Traveling with teens can be a challenge. They want independence and space from you, and you want to spend quality family time and get them to explore the world. But it can be done, and well.
- First of all, get them interested upfront by involving them in trip planning so they have a say in what your destinations and activities will be.
- Second, expand the possibilities. Some activities you might think of as adults-only affairs can be tailored for teens, like going to a spa.
- Third, remember that it’s always hard to spend all day long with the same people for multiple days in a row. Be prepared to give your teens (and yourself) breaks from the family, either between activities or built into the activities themselves.
Here are some things to do and places to go on vacation that can be as fun for your teenagers as they are for you.
You can stretch out on a towel while your teen uses all that energy they have exploring the water and the shore. Beach trips offer amazing scenery that can get teens interested in the planet and curious about landscapes they may not have seen before. A stay at the beach offers opportunities to experiment with activities, too. Beaches are also a natural place for teens to socialize, so they get some time away from the family during the vacation.
Beach activities are some of the healthiest, both physically and mentally. Surfing with teenagers is not only fun, but it requires mental focus and teaches them to be resilient and try again each time they fall. Windsurfing, boogie boarding, and even paddle boarding can have similar effects on their minds and bodies. Doing activities like this on vacation may just leave your teen with a new interest in a sport that will stick with them for a long time.
National Park Hike
You don’t need to leave the country to have an epic vacation. The US has some fantastic national parks to explore, and many trails are family-friendly. You might have more success if you let your teen go at their own pace instead of insisting you stick together the whole time—just plan for regular check-in breaks. But walking through the woods can also be a great time to have deeper conversations that might not happen at home.
What better setting to give your teenager all the freedom they want while not worrying too much about them than a big ship? Cruises tend to be all-inclusive, which means it’s easy to say yes to the food and activities teens might want to have or do without worrying about your trip budget. And while a cruise might bring to mind a trip with your parents before one with your kids, there are cruise lines that cater specifically to families with teenagers. Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas, for instance, has zip lines, laser tag, and a teens club. You can also opt for an itinerary that stops at CoCo Cay, the cruiseline's private island.
If you’re physically active, consider a bike tour with your teen. This is a different way to sight-see that also keeps you active and energized throughout the day. Different age groups have different needs, and touring companies will put together packages specifically for families with teens, like these bike trip options throughout Europe.
Like cruises, all-inclusive resorts package lodging, food, and activities into one deal so you know what to budget for upfront. Many offer a range of activities your teen can try (with or without you) and parties and movies at night. There are great options throughout Central America and the Caribbean.
Traveling with teens can be a smooth and fun process if you go about it the right way. Take their interests into account and make sure there’s plenty for them to do, and you might be pleasantly surprised by how much quality time you get to spend with them. - - Morgen Henderson.
Take part in a family fly-fishing adventure and you’ll wake up in some of the country’s most pristine places.
Here are a handful of fabulous places to consider:
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
For an extraordinary angling experience, consider an overnight trip on the South Fork of the Snake River. On day one, you’ll hone your skills floating through some of the most coveted water in the western United States.
Later, as the sun sets, arrive at the South Fork Hilton, a fully-outfitted camp ,tucked in the pines with a steep canyon wall as backdrop. The overnight includes a deluxe dinner, tall tales, roasted marshmallows around a campfire, and a good night’s rest in cozy platform tents.
The second day promises stunning scenery, 16 miles of braided waters and the opportunity to expand the adventure wading around gravel bars and up side channels. The trip is ideal for a multigenerational outing.
Stunning scenery, diversity of waterways, plentiful fish and an enthusiastic community of guides combine to make Montana a top notch base camp for your fly-fishing adventure. Spend a day on the Madison River with Joe Dilschneider, owner of Ennis, MT-based TroutStalkers and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. You’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Madison River. A day on the Yellowstone River, a long stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat or nearby spring creeks will also make for great memories.
Formed by the confluence of the Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison rivers at Three Forks, the mighty Missouri River flows 700 miles across Montana, and is considered one of the most productive trout fisheries in the west.
The small town of Craig is among the numerous launch points from which families explore this storied river. Expect a picturesque landscape, trophy trout and the opportunity to imagine Lewis and Clark navigating the same waters.
Jackson County, North Carolina
With more than 3,000 miles of trout streams and 1,100 miles of hatchery-supported trout waters in the mountains alone, North Carolina is a fly-fishing haven. Home to the nation’s only designated fly-fishing trail, the Western North Carolina Fly-Fishing Trail takes anglers to 15 prime spots in the Great Smoky Mountains to cast a line. Expect a variety of options from wide-open rivers to small, secluded streams. The heart of the trail, the Tuckasegee River, or the “Tuck” as it’s known by locals, is the county’s largest body of water. Designed by two outdoorsmen and fly-fishing guides, the trail is an ideal way for fly-fishers of all skill levels and ages to learn the art of fly-fishing.
Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania
The Letort Spring Creek, Big Spring Creek and Yellow Breeches Creek, two classic limestone spring streams and one freestone stream are considered “hallowed waters” and have enticed fly fishers to the area since the 1800s. Enthusiasts can expect to cast for brook, brown and rainbow in the local streams where a variety of riparian ecosystems provide diverse fly-fishing opportunities. Consider a stay at the Orvis-endorsed Allenberry Resort where fly-fishing packages are offered. The Valley is also home to the Pennsylvania Fly- Fishing Museum.
Sun Valley, Idaho
This mountain town is perhaps best-known for its famous ski slopes. But the region’s gold-medal waters make for yet another reason to nudge Sun Valley higher on your family vacation list. You’ll be on the hunt for rainbow, brown, brook and cutthroat trout on Silver Creek, the Big Lost and the Wood rivers as well as in pristine mountain lakes.
Tap into the town’s vibrant cultural scene or strap on skates for a whirl around the ice rink at the -famed Sun Valley Lodge.
Celebrate your National Parks all year long. Every day you'll find grand experiences, special events, and educational programs in Parks across the country.
Find your park here!
During National Park Week and all year long, it's a great idea to explore our national treasures.
There's so much to learn and so much to do. This list will help you get started whether you are interested in history, nature, active pursuits, beautiful drives, the back country or urban adventures.
This is the day to #findyourpark!
Looking for late-breaking family travel ideas?
Check out these deals for a great escape to see the Grand Canyon in a way you might not have imagined. And the timing is right because the Centennial celebration for one of the world’s most famous natural wonders is underway.
The deal is simple: save 30% off round-trip train fare in conjunction with a one- or two-night package.*
The offer is valid for the rest of 2019, and includes hotel stay, breakfast and dinners, round-trip transportation on the train and entertainment. The savings increase with upgrades in class of train service.
Take note, on the first Saturday of each month through October, the train is pulled by a real steam engine so consider that unique option when planning.
For more information and reservations: www.thetrain.com/offers/centennial-getaway-package or call 1-800-834-8724.
*Centennial Getaway offer valid for 30% off the train portion only of this package when traveling between 2/7/19 – 12/31/19. National park entry fee is not discountable. Package rates are subject to change. This offer cannot be combined with other discounts/promotional offers and other restrictions, including blackout dates, may apply.
1-night Itinerary Package
2-night Itinerary Package
Make family travel memories in the year ahead.
Here are five great family vacation destinations to consider:
The Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating a big birthday in 2019. So why not join the in the centennial celebration? Millions visit this wonder of the world each year to marvel at the mile-deep gorge, exploring by foot, on a mule, or capturing the vast beauty with a camera or the mind’s eye. Stay on the South Rim where year round access is possible and you’ll have access to ranger programs, dining options and stunning views. Explore other regions in northern Arizona for hiking, biking and a history lesson along Route 66. Take in the stunning beauty of Monument Valley, the Petrified National Forest and the picturesque red rocks of Sedona. Pose for a photo while standing on a corner in Winslow, ride horseback at a guest ranch or rent a houseboat on Lake Powell.
Niagara Falls, NY.
Hear it roar. And feel the mist. But, don’t worry. Ponchos are provided when you board the iconic tour boat, the Maid of the Mist, to feel the power of the historic falls. Formed some 12,000 years ago, Niagara Falls, straddling the US border with Canada, has long been a magnet for explorers and adventurers, as well as honeymooners travelers. By day, explore the area from multiple angles, via lush nature trails, a water-skimming jet boat or high-flying helicopter.
Inside the Niagara Falls State Park, visit the Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the three main falls - American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls. Each night, the park offers an illumination of the Falls, along with seasonal fireworks.
You’ll find lavish resorts in a bustling enclave or quiet getaways on tiny spits of sand, all just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Choose your preferred sun-drenched environment from among 700 islands, embraced by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, diving, salt water fly fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, kayaking or just relaxing on soft sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to plan a visit to this breathtaking archipelago. Contact: www.Bahamas.com.
The Volunteer state is within a day's drive of 65 percent of our nation's population. There, in Tennessee, you’ll find natural beauty, great music and vibrant communities ladled with a dose of Southern hospitality. Enjoy the 800-square mile wonderland that is the Great Smokey Mountain National Park for hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. Add a musical note to your trip with a stop by Graceland to see how the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley lived and worked.
Spend time in Music City USA, otherwise known as Nashville, to discover the rich origins of country music. Visit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to learn how folk, gospel music and front-porch jamming evolved into the sounds we know today.
Nature-loving families may want to consider a hike on the John Muir Trail in the Cherokee National Forest. It’s a relatively crowd-free portion of the state that's said to look much the same as it did in Muir's day.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
A four-season playground for nature lovers, Michigan’s UP nudges up against three Great Lakes - Superior, Huron and Michigan. That said, water and beach activities are plentiful with kayaking, sailing and fishing as warm weather staples. Inland, visitors venture along rivers that feed the Great Lakes, explore old-growth forests and fly fish small streams.
From the Porcupine Mountains, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Superior and considered one of Michigan’s most wild landscapes, adventurers can hike from a summit to the shore in one day. During the winter months, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing are popular pursuits. Contact: www.Michigan.org
It’s easy to play favorites when it comes to Glacier National Park.
Massive peaks form the backbone of this vast pristine ecosystem, in Northern Montana. Along with her sister park across the border in Waterton Lakes, Canada, the two gems form the first international Peace Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1932.
The glacial carved terrain reveals a many-layered story of ancient seas, geologic faults and continuous uplifting. Today, receding glaciers, rivers, meadows and coniferous forests provide cover and sustenance for the wide variety of wildlife that give life to the park. Shimmering lakes and more than 700 miles of trails beckon visitors from around the world.
So, if you want a little extra quiet time with this favored child, make your way to Glacier country in the Spring or Fall. While you may have to appreciate some of her best attributes from afar, the peaceful nature of your visit will make it worth your while.
Hike and Bike The Going To The Sun Road
Most of Glacier National Park’s two million-plus annual visitors are eager to wind their way along the impressive, 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road. An engineering masterpiece, the rugged road, blasted from the steep mountainside in1933, is car-free for a short, but spectacular season. (Check the Glacier National Park site for exact dates)
For several glorious weeks, as the winter snows give way to the spring/summer melt, visitors can appreciate the iconic stretch of roadway on foot or from the seat of a bike.
Roll or stroll along the lower flats near Lake McDonald, appreciating the subalpine forest that rises near the water’s edge. As the season progresses, cyclists can ride the upper stretches, climbing all the way to Logan Pass at 6,683 feet without sharing the narrow roadway, or the views, with oncoming traffic.
Surrounded by snowcapped peaks against a bright blue sky, melting snowfields, and waterfalls tumbling into turquoise pools, you’ll experience Glacier’s wild interior in a way summer visitors cannot even imagine.
Bikers can also pedal a 14-mile (one way) stretch that begins at Apgar Village. Pedal out and back while enjoying views from the southern shore of Lake McDonald. This road is open to cars but traffic is minimal.
Strap on your hiking boots and check out one of many low elevation hikes in the Lake McDonald area as the Park transitions from a winter wonderland to the glories of Spring. Expect trickling streams giving way to flowing creeks and rivers and the slow reappearance of flowers, birds and baby animals.
Stop in to the Apgar Visitor Center to ask about day hikes, current trail conditions, and maps.
Note that the park’s resident wildlife are waking from a long winter’s nap, so it is important to be alert, aware and carry bear spray during your outing.
Bright colors provide a glorious contrast to Montana’s Big Sky as a busy summer gives way to the quieter days of Fall.
Hikers, bikers and road trippers can look for the colors to begin changing in mid-September on the west side of the park. On the east side, expect Mother Nature to begin the show toward the end of September and in to early October.
The grand finale happens as the larch trees, a deciduous conifer, transform the area into a golden paradise in the middle of October.
A road trip up the North Fork Road to the small town of Polebridge, (be sure to stop into the Polebridge Mercantile for baked goods and sandwiches). along the West side of the park, provides stunning views of the winding North Fork of the Flathead River and often snow-dusted peaks in the distance. From Polebridge, head into the Park for jaw-dropping views at Bowman Lake. The experience of standing within this remote area of the Park, surrounded by masses of vibrant color, towering peaks and waves lapping at your feet, will stay with you forever.
Fall is also a great time for wildlife watching. The eastern side of the Park offers some of the best opportunities to glimpse both grizzly and black bear as they prepare for the long winter. Mountain goats and big horn sheep are often present and migrating birds call from overhead.
A shoulder season visit to Glacier Country isn’t for everyone. The weather can turn on a dime. Restaurants are not bustling with vibrant activity and some services may not be available.
But for those eager to experience the spare, wild beauty of this extraordinary place on the planet, well, this is your time.
At the turn of the century, America's wild bison - which at one time numbered 60 million - had dwindled to about two dozen animals. Strong, sturdy and resilient, they’ve made a comeback, thanks to public and private conservation efforts,
On the range, in refuges and national parks, this symbol of our wildlife heritage is magnificent to observe.
Here are five places where you and your family members can snap a shot of this American icon – with a zoom lens:
Custer State Park, South Dakota.
Each year the public is invited to hear the thunder of hooves and photograph the moment as experienced riders roundup a herd of some 1,300 buffalo during the state’s Buffalo Round Up and Arts Festival. Considered a critical management tool in maintaining a healthy herd, the buffalo are corralled and then tested, branded and sorted. The event includes a pancake feed, Western and Native American entertainment and the chance to peruse the fine art and crafts offered by more than 150 vendors.
Yellowstone National Park, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
America’s first national park is the only place in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.
Home to approximately 3,500 bison, many are the descendants of the few who survived near-extinction. Social animals that often form herds often directed by older females, they are most active during the day. Pay attention to ranger warnings and keep your distance as bison are agile, strong swimmers, and can run 35 miles per hour. Despite their burly build and weighing up to 2,000 lbs., hey can jump over objects about 5 feet high and have excellent hearing, vision, and sense of smell. You’ll likely spot them in the Lamar and Hayden Valleys. Also, be on the look out near Pelican Valley, the Lower Geyser Basin and in Gibbon Meadows. Contact: www.nps.gov/yell.
The National Bison Range, Mission Valley, Montana.
Established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, this historic Range sprawls across 18,000 acres and is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation. Today, visitors witness a diverse ecosystem of grasslands, Douglas fir and ponderosa pine forests, riparian areas and ponds. In addition to herds of bison, the Range supports populations of Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep as well as coyotes, mountain lions, bears, bobcat and over 200 species of birds. Stop by the visitors center to learn about hiking, scenic drive, photography and fishing opportunities as well as f Information about current wildlife sightings and flowers in bloom,
Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, Jackson Hole, WY.
This guide-owned and operated organization provides year-round wildlife viewing and natural history interpretation to those interested in a close-up view of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild creatures in their natural habitat. Offering half day to multi-day safaris, as well as photo safaris, the experienced guides use their knowledge, passion and skills to locate bison as well as elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep and bears in one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.
Terry Bison Ranch, Cheyenne, WY.
This family-friendly ranch offers bison viewing year round on a 27,000-acre spread that stretches into Colorado. A popular reunion spot, families can spread out into eightcabins, 17 bunkhouse rooms, as well as RV and tent sites. Home to nearly 3000 bison, the ranch also features train rides, horseback riding, a restaurant and a Trading Post.
A longtime backpacker, climber, and skier, author Michael Lanza, along with his nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter, embarked on a year-long trip through our National Parks.
It was an ambitious adventure, designed to immerse them in the natural world and to learn more about the effects climate change was having on these important landscapes.
He chronicled the journey in his book Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks.
Here, he shares five ways to encourage the next generation of outdoor adventurers.
1. Encourage outside play.
A slew of experts agree that regular, unstructured outside play is critical for a child’s healthy development.
To that end, “Kick them out of the house,” advises Lanza. “Kids today often want to play indoors where the electronics are. Insist they play outside—but also, give them the freedom to roam within boundaries appropriate for their ages. That way, they can explore and not get bored.”
It also helps to plan regular activity as a family: cross-country or downhill skiing, hiking on local trails, biking, even walking around your neighborhood or local community, Lanza advises.
2. Start slow.
When the time is right for adventure, take baby steps. “Begin with short hikes and gradually work up to longer outings,” advises Lanza, who gathered personal experience as a field editor with Backpacker magazine. “Evaluate your child’s readiness for something new based not just on its physical difficulty, but how well your child handled previous experiences that presented comparable stress.”
Lanza’s year–long trip included sea kayaking and wilderness camping in Glacier Bay, Alaska. He determined they were ready for such an outing because they had previously backpacked, rock climbed, floated and camped on a wilderness river, and cross-country skied through snowstorms.
“They had managed stressful situations well and understood the need to follow instructions and that trips have uncomfortable moments,” explained Lanza. “Despite how wet and raw it was, they loved Glacier Bay.”
Lanza believes in one important rule: no whining. “Tell your children they can talk about any situation they’re not happy with, but draw the line at complaining just to complain. Everyone will be happier.”
At the same time, he advises including them in the decision-making process, so they have a sense of control over their own fate, which, he says, goes a long way toward relieving stress, no matter what our age.
“Welcome their questions and address their concerns,” Lanza says. “Make sure they know that you won’t ask them to do anything they are not comfortable with, and that you will provide whatever help they need.”
According to Lanza, Grand Teton National Park, Yosemite, Zion, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain National Park all offer hiking and backpacking options that are ideal for beginners and families, with easy to moderately difficult days and simple logistics.
4. Be flexible.
Whether rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone or canoeing in the Everglades with his kids, Lanza made a point to be flexible.
Taking children on an outdoor adventure, especially younger ones, does not always go according to plan. Young kids want to throw rocks in a creek and play in the mud.
Lanza’s advice: “Let them. But, explain that there will be time for playing, but also a time for hiking.”
Meanwhile, parents should “focus on the journey rather than the destination,” advises Lanza. “And have Plan B at the ready.”
5. On the trail with teens.
No matter what kind of trip is planned, allowing a teenage son or daughter to invite a friend along is often a good strategy. It can be a little trickier when planning an outdoor adventure. “You want to make sure he or she is up to the challenges the trip may present,” explained Lanza. “It’s a good idea to talk with the parents ahead of time and perhaps plan a practice outing.”
Whether it’s a mountain climb or rafting a river, finding a shared goal that will challenge and excite your teen is a great way to open new doors within your relationship and to the natural world, offers Lanza.
Michael Lanza also offers outdoor adventure tips and strategies on his website The Big Outside.