Keeping teens happy during a family vacation is key to ensuring everyone else has a good time while traveling. When seeking out the ideal summer getaway, consider some of the following ways to entertain those sulking kids, 15 to 19. The locations are family-friendly with plenty for young ones and mom and dad to enjoy, but feature extra-special teen programs that will bring smiles to everyone’s faces.
Written by Lissa Poirot
Flying Trapeze and Circus Activities
Has your child ever dreamed of walking a tight rope, learning how to juggle or performing gravity-defying spins and flips? A trip to one of Club Med's 71 resorts may be just the ticket. Club Med Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic, offers a variety of circus and trapeze classes for your families future performer. And when they're shimmying their way across the tightrope, they'll love hanging around in the teen lounge, where parents and little brothers and sisters are not allowed. But the Dominican Republic offers plenty more teen-friendly fun, such as zip lining in the jungle, body surfing the ocean waves and getting up close and personal with sharks at the island's Ocean World Marine and Water Park.
And even if your sulky teen has long outgrown the circus, he or she will still love the chance to fly through the air with the greatest of ease, flipping and bouncing, as they enjoy the Club Med Sandpiper's Flying Trapeze and Circus School in Florida. Kids will learn on the ground before they hop on the trampolines and learn to "leap," "lay out" and "return" during aerial acrobatic sessions, included with the stay. Another plus for staying at Club Med? The spa features teen services to pamper your princesses.
For the kids whose stereo volumes are always cranked to 11, and for those who liberate windows from their frames with bass or wear headphones practically 24/7, some hotels offer programs like DJ booths and scratch studios for them to get their groove on. Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa in Florida features a DJ booth, as well as a production studio for budding film makers, while Beaches Resort's Scratch DJ Academy has teens loving Turks & Caicos, which also features the Liquid teen dance club for parent-less dance parties.
Camping (Without the Folks)
As the one thing teens seem to want most is to get away from us, some resorts are organizing teen overnights (also giving us a break from our mopey teens!). For the ultimate in family fun with teens, a dude ranch gets the entire family together for horseback riding, fishing and other excursions. But when the kids want to escape their uncool moms and pops, they can join Triangle C Dude Ranch's teen program, which provides teen cowboy classes, arena riding and overnight camping or mountain biking trips for your fearless hotshots.
Swimming with Dolphins
No matter how cool your teen may be, there isn't a single teen who won't be smiling and giggling like a 6-year-old when swimming one on one with playful porpoises. At the mega-family-friendly Atlantis Resort complex in the Bahamas (nearly two dozen pools and water parks!), it's the dolphin encounter program that teens will remember most, which hosts a variety of programs ranging from shallow water interactions to deep water swims -- all in the resort's world-class, 14-acre marine habitat. The resort's teen CRUSH Club, spa treatments and rock climbing center won't hurt, either.
For your adventurous, outdoor-loving teens, enroll them in the Monday through Thursday High Adventure Experience Camp at Smugglers' Notch for zip lining, waterfall climbs, gorge crossing across a (scary) bridge and rock climbing. Not enough? The Vermont resort understands that fickle teens don't even like to hang out with younger teens, so they split their teen activities and clubs into 13 to 15 and 16 and up, with special times and events to include preteens 11 to 13 in some activities. Activities include high and low rope adventure courses, climbing walls, survival challenges, air boarding and kayaking, along with things like pingpong tournaments, dodgeball, dance parties and graffiti art lessons.
Clubbin' on the Sea
Cruises can be plenty of fun for the whole family, but with typically crowded cabins and limited deck space, teens can feel cramped. On Norwegion Cruise Line's NYC-based Breakaway ship offers stircrazy teens a wonderful retreat from mom and dad with their club, Entourage. Styled like a real adult lounge (sans adults), kids are invited to come hang out, play games, interact and have fun. The club's gaming stations include foosball, air hockey and a DJ emulator. At night, Entourage turns into a full-on disco, complete with teen-friendly raves called "Glow Parties," Suit and Tie Nights, Casino Nights, Mardi Gras and more. And best thing of all? No parents allowed!
If your kids are interested in hanging 10, there isn't a better place than Hawaii's North Shore. A number of Hawaiian resorts offer connections to surf schools, with lessons held right on their beaches, including Turtle Bay Resort, which features the Hans Hedemann Surf School for beginners to advanced. Group, semi-private and private lessons are available for kids 13 and up. Teens may even let you drag them to Disney World Resorts and pretend to smile at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, which also offers surfing lessons.
Adventurous teens will love teen-only diving excursions at island resorts in the Caribbean. At Franklyn D. Resort & Spa in Jamaica (ultra family-friendly with nannies and kids programs for infants, toddlers, school-aged kids, and pre-teens, as well as teens) your kids can learn to scuba dive and getaway on a teen scuba trip to the Cayman Trench through a collaboration with S.C.U.B.A. Jamaica. The resort also provides teen snorkeling trips, kayaking races, bike tours, basketball tournament, a disco, a teen game room, and other supervised outings.
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