Teen-Approved: Five Splurge-Worthy Family Vacations

By Jamie Edwards

When our kids were little, my husband and I would invite the grandparents over to babysit while we jetted off to a luxurious hotel or destination. They were too young to enjoy the places we were staying, we reasoned, and it wasn’t worth the extra money to take them along.

Now our kids are teenagers. The last thing we want to do during these last precious years before college is leave them behind when we travel. Occasionally, we want to splurge with them in tow. There’s a time and a place for luxury travel with teens: high school graduation, a milestone birthday, or a chance to see a Taylor Swift concert abroad.

Whatever the reason, luxury travel with teenagers can be a rewarding family travel experience—if you play your cards right. Looking for vacation ideas to please the adults and teens in your family? Here are five decadent destinations, luxury hotel recommendations, and a few important crucial things to know.

Teen Psychology 101

Parents of teenagers know all too well about their, ummm, interesting behavioral patterns. They eat and sleep at odd times, have moods that change instantaneously, get frustrated easily, and have impulsivity issues. Aren’t teens the best? Finding vacation destinations that satisfy this unique breed of human isn’t challenging when you keep their habits and behavior in mind. Consider implementing these useful strategies when planning to avoid future stress.

Plan around their interests. Do your teens like high-adrenaline activities like ziplining and canyoneering? Are they into manga and animé? Then, a trip to Iceland or a week in Tokyo will fit the bill. Do they like beach days filled with surfing or sunbathing? Then, think about South Africa or Costa Rica. Ask your teens what they’d like from their vacation in advance. But don’t get frustrated when they say, ‘I don’t know,’ with an eye roll. Instead, ask more specific questions. ‘Do you want warm or cold?’ ‘Are you interested in seeing wildlife or happy to hang on the beach?’ Targeted questions will give you important data.

Underschedule. As tempting as it is to plan every excursion and meal when traveling with teens, underscheduling will mean fewer groans. Allow your teenagers to help with the (under) planning. Try not to book multiple mornings with early wake-ups. Plan some meals based on their favorite foods, even if that means sacrificing a Michelin-starred restaurant for tacos. Lastly, avoid hangry teens at all costs. Teens are at their best (aka least annoying) on a full stomach.

Bring a friend. It may seem counterintuitive, but having friends join your teens often makes for a more enjoyable family trip. First, it mitigates sibling rivalry. Second, it gives your teen someone they can relate to, which makes them nicer to be around. Third, your teen’s BFF will actually talk to you, which will encourage your own teens to engage. A sneaky yet effective travel strategy.

Set ground rules upfront. Will there be any rules regarding screen time? Bedtime? Will your teens be able to explore on their own? If so, when? Can they stay in and order room service? Setting ground rules ahead of time will alleviate stress later. Teenagers thrive on independence. They are straddling childhood and adulthood. Give them opportunities to be independent, and they’ll return the favor by accompanying you to museums without complaint. Well, maybe.

Five Teen-Approved Destinations

When researching five splurge-worthy teen trips, I needed to look no further than my own home. My two teens have some miles behind them as we’ve been dragging them around the world since they were four months old. I wake them up one morning at noon and ask, ‘What were your favorite family trips and why?’ Their answers spanned the globe. And surprisingly, they aligned with my favorite trips, too.

Compile information about your teenager’s needs and wants, then get organized. The team at CIRE is on hand to help you navigate the details, find the best hotel rooms and suites to accommodate your family, and set up dinner reservations at those coveted restaurants. Ready to get away? These five splurge-worthy destinations are teen-approved.

Lapland, Finland

Why Finland: A winter holiday in northern Finland comes with 22 hours of darkness and endless hours of fun. High-adrenaline activities, like snowmobiling, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and ice fishing, are balanced by warm fires, in-room saunas, and northern light viewing from hot tubs. There’s no reason to fear the cold as most lodges have gear huts that promise you, despite plummeting temperatures, that you’ll barely feel the cold.

Experience the Scandinavian concept of hygge: informal time with family and friends, a way to celebrate the small joys of life. There’s nowhere better to do it than in the cozy, dark winter months in Finland.

Where to stay: From cozy lodges to glass-walled hotels, Lapland caters to outdoor adventure seekers who refuse to sacrifice creature comforts. A few splurge-worthy accommodation choices include Beano Laponia, with on-site dog sledding and snowmobiling, over-the-top Octola Lodge, and The Arctic TreeHouse Hotel. Northern Lights chasers will covet the standalone, glass-enclosed cubes at the Northern Lights Ranch. Kaksleuttanen Arctic Resort is known for its ethereal, multi-faceted igloos.

Teen Highlights: Ice carting, dog sledding, snowmobiling, reindeer farm rides, ice skating, Shaman visits, polar exploration, hot tubs, and cold plunges.

Tokyo, Japan

Why Tokyo: With a brilliant mix of fashion, cuisine, pop culture, and tech, there’s perhaps no other city on Earth that will impress your teenagers like Tokyo, Japan. Always at the forefront of technological innovation, with cutting-edge skyscraper design, robotics, electronics, and modular pod hotels, Tokyo looks to the future while maintaining its strong historical roots For teenage history buffs, Tokyo has landmarks like Meiji Shrine, Senso-ji Temple, and the Imperial Palace.  Teens with an affinity for nature will want to explore Tokyo’s green spaces. Shinjuku Park, the Imperial Palace Gardens, and the grounds around the Nezu Institute are city highlights.

Where to stay: Asia is known for high-end service, and Tokyo hotels always deliver on hospitality. A few extraordinary hotels that will have your teens living in the lap of luxury include Aman Tokyo, Aman’s first urban retreat, The Mandarin Oriental, The Four Seasons, Park Hyatt, and The Tokyo Edition. Most of these top-tier hotels boast iconic city views with rooftop restaurants and oversized plate-glass windows.

Teen Highlights: A visit to Akihabara, aka Electric Town, for anime shops, manga cafés and gaming arcades. A culinary tour through department store basement-level food halls. Sushi for breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market. Crossing the famous Shibuya intersection with thousands of other pedestrians.

Cape Town, South Africa

Why Cape Town: An eclectic, culturally diverse city in the southwestern tip of South Africa, Cape Town is known for its magnificent natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culinary scene. Admire Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles mountains from the low-key beaches of Camp’s Bay. Cruise off the coast to Robben Island—the political prison that held Nelson Mandela for much of his 27-year incarceration. Climb or take a cable car to Cape Town’s most iconic natural site, Table Mountain. Cape Town is filled with excursions and day trips to keep teens busy and happy for days on end.

Where to stay: Cape Town has accommodations for every family’s travel style, from the picturesque V&A waterfront hotels that take advantage of the action to luxurious boutique hidden gems. Some splurge-worthy hotel options include The One&Only Cape Town, with its unparalleled views of Table Mountain, and the stunning Silo Hotel.

The One&Only’s two-bedroom ‘island’ suites are so large you won’t hear your teens face-timing their friends into the wee hours of the morning. Sophisticated Ellerman House is minutes from some of Cape Town’s best beaches. Cape Grace, a Fairmont property, and Mount Nelson, a Belmond Hotel, are other Cape Town hotel highlights.

Teen Highlights: Climbing Table Mountain, seal snorkeling, surfing, shark cage diving, and penguin encounters at nearby Boulder’s Beach. Trampoline parks, adventure parks, farmer’s markets, and planetariums.


Why Iceland: Iceland is called the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ due to its volcanoes and glaciers. It lures travelers with breathtaking landscapes, cascading waterfalls, bubbling hot springs, and dramatic terrain. Iceland offers a wealth of outdoor adventures and cultural experiences. Teens will love watching the Northern Lights dance across the sky in the winter months or soak in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. Overall, Iceland offers everyone unforgettable encounters with nature and adventure.

Where to stay: Iceland is known for high-adrenaline adventure. So it’s no surprise that the most luxurious hotels cater to the most intrepid travelers. Deplar Farm is located in the far north, in the Troll Peninsula. A converted sheep farm, this 13-room boutique hotel is in a class of its own. With a hidden hillside Viking spa, geothermal pools, and a fully-stocked rock star loft overlooking a games room and bar, your teens may never leave the property. Yet when they do, they’ll be at a loss for what to do first. Fly fishing, horseback riding, axe throwing, and shooting archery are just the beginning of the adventure at Deplar Farms.

Other hotel highlights in Iceland include the ION Adventure Hotel, Hotel Ranga, Highland Base, and the Reykjavik Edition. These splurge-worthy choices are sure to spoil your teenagers for life.

Teen Highlights: Whale watching, puffin spotting, ATV driving, river rafting, ice caving, volcano hiking, kayaking, canyoneering, and helicopter flights over glaciers and majestic waterfalls.

Costa Rica

Why Costa Rica: Beyond its natural beauty, Costa Rica is a captivating place for water-based activities like snorkeling, surfing, and scuba diving. It has exotic wildlife to spot, cascading waterfalls to explore, and dense rainforests to zipline through. Costa Rica’s commitment to ecotourism and sustainability also gives parents a teaching moment about the environment. Many hotels and resorts have activities based on helping us protect the planet.

Where to stay: Some of the most luxurious hotels in Costa Rica are located along the Pacific Coast. The Papagayo Peninsula is best known for its pristine beaches, rich biodiversity, and lush landscapes. The Four Seasons Costa Rica is inherently teen-friendly with aerial adventure trails, UTV off-roading, and even a teens-only club called ‘Tuanis.’ Tuanis translates to ‘too cool.’ The Four Seasons certainly knows its audience. Another nearby hotel to consider is the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort. Its hillside location and funky decor are truly transporting.

Teen Highlights: Ziplining through the forests and over waterfalls, riverboat rides, surfing on windswept beaches, hiking to hidden waterfalls, and spotting wildlife like elusive howler monkeys, sloths, and coati.

Teenage (Dream) Vacations

As soon-to-be empty-nesters, we can’t rely on spring breaks and school holidays to spend valuable time with our children on vacation. These teen years have had ups and downs, but when we travel together, we gel as a family in extraordinary ways. Teenagers have that unique trifecta of curiosity, stamina, and open-mindedness, which (usually) makes them wonderful traveling companions. I learn so much from their point of view, and hopefully, they learn from me, too. We plan to splurge on our kids until we’re no longer able to. Who knows, maybe by then, they’ll splurge on us?

Jamie Edwards 2023

Jamie Edwards is an avid traveler, travel writer, and photographer. After 25 years of living and traveling around the globe, she launched I am Lost and Found, her adventure/luxury travel website. Jamie’s goal is simple: to inspire travel.

CIRE Travel is a full-service travel agency headquartered in New York, NY.  Our expert corporate travel planners, honeymoon travel agents, and luxury travel planners support clients across the country and around the world.

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