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Our oldest son just turned 13, and I couldn’t be more excited. What – excited about having a teenager in the house? ABSOLUTELY!!
You see, we told all our kids that when they turn 13, they get to go on a trip anywhere they want with either mom or dad (within reason – and yes, we vetoed the Antarctic Expedition). So our oldest has been eagerly waiting for his trip that he has planned with his dad.
Why wait to travel until kids are teens?
We actually have never waited to travel until our kids were older. In fact, our youngest had been to over 12 countries by his first birthday, and our new teen has visited nearly 40 countries. We just waited until our kids were teens to take a MAJOR one-on-one trip.
We waited to do these big trips until our kids were teens for a few reasons:
- We wanted to set the stage for a great start to the teen years with some good bonding time.
- Teens are capable of doing just about any adventure they can think of, so it’s going to be incredibly fun for everyone.
- We wanted it to be something they’ll remember forever. Our youngest will never remember when he bathed elephants in Thailand as an infant, and we want this trip to be something they NEVER FORGET!
- We have a big family and dedicated time for each kid is really important for us, and we believe it’s important to our kids individual development as well.
ALSO READ: Best Gift Ideas For Active Teens
How do you engage teens in travel?
The best way to get your teen engaged in your travels is to let them have some input about what you do.
A few years ago, we had a great idea for my husband to take my oldest two kids on a trip while I did a stay-cation with our younger kids. Our oldest kids were only 7 and 9 at the time, and we gave them a budget and a time period they could travel. They literally blew our minds with the trip they planned and booked to the Philippines (we were currently living in the Middle East and they found super cheap flights). They learned how to balance their budget and learned that if they wanted to do an expensive activity, they had to be more frugal in other areas. It was an amazing learning experience AND they had never been so excited about a trip as they were about this one!
Since then, we’ve learned that our trips turn out better if we give the kids responsibility for big chunks of the planning. Maybe you need help planning activities, or aren’t sure where to stay. Pass this planning off to your teen. Chances are, they’ll get a whole lot more excited about the trip, and it gives them an excellent experience in how to plan on their own.
Best Adventures With Teens All Over The World
We’ve traveled quite extensively with our younger kids, but traveling with a teen is new territory for us. To help us out, we’ve asked some of our favorite travel bloggers to share their favorite trips for teens. All of the trips shared below are for all over the world, but if you need more ideas, read our suggestions for the Top Adventure Trips with Teens in the United States.
- Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey
- Climb Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
- Swim with Whale Sharks in the Maldives
- Learn to Surf in El Salvador
- Elephant Adventures in Thailand
- Hiking the Cocora Valley, Colombia
- Visiting Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan
- Trekking in Patagonia, Argentina
- Riding on Camels in the Sahara Desert and Camping at a Berber Camp in Morocco
- Hiking the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
- Rafting and Riding on a Glacier in the Canadian Rockies
- Backpack the Tour Du Mont Blanc, Alps
- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
- Explore the Treetops at Camp Adventure, Denmark
- Camping in Iceland
- Trekking to see Orang-utans in Indonesia
- Exploring the natural world in Costa Rica
- A Multi-Day Kayaking Trip, Various Locations, Europe
- Jet Ski Tour in Exuma, Bahamas
- Canoe Safari, Okavango Delta, Botswana
- Hiking on a glacier in Iceland
Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey
Cappadocia is one of those places that feels completely otherworldly. With all of the fairy chimney rocks dotting the landscape, it’s a fantastic place to explore. The absolute best way to check out the area, is by taking a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. You won’t be alone though as dozens of other balloons start to fly with you, making it even more amazing.
While you’re in Cappadocia, there is so much to do and explore. Make sure not to miss the thrill of exploring the underground cities, as well as the cities that are carved into the sides of a cliff. There are also tons of hikes and areas for mountain biking and motorcycling as well. One of the highlights of staying in Cappadocia, is actually staying in a cave hotel that’s been carved into a rock – it’s an amazing experience.
Climb Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mt Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa and is the world’s largest freestanding mountain. At a massive 19,341 feet tall, getting to the top is no easy feat. The trip isn’t too difficult as far as hikes go, but the extreme altitude make it difficult., but I’m so thrilled to be able to say that I’ve checked off one of the seven summits. Getting to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro is something that just about anyone in good fitness can do, and then you can say that you’ve summitted one of the Seven Summits, which is cause for major bragging rights for any teen (the Seven Summits are the tallest mountains on each continent). The trek isn’t incredibly difficult and it really is just a hike the entire way, with no technical climbing involved. In fact, you’ll hardly carry any of your own gear, since porters are required to carry all your provisions and food. Plan on being catered to the entire time by your guide and porters (having both is required to trek here as part of their regulations).
The thing that makes getting to the top of Kilimanjaro difficult is the altitude. To help us acclimate, we took 5 days to get to the summit, and it only took us 1.5 days to get back down. Even with that, I experienced some pretty intense altitude sickness, though I was the only one in our group who did. Can teens make the trek? Absolutely! In fact, we want to take all our kids to the summit some day. Next time, I’ll just be sure to stock up on altitude sickness medication before we leave (you can get a prescription from your doctor for this).
Swim with Whale Sharks in the Maldives
The Maldives is one of the coolest places that you could think of taking your teen. In fact, we think it’s one of the best tropical destinations in the world. While most people have images of luxurious over-water bungalows come to mind when they think of the Maldives, there are several islands where life is quite normal and you can just stay in a normal hotel (called Local Islands by the natives). We did this and were able to do our entire trip to the Maldives for less than $50 per person/day. While we were there our kids learned to SCUBA dive, we went snorkeling with manta rays, swam with baby reef sharks, cruised alongside dolphins, and so much more.
By far the biggest highlight of our trip to the Maldives was when we went snorkeling with whale sharks. Whale sharks are incredibly huge, get docile fish, and getting to swim right next to them was so incredible. We spent several hours out with the sharks and had the most wonderful time. TIP: When you get to the island, book your whale shark trip as soon as you can. Our trip was canceled twice because of weather and we were grateful we had tried to go early during our stay so we could be flexible when we needed to be.
Learn to Surf in El Salvador
When we tell people that we took our kids to El Salvador, the first response that everyone has is “is that safe” or “but it’s so dangerous there”. Yes, El Salvador, just like many other places in the world does have some dangerous places, but we felt incredibly safe in all the tourist beach areas.
El Salvador has a very friendly and laid-back vibe to it and surfing there is incredible. We were able to walk down from our house to Playa Palmarcito and get surf board rentals for $5 a day, or a rental + a 1-hour lesson for only $10. Learning to surf in El Salvador was an incredible experience, and it was amazing for our kids to see that surfing is really about the sport, not just the name brand merchandise they associate it with. Also, since the prices were so low, we were able to take surfing lessons every day we were there and still barely tap into our budget.
Elephant Adventures in Thailand
Looking for an amazing adventure to take your teens on? Travel to the north of Thailand and spend a day with elephants! There are many elephant adventures outside of Chiang Mai, and one of the best is Blue Elephant Tours.
The day starts out with playing with a puppy-like baby elephant. My teens fell in love! The adventure continues with five adult elephants and a hike into the tropical jungle. The experienced guides lead everyone on a long but easy hike, and you are free to pet the elephants whenever you want to.
After stopping and eating lunch in a fort overlooking a waterfall, you get to experience swimming with the elephants in the waterfall pool. Teens will love to post these photos on Instagram.
The fun continues with scrubbing and washing the elephants. The hike back is just as fun, but the elephants walk a little faster. They know what is coming next…their lunch. You will make their lunch and hand-feed the happy elephants. Your teens may call this “one of the best days of their lives!”
Take your teens to Thailand with this Ultimate Thailand Itinerary
By Whitney of Designs For Travel
Hiking the Cocora Valley, Colombia
Salento is a beautiful town that sits in Colombia’s lush greenery. It is the ideal place for a vacation with children, as the peace and tranquility will surely bring about some quality family time like no other. If you visit Salento, do stay in one of the eco-friendly fincas that sits among the miles of endless farmland. Better yet, take a jeep towards the Cocora Valley, which houses hundreds of wax palm trees that tower over small rocky paths and rolling hills.
The hike around Cocora Valley is absolutely stunning. You can spend endless hours trekking around the various paths. Along the way, you might spot humming birds and horses. But it doesn’t stop there. the deeper you step into the jungle, the more opportunity you will have of encountering the varying wildlife that characterizes Colombia’s abundant greenery.
All in all, Cocora Valley is one of my favorite hikes in Colombia. After your travel around the coffee region, make sure to take a bus from Salento to Bogota and enjoy Colombia’s colorful capital city!
By Daisy of Beyond my Border
Visiting Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan
Adventuring across Jordan to Petra and Wadi Rum is sure to keep your teens entertained. While a visit to the Middle Eastern Kingdom of Jordan may not be on the top of their travel list, with a little research, it has a wealth of attractions, from ancient Roman cities, to outdoor adventures in the desert or diving in the Red Sea.
Whether it is hiking into Petra and marvelling at the massive Treasury or Monastery or learning about how the Nabatean capital was once an important trade hub, their curiosities are sure to be engaged. But there is so much more to Jordan than just Petra, on the back of a 4×4 truck, Wadi Rum offers amazing landscapes, bedouin hospitality and the opportunity to camp in the desert. After a tour across the expansive desert, there are plenty of camp to choose from. Whether a traditional tent or a mars-like dome tent, teens are sure to remember this trip for the rest of their lives
By Lindsay of Step Into Jordan
Trekking in Patagonia, Argentina
One of the best opportunities to connect with teens is in the great outdoors, far from cell phone service and the other distractions of 21st century life. For a truly unique experience, head to the tiny village of El Chalten deep in Argentine Patagonia. El Chalten is an ideal base for a few days of adventure with teens for so many reasons. El Chalten is a town that eats, breathes and sleeps for its hiking.
Everyone you and your teen meet there is either on their own hiking trip or they work to support the hiking business at gear shops, hostels and restaurants. There’s also a huge range of El Chalten hiking options to suit every level of fitness – some of the views from flat 30 minute “nature walks” are just as rewarding as those from all-day (or overnight) hikes. You and your teen will love getting our of your comfort zones and spending time together exploring your surroundings and your own capabilities!
By Melissa of The Family Voyage
Riding on Camels in the Sahara Desert and Camping at a Berber Camp in Morocco
Take your teens on the adventure of a lifetime in Morocco- Ride on camels through the Sahara Desert and spend the night in a Berber camp!
The adventure begins with a guide and a shopping trip to get some traditional Moroccan clothing (scarf included!) to wear on the journey. The next stop is at the edge of the Sahara Desert.
Camels are waiting for the long adventurous journey into the beautiful Sahara just before sunset. The trek is fun, and full of laughs and awe. The scene is beautiful and looks like you are in a movie. There are lots of perfect Instagram opportunities.
Once at camp, your teens can ride down a large sand dune on a “dune board.” A traditional Moroccan dinner is served outside with music. Sleeping outside, under the stars, is another unforgettable experience.
Waking up early and hiking to the top of a dune for the sunrise is well worth the effort. The trek back in the morning finishes the experience with a family experience that will last a lifetime.
Hiking the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
For families and teens looking for an incredible adventure, head to the Himalayas in Nepal. Among the many treks here, the Annapurna Circuit is one of the most popular because it is safe but challenging, and cultural but with conveniences. The views along the Annapurna Circuit are unparalleled, and vary from sloping valleys to snow-capped mountains. Families who have spent time hiking in the mountains at home, will adore this demanding but unforgettable 14-day, village-to-village trek.
Each day of hiking usually lasts from 3-6 hours, and at the end of the day you’ll stay with a different Nepali family in their guesthouse. To promote the local economy and ensure a safe hike, families hiking with teens often hire a local guide or porter to hike with them. Because the Annapurna Circuit is a village-to-village trek, you don’t need to carry your own food or tent, making it easier for teens to hike. Many guesthouses even have WiFi available to share your epic Himalayan pictures with the world!
Older teens will be able to hike the whole Annapurna Circuit. They will learn quickly how to mentally and physically push themselves. Younger teens, similar to older parents, may need the help of resident donkeys on the longest “Pass Day” on the Annapurna Circuit, which takes you to 5,416m in elevation over a 8+ hour hiking day. Hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal with teens is a sure-fire way to bring a family closer together through shared challenges, epic views, and mind-blowing experiences.
By Erika of Erika’s Travelventures
Rafting and Riding on a Glacier in the Canadian Rockies
Canadian Rockies are absolutely heavenly with the majestic mountains, rivers and lakes in all shades of green and blue, dense forests, waterfalls and avalanches. The great outdoors offer limitless adventure opportunities for every age from little ones, teenagers, adults and seniors.
Last summer we traveled to the Canadian Rockies with our teenage daughter. We made it fun with lots of fun activities, hikes and time to relax. A couple of her favorite activities were rafting on the Athabasca River and waking on top of the Athabasca Glacier.
We went on an easy rafting experience on the Athabasca River in Jasper. The tour company picked us up from the hotel, provided all the equipment and a 20 year old boy took us on the trip, with a mentor for company. We went to calm waters and several rapids that got everyone screaming on the top of their lungs. It was a wonderful experience for the whole family.
The other favorite activity for our daughter was riding on a massive truck on the Athabasca glacier in Columbia Icefields. Once in the glacier, we got off the truck and walked on the glacier. We drank the fresh ice melt from the ancient glacier. It was magical. We took pictures with the American and the huge Canadian flags, walked on ice and mingled with other travelers.
Our daughter enjoyed many more activities in the Canadian Rockies such as hiking, kayaking, canoeing, gondola rides, Columbia Icefields skywalk and the delicious food in Banff etc. There is so much to do as a teenager in the Canadian Rockies
By Jyoti of Story at Every Corner
Backpack the Tour Du Mont Blanc, Alps
Last summer, my 2 daughters, age 15 and 18, joined me in what is considered one of the greatest backpacking treks in the world. While the epic views of Mont Blanc as well as getting to travel through France, Italy, and Switzerland along the way were motivation, it’s the incredible culinary experience that they enjoyed the most. The hike takes you through small towns in Italy,, and Switzerland, each with their own unique foods. Really, how often do you get to backpack and eat chocolate croissants and sip Italian espresso along the way?
We chose to take on this journey by carrying tents and camping along the way, however, the easiest way to experience this beautiful trail is by spending your nights at stunning mountain refuges along the way. We spent one night at Refugio Bonatti and another at Refugio Elisabetta, where the hot showers, comfy beds, Italian espresso, and four course dinners made the 33,000 feet in elevation over 105 miles. The best part of hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is that you can easily bypass sections using public transportation and ski lifts to cut out some of the steeper descents.
By Robyn of Nomads with a Purpose
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls is full of activities that will keep any teen entertained and engaged for days at a time. While some Victoria Falls activities are better suited for adults, many are perfect for your teenage travelers and there are so many choices in one destination. If you head into Victoria Falls National Park you’ll have endless loops of scenic pathways to hike and admire the falls. When you exit, you can take them to Victoria Falls bridge, a historic landmark and engineering feat of its time. There, your teens may want to bungee jump, but a less extreme activity is the zip-line glide across the gorge. They’ll actually start in Zambia and finish in Zimbabwe, which is pretty cool! You can even take the zip-line in tandem if your teen is nervous, or just enjoy the views from one side to the other.
There are great whitewater rafting trips on the Zambezi River that your teen will love. If it’s the wet season, the rapids may be at their most intense, so another way to see the river is with a sunset river safari. Cruise along the Zambezi and enjoy the setting sun with hippos, waterfowl and other wildlife on the river. Some options include dinner and performances from traditional African dancers. From start to finish, taking your teens to Victoria Falls is an adventure they always remember and will never be bored from.
By Derek and Mike of Robe Trotting
Explore the Treetops at Camp Adventure, Denmark
Camp Adventure is one of the coolest attractions you could visit in Denmark. It sounds like something a much younger child dreamed up – but it’s literally a 900 meter spiral boardwalk that climbs 50 meters high and your teens will love it.
Visiting Camp Adventure begins with a quiet walk through the natural forest. As you approach the tower, you’ll be surprised how tall it is in person. Climbing the spiral boardwalk ramp, you slowly realize just how high the structure is. Once you reach the observation platform (at 45m), you have a perfect 360-degree view of the Danish forest that surrounds it. The treetop canopy opened in 2017 at an existing outdoor recreation center. There are ropes courses and zip-lines at Camp Adventure, but the main draw is the giant tower above the trees.
The project was designed to bring people into nature and build a greater appreciation for the forests in this region of Denmark. It’s an easy day trip from Copenhagen, so it attracts visitors year-round who help to make that vision a reality. Your teens will marvel at the chance to climb into the treetops. Hopefully, the experience will shape their views on forest preservation and sustainability for years to come.
By Derek and Mike of Everything Copenhagen
Camping in Iceland
Iceland is often thought to be an expensive country and quite an ‘adult’ place to visit but for teens it is the step into adulthood. To take the adventure one step further and to reduce the budget camping in Iceland adds a whole new dimension. This provides flexibility to stay longer in one place if you like it and move on if there is nothing of interest, something that is often hard to predict day to day with older children. It also provides the kids with freedom. They have their space once you arrive at the campsite to explore on their own, find the hot tub or swimming pool that is usually close by and they have choices on planning the Iceland itinerary.
The adventures in Iceland are also a little extreme, from glacier walking to going ‘into’ a volcano through to whale watching. These are all things that you wouldn’t find on a ‘normal’ holiday. They can be expensive but many places in Iceland have a teen price band which can lighten the price a little. Overall, camping in Iceland with teens really isn’t as difficult or as expensive as it initially sounds!
By Suzanne of Meandering Wild
Trekking to see Orang-utans in Indonesia
If you’re looking for a unique travel experience for your teens that is both unforgettable and educational, then jungle trekking in Bukit Lawang, Indonesia, is it! Oh, it’s no ordinary hike. You’ll be hiking in one of two places in the world where you can see wild orang-utans in their natural habitat. Besides orangutans, there’s also a possibility to see black gibbon monkeys, monitor lizards, bird life and even Asian rhinos and elephants.
If this sounds exciting, but a tad bit scary too, don’t worry. The trek can only be done with professional guides. It’s 100% safe for you and your teens, and it’s also an ethical, responsible wildlife tour. Not only will your teens learn to switch off from their phones. They’ll also learn about nature, the importance of protecting wildlife and our environment and most importantly, appreciating their lives back home.
Life in Bukit Lawang is beautiful and tranquil, but very basic. Electricity comes and goes. Internet connections are choppy. But the memories you make there are once in a lifetime and life changing. Your family will come home changed for the better.
By Chloe & Michael of Nomad and In Love
Exploring the natural world in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is packed with activities for fun loving, adventurous teens such as surfing, waterfall treks, white water rafting, caving, snorkeling or scuba diving. Inland activities focus on the incredibly diverse flora and fauna of Costa Rica. Many of these nature based activities can be found in Monteverde in northern Costa Rica. Monteverde is famous for its rainforest and rare cloudforest. There are teen friendly hikes in the dense forests which will engage your teens in navigating, clambering over fallen tree trunks and sliding down muddy slopes.
At night, join a nocturnal hike to spot shy sloths, kinkajous, tarantulas and vibrant tree frogs. Visit Selvatura Adventure Park in Monteverde to walk the hanging metal bridges through the trees and above the tree canopy which provide stunning views of the rain forest. Teens will love the 13 zip lines around the 850 acre park which get progressively longer and higher. The longest zip line soars high above the trees, is an exhilarating one kilometer long and, for an extra thrill, can be ridden ‘superman’ style!
By Sinead of Map Made Memories
A Multi-Day Kayaking Trip, Various Locations, Europe
Back when my sister and I were teens, my dad and step-mom took us on a one-week kayaking trip down the Dordogne river in France. A tour company organized the logistics and transported our luggage and tents from campsite to campsite. My memories of that summer holiday are filled with swimming in the calm waters, paddling between echoing gorges, and trying to find cave entrances.
This early experience inspired my partner and me to kayak halfway down the Danube River from its origin in Germany through Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary in 2019. In total, the Danube is 1,770 miles long and one of the most international rivers in the world. We’ll continue that trip in our inflatable kayak from Hungary to the Black Sea in 2021.
During the summer holidays, we shared the Danube with lots of other long-distance kayakers, including many parent-child teams. One particularly memorable group was a father-son duo in a wooden kayak that traveled from Linz in Austria to Hungary’s capital city Budapest. It seemed like the trip was the teen’s initiative.
Truth be told, every continent has a few good rivers for beginner paddlers. Within the USA, I’m thinking of the undammed John Day River in Oregon and the New River in West-Virginia. As long as you and your teenager research your river well, keep track of water level predictions, and pack the right gear for a multi-day kayaking trip. You might just lay the foundation for a lifetime of adventures for your child. Depending on the age and size of your teen, a kid sized kayak could be perfect for something like this!
By Iris of Mind of a Hitchhiker
Jet Ski Tour in Exuma, Bahamas
Exuma is part of the Bahamas and it has to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Endless miles of powder white beaches surrounded by the most incredible clear waters in endless shades of blue. There are 365 cays along this section of the Bahamas with the largest cay being Great Exuma. And it is the perfect destination to visit with teenagers who like water sport activities and wildlife.
There are many ways to explore Exuma, but one sure way to put a smile on your teenagers face is to see it all during a thrilling tour on the back of a jet ski. After safety instructions and learning how to operate the equipment you will ride on very stable and state of the art jet skis to see sand bars, stingrays, baby sharks, friendly iguanas, sea turtles, giant starfish and yes the famous swimming pigs. Each and every stop is an adventure. And getting to each place is part of the excitement as you speed over blue waters and jump over waves feeling the warm breeze on your face and the thrill in your stomach.
For other teen approved activities in Exuma you will want to take a water taxi to Stocking Island, try kitesurfing or scuba diving. Take a deep sea fishing boat trip or go paddle boarding in the shallow waters. And of course always bring snorkeling equipment to see the abundant marine life at every beach you visit.
By Joella of Roving Jo
Canoe Safari, Okavango Delta, Botswana
There are plenty of places in Africa where you can go on safari to see wildlife, but none of them are like the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Here, safaris are conducted not in a jeep but in a canoe, known locally as a “mokoro”. The Delta is a huge maze of narrow waterways that pass through tall reeds. Hiding among the reeds are all types of animals, from tiny white frogs to huge elephants!
You may even be lucky enough, as I was, to see elephants crossing the water right in front of your canoe. Canoe safaris in Okavango generally last either two or three days, overnighting at a makeshift camp on one of the many islands in the delta. On the island, you’ll have the chance to go on a walking safari with your guide to spot more wildlife, such as zebras and wildebeests.
Teens will have a blast learning how to propel the canoe through the water with a long wooden pole. It’s harder than it looks! But of course, if you’re not up for that you can kick back and relax while a professional “poler” does the hard work for you.
By Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan
Hiking on a glacier in Iceland
Vatnajökull in Skaftafell National Park is about one-twelfth of Iceland’s surface and up to 800m thick. It is literally an 8,100 sq km dome of ice! What a fun adventure to go hiking on the giant glacier. It took a little while to get used to walking with crampons, but once we got the hang of it was fun. While we went on a few other easy adventures in Iceland, my teenagers loved this hike the most!
We hired a mountain guide who provided the gear and guided us through the ice hike. He made sure the kids stayed a safe distance away from the crevasses and pinnacles, which they wanted to go peek into. Make my heart race every time we ran into one of those! We explored the landscape of glacier ice, saw deep crevasses, and water cauldrons on Vatnajökull Glacier. We even stopped to taste some of the ice. Kept the teens entertained and talking about it for days after the trip.
By Priya of Outside Suburbia