Travel News

Traveling With Tweens

FlyingGirlWith spas, fine dining, and other adult activities, parents have it made while traveling, but what do you do with your moody kids?

Of course, many hotels or resorts have programs for younger children and teenagers, but if you’re traveling with “tweens,” you may have a difficult time keeping them entertained.

According to Eileen Ogintz, writer of the syndicated column Taking the Kids, the most popular definition for “tween” is a child who is 11 to 13 years old—basically in between a child and a teen. But lately, the term tween has been applied to kids ages 10 to 12 because, as she points out, “Thirteen is the new 18.”

The thing about many tweens is that while they’re too cool to be seen with mom and dad, they also won’t be caught dead playing tag with 7-year-olds.

At the same time, your may not be comfortable leaving your tween in a group with older teenagers. And, the last thing parents want to hear while on vacation are the words, “I’m bored!”

So, what’s a parent to do?

The best piece of advice Ogintz has for parents traveling with tweens is to allow them to bring a friend along on the trip. Parents will be “a lot more comfortable letting the two wander, and the kids will be much happier.” If you can’t afford bringing your tween’s friend along, she says to “consider meeting up with a cousin or with another family with kids of similar ages” so your tween can have a ‘built-in playmate.’”

Ogintz also suggests that you get your child involved with planning the itinerary. After all, it’s their vacation too.

Before the trip, have your tween research the destination, and let them come up with three or four ideas they think are really cool. Do they want to see a Broadway musical? A professional basketball game? Even if they just want to lounge around the hotel room and watch a movie, let them! A good trip is not necessarily defined by how many activities you can pack into a day.

The good news is that more and more hotels and resorts are realizing the need to include tweens and are beginning to tailor special programs with them in mind. So, next time you travel with your tweens, find out if your hotel or resort offers programs for them.

Just remember, don’t force them into all-day activities if they don’t want to participate. But, if you can get them to attend a program on the first day or night, they most likely will meet a fellow tween and be more apt to participate in other programs later.

To get you started, here are a few tween-friendly programs we found:

In Hawaii, the Sheraton Kauai Resort takes teens and tweens so seriously that they have teemed up with students from Kauai High School’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism to design a Teen Concierge Program, which focuses on Hawaiian cultural activities. Past activities have included Hawaiian Makahiki games, lei making, Hawaiian food tasting, taro poi pounding, a Na Pali Coast boat tour, a “Surf to Sunset Luau,” horseback riding, and a big-screen Movie under the Stars. This program is geared for 12- to 18-year-olds. The Teen Concierge Programs are generally offered around student breaks, and the next one will be offered in the fall of 2007. 808-742-1661,

Club Med Cancun Yucatan, an all-inclusive resort, recently opened Passworld for teens and tweens. Kids are separated and supervised in two age groups, 11-13 and 14-17, and they are given their own exclusive area—an area all their own and away from their parents. Club Med Passworld is open during school holidays and when large numbers of teens and tweens are booked in the resort. The Passworld programs have proven successful at 11 other Club Med destinations, including Australia, Italy and Morocco. Some activities offered are hip-hop dance classes, theater, sound mixing, graffiti art, flying trapeze, beach soccer, hiking, overnight camping, and many more. Activities vary at each Club Med, and note that some activities, such as excursions and craftwork, will cost you extra. 888-932-2582,

The Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa in the Caribbean offers the National Geographic “Passport to Adventure” scuba program to guests ages 10 and up. The program is a four-day course that teaches tweens how to identify aquatic plant and animal species and to navigate by using a compass and natural references. The cost is $550 to become certified and take the course, and it includes free scuba diving equipment rental and the National Geographic Diver Crew-Pak, a tool kit that provides your tween with educational information with pictures from the National Geographic Diver Almanac and the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water Diver Manual. 888-232-2437,

This winter, try Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming. They offer the Team Extreme camp for skiers or Rendezvous Rippers for boarders for kids ages 12 and up, but the majority of campers tend to be 12 to 14. Instructors who relate well to this age group run the camp, and professional athletes often visit to give tips. The camps are designed for advanced, experienced skiers and snowboarders that focus on big mountain skiing and riding. The camp teaches advanced techniques with terrain exploration, and prepares skiers/riders for the famous Headwall/Casper Bowl area, where they can go “out of bounds” with a backcountry guide. The camp with lift tickets costs $465. 307-733-2292,

So what should you do if your hotel or resort has no organized programs?

Talk to the concierge for advice on nearby activities and try to hook up with another family with tweens. But most importantly, if your tween gets moody, Ogintz advises, “Remind yourself it’s not you. Just grin and bear it.”

By Monique-Marie DeJong for

For more on family travel, check out “Taking the Kids: How to Make Sure Mom Gets a Break on Vacation”.

And check out this video on Great Hotel Kids Programs.