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Best holidays for teenagers with parents

By Mark Frary, The Times travel writer and 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. Note: all the travel companies featured are personally recommended by our editors.

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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 new Phokaia Beach Resort in Turkey is just the job with sailing, windsurfing and tennis on tap.

On the Greek mainland, the beautiful Sani Resort has lots of activities including mountain biking, trekking, wake-boarding and archery, along with a PADI dive centre and a high season club for ages 12-16.

If your kids play tennis, consider the five-star Pine Cliffs resort on the Algarve which has an Annabel Croft Tennis Academy with top-notch private and group coaching.

Club Med is great for all-inclusive resort holidays – with a choice of 46 worldwide, many with a Junior Club Med operating during school holidays that is geared for teenagers. Sports include horse-riding, golf, flying trapeze and roller-blading. See the latest offers.

In the Mediterranean a flotilla sailing holiday is good value and 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.

You could explore the coastline of Croatia – with its 1,000 islands – on a crewed boat which you can charter from Sail Dalmatia – see the latest deals.

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 cheap family adventure breaks in Britain and France.

I also recommend Kingswood Camps which has a dedicated holiday camp for kids aged 15 – 17. Its Overstrand Hall on the north Norfolk coast gets rave reviews from teens. The company also runs a ski camp in France. See details.

Puglia is a stunning region of southern Italy, where I recommend the five-star Borgo Egnazia which has five restaurants and bars, indoor and outdoor pools, 18-hole golf course and a club for teens with its own soccer academy and watersports centre. 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. Or take a look at Sir Richard Branson’s Son Bunyola estate in Mallorca.

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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 great-value cottages in Cornwall and Norfolk.

In Devon, the best areas for teenagers include Dartmoor if you enjoy hiking on the moorland, and the South Hams for watersports and sailing.

Rent a cottage in the Lake District and you’ll find lots of outdoor activities to keep teens off their phones. 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. Book with Sykes Cottages.

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.

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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. Popular destinations include Mallorca and Austria.

Renting a motor cruiser to explore the canals and rivers of France is well priced. The boats sleep between 3 and 12 and no experience is required. This family boating holiday is ideal if you’re looking for freedom and independence.

Head to the American West for a ranching holiday. Whether you’re an experienced rider or a newbie, there’s a ranch for you, from luxurious resort ranches to small working ranches.

In Scandinavia, SwedenNorway and Lapland are packed with adventure possibilities – go for 24-hour daylight in midsummer or the Northern Lights in winter. Best Served Scandinavia has put together some sizzling itineraries. Summer options include this Adventure in Swedish Lapland while winter options include this Philip Pullman-themed Northern Lights itinerary in remote Svalbard.

In the most northerly part of the British Isles, you can go cruising in the Hebrides in a small crewed boat, exploring remote islands, fishing, swimming, setting lobster pots, kayaking, and seeing dolphins, porpoises, basking sharks and otters.

British Airways has direct flights to Costa Rica which offers thrilling family activities including zip lining, white-water rafting, canoeing, horse riding, surfing and rainforest walks. This 10-day Costa Rica for Families trip works well with teenagers.

For budget family holidays in France and Spain, it’s hard to beat a self-catering apartment at a Siblu 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. Its Teens Club for ages 12 and older offers sports, film making and nights out.

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 Inghams.

If you’re a single parent with teenagers, try this collection of ideas from Single With Kids. Or check out our complete guide to the best activity holidays for families.

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Beach holidays for teenagers

Young teenagers will enjoy the new Nobu Ibiza Bay Hotel which has a sandy beach and kids activities for up to 14 years (cooking classes and DJ workshops). Plus there’s plenty for parents including a full service spa, yoga pavilion, fitness centre and beach club. Older teens who want to chill out will enjoy the five-star 7Pines Resort Ibiza.

If you just want to laze in the sunshine, this selection of 26 hotels with water parks around the Med will allow teens to amuse themselves while you hit the sun lounger.

Or head to Bulgaria for high-season bargains. The resort of Sunny Beach has a 9km Blue Flag sandy beach and crystal-clear water. It’s amazing value.

Cyprus has a long season, making it a reliable choice for Easter and half-term breaks as well as the summer holidays. This selection of characterful places to stay includes a stylish design hotel on the coast and these cheap self-catering suites in the countryside.

In the UK, you could rent a cottage in Cornwall, the epicentre of the UK’s surf scene. Opt for a thatched cottage, a waterfront apartment or an authentic fishermen’s cottage. 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.

Croatia is a good option for villa holidays. If you like a contemporary style, check out the high-tech Casa Jarilo which has mini-golf, a heated pool, billiards room and sports court. Teenagers also love Villa Pharia on the hip island of Hvar.

Catalonia is a beautiful region with plenty of attractions to amuse older kids: you’ll find some great family villas and historic country houses in and around the lovely resort of Sitges close to Barcelona.

If the southern Costas are 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 a family villa with pool through Vintage Travel.

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, the IKOS Olivia is a great-value all-inclusive hotel.

If you want to fly long haul, consider the Maldives (yes, really). Active teens will love Six Senses Lammu which offers surfing, wake boarding, scuba diving and snorkelling and more. The fun and quirky LUX* South Ari Atoll has its own Studio 17 for teenagers.

Mauritius is a popular choice because of its teen-friendly hotels, great beaches, year-round climate and exciting natural wonders. Stay at the contemporary all-suite Lux* Belle Mare which has a Studio 17 club for teenagers. See the latest family offers.

The Caribbean island of Antigua is popular with teens. I recommend the all-inclusive Blue Waters and the luxury Carlisle Bay.

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.

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.

For single parents with teenagers, I recommend the four-star Constantinou Bros Athena Beach Resort in Cyprus. Find more options from Single Parents on Holiday.

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Teenage adventure holidays

Belize in Central America is a great destination for teens: exotic and unspoilt but easy to get around and English speaking. Explore’s two-week family group tour in July and August includes encounters with toucans and howler monkeys, ancient Mayan temples, a stay in a jungle lodge, snorkelling on a barrier reef and swimming in a limestone sink hole.

Explore has a great selection of teenage adventure holidays from Italy to Cambodia, while these trips with Activities Abroad are focussed on teen-friendly adrenalin sports such as canyoning and rafting.

Borneo is an exciting family destination with its combination of wildlife, rainforest, tribal culture, hiking and beaches. Best time to visit – for beaches and orang utans – is between May and September. See this family adventure holiday in Borneo.

Thailand is packed with thrills for adventurous teens. Stay at the Elephant Hills Jungle Camp or head to Northern Thailand for hill tribe encounters, river rafting and a hot air balloon ride. See more ideas in Thailand.

Sri Lanka is another good-value family destination packed with cultural encounters, wildlife safaris, friendly people and great beaches. This teen-friendly Family Adventure includes a stay in an eco-resort in the jungle, safaris, jungle trekking, canoeing, white-water rafting and the elephants at Minneriya.

India promises a sensational experience. The two-week Taj, Tigers and Beaches private tour includes sun rise over the Taj Mahal, tiger tracking in Ranthambore National Park and washing and painting elephants in Jaipur.

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.

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 wonderful action-packed two-week Lemurs, Whales and Beaches family safari.

South Africa is an excellent destination for a self-drive holiday. If your teens are interested in wildlife or ecology, check out this 11-night Kwa-Zulu Natal holiday which will teach them about conservation and anti-poaching efforts, along with the thrills of Big Five game drives. And this Cape Town and Eastern Cape trip has been designed to squeeze into a half-term week without any need for days off school.

Teenagers love America. If you value your freedom, rent a motor home and go where you please. Or hit the road in a rental car to explore California. This 11-night California and Pacific Coast tour from San Francisco to San Diego takes in Big Sur, the Monterey Peninsula, LA, Alcatraz, plus biking, kayaking, Segway touring, surfing and whale watching.

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.

Or make their geography teachers jealous with a trip to the Galapagos Islands which inspired Charles Darwin to develop the Theory of Evolution. This 8-day tour includes a cruise on a small expedition ship and the chance to swim amongst sea lion, turtle, dolphin and orca.

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.

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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.

The mysteries of Egypt continue to fascinate even the most cynical teenager. On The Go Tours has great-value family tours including the 6-day Pharaohs Adventure for Teens. You can add on diving or snorkelling in the Red Sea.

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.

The Sultanate of Oman is a dazzling mix of ancient and modern with spectacular palace hotels sitting amid starkly beautiful deserts, mountains and pristine beaches where you can see turtles hatching. Best places to stay include the Al Waha and the Six Senses Zighy Bay.

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Something different

Las Vegas is a great place for families with teens. Themed resorts, great weather all year round, plus helicopters to the Grand Canyon and jeep rides across the desert.

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 Gombardy in the Loire Valley: it sleeps up to 16 with a swimming pool, tennis court and separate coach house (perfect for teenagers).

For something more low key, this collection of family hideaways in rural France includes some cracking ideas including a working domaine in the Languedoc with tennis courts, a huge infinity pool, spa, restaurant and 200 acres of grounds.

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 and luxury places to stay. Check out this amazing trip to Costa Rica. More ideas from Hands Up Holidays which has a free guide to making your holiday more meaningful.

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.

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.

>> Also see our recommendations for 18th and 21st birthday holidays.

Teenage holiday diplomacy: Advice from a dad

By Mark Hodson, Editor of 101 Holidays

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. I’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, going online to research the route and things to do.

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 (e.g. twice-daily sessions on social media 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: 15 July 2019

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