If you’ve got the wanderlust in you, having a kid wouldn’t have gotten in the way of getting to your dream destinations.
You’ve already traveled with an infant, taking advantage of those sweet, sweet lap-child policies.
Once your baby grew a little, you decided to brave travel once more with a small child in tow, managing to relieve some stress despite all their efforts to the contrary.
Now, however, your “little one” isn’t so little anymore:
They’re a teenager.
The good thing about traveling with a teen is that you won’t (as) often run into age limits and restrictions on what your kid may or may not do.
The bad this about traveling with a teen is, well:
They’re a teenager.
Simply trying to get along with someone between the ages of 12 – 19 can have you look back fondly on memories of pulling teeth.
Especially if they’re is in their “everything my parents do sucks” phase, spending an extended amount of time with your mega-kid on a trip might seem like a daunting venture.
However, there are a few simple ways to make traveling with your kid painless, and they all boil down to remembering that:
They aren’t a kid anymore.
The reason it’s surprisingly easy to travel with a baby is that they don’t really do anything besides eat, sleep, and poop, nor do they want to.
Teenagers, however, begin having feelings and desires like any other adult—they want to do things, they want to see things, and they also know quite well what they don’t want, too.
With that in mind, it becomes important to make your son or daughter part of travel in a way that you didn’t have to when they were younger.
This means letting them be a part of the planning process, allowing them to make decisions on how they spend their time (and allowance), and even letting them go out on their own.
The most important thing is that you give your teenager(s) space.
Even if they’re still a child (as teenagers are) and you’re worried they might get in trouble in a foreign place, dragging them around with you every minute of the trip will only create a less-than-stellar experience for everyone involved.
It’s always a good idea to get separate hotel rooms for you and your teens.
Not only does this give them a greater sense of freedom, it’ll give you and your partner some much-needed time together free of distractions.
Sure, it’ll cost you more, but it’s well worth it—consider staying at a cheaper hotel if budget is an issue.
Getting separate rooms also makes it easier for you to let them sleep in.
It’s not just a stereotype that teenagers sleep til noon, it’s a fact of life: since their bodies are growing rapidly, teenagers require more sleep than adults and are biologically inclined to stay in bed well into the day.
It’s better to let sleeping teens lie—there’s nothing worse than starting your vacation day with a cranky teenager.
In fact, you’re better off starting the day on your own since it gives you a chance to do things that you might be interested in but your teen might be less-than-thrilled to experience.
Spending time apart from your teen makes a huge difference in any family vacation.
Nowadays, you’ll rarely have to worry about where they are, too: just check their social media accounts and you’ll have live updates on what they’re up to.
Part of bringing a teenager when you travel means considering what they want to do and where they want to go.
Nowadays, this means doing cool stuff that they can post/brag about to their friends on social media.
Unique activities and destinations are a huge plus, especially if they grant awesome photo opportunities.
If you really want your major-minor to enjoy their trip, be ready to play the role of photographer for them.
The last thing you can do to make your trip more enjoyable is to bring along more teenagers.
I know it seems counter-intuitive, but hear me out.
Teenagers are generally preoccupied with themselves and their peers, which is the main reason why social media is such an ubiquitous presence for kids these days.
So having other teenagers come with your on your trip will give your fledgling travel-bug a peer to share their experiences with and, more importantly, take some of the load off of you.
It’ll also make sure they’re interacting with their surroundings instead of staring at their phones the entire time.
If your kid has a close friend or two that they’d like to have along, consider inviting them to join you.
If sponsoring someone else’s teen doesn’t fit in your budget, plan a joint trip with another family you know so you and your children will have peers to travel with.
The more the merrier, after all.
10 teenager-approved things to do on your Hawaiian vacation
Here’s a list of things to do—complete with links to our site where you can book activities—when you’re on vacation with your no-longer-mini me.
Sightseeing? With teenagers?
It seems an unlikely candidate, but visiting to beautiful and famous destinations offers you and your kid a photo opportunity and a chance to post something to social media.
Get your shutter finger ready, as you’ll probably be asked to take pictures for them—bonus points if you offer to take them yourself.
I recommend going on a guided tour, since that way you and your kids will at least learn a bit more about Hawaii at each stop.
Stay away from the large tour buses, though: having too many people in the same place at the same time isn’t always the best experience, and it makes it difficult to snag a great picture.
9. Go on an adventure (explore your locale)
If you’re staying at a resort or tourist-friendly town, it’s a good idea to spend some time just walking around.
I highly recommend this to anyone staying in Waikiki, since the area really comes alive at night with street performances and live entertainment, as well as the various stores and restaurants packed on every block.
Spontaneity is the spice of life, after all, and you might discover other things to do that you wouldn’t have found searching online.
Bonus points if you decide to split up for a few hours, giving your teen time (and money, of course) to set off on their own before meeting up later in the day.
Like I said earlier, if you’re ever wondering what your kid is up to, just check their social media accounts.
There’s something about a water park that appeals to kids and adults alike, and not just because of the water.
Hawaii’s only water park is located in Kapolei on Oahu, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you want to do something fun and exciting.
With a teenager, you (probably) won’t have to worry about height requirements when standing in line for the rides.
It’s perfect for families, too, since there are a variety of rides and attractions, meaning there’s something for everyone.
Want a thrill? Ride the Shaka for a quick drop on a U-shaped slide.
Would rather relax? Float around in the Kapolei Kooler or the shallow end of the Wave Pool.
Want to ride together? Take the O-Hana Highway (4 people per tube), the Tornado (4 people), or the Big Kahuna (3 people) for a family experience!
7. Eat a lot (Eat. A. Lot.)
You already know your teen eats a lot, and you’re probably willing to stuff your face as well—you’re on vacation, after all.
The great thing about Hawaii is the sheer variety of different dining and cuisine options available.
Want to have a fancy dinner? You’ll have no problem finding a place to eat in any major town.
Want something more local-style? Look around for food trucks and holes-in-the-wall that you can find on Yelp or, even better, by exploring the area on foot.
Looking for something authentic? There are a variety of restaurants that serve real traditional Hawaiian fare, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not trying them.
Special mention goes to the various luaus held nightly on each island, where you’re treated to a buffet featuring traditional luau food as well as live performances such as hula and fire knife dancing.
If you’re worried about your teenager being a picky eater, you’d be surprised at how open kids of all ages are to trying new things when they travel.
With a new environment comes new habits, so don’t be afraid to eat something you’ve never heard of before.
Polynesian Cultural Center, or PCC for short, is a Polynesian-themed park that features six different “villages,” each centered around a different Polynesian society, that hold regular performances throughout the day.
The performances at each village show off a unique part of their culture—Hawaiian, Samoan, Tongan, Fijiian, Tahitian, and Maori—in a fun and entertaining way.
It’s also the best way in Hawaii to learn about these different Polynesian cultures, who don’t get a lot of attention internationally, without doing boring research or visiting a musty old museum.
The “theme park” design of PCC also means that there are a variety of attractions available at the Center, as well as a cool mini-mall located right outside: the Hukilau Marketplace.
Just like with Wet’n’Wild, the variety is important since it lets your family split up and do what’s more interesting to each person instead of having the adults drag around the kids.
Each day also ends with a luau and a nightly show, so it’s definitely worth spending the entire day at PCC.
5. Take a hike
The awesome thing about being on an island is that there are plenty of awesome hiking trails that climb peaks, go through valleys, and end at waterfalls.
They’re never far away, and there are always a few that are approachable for people and families of all skill levels.
This also coincides with #10 and #9 on the list—you’re going on an adventure with a variety of awesome photo opportunities.
Besides that, you’ll also be doing something fun and active to burn off some of the energy your kids will have (from sleeping all morning, of course).
Like #5, this is an outdoor activity that will help your kids get outside and active rather than being on their phones the entire trip.
Bonus points if you or your teen has a GoPro or underwater camera so they can take pictures and post them online later.
There are plenty of places to snorkel on each island, but Maui is without a doubt the most popular, with destinations like Molokini Crater where you can see coral, fish, and even turtles.
The easiest option to start snorkeling is to simply buy cheap snorkeling equipment at a store and visit a place like Hanauma Bay where you can snorkel right off the beach for a simpler experience.
Snorkeling is pretty straightforward—just swim around at the surface and look at the pretty fish.
For a more holistic experience, however, you’ll want to take a guided tour.
Not only do these include all the gear and instruction you’ll need to snorkel, they also generally take you out to the best snorkeling destinations, only accessible by boat.
These often include lunch as well, depending on the time of the tour, and you get a fun boat ride to and from your snorkeling destination, to boot.
The good thing about teenagers is that they’re big enough to meet the physical requirements of the more exciting activities.
Hawaii has a variety of zipline courses and companies, and each one is an experience, soaring through the air over beautiful forests, farmlands, and waterfalls.
This is another activity that heavily favors GoPro owners, and some zipline tours offer GoPro rentals so you can record your amazing experiences as they happen.
Don’t worry about it being dangerous, either, since all zipline courses are regularly inspected and maintained by professionals daily.
Your speed, descent, and braking will all be handled by your tour guides, so you won’t need any prior experience with ziplining in order to participate.
Other outdoor activities in the islands are horseback and ATV tours, made popular from the abundant ranch lands in Hawaii.
Although you’ll have to accompany your teenaged children, they’ll be able to ride their own horse or sit passenger in a group ATV.
Any teens 16 years and over will even be able to ride an ATV of their own.
Putting them on their own ride will give your teen a sense of freedom and independence, and it’s just plain fun riding around a ranch land.
And, come on, you know you want to ride your own ATV or horse as much as your teenage son or daughter does.
“Surfing? Nah, that’s boring” said no teenager, ever.
This is your family’s chance to both learn something new and share awesome memories.
Surfing lessons are popular in Hawaii (for obvious reasons) and are available for visitors in small group, semi-private, and private lessons.
You don’t need any experience at all (besides being able to swim), since the lessons include land-based instruction like how to keep your balance on the board and stand up before going out into the water.
If you or your child aren’t feeling very confident about learning to surf, book a private lesson for one-on-one instruction.
Either way, it’ll be an experience to remember, and one your teen can brag about to their friends.
That’s our list of fun things for teenagers to do in Hawaii! Hope you’re better prepared to plan your trip—just remember to include your teenager on travel plans!