attraction. The idea is to provide kids and parents with their
own space while at the same time offering activities that
appeal to everyone.”
Sally Black, founder of the travel agency Vacationkids, says
this is the fun time when parents can, and should, engage kids
in travel planning. At times, she’s even asked to work directly
with the kids to plan elements of the trip, which leads to greater
independence for the children and more trust from the parents.
“At this age, it’s all about engaging curious minds and build-
ing itineraries that evoke a child’s specific interests,” she said.
“Parents want education, and kids want entertainment. So, it’s
about making learning fun.”
Einbinder at Backroads says that one of the best parts of a
family trip with kids this age is getting out of the usual rut and
experiencing the world.
“Our family trips allow kids to have fun and interact with
their peers without being in front of a video game or phone for
hours at a time,” she said.
In terms of destinations, Black says it’s really about experi-
ences, such as seeing a real castle, riding a dog sled in Alaska
or learning a life skill such as golf, tennis or scuba diving.
O’Shaughnessy says Africa is a go-to for her for kids this age.
“More safari lodges are offering extensive kids’ wildlife and
conservation programming,” she said. “This is particularly true
in South Africa where malaria-free options are plentiful.”
Gray says Australia is fun for this age group “since there’s so
much furry, fuzzy and hopping there.”
Kids age 12 to 17 can be picky travelers, but they are also the
most independent, which gives parents more freedom, too.
This is a good time to plan trips that incorporate socialization
skills, an appreciation for cultural awareness and adventure.
Everyone needs a bed at this stage, so room configurations
still matter, but there is more flexibility in terms of the
setup — rooms can be adjacent instead of connecting. It’s also a
good idea at this age to involve teens in the vacation planning,
“Kids start to become more
discerning about what they are
willing to do once they reach
12,” said O’Shaughnessy of Ciao
Bambino. “To that end, parents
should engage them earlier in the
planning process to help choose
She also warns parents not to
underestimate their teens. She
says activities such as cooking
classes and surf lessons can lead to
memorable bonding experiences
for a family.
Jenss agrees: Too often,
parents underestimate what their
children will like.
“They will often eat new foods,
try new things and not be bored if
you just give it a try,” Jenss said.
At this age, travel can have
a major impact on teens’ world views, making it an ideal
time to introduce the importance of giving back to local
communities. Sadler says that Beaches offers Island Impact,
a “volun-teenism” program that gives teen students the
chance to give back to the local area and earn community
service hours while they are on vacation. Then, at night, they
can have fun at Club Liquid, a teens-only dance club with a
South Beach vibe, where they can hang out with people their
own age — no kids and no one over 21 allowed.
For this age group, our experts recommend active travel,
such as small-ship expedition cruising or scuba diving in
Palau, Fiji or the Philippines. Other destinations they suggest
include Iceland, Belize, Cambodia, Vietnam, Morocco, Peru
and even Antarctica.
“My son has been to 36 countries, and his trip to Antarctica
last year is by far his most memorable experience that he’ll
talk about forever,” O’Shaughnessy said.
Gray advises that agents should begin by helping clients
make sure they truly want a family vacation in the first place.
“There’s a time, and a trip, for romance,” she said. “Clients
shouldn’t bring kids unless it’s a family trip where they really
want to be with the kids. If the kids are just an add-on and the
parents really want a romantic trip, they should probably just
leave the kids at home.”
“At this age,
it’s all about
that evoke a
such as surf lessons
can be great bonding
experiences for teens.