10 Vacations That Make Even a Cranky Teenager Happy

Teen can be such a pain. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Even if you’re extra travel savvy, planning a memorable vacation can be a challenge. And if you’re bringing along a teenager — aka a potentially moody, uncommunicative, bored traveling companion — that challenge is multiplied tenfold. Choosing the right destination to keep both you and your teen happy is the key to enjoying traveling together. Here are 10 vacation spots that promise to appeal equally to every member of your traveling party, including that hard-to-please adolescent.



The shops and vendors at Covent Garden Market. (Photo: Neil Howard/Flickr)

If your teen has never been overseas, London is an ideal starting point. In a sense, it’s “Europe for Beginners,” with no language barrier to complicate getting around, or even just watching local TV. As in any world-class city, there are plenty of cultural things to do — like the Victoria and Albert Museum and the London Transport Museum, neither of which is uptight or inaccessible — that are ideal for teens.

Don’t miss: Covent Garden and its surrounding streets are filled with a mix of both European and international stores (including a branch of the teen-pleasing Apple Store) that attract both locals and tourists. A solid lunch choice with young adults is Wagamama. It’s part of a British chain of upbeat Asian noodle restaurants, on Tavistock Street. End the day with a stop afterward at Primrose Bakery down the street for what is arguably London’s best cupcake.

Related: Cheat Sheet: London

Montego Bay, Jamaica


Montego Bay has enough sun, sand, and fun for the whole family. (Photo: Corbis)

For many travelers, a perfect vacation (particularly in the wintertime) is synonymous with the beach. If you love the sun and sand and are vacationing with teens, it’s best to opt for a destination with plenty to keep them engaged. Jamaica is an ideal choice, with nuances teens can appreciate like delicious and accessible local cuisine (such as jerk chicken) and culture (#BobMarley). If you prefer to stay within a resort hotel’s grounds, choose a place with age-appropriate activities, like Half Moon, which has horseback riding, beach barbecues, and a teen-friendly spa policy.

Don’t miss: Be sure to try ackee and saltfish, a local specialty that includes ingredients that are indigenous to Jamaica. Many teens might have an initial gross-out factor, but trust us, it’s delicious.

New York

Find some cool clothes at the Brooklyn Flea. (Brooklyn Flea/Twitter)

Is there any age group that doesn’t enjoy New York City? For teens, there is every type of store imaginable, funky food from every country, a huge array of shows and museums, and truly memorable spots like Times Square and Central Park. Sometimes a small itinerary tweak, like seeing “Book of Mormon” on Broadway instead of a thought-provoking play, is all it takes to keep your teen consistently happy in the city that, indeed, never sleeps.

Don’t miss: As enticing as Manhattan is, be sure to check out the vibrant outer boroughs, whether that means going to Flushing, Queens, for authentic dim sum or shopping for quirky finds at the Brooklyn Flea.

Athens, Greece


The Acropolis in Athens is way more exciting in real life than in your kid’s textbook. (Photo: Getty Images)

Pretty much every teen will study ancient Greece at some point before heading to college, so landmarks like the Acropolis are easy for them to engage with and really bring schoolwork to life. Athens isn’t the largest city (and it’s crowded and hot in the summertime), so a smart strategy is to spend just a couple of days in the city en route to one of the idyllic and history-filled Greek Islands.

Don’t miss: Even teens who swear by burgers and fries will love walking through the Dimotiki Agora, a huge food market with vendors selling olives, figs, fish, feta cheese, and other delicacies.

Related: A Sweet Stop in Greece — Thessaloniki’s New Wave of Patisseries

Montreal, Canada


The delicious gravy-soaked, cheesy french fry goodness that is poutine. (Photo: Patrick Donovan/Flickr)

In a sense, Montreal is a bit like North America’s Paris — a quaint and beautiful city that’s wonderful to stroll around and has Old-World, European-style charm. (And, yes, it’s an ideal place to practice high school French.) Those qualities are exemplified by Old Montreal, with lots of little boutiques and restaurants to pop into while exploring. A good choice for foodie teens: Chez L’Epicier, particularly for its rainbow trout gravlax.

Don’t miss: One of Canada’s signature comfort food dishes, poutine, is especially teen-friendly. (It’s french fries with cheese curds, doused in gravy.) It’s also easy to find. Frite Alors!, which offers several versions, has a handful of branches across town.

Sydney, Australia


Swimming with the sharks at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary = selfie gold. (Photo: Shark Dive Extreme/Facebook)

Like London, Sydney offers the pleasure of being in a foreign city without the culture shock of a different language. There’s lots to do here that will pass muster on teens’ cool meter, like Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, where you can swim with sharks.

Don’t miss: In the midst of a bustling area in this equally bustling city, the Chinese Garden of Friendship offers a dose of chilled-out calm that will impress even the most revved-up teen.

The Grand Canyon


Who wouldn’t be impressed by this view? (Photo: Getty Images)

If you’re convinced that your teens can’t be wowed by anything, bring them to the Grand Canyon, which really does takes one’s breath away. To keep adolescent moods at bay, choose accommodations wisely, since not every teen is up for camping. There’s a huge range of hotels available, from Thunderbird, which has noteworthy views, to luxe properties like Amangiri a couple hours away by car.

Don’t miss: For a truly unique view of the Canyon both from and through a glass-floored bridge, it’s worth including Skywalk Grand Canyon in your visit.

Lima, Peru


The Magic Water Circuit Fountain really lives up to its name. (Photo: Boris G/Flickr)

If you and your teen have never been to South America, Peru is a wonderful starting point, with rich Incan culture and simply beautiful architecture and terrain. For something a bit more modern than ruins and ancient art, head to the Magic Water Circuit in the evening for a “wow”-inducing show of fountains and light.

Don’t miss: Part of what makes Lima so appealing is its gorgeous beaches, many of which are ideal for surfing. Two favorites: Waikiki and Makaha, both in Miraflores.

Tokyo, Japan


Teens will love exploring the bustling shopping district of Shinjuku. (Photo: DILLEmma Photography/Flickr)

The hyperkinetic intensity of Tokyo particularly resonates with kids raised on video games and instant messaging. Everywhere you look, there’s something new, bright, and bold looking. Many teens love the famous Tsukiji Fish Market and the busy Ginza neighborhood. For some zen contrast, it’s worth taking a side trip to peaceful Kyoto on the bullet train (which is an adventure in itself).

Don’t miss: Shinjuku, the neighborhood that’s a magnet for fashion-forward Japanese youth, and its immense Isetan department store.

Related: Beyond Tokyo: Hiking Japan’s Historic Villages and Lush Farmlands

Rome, Italy


Because the Coliseum is so much more impressive IRL. (Photo: Alfonso1979/Flickr)

Like Athens, Rome is a modern city with majestic reminders of its ancient past. The sheer scope of places like the Coliseum and the Vatican City is undeniably impressive, even if you’re moody and 17. Seeing those is the ideal way to build up an appetite for perhaps the city’s biggest lures for young people: some of the world’s best pizza. One popular spot is Forno Campo de’Fiori. And for gelato, which is offered in creative and unconventional flavors, visit Gelateria Fatamorgana.

Don’t miss: For vintage finds and all sorts of bric-a-brac, do as the locals do on a Sunday and go to one of Rome’s handful of flea markets. The biggest, and arguably the best, is Porta Portese.

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