundreds of dollars. According to the experts at TravelAndLeisure.com, booking off-season not only saves money but can also result in fewer crowds and nicer hotel rooms.
A Longer Stay or a Midweek Deal
Wherever families decide to book their annual vacation, there is usually money to be saved by taking advantage of week-long special deals. Some resorts give discounts to customers who book a full five nights, as opposed to three. Others offer discounts for families who book midweek instead of on the weekends. By checking in on Monday and checking out on Friday morning, vacationers may be able to save substantially on accommodations. Call or check the hotel's website to get the best possible deal for your family.
No matter where you vacation, selecting an accommodation is an important matter, perhaps more so when traveling with a teenager. Choose an accommodation with enough space so that you can relax together or have some time alone. All-inclusive resort options for families with teens can be found in a variety of locations, from beaches and islands, to theme parks and mountains. Booking at such a resort will minimize your planning stress because the resort takes care of things such as meals, entertainment and activities. Many include common areas with arcades, table games and other amusements for teens.
Cruises hold much of the same appeal as all-inclusive resorts, plus a variety of scenery at varying ports. Many cruises offer teen-friendly activities, such as social events that encourage mingling with their peers in a supervised setting, according to a New York Times article citing several travel experts. In port, families can spend quality time together exploring, and on the boat, they can go their separate ways, knowing everyone is safe and looked after.
Taking your teen on an active vacation in the mountains, where you all are engaged in some sort of physical activity, such as skiing or climbing, can vanquish "teen vacation attitude" when your teen is excited about learning new skills and proud of his accomplishments, according to Travel.com. There are even resorts in many of these places, which the site lists for families in need.
Most teenagers will yawn and stretch if you mention history, but touring Williamsburg, Boston, Washington D.C. or other cities imbued with history is a different story, according to Southern Living. As long as you involve lots of walking and vary the activities so that your teen needn't spend all day at a site of little interest, his attention will perk up. Consider your teen's suggestions too in planning your itinerary. If he'd rather see the science museum than the legislative offices, take him to the science museum, while allowing time for you and the rest of the family to enjoy sites of interest. Either way, you'll all have a good time, and at night, you can take in modern city life with dinner, events and more.
When teens crave freedom, cruises can offer just that. Popular cruise lines offer supervised activities for teens that give parents peace of mind and let young people enjoy some autonomy. Activities include athletic events, arcade games, teen dances, theaters and teen lounges. The pre-paid nature of cruises and the 24-hour access to unlimited helps parents stick to a budget when their teens are at that always-hungry age.
When a teen is old enough to drive, a road trip can be a fine way for the young person to get in driving practice and fit in some family bonding. Plan the vacation with the teen and focus on a specific theme. For example, the goal of the road trip might be to see the wackiest roadside attractions, rock-hounding in mines in the West, thrift shop hunting in major cities or finding the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants in rural towns. The long stretches of open road give a teen a good way to safely improve his driving skills and offer parents the opportunity to see the country from the passenger’s side of the car.
All-inclusive resorts offer many of the same benefits of cruises, such as the opportunity to work with a fixed budget, unlimited food and supervised activities for teens, including special resort clubs for young people. The teen activities at resorts vary by location. Beach resorts, for instance, offer water sports, while a resort in the desert may offer horseback riding and hiking trips. Some resorts also feature family field trips to destinations such as ancient ruins or popular marketplaces.
Take your teen to a far-flung destination that she’s only read about in books or seen in movies. Have the teen get involved in all parts of the planning process, from applying for a passport to learning which train stations your family will need to visit. Enlist your teen’s help in finding travel documentaries about your international destination, listing useful basic phrases in the foreign language and making a list of must-see attractions that the family can visit.
Machu Picchu is a site that takes time to really explore, but if you're traveling with kids, you might want to look into shorter itineraries. Classic Journeys leads small group tours to Machu Picchu and surrounding areas. Go whitewater rafting on the Urubamba River or mountain biking in the Sacred Valley. Tour guides show travelers a little-seen side of Peru on these seven-day treks. One of the nation's leading outdoor recreation gear suppliers also offers exciting family adventures to Machu Picchu. Visit traditional marketplaces, explore Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire, hike through the Sacred Valley and much more on seven-day journeys. Kids receive discounted pricing and a complimentary REI day pack.
Eight- to nine-Day Tours
OARS, a family friendly adventure travel outfitter, takes small groups on eight-day tours of some of Peru's must-see sights. Youths ages 12 and older are welcomed to come along and raft the Urubamba River, play games with children, take an Amazon Jungle zip-line tour and explore the ruins of Machu Picchu. The nine-day Peru Family Vacation and Machu Picchu Tour with Adventures By Disney affords travelers the chance to attend a traditional Andean feast, see master weavers practice their craft, go river rafting and explore majestic Machu Picchu.
10 to 11-Day Tours
Surbound Expeditions offers 10-day family tours of the rainforest and Machu Picchu with activities tailored for both adults and children. Kids learn about rainforest ecology and conservation and explore the sights with their own dedicated guide. The Adventure Company's Spirit of the Incas tour takes families with children as young as 7 years of age to some of Peru's most popular destinations. Explore the city of Cusco, enjoy the scenic train ride to Machu Picchu, and go river rafting or horseback riding on these 11-day expeditions.
Amazing Peru takes families on both luxury and affordable tours throughout Peru. Children 12 and older are welcome to come along on the 12-day Peru Family Adventure Tour. Raft, backpack, kayak and bike through some of Peru's most unforgettable sights including Machu Picchu. The Family Tour to Peru is tailored for children younger than 12 years of age with an educational component. Relax on Peru's northern beaches, explore the high-altitude Lake Titicaca, trek through the Amazon, and visit Machu Picchu on this 16-day journey. For travelers on a budget, check out Amazing Peru's 12-day Affordable Family Tour.