How To Help Your Teen Make Friends On Vacation

Family vacations are a non-negotiable annual tradition for many households. Yet, even if parents plan a trip to paradise, many teens would rather stay home. Most teens get dragged along on vacation anyway, often under protest that they would rather be home with friends. Or they may tag along under protest but insist they’ll spend the entire trip in the hotel room sending Snaps to their friends and filming TikToks.

Fortunately, my family has found a way to reach a middle ground between spending 24/7 together and drifting apart entirely while on vacation. I try to find ways for my tween and teens to connect with their kids their own age no matter where we go. Although it’s rarely possible for my kids to bring a friend along on vacation, teens can make friends just about anywhere.

Here are our six tried-and-true tips for getting even the most sullen teens on board with a family vacation.

Consider a Cruise

Hands down, the easiest way for teens to make friends on vacation is by taking a cruise. On most vacations, teens may overlap with other kids forced to go away with their families for a day or two. However, on cruises, all passengers start and end their vacations on the same day. That means teens have the opportunity to form real friendships with other kids on the ship.

Moreover, because parents don’t have to worry about them getting off the ship for the most part, tweens and teens can have more independence than on a typical family vacation. Some cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, have dedicated teen clubs and organized teen-only meet-ups that make it easy for teens to meet up onboard.

Try a Class

One way to get teens to buy into taking a family vacation is by leaning into their interests and hobbies. Signing teens up for a hands-on class with kids their own age is a simple and practical way to give them something to look forward to in between sulking. The key is to make sure your teen can dive into something they love.

During a family trip to Rome, my pizza-loving teen will learn to make authentic Italian pizza. My kids have made friends in cities near and far through family-friendly classes with like-minded teens offered by City Experiences.

Put a Shout-Out on Social Media

No matter where you are heading, there is probably a Facebook group for families heading to the same place. It may seem far-fetched, but posting in family travel groups is a great way to connect with other teens with similar interests who will be in the same place at the same time. Locals with teens may also be willing to give advice about the best under-the-radar spots for this hard-to-please demographic.

Plan family get-togethers in public places for everyone’s safety. By posting on social media, I have also discovered that friends were planning to be in the same place at the same time as my family. While teens won’t make new friends this way, they will appreciate meeting up with kids they already know in a new place.

Resorts with Teen Clubs

Many families head to resorts for their stellar kids’ clubs. However, once kids leave elementary school, they usually lose interest in the circle time activities and arts and crafts offered by most kids’ clubs. Some resorts are filling the gap with dedicated teen spaces.

Beaches Resorts leads the way with dedicated teen-only time in Liquid Night Club, dedicated teen game room and hang-out spots, and organized activities for teens, including watersports and beach volleyball. Grand Velas Rivera Maya is another resort with a dedicated teen hot spot.

Once teens meet up with other kids at the resort, they can usually roam the grounds freely — as long as they agree to meet the rest of the family for dinner.

Hang Out Where Teens Gather

When families arrive at a destination, parents typically like to unpack or relax in the hotel room. While parents decompress, teens can head to places where kids their age are likely to hang out. That could be the hotel pool, a buffet, a coffee shop on the corner, or a nearby beach.

Book a Family Tour

Although I tend to be more of an independent traveler, my kids had a great time on a family tour in Morocco. Some tour companies, including Intrepid Travel, organize kid-friendly tours that typically include several like-minded families. If you are worried about your teen getting stuck on a tour with a bunch of younger kids, book a family vacation specifically geared toward teenagers. These trips tend to be more active, and built-in friends are almost guaranteed.

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