Have you ever wondered which family travel destinations are best suited to your children based on their ages? While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to travel with kids of various ages, there are definitely places and experiences better suited to some ages than others.
Preteens or tweens have increased physical stamina and can help you plan some vacation activities. While they long for greater independence, they aren’t yet ready to explore on their own, especially in a foreign country. But you can assign them activities like documenting the trip through photos or a journal, to keep them engaged and present. That said, limit electronics so that texting and social messaging don’t get in the way of family time.
Here are 8 places you should visit with your kids by age 13.
1) Galápagos Islands
Bring out the naturalist in your tweens by taking them on a tour of the Galápagos Islands. Preteens love learning about nature and animals, and the Galápagos Islands will keep them busy taking photos and journaling about their adventures. They’ll marvel at the astounding variety of unique wildlife that the islands accommodate, from blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas to giant tortoises, sea lions, and penguins. Accessible by boat, the islands offer a stunning diversity of landscapes. When it comes to cool places to travel with tweens, unforgettable adventures abound in the Galápagos Islands including hiking, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
An easy flight from Europe places you in Morocco, a location as exotic and rich in culture as it gets. Majestic snow-capped mountain ranges, dramatic gorges, honey and rose-colored sand dunes, and stunning beaches will provide your preteen with plenty of photo inspiration. So will the mysterious bazaars of the Djemaa al Fna Square packed with carpets, metalwork, jewelry, spices, wood carvings, and more. Explore the ancient city of Essaouira, still partially enclosed by fortress walls, where Barbary pirates once ruled the high seas. Adventure travel with tweens takes a fun twist when you incorporate camping with Berbers in the Sahara into the mix, too.
3) Costa Rica
Whether white water rafting in Sarapiqui or hiking in Manuel Antonio National Park, your tween will feel captivated by Costa Rica. Head into the heart of Arenal Volcano National Park for an exhilarating ride down the 3,280-foot-long Sky Trek zip line system. Soaring 600 feet above the rainforest, you and your preteen will enjoy stunning rainforest views. Then, hike to the 200-foot-tall Fortuna Waterfall, which emerges from a lush wall of vegetation. Experience authentic cultural immersion during a homestay experience, which will help your preteen gain a deeper appreciation for local cultures. Costa Rica’s commitment to the planet will also inspire your tween. There’s no other country on the planet moving faster towards carbon neutrality.
4) African Safari
During the preteen years, kids develop a strong sense of self-awareness and self-consciousness. This can lead to feeling “too cool” or “too old” for certain activities. But most tweens still unabashedly adore nature and animals. What better place to indulge these interests than on an African safari in search of the Big Five — lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos? Countries renowned for African safaris include Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Captivated by the real-life wildlife documentary unfolding before their eyes, your preteen will find plenty of reasons to take photos and remain engaged in this culturally immersive adventure.
5) Universal Studios
Whether you opt for Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles or Universal Orlando Resort, your preteen will get their fill of entertainment and fun. By this age, many tweens have read the Harry Potter series or watched the movies, so they prove well-prepared for lavish attractions such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. They’ll also enjoy the heart-pounding action of King Kong 360 3D, the Transformers 3D ride, and the World-Famous Studio Tour.
6) Florida’s Space Coast
Florida’s Space Coast boasts idyllic beaches, fascinating attractions, and even rocket launches. (Go here to find out when the next launch will take place.) Enjoy sun-kissed days spent at Florida’s Cocoa and Melbourne Beaches. Or, hike and explore nature in the Three Forks Marsh, featuring more than 47,000 acres of natural scenery teeming with wildlife. Check out the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and don’t forget to visit Space View Park and the American Space Museum and Walk of Fame where tweens can indulge their wildest fantasies of becoming an astronaut.
7) New York City
Big city adventures and cultural happenings abound in the “City that Never Sleeps.” Whether your tween longs to watch a Broadway musical or has a hankering for some of the best pizza in the world, the “Big Apple” has you covered. There’s also the adrenaline-spiking rides at Coney Island and the heart-pounding action of the aerial adventure center (complete with a zipline and ropes course) at the Bronx Zoo. What’s more, tweens will love Spyscape, an interactive espionage museum created by real spies where your tween can test their code-breaking, lie detection, and laser dodging skills while learning about history and current events. Finally, don’t forget to check out NYC from one of its many sky-high observatories: the Empire State Building, One World Observatory, or Top of the Rock.
8) London, England
For international travel with tweens, London comes with loads of entertainment value. There are the major sights like the Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey. Or, travel 20 miles outside London to Leavesden for a tour of the Warner Brothers Studio where the Harry Potter movies were filmed. The tour includes wand practice and exploring the Forbidden Forest. For an extra charge, your tween can also ride on a broomstick or drink warm Butterbeer, a non-alcoholic beverage reminiscent of butterscotch and shortbread. Of course, no trip to London would prove complete without watching the iconic Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Interested in learning more about the best travel destinations by age? Check out our free guide filled with creative travel ideas broken down by age.
Travel with Tweens
Preteens long for more independence, but they’re not quite ready to head out on their own, especially in an unfamiliar location. Involve them in trip planning to cultivate a greater sense of autonomy. Ask them to take vacation photos and keep a journal so they remain mindful throughout your vacation. Finally, limit electronics so that texts and social media don’t get in the way of a great family bonding experience.
At Our Whole Village, we create transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its peoples, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we handcraft for adventure-seeking families just like yours.