Teen Programs - With The Folks At A Resort - My Family Travels

Learn what to look for with the “five C's” of resort teen programs.

After reviewing the supervised teen programs at the Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont; Tyler Place at Lake Champlain, Vermont; and Beaches Turks & Caicos resorts with my wife and teenage son, we have developed some insights into the ideal program for the 13-17-year-old traveler and his tag-along parents.

Five C’s – Our Criteria for Resort Programs
We are now convinced that family resorts with many diversions for both parents and children can provide a wonderful family vacation as long as they meet our Five C’s:

  • Consistency
  • Clarity
  • Caring
  • Cohesiveness
  • Courtesy

These principles can be applied to any children’s program, but are particularly important when you’re trying to get hard-to-conform teens involved in a new group.

Consistency — Is the activities program constant? Are scheduled daily hours consistent?
A well-run resort program should provide consistency. At Beaches, where many families preferred to relax at the glorious beach, our son could opt to participate in their teens’ program any time between 10am-10:30pm daily, including lunch and dinner. He knew what would be available whenever he chose to participate.

Clarity — Perception vs. Reality?
Will your children complain about what is, as opposed to what was promised? Your chosen destination must be able to define their teens’ program when you reserve space; don’t assume your child will like what he hears when he assembles the first day at Teen HQ. Ask your travel agent, friends, or Internet chat rooms if the program is good, or just good PR? Does it meet family expectations as promised? For example, Smuggler’s Notch gives great press, then delivers on its promises, and more.

Caring — Staff Reality Check
Are the counselors in the program adequate for the broad age, interest and geographic mix of the teen participants? Are they able to care for and cope with differing teen mindsets? The small and intimate Tyler Place excelled at handling different types of kids and their parents.

Cohesiveness — Does the group function well together?
‘Group’ is a relative term in childcare programs. In non-traditional vacation times, a resort may only have a handful of children, while in busy school breaks, your child’s age group can be upwards of two dozen participants. Will your child be comfortable either way? If the counselors are good at their job, the number of peers will not be relevant. If they aren’t, it can be a detriment to participation. Speak to your children about this beforehand; if they’re concerned, call the resort directly to inquire about the number of families who’ve booked rooms during your visit. In most cases, you really won’t know how many kids there will be until you get there.

Courtesy — Is my child going to be treated with respect by all?
Remember that your vacation is so short, it magnifies both the problems and good times. Keep your teen aware of positive group dynamics so he won’t spend all his time at the video game center. At laid-back Beaches, when teens did show up, the counselors were quick to keep the group on an even keel. At Smuggler’s Notch, the teens had outdoor physical activities to bolster self-esteem. At Tyler Place, the camp-style adults’ program was so well attended that teens were inspired to join, and actively enjoy, theirs. And it goes without saying that program supervisors should make sure every child is treated with respect and dignity.


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