Teen Travel: What to Do, Where to Go + How to Survive

Family travel is one thing, teen travel is a whole other ball game. You don’t have to rule out museums and playgrounds all together, but you do have to factor in their new found maturity. Here are my best tips for teen travel.

teen travel
If you insist on taking teens to museums, try to make it fun or be ready for shenanigans.

Holidays with teenagers

The secret to successful holidays with teenagers is doing your research prior. It needn’t take long, but you need to ensure you have the right hotel and a slew of activities for your teen to choose from. I looked up Vancouver activities for teens, mere hours before my 14-year-old and I flew there for the weekend. (Normally I don’t leave it so late, but I was literally hopping from one flight to the next.)

I’m so glad I did, as I discovered a new mountain ropes adventure course had just opened at Grouse Mountain. Within hours of landing in Vangroovy, we were at said ropes course having the time of our lives.

teen travel
This mountain ropes course at Grouse Mountain in Vancouver was fantastic for building confidence.

You also want to include your teen in the holiday planning process. After first doing your research, present them with some options. Better yet, have them research what they want to do on your holiday. You know your teen. What they like to do at home, they’ll probably like to do on their holidays. Here are a few of my favourite activities for teenagers:

Summer activities for teens

Let’s be clear, you’re not planning out all your teen’s summer activities. They might want to get a summer job and for sure, they’ll have their own ideas as to how they want to spend their summer.

But it is wise to research and have a few activities on your radar for when there’s a lull. You want to seize that opportunity to do something together with your teen. Here are my top recs:

Teens can make delightful travel companions. Can….

Aerial and ropes courses: Many ski hills have these set up in summer and teens love the adrenaline factor. Some great ones can be found at Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana and Blue Mountain Resort in Ontario, Canada.

Sports tickets: Pricy, but quite possibly worth the splurge. If you can’t snag tickets, go to a family friendly pub where so they can soak up the atmosphere as you watch the game with locals. If there’s not a professional team where you’re visiting, you can still checking out their sporting facilities to see how they compare.

Cooking classes: Your teen may not cook a lot at home, but classes are completely different. It’s not like home-ec in school (does that course even exist anymore?), it’s way more interactive. We’ve done fun pizza, pasta, macaron and ice cream making classes. Go for a food that’s the specialty of the region. On our upcoming trip to Japan, we’re scheduled to make soba noodles. Can’t wait!

Theme parks: Let’s face it. Most teens are adrenaline junkies. Disney, Universal and Six Flags may not be your bailiwick, but I bet it’s up your teenager’s alley.

Art classes: If your kid is creative, this is a great way to explore the local culture. If your teen isn’t into art, do they like anime? If so, you might find a manga workshop. We had friends put their teen and tweens an art class in Italy and it was the highlight of their trip.

Concerts: You’ll earn major cred if you score tickets to cool band or singer performing at your destination.

Interactive museums: Any national, state or provincial capital ought to have a slew of museums and likely a children’s museum. See if the kid’s museum has a section for teens. If not, consider a science museum, which often has hands on activities.

Via Ferrata: For thrill seekers, but in a mountain setting, this is what you want to look for outside the city. Via Ferrata is an assisted mountaineering activity. You literally scale the side of a mountain, but you’re all geared up and roped in, so it’s safe. Kids over 12-years-old love it, trust. Here’s how we fared.

Kids can climb Mt Norquay in #Banff via the Via Ferrata
It’s a fantastic bonding experience for families to tackle Mt. Norquay’s Via Ferrata in Banff National Park.

Hit the water: Luckily, most teens aren’t as fussed if your hotel comes with a pool or not. Still, check before booking, so you know what to pack. If you’re near the ocean, for sure introduce them to snorkelling. Better yet, take a scuba diving course before your holiday. For river adventures, consider white water rafting, kayaking or canoe rides.

Outdoors: Everyone benefits from the calming effects of nature. I’m always shocked how little teens complain when strolling through a garden. Botanical and Japanese gardens are great because they’re so different, but any green space will do.

If you’re in a smaller community or at a mountain resort, go for a hike. Tip: DO NOT BILL IT AS HIKING. Far better to say you’re going for a stroll. Just make sure you’ve got snacks, water, sunscreen and appropriate clothing and shoes.

Segway Tours: Hear me out! This falls into the so bad it’s good category. Fun fact: too cool teens adore cheesy activities. Anything that bumps up the engagement factor on Instagram, right? Like hiking, you might not want to let them know what you’re up. Best to spring it on them, me thinks.

Shopping: Obvs, skip this if your kid has zero interest. My teen isn’t into fashion, but even she appreciates a buzzing high street. Soaking up the atmosphere in a trendy part of town often equates to teen bliss. Budding fashion influencers might want to hightail it to the mall as much as their mothers do.

Brunch: Exploring through your stomach is the best part of travel. Map out epic burger joints and other teen faves prior to your trip. We’re a fan of afternoon tea, patisserie-style bakeries and liege waffles. Brunch is also a great option as it nails off two meals, but don’t forget about Happy Hours! Like little ones, teens are prone to getting hangry late afternoon.

Tucking into afternoon tea is another favourite holiday activity of ours.

Final teen travel tips

Skip boring museums – this could include art museums depending on their exhibits. Research prior!

Score accommodation in a walkable, trendy area. When you’re making your online hotel booking, you should be able to see what neighbourhood it’s in. This is key.

Schedule plenty of downtime. Don’t start your mornings too early. We all know how much teenagers sleep. And don’t cram too much into your day. One big activity and one meal out is enough.

Include your teen in the process – the planning and on the ground. Hand over the reins and let them plan a day or two – including where you’ll eat.

Do all this and you’re sure to come back from your vacay with sulk-free teens. Well, one can always hope.

What are your favourite activities to do with teens?


More teen travel tips:

What you need to know before attempting a multi-gen trip

 25 Places in Canada every family should visit

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