Tailor a trip to suit teenagers and the whole family will be happy, writes Katie McGonagle
They may have put the terrible twos behind them, but what about the troublesome teenage years?
Raging hormones, fraying tempers and an inability to get out of bed before noon don’t make the best recipe for a harmonious family holiday, but since most teens would rather die than spend quality time with their parents back home, going away can be an opportunity for family bonding.
But the chances of that are pretty slim if they spend the entire break glued to their iPads and mobile phones because there’s nothing else to do, which is why hotels are upping their game with teen-focused facilities, and escorted tour operators are laying on growing numbers of teen-only departures.
Here, we take a look at a few options around the globe so you can tailor a trip to suit both teenagers and their parents.
Short-haul: Keep it sweet
Teens don’t want the same thing from a kids’ club as their younger counterparts, but a hassle-free hangout where they can escape their parents and have fun with others their age has more appeal. The Teenz Club at the four-star Olympic Lagoon Resort in Ayia Napa, for example, comes with a full games arcade, entertainment and a bar serving non-alcoholic cocktails – plus parents can rest easy as it’s supervised by staff.
Picking the right activities to appeal to a teen audience is also key: Thomas Cook has a Teenage Kicks programme across nine FamilyWorld and Sunstar resorts, with free sessions six days a week and off-property excursions (at extra cost), plus football and street dance academies which, depending on demand, can run teen-specific sessions.
Sani Beach Club in Halkidiki runs classes in hip-hop, dancing and DJ’ing, plus a football academy for under-14s, while Sardatur Holidays’ top choice Verdura Golf & Spa Resort boasts tennis, football and golf tuition plus teen friendly spa treatments to soothe tired muscles afterwards.
Once entertainment-hungry teens have explored the on-site facilities, a few active excursions will stop boredom from kicking in. Red Sea Holidays’ most popular excursions include a jeep safari from Hurghada with camel ride and Bedouin dinner (from £50 per adult, £25 per child), and a catamaran cruise from Sharm el-Sheikh where teens could have their first go at snorkelling (£62 per adult, £31 per child).
Long-haul: Far and away
For every parent who eschewed long-haul flights when the kids were small, now is the time to take back the world. Dubai doesn’t lack in the entertainment stakes, and makes a good choice for families with children of different ages. That’s reflected in Premier Holidays’ recommendation, Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa, which has a Penguin Club to keep younger siblings happy, plus a tennis academy, endless watersports and a new teen-only fitness studio for 12 to 15-year-olds who can’t yet use the main gym. Mega-resort Atlantis the Palm also boasts activities for all ages, but Club Rush is exclusively for teens – no parents allowed – with a game zone, entertainment lounge and chill-out area, and an activity programme including rock climbing, dodgeball, mocktail mixing, dance or showbiz contests and a red carpet prom night.
Mauritius is an equally luxurious option with an array of family product, from Centara Grand Azuri Resort & Spa, where an e-zone gives teens a separate area to relax after trying out the trampolines, skate park, zip-lines, quad bikes and cycle trails over at the Azuri Complex.
While teens might not be old enough to venture out at night, Western & Oriental favourite Long Beach lets them escape their parents by hosting DJ-led discos at the free teen club, pizza evenings at the Italian restaurant, and barbecues around the camp fire. Half Moon in Montego Bay, Jamaica, also runs karaoke, discos and movie nights at its Vybz Lounge, while Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas has a fully kitted-out nightclub, Crush, where 13 to 17-year-olds can get their first taste of dancing the night away.
As well as new entertainment, the teenage years open up a wealth of activities, from scuba diving at Club Med’s La Pointe Aux Canonniers in Mauritius from age 11, to waterskiing, wakeboarding and windsurfing in sister property Cancun Yucatan, from age 12. The Bajan family adventure club at Tamarind in Barbados also gives 10 to 16-year-olds the chance to try new things: off-property excursions include horse-riding through the forest to see green monkeys and mongoose, a catamaran trip with a chance to snorkel or swim with sea turtles, and an Atlantis Submarine tour, which takes explorers 150 metres deep to see marine life and circle a shipwreck (from £60 for a two-day camp, extra days from £30; parents from £50).
Escorted tours: Leading light
The teenage years are the ideal time to get more adventurous, which helps explain the growing popularity of teen-focused tours. The Family Adventure Company is upping its teen departures from 35 this year to about 50 for 2015.Brand manager Tim Winkworth says: “Active holidays are really popular with families with teenagers. Parents want their teenagers to be active and have fun, not sit with their iPad.
“Most teenagers want to be with people of a similar age, and it’s great that we can tell customers straightaway the age of other children booked on the trip.”
Single parents are also a key demographic, making up around 15% of bookings. Winkworth adds: “We are seeing more single parents come on trips with their teenagers as it’s quality time for them with their children, but it’s also the chance to meet new people and socialise.”
The operator’s best-selling teen trip is Peru – Teens on the Trail, and closer to home, Active in the Pyrenees, which splits customers into three groups depending on age and ability, so teens can be sure of company from others of a similar age.The trend is certainly spreading: On The Go Tours this year added a Tours with Teens collection to its family programme, featuring Vietnam, Thailand, China, Morocco and Egypt. Explore also reserves some family departures for over-11s, focusing on active options such as Lawrence of Arabia’s Adventures through Jordan, a Toubkal Teen Trek in Morocco and a Discover South Africa tour of the Garden Route with mountain biking, whale-watching and game viewing.
Even if operators don’t run dedicated teen departures, choosing a more active itinerary will appeal to older children. Grand American Adventures, for example, runs a Canyon Family Discovery tour through Arizona and Utah, which takes children from eight years old but often skews older thanks to its range of outdoor activities; the sales team can also give an idea of the ages of the other passengers if clients ask.
The range of walking, cycling and trekking on TransIndus’s Active Vietnam group tour also makes it a hit with teens, who are more likely to appreciate the street food tour of Hanoi, overnight stay on a junk boat in Halong Bay, and understand the history of the Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City. TW
Olympic Holidays offers seven nights’ all-inclusive in late July 2015 at the Olympic Lagoon Resort in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, from £4,432 for two adults and two teenagers staying in two deluxe superior rooms, with Gatwick flights and transfers.
A week in a self-catering studio at Hi Bouganvilla Park in Majorca starts at £1,345 with Thomas Cook for a family of four including flights from Manchester in July 2015, with access to Teenage Kicks and other in-resort activities.
Travel 2 offers an eight-night stay at the Centara Grand Azuri Resort & Spa in Mauritius in September or October from £1,189, with half-board accommodation in a deluxe room, transfers, and Emirates flights.
A week’s room-only in a two bedroom premium villa at Atlantis Harbourside Resort in Paradise Island, the Bahamas, starts at £1,699 with Hayes & Jarvis, departing October 28, with transfers and American Airlines flights from Heathrow.
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