Let’s face it: Once your kids hit the adolescent years, they become harder to please. Which is why family vacations need to WOW 'em with something special — as well as keep you and the rest of your gang engaged. Some are very high priced; others are more reasonable, and one is tax-deductible. Here, some options that will so enthrall your teen, he or she just might balk at coming home.
Surf ’n’ swim
The place: Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa, San Diego, Calif.What’s in it for them: Opt for the “Super Suite Vacation” package, and your teen will get private surfing lessons along with spa treatments in the resort’s PBteen Spa room and access to the resort’s PBteen Lounge.What’s in it for you: Sun. Sand. Spa.Inside tip: Donna W. of Plainsboro, N.J., suggests renting a car to see the city’s sights when you want a break from the resort.Expect to pay: Summer rates start at $309 per person, double occupancy; the Super Suite Vacation package starts at $2,000 for a week.Details: 619-424-4000; 800-23-LOEWS; www.loewshotels.com.
The place: Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, San Antonio, TexasWhat’s in it for them: Girls especially will love the pampering at the SPAhhht (pronounced “spot”) Youth Spa, which offers a variety of services such as airbrushed tattoos and Caribbean-style hair braids, along with clothed massage treatments. In addition, kids can hang (while mom and dad enjoy dinner) at The Underground, a teen lounge designed by teens, with its array of PS2 stations, billiards, darts, various arcade games, filtered Internet access, and a smoothie bar that serves up a variety of nonalcoholic “mocktails.”What’s in it for you: Knowing your kids are being supervised by hotel staff in a secure environment while you enjoy some alone time.Inside tip: It’s a great place to meet friends who have kids about the same age. Tamara S. of Helotes, Texas, says her family has met friends from Dallas there a few times which has made it nice for her two girls, ages 15 and 12.Expect to pay: $229-$429 per night per person, double occupancy during the high (summer) season.Details: 210-647-1234 or www.hillcountry.hyatt.com.
The place: Montana-Big Sky, Yellowstone and Paradise Valley program sponsored by Austin-Lehman Adventures.What’s in it for them: Learning to appreciate Mother Nature. You’ll hike, bike, horseback ride, and go whitewater rafting — all amidst gorgeous sceneryWhat’s in it for you: Doing something as a family; bonding over whitewater rafting trips and bike rides and watching the sun set.Inside tip: Book early; these trips are popular.Expect to pay: $2,198 for adults; $1,978 for children.Details: 800-575-1540 or www.austinlehman.com.
The Place: New York CityWhat’s in for them: Getting introduced to the city that never sleeps.What’s in it for you: Broadway shows (with discount tickets at the TKTS booth on 47th Street); good food; great shopping (in stores and from street vendors), and something fascinating happening on every other block.Inside tip: Bring comfortable shoes! You’ll be walking a lot!Expect to pay: Apple Core Properties (Red Roof Inn Manhattan; Comfort Inn Midtown; La Quinta Inn) offer wallet-friendly packages year-round, with rates starting at around $150 per night. You can partly avoid high-priced restaurants by paying a little more for a suite and preparing breakfast in your kitchen and eating lunch from street carts.Details: http://www.nycvisit.com/ or Apple Hotels: 212-790-2710 or www.applecorehotels.com
Cruise (Caribbean; Mexico/ Europe and more)
The place: Carnival Cruise LinesWhat’s in it for them: Besides unlimited ice cream, French fries, pizza, and lemonade? Try teen-only excursions, rock-climbing walls, basketball court, bingo, and exotic ports of call. Not to mention a certain level of freedom.What’s in it for you: The fact that everyone can do his or her own thing and then meet up later in the day. Lynn A. of Boise, Idaho, has been cruising with her three boys (now 12, 14, and 17) ever since the youngest was 8 and loves it for the simple reason that “you get a lot of bang for your buck.”Inside tip: Pack walkie-talkies; that’s how Lynn and her family communicate through the day.Expect to pay: Rates vary widely depending on departure city, destination, and how many days. Short cruises (three, four, or five days) start at $249 per person, double occupancy.Details: 888-CARNIVAL or www.carnival.com
The place: Variety of offerings through Global Volunteers, a nonprofit organization based in St. Paul, Minn.What’s in it for them: Feeling good about helping people. Opt to teach conversational English to children and adults from immigrant families in Pelican Rapids, Minn., or help build new homes and repair old ones in Fayette County, W.V. Other programs available in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.What’s in it for you: Same!Inside tip: You may never take a “regular” vacation again!Expect to pay: U.S. prices start at $795 for the week and all costs are tax-deductible.Details: 800-487-1074 or www.globalvolunteers.org.
Teen vacation tips from Lynn Horton, Worldview Travel:
- Involve your teens in planning. Put them in charge of the camera or making interactive maps.
- Let them bring a friend. If you invite another child, it’s usually proper protocol to pay for him/her, though you can certainly ask his parents to pay for incidentals.
- Dedicate one day to their interests.
- Compromise. Let your teen sleep late one day; let her know you’ll do X if she’ll do Y.
- Know your child. Don’t force her on a bus tour if you know she gets car sick.
- Book two rooms so you get two bathrooms. At the end of the day, the bathroom factor is big, but sofa beds are fine.
- Laugh about mishaps. This is a vacation, after all.
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