Traveling with Teens: Keep ‘Em Happy

travel-teen-vacationsPlanning your family’s spring break? Got teens? As any parent knows, an unhappy teen can be the difference between an epic adventure and a vacation that’s an epic fail.

Teens can be some of the toughest travelers to satisfy: too old for kids’ clubs, too young to be left on their own. Hotels are finally checking in to this reality. Increasingly, they’re providing a menu of activities just for teens, from teen-only lounges to outdoor adventures and teen treatments at the spa.

Caribbean Beat

All-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean are some of your best bets when trying to please a too-cool teen. Just ask Oak Park resident and mom of two teens, editor Cindy Richards. Her top pick? “Crush, the teen lounge at Atlantis Resorts in Paradise Island, Bahamas, is Shangri-La for just about any teenager,” Richards says. “A floor-to-ceiling video gaming tree, social media computer terminals, and best of all no parents or younger siblings allowed after 8:30!”

Crush also has a mocktail bar and uber-hip dance floor with pulsating lights. Knowing teens often talk tech better than face-to-face, an iPad is set up by the DJ booth for song requests. The biggest waterpark in the Caribbean, beautiful beaches and the latest electronics—Atlantis has enough to make almost any teen smile!


Another Caribbean hit with teens is Beaches resorts in Negril, Jamaica and the islands of Turks and Caicos. After spending a day sailing, water-skiing, windsurfing or scuba diving, teens can chill at Trench Town Lounge game room or mix it up making their own CD’s at Scratch DJ Academy. Yeah mon, the reggae party continues at Club Liquid, a staff-supervised alcohol-free nightclub just for teens and tweens.

Cruising Together 

“Teens can wreak havoc aboard ships, pushing elevator buttons and bothering other passengers,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of “That’s why the cruise industry long ago started paying attention to teen customers. They know if teens are happy, typically everyone else is happy.”

Spencer Brown’s top pick? “Hands down, Royal Caribbean is the best for teens. Between zip-lining, ice skating, teen lounges and Broadway shows, there’s no time to get bored. It’s also smooth sailing with teens aboard Princess Cruise Lines, and if there are younger siblings, Disney Cruises are a great choice, as they have something for everyone.”

Mega ships aren’t your only teen-friendly option. “There are ships perfect for teens that have nothing to do with teen clubs,” Spencer Brown says. “Offbeat experiences aboard expedition boats can make for a great family vacation where you really get to learn about a place. Lindblad Expeditions and InnerSea Discoveries do a great job with these vacations.”

Surf’s Up

Cruises and the Caribbean are exciting, but you don’t need a passport to plan a beach vacation your teen will warm up to. Knowing Mom and Dad would love to relax by the ocean, but their teenagers are looking for excitement, a new wave of beach resorts in the U.S. is reaching out to teens.


It’s no parents allowed at Ritz Carlton Palm Beach’s Coast teen lounge. It features a gaming area, production studio, DJ booth and young staff that serve as unofficial teen concierges with information on where to go, what to see, and what to do. Surfboard rentals and lessons, as well as boogie board rentals make going to the beach an adventure.

A heavenly vacation will be had by all at Paradise Point Resort, San Diego’s island resort. It sits on a 44-acre island on Mission Bay, across the street from SeaWorld. A water taxi shuttles you over to the less-used back entrance of the amusement park and if you buy your tickets at the resort, you get to skip any long lines. If your teen feels too old to dive into SeaWorld, they can make waves at the resort’s new surfing school. End your day in paradise with a beach bonfire— the hotel offers s’mores kits and plenty of fire pits.

Another Southern California favorite, Loews Coronado Bay, has partnered with Pottery Barn to design a PBTeen lounge and even a PBTeen spa room. What better way to relax after a typical California day spent biking, surfing or jet skiing?

Chill Out

Another vacation with mountains of excitement for every age is a ski trip. Concerned your teen might give you the cold shoulder after spending too much time on the slopes with family? Not to worry, these ski resorts have you covered with a flurry of fun activities for kids to choose from.

Got an extreme skier or boarder who wants to go big on the mountain, but you don’t want a big injury? Copper Mountain, 75 miles west of Denver, has just the ticket for your thrill-seeker. The Woodward at Copper Barn is an indoor tricks facility where kids can practice their moves in a safe environment before trying them on the mountain. Using foam snowboards, trampolines and foam pits, instructors at The Barn will give your powderhound a crash course in how to take their sport to the next level safely.

While adults enjoy apres-ski at a cozy pub with a fireplace, teens will enjoy congregating at another Copper Mountain favorite—The Cage. Half retail shop, half hangout, The Cage has a gaming area with X-box, foosball, ping-pong and a vintage arcade. It’s right in the heart of Copper’s Center Village, making it easy for adults to have dinner or a drink while their teenagers relax at The Cage.

Nearby Beaver Creek, Colorado, has the perfect recipe for keeping kids happy—fresh-baked cookies are handed out every afternoon at the base of slope #6. Besides the sweet treat, there are teen ski clinics and the Beaver Creek Loves Teens program, where 13-17 year-olds can gather for pizza or go snowshoeing or tubing.

Need a break from the powder play? Head over to the spa at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek. Not only do they offer services for mom, but they have special teen treatments as well, where young spa goers learn about acne and good skin care. Park Hyatt Beaver Creek also caters to teenagers by serving up weekly teen cooking classes.

Next time you’re planning a vacation, consider combining family bonding time with boredom-busters that include active adventure and a chance for your teen to meet up with other kids their age. Give your teenager the freedom to choose their own fun and you’ll end up with a family vacation where everyone wins.