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The Secret To Travelling with Teenagers? Keep Them Busy

"Forget about flying with babies," grumbled a Sun reader after seeing one Family Fare column. "Please, tell me how to travel with teenagers. We just had the worst vacation ever." This Toronto family had just returned from a week-long family bonding experience in the Caribbean, but her 12 year-old son and 14-year-old daughter had continually protested that there was nothing to do. They wanted action, excitement, their friends, their CD's, and their own rooms. The parents had hoped for pool-side discussions, and rounds of family golf but the kids constantly opted for re-runs of Baywatch, secluded in their air-conditioned quarters. "I don't know why we brought them," lamented their mother. "We'll never do this kind of holiday again."

Teens can certainly pose a challenge to successful holidays. Many still like the idea of family vacations, but don't necessarily want to follow through. Teens want to be with other teens, but may be too self-conscious or don't have the opportunity to meet others their own age (kids programs at resort hotels often don't exist for those over 12). Parents are wary about sending them off on their own to explore a foreign destination, but spending whole days with unappreciative offspring is no holiday either. "The secret to travelling with teens?" quipped a seasoned parent. "Don't."

Well, happily, there are ways to keep the whole family intact and content when teen travellers are along for the ride. Here are some suggestions:

Cruising: Some families we know won't take any other kind of vacation. The adults relax while the kids keep busy. Most ships, especially during school holidays, offer clubs just for teens. Premier Cruise Lines' The Big Red Boat for instance invites The Navigators, 11-to-13 year-olds, to participate in games such as Indoor Olympics while the 14-to-17 year-old Teen Cruisers play volleyball, go snorkeling and dance in their own nightclub to their own music. The Cruise Line Inc. in Florida sends a "Guide to Family Cruising" booklet which profiles the kinds of programs on board the most popular family ships. Call 1-800-777-0707.

Dude Ranch: It's hard to be grumpy on the back of a horse. American Wilderness Experience can send you their Old West Dude Ranch Vacations book listing some 60 possibilities. Some like the Peaceful Valley Ranch near Denver, Colorado offer special programs for kids up to 18 years. Most host guests from May through September; a few are open year round. Tempting is the Top of the World Ranch in B.C., a working ranch in the mountains at an elevation of 3500 ft. Teens can help with cattle work or participate in roping demonstrations. Call 800-444-DUDE for this book and their Winter/Spring 1996 Catalog suggesting other excitement from Dogsledding to Dancing with Dolphins.

Skiing: When we did a family ski vacation at Mt. Tremblant some years ago, the kids were split up into individual age groups. My then 13-year-old son was complaining about having to take lessons until he saw that all the other 13-year-olds in his group were girls; likewise the vivacious instructor. He had a great week as did we all. Also highly recommended is Smuggler's Notch near Burlington, Vermont which guarantees family fun and boasts their own teen centre. Both the Explorer Ski Program and Explorer Snowboard Program are designed to capture the attention of ages 13 to 17 with such activities as snow soccer, snowshoeing, and dances.

Adventure Vacations: Wilderness Tours near Renfrew, Ont. has been taking family groups out on the Ottawa River to encounter whitewater rapids for 20 years now and teens love it! The High Adventure program has just been joined by a Gentle Adventure program for pre-teens. From May through September, the whole family can also try kayaking, horseback riding, or mountain biking at their 650-acre outdoor resort. The all-inclusive price includes lodging, rafting and other activities, and all meals. Call 1-800-267-9166.

Club Med: Last winter, Club Med inaugurated their first Teen-Club at Huatulco Mexico. It was so successful among the 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 age groups, that they're about to launch a second TC at Copper Mountain in Colorado with the emphasis on skiing and snowboarding. These Clubs only take place during certain weeks of the year, but as one mom told me, "My kids thought they'd died and gone to heaven." There are special prices for certain weeks; check with your travel agent.

Learning Vacations: Would your teen like to spend a week making a piece of funky mosaic furniture for her room? The Sir Sanford Fleming College in Haliburton, Ont. offers five-day courses for tweens and teens (and adults) in all manner of artistic endeavours from soapstone carving to photography (705-457-1680). Are they keen to participate in a Southwest archaeological dig through the University of California Research Expeditions Program (510-642-6586)? Or learn about endangered species by going on safari at the 3000-acre Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Texas (817-897-2960)? Vacations such as these can be as invigorating for a young person teen as for their parents.





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