Hard to please at times and with minds (and itineraries) of their own, teens can be the most challenging -- or on a good day, the most pleasant, of traveling companions.

Increase the odds that your next family vacation will be enjoyable for all, by checking out these top teen-friendly resorts, each fittingly designed for an active group getaway.

Traveling with teens? Visit our Traveling with Teens article and Traveling with Tweens & Teens Forum!

1. Atlantis Paradise Island

For water-loving teens who love their space, Atlantis Paradise Island delivers a sea of aquatic adventures along with regular “me time,” in “Club Rush,” a specially designed breathing room just for them. Encompassing 97 acres on Paradise Island's north coast, the Bahamian resort is a massive aquatic playground, with 20 swimming areas, the world's largest open-air marine habitat and Aquaventure, a 63-acre waterpark with extreme slides and a power-driven “river ride.” Add in a state-of-the-art climbing center, teen pampering treatments at Mandara Spa and a dolphin interaction program, and you’ve got a boatload of potentially brag-worthy vacation memories. Among six accommodations options, The Reef and Harborside Resort offer the friendliest quarters for families.

2. Smugglers' Notch, Vermont

Skiing isn't the only way to play outdoors in the Green Mountain State. In summer (June-September), Smugglers' Notch Resort, a four-season destination, offers Notch Squad; a full-day experience for ages 11 to 15, with active games, high and low rope courses and unique sports like mountain boarding. Daredevils up to age 15 can sign up for High Adventure Experience Camp -- summer camp on steroids with climbing, kayaking and zip lines -- while older teens (ages 15 to 17) get the freedom to explore it all with the Mountain Explorers program, creating action-packed itineraries from a diverse menu of options.

Of course, winter brings an array of snow-filled fun, as well as a similar array of lively activities, with traditional snow-sports camps as well as a la carte lessons. Two Teen Centers give the crew a place to escape the 'rents, and condo-style accommodations (up to five-bedroom townhouses arranged in five resort “Villages”) mean teens can have the space they need, while affording the rest of the family some well-deserved peace and quiet.
Smugglers' Notch

3. Universal Orlando Resort

Action and adventure take center stage at Universal Orlando Resort, where two popular theme parks and a sprawling entertainment district will keep your teens entertained both day and night. On select nights, visitors ages 15 through 19 can get their groove on at CityWalk, a dance club at Universal’s 30-acre entertainment and dining complex, which plays host to regular teen nights.

Onsite lodging choices include the 650 room Hard Rock Hotel (check out rockin’ pool with underwater tunes), the 1,000-room Loews Royal Pacific Resort (recently renovated) and the 750-room Loews Portofino Bay Resort, which boasts the largest standard guestrooms among all three properties as well as Mandara Spa, offering treatments just for teens. A resort room key serves as an “Express Pass,” affording overnight guests front of the line access to rides, preferred seating at shows and select dining venues, and complimentary resort transportation.

4. Walt Disney World Resort

Magical memories aren’t exclusive to the 12 and under at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. Thrill rides like Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and originals such as Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean are a must for any Orlando adventurer, and recent attractions like Toy Story Mania! and The American Idol Experience give new reason to return at any age. Beyond the theme park gates, two water parks, an indoor interactive playground and 24 Disney-owned resort properties offer boundless entertainment options, from surfing, tubing and wakeboarding to riding a rollercoaster you've created yourself.

On site, in the Deluxe category, Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Disney’s Beach Club Resort offer expansive pools with sandy beaches and are popular options for families with teens. In the Moderate category, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is a find, with a Mayan Pyramid pool and a full fitness center and spa offering “My First Facials,” while in the Value category, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort offers suite options for spreading out.

You may also want to check out our Choosing Your Walt Disney World Resort Hotel article.

5. Beaches Turks & Caicos

Image conscious adolescents needn’t lose their cool when they check in to Beaches Turks & Caicos, part of the all-inclusive resort chain known for an entertaining parade of Sesame Street characters. Located on beautiful Grace Bay in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands, this all-inclusive resort is an attractive playground for active teens as well as their younger siblings. After a day spent sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing and scuba diving, teens can try their foot at surfing on a SurfStream simulator, make their own CDs at Scratch DJ Academy, chill at Trench Town Lounge or hang out at Xbox 360 Game Garage or Liquid, an aqua-themed dance club. Treatments for teens at Red Lane Spa include "Irie Manicures" and "Reggae Pedicures," and since snacks and seconds are included, they can indulge growing appetites, without draining your bank account. In May, 2009, the resort opened The Italian Village, containing 162 family suites.
Beaches Turks & Caicos

6. Triangle C Dude Ranch

Teens can ditch the family posse and set out on a wild western vacation trail at this family-owned Jackson, Wyoming-area dude ranch offering a train of adventures just for them. Triangle C Ranch’s Teen Dude Ranch Program (ages 13 to 19) includes overnight mountain bike trips with breakfast cookouts, “Dude Disco” nights and Teen Cowboy classes. Weekly group excursions to Yellowstone National Park (included) and Grand Teton National Park (Snake River rafting-fee) are a draw, even when parents tag along for the ride. Half week (four-day) and full-week packages are available. Summer season runs Memorial Day through August.
Triangle C Dude Ranch

7. Grand Palladium Kantenah Resort and Spa

Enjoy exalted status as your teen’s new BFF when you treat them to a trip to Kantenah Grand Palladium Resort & Spa. Situated on a prime stretch of beachfront on The Mayan Riviera, this all-inclusive resort, one of four facility-sharing properties in the massive Grand Palladium complex, is a value for parents and a paradise for teens, with lively entertainment and food provided 24/7. Included in your stay are a number of water-centered activities such as kayaking, snorkeling and windsurfing. The Black & White Jr. teen club offers Wii, X-Box 360 and PlayStation 3, and live nightly shows, teen disco parties and a 24-hour beach/snack bar keep teens entertained into the wee hours. If you're vacationing elsewhere in the vicinity, you can purchase a day or evening pass and sample the resort's amenities.
Grand Palladium Kantenah Resort and Spa

8. The Tyler Place Family Resort

Lose the Blackberry, the video controls and -- dare we say it -- the TV at The Tyler Place Family Resort, a seasonal Northern Vermont all-inclusive resort that's big on tuning out outside influences, and tuning in to some classic outdoor family fun. From waterskiing, wakeboarding and tubing to hiking, climbing and getting from here to there on their own resort-issued bikes, your pre-drivers can express their spirit and independence, without ever once asking for the car keys. Daily programs for kids from infants to young teens (ages 13 to 15) are included in the rate at this exceptionally well-run family resort, which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2009.
The Tyler Place Family Resort

9. Fairmont Scottsdale

Located about 4.5 hours from The South Rim, the Fairmont Scottsdale isn’t exactly convenient to Grand Canyon National Park, but is instead a great stop on a Southwestern U.S. family road trip. Besides golf, tennis and Sonoran Splash (a free-form lagoon pool with two water park-style slides) there's a new Sport Court as well as The Hang Out, a private lounge for guests ages 13 to 17. The hip teen-only haunt has a cyber cafe as well as a video lounge with comfy seating and three X-Box and music video stations. Teen-friendly excursions (available through the resort concierge) include hot air balloon flights, horseback riding, mountain bike trips and off-road ATV, Hummer and Tomcar (military grade utility vehicle) tours. Casitas provide the most spaces for families.
Fairmont Scottsdale

10. Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

At this teen-friendly northwest Costa Rican Resort, you can combine harmony with nature with family harmony, in a luxurious setting shared by resident howler monkeys, rare sea turtles and exotic birds. Perched on a narrow plateau 320 feet above the Pacific Ocean, the 45-acre property is secluded, but that doesn't mean activities are sedentary. Using the resort as a base for exploration, families can surf, snorkel, sea kayak, hike, go horseback riding or zip through the rainforest on a high-flung canopy tour. Three hotel pools are cradled by two popular beaches for chillaxin'; and a nearby Beach Club, Tuanis Teen Center, free cooking and salsa lessons and an on-site spa offering “OMG” treatments provide even more diversions for teens. Lodging options include spacious standard rooms (603 square feet), one- to three-bedroom treehouse canopy suites and private rental homes.
Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo

For more ideas, read Traveling with Teens, and check out:
  • 10 Best Cruise Ships for Teens
  • Dude Ranch Family Vacations
  • College Visits for Families

  • Written by Jackie Perrin

    Traveling Family with Baby

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