As their independence grows and their personal horizons expand, a ‘standard’ family holiday might seem boring and limiting to your tweens or teen. It benefits all of you to get them excited and invested in the trip, so involve them in the planning process.
Try to think outside of the box – which you will probably enjoy too! Less obvious destinations are a good start, also finding somewhere to provide an adrenalin hit or two, and any cool or trendy destination to help their street cred or their social media feeds will usually tick the boxes.
A city both glamorous and gritty, Berlin has a vibrant culture, cutting-edge architecture, fabulous food and a tangible history. Whatever interests them, there’s something for tweens and teens to get their teeth into during a trip to Berlin – and plenty to brag about when they get home.
Bonus: as parents you get to give them an all-important education in modern history – it’s impossible to visit Berlin without talking about the Second World War. There are also plenty of funky places to check out. Make sure Bikini Berlin is on your list – a concept mall in an industrial 50s building, packed with trendy pop-ups but also boasting close-up views of the monkeys at Berlin Zoo.
Heading to Berlin? Here’s a list of the top free things to do in the city
Jasper National Park, Canada
The stunningly beautiful Rocky Mountains are the perfect backdrop to get your reluctant teens engaged in some serious outdoor activities. While skiing or hiking are obvious options and especially rewarding when your kids are proficient and experienced on snow or on trails, there are a variety of more unusual ways to get active in Jasper National Park.
Depending on the season you can go glacier walking, take a sidecar tour through the mountains or try fat-biking through the snow. Half their friends won’t even know what fat-biking is (do you?!), so that’s a great story to take home. As a family you can learn to ride a horse, take to the rapids or make the most of bike routes, keeping your eyes peeled for grizzly bears as you go. What an adventure!
Looking for some wintry adventures for your family? Read this to discover the Canadian Rockies
With its global reputation for adrenalin-focused activities, it’s no wonder New Zealand is on our list. A sure-fire way to get a reluctant teen more involved in a family trip is to introduce something a bit scary and exciting. The ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown is an obvious place to start, but working out where to go next will take some intensive planning.
You can hike glaciers, raft down canyons, take to the sky with paragliders, hurl yourself off high bridges with a bungee jump, surf down sand dunes and out to sea, explore volcanoes and plunge into geothermal pools. Then, when everyone needs a rest, you can enjoy beautiful local food and a warm Kiwi welcome. Note: age restrictions will apply to some activities.
Want to find some action for your family in New Zealand? Read this for 7 family fun adventures
Taking your teens somewhere culturally different can kickstart their engagement in the family trip. Cuba’s subversive history, its vibrant music scene, the laid-back vibe and the beautiful beaches are all reasons the country appeals to teens – as is the chance to explore the nation in a classic car.
Step away from the resorts and stay in a private homestay (known as casas particulares) to open your children’s eyes to the challenges and rewards of independent travel as well as the importance of supporting local people and businesses. By way of balance, be prepared to pay for an afternoon of fun by the pool in one of those resorts when it’s needed. Traveling around Cuba can be an assault on the senses and those developing prefrontal cortexes need a break now-and-then.
Taking your teens to Cuba? Read here to find all the best selfie spots to blow up their Instagram
If your tween or teen is less daredevil, more shopaholic, then Dubai is worth adding to your list. Famous for the huge shopping malls, you’ll need to manage budget expectations before you go. Remember, these places are more than just shopping centers – they boast ski centers (Mall of the Emirates), an aquarium (Dubai Mall), a replica of Ancient Egypt (Wafi City) and of course, incredible food courts.
Don’t forget to visit a local souk such as the Gold Souk for a unique retail experience. Tacking on a trip in a water taxi or an evening dhow ride will remind everyone they are in the Middle East and not just in shopping heaven. There are plenty of chances to get hearts racing with theme parks, water parks and the desert on the doorstep.
Heading to Dubai for the first time? Here are our top tips for your first visit to the city of gold
For a Western-dwelling tween or teen, Japan offers a huge cultural contrast along with exciting technology, interesting creativity and fascinating history. The brag factor from a trip to Japan is enormous, and your kids' eyes will often be out on stalks. Teens usually love the pop cultural explosion that is a visit to Tokyo, and with experiences such as karaoke, a robot restaurant and anime exploration, there’s plenty to keep them engaged.
Venture away from the capital and there’s a lesson in the importance of world peace at Hiroshima, significant shrines such as Fushimi Inari shrine to learn about traditional Japanese culture and chances to ski, hike or bike in the Alps or Hokkaidō.
Putting Japan on your bucket list? Plan a perfect weekend in Tokyo
New York City
The intangible buzz you get in New York pulls many a traveler back there again and again. It’s also the reason it’s such a good place to take your tweens and teens. This supremely cool city provides the chance to hang out over brunch in a trendy neighborhood, then take in some serious art, uplifting music or fascinating history in one of the many world-class cultural institutions. All of these will make great stories for their friends back home.
Make sure you fit in a wander along the High Line (perhaps even independently, if your parenting is feeling up to letting go). Throw in something unique such as a hip-hop tour, a virtual reality experience or learning to skateboard and your teen will forever dream of returning to New York.
Think your family would love New York City? Read this to add trendy Brooklyn to your explorations.
Machu Picchu, Peru
If you are looking for a trip of a lifetime with older kids who are physically active and ready for a challenge, then making the three-day trek along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with your family should definitely be on your list. It’s not an easy thing to do and it requires considerable pre-planning, but the rewards are manifold.
Taking on a challenge together helps strengthen family bonds at a time when they are changing, plus you all get to experience stunning countryside, jaw-dropping architecture and learn all about the mysteries of the Incas – something which tends to fascinate even the most unengaged teenager. Remember there are alternatives, such as the Choquequirao Trek or Lares Trail, if you want something less busy or are concerned about sustainability.
Thinking of this trip? Read this to help plan a responsible trek.