Family Trips Even a Teenager Will Love
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Anyone who has ever traveled with a 15-year-old in tow knows that a teen can make or break the vacation for the entire family. Or, as travel agent Lynda Maxwell says, "If the teens are happy, everybody is happy. And a great big, fat vice versa."
Teens are often the most enthusiastic of travelers, but their interests — and schedules — don't always align with those of their younger siblings or parents. That means that while you might be happiest striking out at the crack of dawn to explore an archaeological site, your teen would likely rather sleep in, load up on a huge breakfast and then mosey out around noon.
Those realities make travel with teens a tricky — but not impossible — challenge. The key to success, according to the experts, lies in what you do long before you set foot on an airplane.
Beyond setting the date, you'll want to make youngsters a part of the planning process from the start.
For many families, the hardest part may be finding a vacation time that's good for everyone. Working around school and after-school activities can be a chore. Be sure to sit down with everyone before settling on a date.
Beyond setting the date, you'll want to make youngsters a part of the planning process from the start.
"Sit down and say, 'What is the best time that we ever had as a family? What was it that we did?'" suggests Lynda, who is an active member of the American Society of Travel Agents. "Then, ask them, if they could go anywhere in the world, where would they choose to go?"
You might find that they'd like nothing more than to sit on the local beach for a week. And even if that's not what you had in mind, you're bound to get some ideas you can use in some way. "Maybe there's a compromise in there," Lynda says.
Rocky MountaineerTake in Canada’s great outdoors aboard the Rocky Mountaineer. This fleet of 60 railcars offers passengers a choice of 4 breathtaking routes: 3 through British Columbia to Alberta, Banff or Jasper, and a fourth from Vancouver to Whistler. In 2013, a new route was added to connect Seattle to the Canadian Rockies — all aboard for the Coastal Passage! 960 1280
Glacier Express, SwitzerlandDon’t let the name fool you: This train actually has a reputation for being the slowest express train in the world. And that’s just what passengers want. The leisurely 7-hour ride takes travelers from the Swiss municipality of Zermatt to Davos or the resort town of St. Moritz, with stunning alpine views of the Oberalp Pass as you ascend to heights of over 6,000 feet. 960 1280
Alaska Railroad, GoldStar ServiceThe best way to see Alaska is by rail, and this rail line proves it. Double-decker dome cars allow passengers to take in sights from multiple locations by stepping onto an outdoor balcony or settling in to a seat on the upper level’s interior space. Operating mid-May through mid-September, the railroad travels between Anchorage and Fairbanks, with stops in Wasilla, Talkeetna and the 6-million-acre wild land of Denali National Park. 960 1280
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian ExpressHow’s this for epic? The world’s longest train journey, a ride on this train spans 6,000 miles, 2 continents and 8 time zones! Equipped with plush, red-velvet seats, Champagne-topped tables and TVs in individual railcars, it offers a seamless journey between East and West. Take a 21-day trip toward Beijing, or enjoy shorter excursions to destinations in Mongolia, Kazakhstan or Russia. 960 1280
Hiram Bingham Luxury TrainNamed for the famed explorer who discovered Machu Picchu, this luxury train takes you on a jaw-dropping ride from the city of Cuzco in southeastern Peru northwest to the 15th-century Inca site. The journey unfolds via the Urubamba River Valley, with pastoral views of llamas and shepherds just beyond your window. Upon arrival at Machu Picchu Lodge, relax over a cup of tea. 960 1280
Danube ExpressExplore Central and Eastern Europe aboard this luxury private train. Launched in September 2008, this veritable hotel-on-wheels journeys through Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria to Istanbul, Turkey, with amenities such as private bathrooms with constant hot water, as well as fine dining accompanied by premium wines, Champagne and spirits. 960 1280
Rovos RailTake a Cape Town journey like no other. Depart from Capital Park Station in Pretoria, South Africa, and embark on a 48-hour ride across nearly 1,000 miles. Awaiting you are stunning views of grasslands on the inland plateau of Highveld and the vast inland basin of the Great Karoo. Additional routes take you deeper into southern Africa to Namibia and Tanzania, with epic views enjoyed from the comfort of wood-paneled sleeper coaches. 960 1280
British PullmanJourney back in time to the golden age of travel. This vintage carriage evokes the elegance of the early 1930s and the romantic intrigue of Agatha Christie’s famous detective novel. Fully restored, the line offers day excursions from London Victoria station, as well as from Birmingham, Manchester and many other English cities and towns. Enjoy it all over a 5-course “murder mystery” lunch! 960 1280
The GhanAll aboard, mate! Embark on a journey Down Under courtesy of this memorable passenger train. Operating from 1 end of Australia to the other, the line travels through Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin on the Adelaide-Darwin railway for a journey that spans 54 hours and more than 1,800 miles. Exploring the outback never felt so good. 960 1280
Royal ScotsmanDiscover Scotland’s spectacular countryside aboard this luxury train. Weaving through the Scottish Highlands, you’ll enjoy views of whitewashed villages and expansive lochs. Plus, enjoy the chance to get out and about: Disembark for a Highland distillery tour, an exploration of the Rothiemurchus Estate — described by a famous British broadcaster as "one of the glories of wild Scotland" — and more. 960 1280
Elipsos TrenhotelTake a night train between Spain and France, Switzerland or Italy — all while you sleep. Choose from a variety of sleeping accommodations, from reclining seats to luxury class. Come morning, passengers in first class (beds with washing facilities) and luxury class (private bathrooms and showers) enjoy a complimentary breakfast. 960 1280
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Louisiana, Oak Alley PlantationBy the banks of the Mississippi River stands Oak Alley Plantation -- so named because of the double row of 300-year-old oak trees that sit alongside each side of the path leading to the mansion. Designed in the spirit of French Creole architecture, the plantation home was built between 1837 and 1839 for a wealthy sugar planter of the day. 960 1280
Delaware, Caesar Rodney StatueThis statue of Delaware’s most cherished patriot stands in downtown Wilmington, DE. On July 1, 1776, Caesar Rodney rode horseback to Philadelphia -- the very next day, the American lawyer and politician from Dover, DE, cast a crucial vote that paved the way for the passage of the Declaration of Independence. 960 1280
Pennsylvania, Liberty BellThis iconic symbol of American independence carries the words, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Historians believe the copper bell was one of many bells rung to mark the public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776. 960 1280
New Jersey, Atlantic CityThe Atlantic City Boardwalk was the first boardwalk in America. It opened in June 1870 to help hotel owners keep sand out of their lobbies. Today, the boardwalk lures many visitors on the way to one of the area's many casinos … and to a confectioner's stand for the boardwalk’s famous salt water taffy. 960 1280
Connecticut, Mystic SeaportThe Mystic Seaport was one of the first living history museums in America, having opened in 1929. Spanning nearly 20 acres, the museum showcases a recreated 19th-century coastal village with more than 60 historic buildings, as well as a collection of historic ships -- including 4 that are National Historic Landmarks. 960 1280
Maryland, Fort McHenryThe star-shaped Fort McHenry was built to defend the port of Baltimore against enemy attack. That moment came in September 1814 when the British continuously bombarded the fort for 25 hours. American forces successfully defended Baltimore Harbor -- a move that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 960 1280
South Carolina, Fort SumterIn the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter. They fired continuously for the next 34 hours, setting off the Civil War. It would take nearly 4 years for Union forces to regain control of the fort. 960 1280
New Hampshire, Mt. Washington Cog RailwayIn 1857, a man named Sylvester Marsh was climbing New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington when he got the idea to build a railway up the mountain. He put up $5,000 of his own money to fund what would become the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway. Today, the Mt. Washington Cog Railway is the second steepest rack railway in the world, behind Mt. Pilatus Railway in Switzerland. 960 1280
Virginia, MonticelloMonticello stands as an enduring symbol of America’s third president and his genius. Thomas Jefferson designed his Monticello estate in Charlottesville, VA, to embrace both old and new thinking: classical features such as pedimented porticos, mix with sophisticated interior spatial organization and low elevation, borrowed from 18th-century Parisian townhouse designs. 960 1280
New York, Statue of LibertyThe Statue of Liberty was the first landmark that many immigrants to the United States saw as they approached New York Harbor. A gift from the people of France, the iconic figure represents the Roman goddess of freedom. In one hand she bears a torch, in the other a tablet upon which is inscribed the date of the Declaration of Independence. 960 1280
North Carolina, Wright Brothers MemorialSteady winds lured Ohio brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright to Kill Devil Hills, NC, between 1900 and 1903. Their vision was to fly a heavier-than-air machine. The Wright Brothers National Memorial marks that successful effort -- attained on Dec. 17, 1903, following 3 years of trial and error. 960 1280
Rhode Island, Breakers MansionWhen American millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt was looking to build a summer home, he got his wish with The Breakers. Built in 1893, the 70-room mansion in Newport, RI, sits on 13 acres of land overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It came with a cool price tag: $12 million (today, the equivalent of $335 million). 960 1280
Vermont, Camel’s HumpThe distinctive silhouette of Camel’s Hump stands in the background of this rural scene. The third-highest mountain (and highest undeveloped peak) in Vermont, Camel’s Hump is part of the Green Mountain range. It’s also featured on the state quarter. 960 1280
Kentucky, Kentucky DerbyEvery first Saturday in May, Louisville, KY, is home to the “Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports.” The Kentucky Derby marks the annual stakes race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds, which race around a 1 1/4-mile track. The tradition began in May 1875, when the first Derby was held before a crowd of 10,000 people. 960 1280
Tennessee, Ryman AuditoriumThe Grand Ole Opry was born here. First opened as a church, Ryman Auditorium was later used to broadcast the famed country music stage concert series from 1943 to 1974. In subsequent years, Ryman fell into disrepair, until performances by country singer Emmylou Harris here sparked renewed interest in the space. Today, the 2,362-seat live performance venue hosts a variety of music performances. 960 1280
Ohio, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and MuseumThe quiet shores of Ohio’s Lake Erie are home to rock ‘n’ roll’s biggest celebration: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Located in Cleveland, the museum preserves the work of rock’s most influential artists and producers through exhibits that span 5 floors -- the museum’s third floor showcases the Hall of Fame and includes a wall with all the inductees’ signatures. 960 1280
Indiana, Indianapolis Motor SpeedwayIn 1905, Indianapolis businessman Carl Fisher envisioned building a speedway to test cars before they went to market. Four years later, ground was broken -- and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was born. Since that time, the speedway has been the site of 248 automobile races -- and sees crowds of more than 400, 000 people in what is the world’s highest-capacity stadium facility. 960 1280
Mississippi, Blues TrailThere’s just something about Mississippi -- more blues singers have come from state than all the other Southern states combined. The Mississippi Blues Trail, which extends from the border of Louisiana into southern Mississippi (and beyond, into Memphis, TN, and Chicago) honors many blues legends, such as B.B. King. Follow the trail to Tupelo, MS -- the birthplace of Elvis Presley. 960 1280
Illinois, Willis TowerWhen the 108-story Willis Tower was completed in 1973 it became the world’s tallest building -- a distinction it held for 25 years. Today, the skyscraper still stands as the tallest building in America. More than 1 million people visit its observation deck each year, taking in views of the Chicago skyline. 960 1280
Alabama, The Selma BridgeVisitors walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. Built in 1940 -- and named after a former Confederate brigadier general -- the arch bridge later became the site of Bloody Sunday, the day in March 1965 when 600 civil rights marchers were attacked by police with billy clubs and tear gas. 960 1280
Maine, Portland Head LightIn 1787, George Washington ordered the construction of this lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, ME. Two people had died that same year in a shipwreck, a tragedy heightened by the lack of lighthouses on Maine’s rocky coast. Today, the lighthouse remains a towering beacon, standing 80 feet above ground. 960 1280
Missouri, Gateway ArchThe Gateway Arch celebrates America’s westward expansion. At 630 feet (taller than the Washington Monument), it is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. The monument opened to the public in 1967. An accompanying underground visitor center opened in 1976. 960 1280
Arkansas, Buffalo National RiverFlowing nonstop for 135 miles, Arkansas’s Buffalo National River is one of the last undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. It was named the first National River, under the oversight of the National Park Service, in 1972. The river is popular for fishing, canoeing and camping; it’s also a great place to take a summertime plunge. 960 1280
Michigan, The Henry Ford MuseumDiscover America’s entrepreneurial spirit at The Henry Ford, a large indoor-outdoor history museum complex in metro Detroit. Opened in 1929 -- on the 50th anniversary of the lightbulb’s invention -- the museum’s exhibits span historic artifacts (such as Thomas Edison’s laboratory) to classic Americana like these famous double arches. 960 1280
Florida, Kennedy Space CenterMidway between Miami and Jacksonville, FL, dreams of outer space take flight. The Kennedy Space Center has been the launch site of every US human space flight since 1968. At the KSC Visitors Complex discover the thrill of takeoff with a Shuttle Launch Experience, a motion control ride that simulates a shuttle launch. 960 1280
Texas, The AlamoThe Alamo is the most enduring symbol of Texas independence. In 1836, Mexican forces waged a 13-day battle on the grounds of a former church. In the end, Mexican forces killed 190 men, including frontiersman Davy Crockett. Soon the battle cry “Remember the Alamo” led Texas forces to victory at the battle of San Jacinto -- a move that secured Texas’s independence. 960 1280
Iowa, High Trestle Trail BridgeTake in the awe-inspiring view of the Des Moines River Valley from the High Trestle Trail Bridge. The bridge is located in central Iowa near the town of Madrid, and is the centerpiece of a 25-mile trail that runs from the cities of Ankeny to Woodward. At 2,300 feet long and 13 stories tall, it is the fifth largest trail bridge in the world. 960 1280
California, Golden Gate BridgeThe Golden Gate Bridge has been called the most “beautiful bridge in the country, if not the world.” So just why isn’t the bridge golden? The term “Golden Gate” actually refers to the Golden Gate Strait, which is the entry point to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. As for the bridge’s color -- it’s International Orange, a color that’s often used in the aerospace industry to distinguish objects from their surroundings … in the bridge’s case, visibility on foggy days. 960 1280
Minnesota, Headwaters of the Mississippi River at Lake ItacsaAt Lake Itasca in Minnesota, the Mississippi River begins its flow toward Louisiana. The Mississippi’s headwaters are surrounded by the picturesque woods of the Itasca State Park. 960 1280
Kansas, Dodge City“Get out of Dodge” -- that popular phrase owes its origins to the wild frontier town of Dodge City, KS. The town’s roots stretch back to 1871, when a rancher built a sod house in the area to oversee his cattle operations. Soon the town grew – and so did the violence. Wyatt Earp, one of the toughest and deadliest gunmen of his day, became marshal of the town in 1876 -- with gun-slinging exploits that earned the town national attention. 960 1280
West Virginia's 150thThe Mountain State marks its 150th anniversary in 2013. In June 1863, at the height of the Civil War, an expanse of land in the Appalachian Mountain range broke away from the state of Virginia, becoming the only state to form by seceding from the Confederacy. Among West Virginia’s must-see sites is the New River Gorge, a 3,030-foot-long steel arch bridge near Fayetteville, WV. 960 1280
Nebraska, Chimney Rock“Pack your wagon” and discover one of the wonders of the West. At 4,226 above sea level, Chimney Rock in western Nebraska is visible for miles -- which is why it was the perfect landmark for pioneering travelers on the Oregon Trail. In fact, it was the landmark mentioned most frequently in journal entries by travelers of the day. 960 1280
Colorado, Colorado National MonumentMillions of years of erosion went into making the vibrant, orange, slick walls and canyons of Colorado National Monument. Spanning 20,500 acres, the monument is composed of deep canyons that cut into sandstone and granite in the desert on the Colorado Plateau. Red-tailed hawks, golden eagles and coyotes live among the juniper forests on the plateau. 960 1280
North Dakota, Painted CanyonIn September 1883 future US president Theodore Roosevelt visited the North Dakota Badlands to hunt bison. He soon fell in love with the “perfect freedom” of the West. Discover this world of flat desert mixed with petrified wood and rock formations at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park -- its Painted Canyon Overlook offers visitors unparalleled vistas in a myriad colors. 960 1280
South Dakota, Mount RushmoreIn 1923 South Dakota historian Doane Robinson envisioned carving the likenesses of US presidents into South Dakota’s Black Hills region. It took 14 years and 400 workers to complete Mount Rushmore, with the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln intricately carved into the granite. Today, Mount Rushmore is South Dakota’s top tourist draw. 960 1280
Montana, Wild Goose Island in St. Mary Lake, Glacier National ParkSt. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park features a small island in its center called Wild Goose Island. Folklore surrounds its name -- the story goes that 2 young lovers met on the island where they were turned into geese … and so given the chance to stay together forever and flee their disapproving tribes. 960 1280
Wyoming, Old FaithfulTwo-thirds of the world’s geysers are located at Yellowstone National Park -- among the park’s 300 geysers, Old Faithful is its most famous. In 1870, Old Faithful became the first geyser in Yellowstone to be named, earning its name due to its predictable eruptions every 91 minutes. 960 1280
Oklahoma, Oklahoma City National MemorialThe Oklahoma City National Memorial honors all who were affected by the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The memorial includes a reflecting pool, field of empty chairs, survivors’ wall and survivor tree. The eastern gate, seen here, represents the last minute of peace before the bombing. 960 1280
Hawaii, USS Arizona MemorialSituated on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, the USS Arizona Memorial straddles the sunken hull of the battleship, marking the final resting place of 1,102 soldiers who were killed on that fateful attack that led to the United States’ involvement in World War II. 960 1280
50 States, 50 Landmarks 50 Photos
Once you decide where to go, hand over some of the what-to-do decision-making to your teenager, says Brad Anderson, co-president of Avoya Travel. "Most teens are online now, and they're going to start lining up ideas of what to see and do," he says. "I find that teens are fabulous at bringing in great suggestions."
Here are some ideas to get you (and them) started.
A Peek at Grown-Up Life
They'll soon be off on their own in the world, so why not give teens a mini introduction now? Take them to a Broadway show, dine at a white-tablecloth restaurant, check out art galleries and broaden their horizons with other decidedly adult outings. Of course, you might want to throw in some typical teen pursuits as well, just to keep them sane.
Cruises are a big hit with parents, thanks to their prepaid nature and the multitude of supervised activities offered for kids. Many cruise lines now cater to families with children, including teens, presenting them with a host of things to do, from athletic activities to teen-only lounges and dances. The biggest bonus, especially for anyone with always-hungry teenage boys, is all-hours, unlimited access to food. "They can eat all day long, and you don't come home to a credit-card bill that's out of control," Lynda says.
Although family-focused resorts tend to be limited to the Caribbean and Mexico, they do hold some of the same appeal as cruises — namely, a price tag you settle on upfront, supervised activities and time with other teens. "I like to send people with teenagers to Mexico, to the Riviera Maya area," Lynda says. "Not only are there great water sports, but there are also Mayan ruins. It's a good way to get them interested in history."
One way to keep boredom at bay is to ensure that your teens have a fun way to burn off excess energy. Consider building a vacation around activities they love: skiing, snowboarding or surfing, for example. Or try an adventure-travel vacation centered on an activity they've never experienced before. Whether it's a family bicycling tour through France or a week of rock climbing, chances are you can find options that involve every member of the family.
Find a vacation package that caters to your teen's interests — and lets you learn more, too. "My 2 daughters and wife just went to Italy to a cooking school near Rome," Brad says. "They had an amazing time." Other themes might include horseback riding, spelunking or photography. If there's no package tour, use your imagination and create your own themed vacation.
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"It's sort of a rite of passage to go to Disney World," Brad says. "It continues to be the No. 1 family destination in the world, literally." And it's easy to understand why: Disney and other theme parks typically offer delights for kids young and old. The biggest drawback is the cost, say agents, who advise tapping the expertise of a travel professional to get the best deals on lodging, meal plans and more. "There are big savings to be had, if you know how to find them," Lynda says.
Your child's teenage years may be the perfect time to head to a once-in-a-lifetime destination. "Take them to see the big things in the world that they won't get to do once it's on their own money," suggests Janet Turner, president of Turner Travels.
Maybe it's a trip to Rome, Paris or London. To cut costs, Janet suggests planning your vacation during the school year (although she concedes that your child's teachers might not welcome the plan, and some schools will flat-out forbid it). "Let them see these things and spend time with you and then write a report on it."
MORE: Family Adventures That Thrill-Seeking Teens Would Enjoy