Family Travel Forum provides information on exciting, alternative travel adventures for teens.
Departing for a group tour sans parents can be an exciting new experience for a teenager. Just because a trip is without parents, however, doesn’t mean that it should be without guidelines or safety.
Today’s teens can pick from specialized sports camps, cultural immersions, community service projects, music camps, environmental initiatives, learning abroad semesters, college courses and more, each supervised in a different way.
In past years, the Parent’s League of New York has offered the following screening tips for teen tour programs and FTF recommends them.
7 Tips for selecting a Teen Program
- Interview the tour’s director — does he/she speak openly and consider your questions carefully?
- Study the brochure or website: Try to obtain the complete itinerary including accommodations, hotels and hostels. Consider the size of the group, the number of supervisors, and whether the groups are coed or segregated.
- Discipline: Are teens “curfewed,” that is sent home for repeated infractions of the rules? Is there a policy on cigarettes, alcohol and drugs? If so, be sure to discuss it with your teen beforehand.
- Are supervisors trained in CPR and First Aid? What is the procedure in case of an accident? How can parents make contact with their kids in case of an emergency?
- How do they accommodate special diets such as diabetic, vegetarian, etc.
- For bicycle tours, is there transportation by bus/vans (to where the tour starts). If so, are they inspected regularly and are seatbelts worn? Does the tour travel on any major highways and what special gear is required?
- Referral by “word of mouth” is the best way to obtain both information and endorsement. Is there a list of references with whom you can speak?
Favorite Teen Programs in North America
The Annapolis Sailing School (800/638-9192), one of the oldest and largest sailing schools in the United States, offers instruction at their main “campus” on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, and “southern affiliate” in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Earthwatch (800/776-0188) is a nonprofit organization that matches interested adults and youths age 16+ with university professors to assist in field work around the world. The most popular trips with teens have been tracking mountain lions, excavating dinosaurs, and snorkeling around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the Caribbean to observe, photograph, and tag fish and marine mammals. Prices vary depending on the location and length of expedition.
If you’re looking for a resort that packs in teen-pleasing activities, The Tyler Place on Vermont’s Lake Champlain (802/868-4000) is one of the best. Junior Teens and Senior Teens have outdoor-based activities such as waterskiing, banana boat rides, canoe and kayak trips, bike trips, and horseback riding. During the summer, weekly stays run Saturday to Saturday and include meals.
The Augusta Heritage Festival (304/637-1209) has week-long music and craft classes taught by some of the finest musicians and artists in the world. Teens 12-17 may enroll in adult classes with an instructor’s approval; most popular are the music workshops in guitar, fiddle, banjo, and dulcimer, or music theme weeks such as Cajun, Blues, Irish, and vocal. Kids 8-12 can participate in “Folk Arts for Kids” while Mom and Dad can take classes in furniture making, instrument building, swing dance, Irish folklore, blacksmithing, quilting, book arts, and much more in this quiet W. Virginia enclave.
River rafting offers outdoor adventure, physical challenges, and uninterrupted family togetherness — a good mix of characteristics for a vacation with teens. OARS (Outdoor Adventure River Specialists at 800/346-6277) has special family trips on the Salmon and Snake Rivers in Idaho, the Rogue in Oregon, the Grand Canyon, and other major river destinations that feature discounts for more than two family members.
In the East, Class VI RiverRafting (800/252-7784) runs affordable family trips down the New River in West Virginia. Gift certificates are even available.
Parents, grandparents, and children ages 12+ who are interested in excavating an ancestral pueblo in southwestern Colorado can register for Crow Canyon Archaeological Center’s (800/422-8975) Family Archaeology Week. One reasonable price includes meals, the education program with professional archaeologists, and accommodations in rustic log hogans.
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