Best holidays for teenagers
By Mark Frary, Editor of 101 Family Holidays
Looking for the best holidays for teenagers? Here’s a selection of great family holidays that are absolutely ideal for families with children aged 13 to 18. There is something for every budget, from cheap holidays in the UK to worldwide adventures, plus some hard-earned advice for parents of teenagers on holiday.
Holidays for sporty teens
A Mediterranean beach club is a great place for teenagers to do their own thing without getting into trouble. Mark Warner’s San Lucianu Beach Resort in Corsica is just the job, with sailing, windsurfing and tennis on tap.
On the Greek mainland, the beautiful Sani Resort has lots of activities include mountain biking, trekking, wake-boarding and archery, along with a PADI dive centre and a high season club for ages 12-16.
If you want to push the boat out, head to the British Virgin Islands which is one of the world’s finest sailing destinations, with clear turquoise waters, immaculate beaches and charming barefoot hotels like the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda.
You could do a less expensive version of this in the Mediterranean on a flotilla sailing holiday. This can be a great family bonding experience. No experience is required, but if you feel nervous you could opt for a Stay and Sail Holiday which begins with a week at Surf Club Vassiliki in Greece with instruction from RYA-qualified tutors.
Powder Byrne has Sports Academies for teenagers at resorts in Elba, Sintra and Crete – with luxury accommodation, great facilities and pro training in tennis, football, surfing, scuba-diving and wake-boarding.
PGL runs summer camps in the UK for kids up to the age of 17. It’s a great way for teenagers to develop their independence and make new friends. The company also offers good-value family adventure breaks in Britain and France and half-term camps.
I also recommend Kingswood Camps which has a dedicated holiday camp for kids aged 15 – 17. It is Overstrand Hall on the north Norfolk coast and gets rave reviews from teenagers. The company also runs a ski camp in France. See details.
Puglia is a stunning region of southern Italy, where I recommend the four-star Gattarella Resort which has a Trends Club for older teenagers and plenty of water sports. In Sicily, the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort has a tennis academy, bike hire, 18-hole golf course and dedicated activity programme for teenagers.
If you have a generous budget, consider renting one of these luxury villas in the Algarve – examples include Quinta d’Alegria which is close to Nick Faldo’s Amendoeiras golf course and has its own tennis court.
UK holidays for teenagers
A holiday cottage can be an ideal solution for families with teenagers, giving your kids just the right amount of freedom and independence without breaking the bank. Try these cottages in Devon and Cornwall.
Rent a cottage in the Lake District and you’ll find lots of outdoor activities to keep teens off their smartphones. They can conquer challenging peaks, explore slate mines, go mountain biking in Grizedale Forest, and try kayaking and waterskiing on one of the many lakes. For a good value holiday, I recommend Sykes Cottages.
Sheepskin has some unusual and exciting cottages to rent, mostly in Wales and the Welsh borders. My picks include the stylish Spring Barn near Machynlleth, and The Music Mill which has an industrial Victorian exterior and a spacious open plan interior.
If you want to travel with a large group – perhaps two or three families with teenage children – it makes sense to rent a large house where parents and kids have sufficient space to do their own thing. You’ll find a great selection of properties at The Big Domain – also see their latest special offers.
Activity holidays for families with teenagers
For an action-packed family holiday, I recommend Activities Abroad which has a range of group trips including surfing and orienteering in Portugal, white-water rafting in Slovenia and canyoning in The Ardeche in France. Trips for older teens include tubing in Turkey and diving in Gozo.
Love bikes? Why not saddle up for an independent family cycling holidays in one of Europe’s most picturesque corners. Your luggage is transported for you, and there’s a friendly family hotel lined up at the end of each day.
Or you could learn to play polo. Yes, really. The whole family can get up and running at Polo Valley Ranch in Sotogrande, Spain. No riding experience is necessary.
For budget family holidays in France and Spain, it’s hard to beat a self-catering apartment at a holiday village. Complete with aqua parks and slides, golf courses and tennis courts, these are great for young teenagers who can roam free within a safe environment.
The French Alps are not just about winter slopes. In the summer, this is a great destination for an activity holiday with glacier skiing, mountain biking, white-water rafting and hiking. I recommend Esprit Sun.
Closer to home, I recommend this directory of fun activity ideas across the UK, many of which are ideal for teenagers, including kite-surfing, aeroball, bungee jumping, canyoning and driving experiences for ages 11-16. Also see the full range of extreme activities.
Beach holidays for teenagers
Rent a cottage in Cornwall, the epicentre of the UK’s surf scene. Opt for a chocolate-box thatched cottage, a waterfront apartment or an authentic fishermen’s cottage to retire to after a day out on the board. Details from Classic Cottages.
Book a luxury villa in the upmarket north-east corner of Corfu where you can enjoy nature walks and a private pool, while older teenagers can explore the local resorts and beaches.
Southern Spain – particularly the area around Marbella, Puerto Banus and Estepona – has lots of attractions to amuse older kids and some great villas. Or head across to the White Isle of Ibiza where you’ll find some stunning family villas in the countryside, each with private pool.
If the Costa del Sol is well known to Brits, the coastline of Northern Spain is more of a secret. It has stunning beaches, but also lots of activities to keep teens busy, from mountain biking to rafting. It’s less expensive than the south, has wonderful food and you can fly or take an overnight ferry. Book with Casas Cantabricas which has a great range of accommodation including self-catering cottages and traditional small hotels.
Italy has some great rental properties – villas, farmhouses and cottages – that provide the independence that teenagers crave along with lots of improving culture, fun activities and great food. See the latest special offers.
On the Greek mainland, on a gorgeous stretch of coastline, the Westin Resort Costa Navarino has superb facilities for teens including a recreational park with water slides, a bowling alley and pool tables. There is also golf, mountain biking, an open air cinema and water sports from paddle boarding to scuba-diving.
The Caribbean island of Tobago has the perfect mix of beaches and activities and is perfect for teenagers on family holidays. Snorkel and dive amongst shipwrecks, tropical fish, rays, turtles and sharks.
In Antigua the all-inclusive Verandah Resort & Spa is big enough to give teens some limited freedom while offering kayaking, windsurfing and sailing – with free instruction – all in the price. Also check out these all-inclusive hotels in Barbados.
At Round Hill in Jamaica, you can stay in your own villa with private pool but with all the hotel services on your doorstep – it’s stylish, chilled and teenagers will love the sense of freedom within the resort while you can relax back at base.
Rent a stylish villa on any one of the Caribbean islands. Sleeping from 2 to 20, this is a great holiday for a family or friends and a gentle introduction to freedom abroad for teens.
Oman in the Arabian Gulf is a fabulous choice for winter sun. It’s a fascinating country steeped in history with authentic villages, forts, deserts and wild beaches. Treat yourselves to a stay at Six Senses Zighy Bay.
For a bit more teen-friendly excitement, head to Dubai where the combination of sun, sea, shopping malls, water parks, indoor skiing, 4WD desert safaris and horse riding makes this a sure-fire hit. Best places to stay include the top-selling Jumeirah Zabeel Saray which offers free entry to the Wild Wadi Water Park along with more than 50 activities on site from a climbing wall to a cinema. If your teens love sport, check out the Jumeirah Al Qsr.
California has exciting beaches which can easily be combined with cities, national parks and theme parks. Check out these itineraries including this 10-night California Dreaming which includes the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter and a chance to learn to surf.
Teenage adventure holidays
The world’s most exciting biology lessons awaits in the Galapagos Islands. Enjoy close-up encounters with seals, turtles, iguanas, giant tortoises and exotic birdlife. Journey Latin America has a great range of options including a Land and Sea holiday that combines time aboard a small boat and a few days in a hotel.
The Adventure Company runs a range of teen adventures where all the kids are of similar age, making it easy for teenagers to make friends and not be held back by younger children. Trips include exploring mythical temples and meeting local families, or scuba-diving and sea-kayaking in Turkey.
Borneo is an exciting family destination with its combination of wildlife, rainforest, tribal culture, hiking and beaches. Have a sleepover in an Iban longhouse, explore the incredible subterranean caves of Mulu National Park and visit an orang-utan sanctuary. Best time to visit is between May and September. See this selection of family itineraries.
Indonesia is one of the most exciting destinations for adventure and active family holidays. You could go sailing, fishing, kite surfing, water-skiing, snorkelling and scuba-diving. Check out this 14-day tour of Java and Bali which includes an elephant-back adventure, horse-riding, white-water rafting and a volcano trek. For the ultimate sailing adventure, join Tiger Blue, a 34-metre yacht, as it sails around the pristine islands of Indonesia.
Morocco is packed with excitement, but easy to reach (less than three hours flying time from the UK) and great value. Explore the souks of Marrakech, surf Atlantic breakers in Essaouira, tour the ancient kasbahs and experience the majestic beauty of the Atlas Mountains. For families, I recommend a stay at the Rebali Riads or a challenging trek in the mountains.
If your teens are really up for a challenge, how about an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa?
You could treat your teenagers to this 12-day wildlife and beach family safari in Kenya where they will come face to face with the Big Five, visit the Masai Mara and even stay in a tree-top hotel. Or they could join you in Madagascar on a two-week Lemurs, Whales and Beaches family safari.
For a safari with a difference, go on horseback. A family riding safari in Kenya or Botswana is a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience, whether you are experienced riders or first-timers. Details here.
South Africa is an excellent destination for a self-drive holiday. Start at Cape Town, head along the Garden Route, see whales, African Penguins and Cape Fur Seals, stay at the charming Grootbos Nature Reserve then polish it off with a wildlife safari. You can also see the Big Five in malaria-free game reserves such as Madikwe and Pilanesberg, both of which are great for families.
Teenagers love America. If you value your freedom and don’t mind living in close quarters, you can rent a motor home and go where you please.
South America is an exciting destination for teens, a world of sights, sounds and new experiences. Top of the pile are Brazil and Peru. Book your ideal trip with Dehouche, an expert British operator based in Brazil.
Iceland is only a three-hour flight away. In winter you have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights while in summer you can bathe in geothermal lagoons and go whale watching. Take an off-road trip in a 4WD Superjeep to get within touching distance of waterfalls, bubbling mud pools and exploding geysers.
* See this comprehensive guide to adventure holidays for teenagers and other children.
Ancient and modern culture
Few countries can match Japan for excitement. In futuristic cityscapes, you can discover manga art, high-tech buildings, back-street sushi restaurants, samurai and the towering arcade palaces of Akihabara’s “electric town”. Ride the bullet train to ancient Kyoto where you can stay in a traditional Ryokan inn and visit a Samurai castle. Take your pick from these family holidays in Japan.
Vietnam is a country where ancient and recent history can be found at every turn. The cities of Saigon and Hanoi ripple with excitement plus there are beaches, temples and the tunnels at Cu Chi and the turtle and primate conservation centres at Cuc Phuong.
Archaeology holidays may sound dull but they are a great way to learn about history with the help of a guide. With sites of interest all over the world, chose from anywhere from Albania to Iceland. Details from Andante Travels.
Rather than squeeze yourselves into a city hotel room, why not rent one of these family apartments. You could spread yourselves out in a stylish apartment in Lisbon, a loft in Paris, a canal boat in Amsterdam or designer flat in Barcelona.
Las Vegas is a great place for families with teens. Themed resorts, great weather all year round, helicopters to the Grand Canyon and jeep rides across the desert are just some of the things to do.
Rent a chateau in France with Oliver’s Travels – a great solution if you can gang up with another couple of families, as the kids will have lots of freedom while remaining without the grounds of the house. I particularly like Chateau de Tille in the Loire. It sleeps up to 16 and has a swimming pool, tennis court and separate coach house.
Take a family volunteering holiday which gives you the best of both worlds: the chance to do some useful work such as feeding and building shelters for animals before they are returned to the wild, along with relaxing time on the beach. Check out this amazing trip to Costa Rica. More ideas from Hands Up Holidays.
Set sail on a tall ship sailing adventure around the Caribbean, Central America or the Mediterranean where you can help haul in the sails, snorkel in warm seas or simply lounge in a hammock on deck and practise shouting ahoy. This is a truly unforgettable teen holiday.
Head Down Under for a trip of a lifetime with a genuine “teen wow” factor. Australia offers exciting cities, mountains, wild coastline and surfing, while New Zealand offers everything from the haka to Lord of the Rings. For active teenagers, South Island makes a perfect two-week trip with jet-boating, kayaking, whale watching and perhaps even a bungee jump.
Although maybe not the first choice for a trip with teenagers in tow, Rio de Janeiro’s heady mix of gorgeous beaches, breathtaking landscapes and captivating culture is a perfect way to show a different side to the world. Try one of these family adventures in Brazil.
>> Find more ideas at 101 Family Holidays
Teenage holiday diplomacy: Advice from a dad
We’ve all been teenagers but until you’ve been a parent of a teenager on holiday you might not understand the tension that can be created by inflexible attitudes on both sides. Here are my tips:
1. Give them space. Teenagers need their own rooms where they won’t be nagged about making their beds, drawing their curtains, etc. We’ve found that self-catering holidays work best in this respect.
2. Don’t plan too many early mornings. Most teenagers have been working hard at school, getting up at what seems to them like a stupid time of the morning. On holiday they deserve a lie-in. If you do plan a family day out that requires an early morning, discuss it with them beforehand.
3. Accept that they won’t want to do the same as you. Some days they may prefer to stay in bed all day. That’s fine. Enjoy the time without them, as they will enjoy the time without you.
4. Many teenagers prefer not to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at regular times. They will starve themselves for hours then pile into the fridge. Another reason to opt for self-catering accommodation (with a well-stocked fridge).
5. Get them involved. Ask them to join you on a food shop so they can help plan the catering, and invite them to cook dinner one evening. Let them plan a day out, researching the route and things to do online.
6. Talking of online, you might feel that a fortnight without the internet is a treat. A teenager will regard it as torture. Make sure there is wifi at the villa / hotel / campsite. Perhaps make some ground rules on its use (eg daily Facebooking is fine, but five hours on a multi-player online games site is not).
7. Depending on the age and attitude of your child, you might want to allow them to drink alcohol at meals. In moderation, of course. This is a much better result than them bingeing in secret. Ask the French – they give their kids wine from an early age, and that appears to lead to a more healthy attitude to alcohol.
8. Have fun. That’s what you’re there for.
Try our family holiday quiz
If you’re still not sure where to take the kids on holiday, why not try our family holiday quiz. Answer 10 fun questions like the one below and we’ll tell you what kind of travellers you are, and give you a list of personalised recommendations. Try the quiz now.
Last updated: 18 November 2016