Imagine a vacation that the entire family will want to go on, including your grown children. Ok, so really imagine that it is happening. I don’t mind if you daydream for a moment or two about what your trip would look like, but let’s focus on how you can make it happen – together.
It is a common situation among young families: you have some time off from work, your kids have time off from school, and you desperately want to take them somewhere memorable. Naturally, you start thinking about day trips, a single destination vacation, or a trip to your family’s vacation house. While all of those options can be fun and exciting, they don’t really feel like “a big deal.” Sure, it might be exciting for everyone the first couple of days. But by day three it feels like old news. If this sounds familiar to you then I suggest you might want to consider taking your kids on a family vacation that they are sure to remember forever.
Traveling with a teenager isn’t the easiest thing in the world. For starters, they’re too young for adult fun and too old for the plethora of activities geared toward the easy-to-please 12-and-under crowd.
Family Vacation With Young Adults
But just like there are plenty of places to take the kids before they’re grown, there are several destinations — both national and international — ideal for families with teens. Many could be considered bucket list spots, but why not splurge for the occasion? It may be the last family vacation before your kid(s) fly the coop — forever. From budget-friendly beach resorts to Northern Thailand, here are several teen-friendly places to visit as a family.
Best vacation spots for families with teens
Best for ages: 13-18
Here’s why: The Mile High City is a must for families with teens who want to play in the mountains but have big city amenities.
Do this: Social media mavens can start the day at the Denver Selfie Museum where the backdrops are just as Insta-worthy as the surrounding Rockies. Or capture those tricks for TikTok at the 60,000-square-foot Denver Skate Park. Aspiring artists will want to check out the myriad collections at the Denver Art Museum (18 and under are free). In the winter, adrenaline junkies can’t skip a trip to Ruby Hill Rail Yard, an urban terrain park and snowboarder’s paradise.
Stay here: For the culture maven of the family, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver has a package including two tickets to either Immersive Van Gogh or Immersive King Tut. It also has a “Grip It and Rip It” package for golf fans and is within walking distance of most of Denver’s downtown sites.
More info: Denver.org
Best for ages: 16+
Here’s why: Practically crime-free, extremely cheap and small enough to be walkable, Porto is the perfect European city to give teens a taste of independence. Located where the Douro River meets the Atlantic, its proximity to the beach and the Douro Valley ensures there is plenty to do.
Do this: Visit the world-famous “Harry Potter library” — Livraria Lello. Teens not afraid of sharks can learn to surf with Onda Pura. Take a scenic boat or train ride to the Douro Valley, the world’s oldest demarcated wine region where teens (16+) are legally allowed to taste wine and — more importantly — learn how it’s made.
Stay here: The breakfast buffet at The Lodge Wine & Business Hotel will satisfy any growing teen, and its picturesque outdoor pool is a rarity in this city founded in 1123.
More info: VisitPortugal.com
Best for ages: 13-18
Here’s why: Jackson Hole is a year-round vacation destination and convenient home base for exploring two of the country’s most popular national parks. With its small-town setting (population 10,500) where everything is within walking distance, teens can easily explore on their own.
Do this: Ski or snowboard together at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, one of the most iconic ski resorts in the world. Rent bikes and ride 56 miles of paved paths or 115 miles of mountain bike trails, most with striking valley views. Since a family who rafts together stays together, battle the rapids on the Snake River or go for a scenic floating safari in search of moose, elk, bears and more. No trip to Jackson is complete without venturing into Yellowstone National Park via the equally stunning Grand Teton National Park.
Stay here: Located at the base of Snow King Mountain Resort, Snow King Resort is Jackson Hole’s best option for families who want immediate access to all kinds of outdoor adventures. Ski, snowboard, tube or — if you visit outside of winter — ride the mountain coaster and alpine slide. There’s also a massive mountain-top ziplining course, fly fishing and stargazing readily available for the curious teen.
More info: VisitJacksonHole.com
Best for ages: 13-18
Here’s why: Whether or not you agree with its nickname “America’s Finest City,” you’ll agree San Diego has beautiful year-round weather and so much to keep your teen(s) happy they’ll ask about going to college there.
Do this: Beach hop your way around the city’s nearly three area beaches, or cave hop via kayak or SUP. Take a self-guided street art tour, stopping to pose in front of massive murals — often illustrating important messages — for pics for the ‘gram. Ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster at the oceanfront Belmont Park or watch an interactive film in its 7-D high tech theater. Other must-consider attractions include the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Air & Space Museum, San Diego Automotive Museum and the newly opened Comic-Con Museum.
Stay here: The Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay welcomes RVs in addition to its fully-furnished tiny home rentals complete with fire pits and front porches. Between the on-site arcade, food trucks, poolside movie screen, basketball courts and indoor/outdoor fitness center, teens will never find themselves bored on vacation.
More info: SanDiego.org
Best for ages: 13-18
Here’s why: Wisconsin Dells is the waterpark capital of the world. Families can stay for two weeks and still never ride all the slides.
Do this: Visit the bottom of the ocean (or outer space) thanks to the underwater virtual reality experience at Kalahari, one of the country’s largest indoor waterparks. Race each other on the Raja king cobra-themed, side-by-side slides at Noah’s Ark. (It’s six stories high!) Visit Mt. Olympus to take on the nine-foot-tall waves at Poseidon’s Rage, one of the world’s largest wave pools or float on The River Troy, the world’s fastest manmade river. Tired of water-based activities? Attempt the Wizard Quest, the first fantasy team-building (or family-bonding) game in the country or unleash your inner Viking at Asgard Axe Throwing.
Stay here: While several area resorts boast their own waterparks, the top-rated property on TripAdvisor is the family-owned and operated Black Hawk Motel & Suites. All guests get free admission to Timbavati Wildlife Park and a Wild Fun Zone attraction pass.
More info: WisDells.com
Best for ages: 13-16
Here’s why: This best of the Midwest destination proves that even inner-city teens can have fun in flyover states. Butler County also makes for a great halfway point for families coming from different coasts.
Do this: Teens who identify as foodies will love the aptly named Donut Trail where they can get their donut passport stamped at each of the funky boutique donut shops along the trail. (There is exactly a baker’s dozen!) Teens who collect all 13 stamps can collect a free T-shirt. Aspiring equestrians can get their horse fix at any of the area’s stables where they can rent horses or join a group ride. Teens who want to learn or practice wakeboarding will have a blast at Wake Nation. With its unique cable-tow system, no boat is required and beginners can learn at slower speeds. And for the ultimate rush, drive 30 minutes south to Cincinnati for indoor skydiving at iFly.
Stay here: Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center is just a few minutes by car from Miami University — one of the oldest public universities in the U.S. Guests can enjoy archery, community bonfires, badminton, nature trails and access to Acton Lake and Heuston Woods State Park.
More info: GettoTheBC.com
Here’s why: There are several reasons Myrtle Beach welcomes nearly 20 million visitors annually. For starters, there are more than 50 beaches to choose from, several world-class golf courses to conquer and one of the country’s biggest boardwalks selling limitless fun.
Do this: Teens anxious to drive can get behind the wheel of their own go-kart and race on six different tracks at the Broadway Grand Prix. Teens aspiring to join the PGA Tour will want to play at one of the area’s 90 golf courses which host junior opens throughout the year. (There’s also a Top Golf if you can’t get a tee time.) Meanwhile, young fans of “The Walking Dead” won’t want to miss the AMC hit show-themed escape room, and fans of “The Simpsons,” The Simpsons in 4D. Teens wanting to hang out with other teens can easily do so on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, home to one of the country’s tallest Ferris wheels. Of course, there are also plenty of beach activities including surfing, wakeboarding and horseback riding to choose from.
Stay here: Homewood Suites by Hilton Myrtle Beach has an on-site waterpark with different areas for young and old kids. Meanwhile, the beachfront Grande Cayman Resort has 10 pools and four on-site restaurants.