In Lieu of Military School, Vacation Suggestions? (Travel With a Teen)
April 1, 2019 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Two adults wish to vacation this summer. One of them has a 14 year-old son. All parties have indicated they'd be happiest if the kid was allowed to do his own thing for a portion of each day, then reunite with the adults. Destination/price are less important than everyone having an enjoyable trip, but NOT getting sick of one another due to CONSTANT PROXIMITY. What vacation options do they have?

Details: all parties are in the U.S. but have passports and are comfortable traveling internationally.

The kid is: book-smart but perhaps a little immature from a common-sense perspective. The kid enjoys: science, technology, physics, and general nerd-stuff. The kid loathes: most other kids, almost anything clearly INTENDED for kids, spending time with annoying adults who don't understand any of his memes.

The adults are: mid-thirties professionals. Also nerds. The adults enjoy: novel experiences, adventures, abandoned stuff, unique theater, museums, good food, not being harangued by a surly adolescent 24/7.
posted by julthumbscrew to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total)
As a kid who grew up in the Maryland suburbs, the National Mall and its associated museums are IDEAL for this. Many of the Smithsonian museums are close to each other, it's easy to navigate, and the majority of museums are free so wandering in/out works well. As a surly late teen I loved being able to just meet back at $PLACE as opposed to being stuck in the same building with family. Plus, gaining some ability to navigate big city transit is useful, but the DC Metro's pretty training wheels.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:37 PM on April 1, 2019 [10 favorites]

So this is probably not the exact right thing, but maybe it'll help with some directional searching? Strategy Games Camp (scroll down to week 8). It's on Mt Desert Island, Maine (Acadia National Park). One week daycamp for grades 6-11, and Acadia & Bar Harbor are great for adults. I've never been to this particular camp, but we're going to try out a different session this summer. Acadia itself is great, and there are plenty of places to stay and good places to eat on the island.

If that's not his or your particular cup of tea but it's close, maybe something like a 9-5 maker camp or a science camp?
posted by true at 7:40 PM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

agree DC is a fantastic idea. Drop kid off at whatever museum he wants (including of course Air & Space and the Museum of Natural History; meet for dinner. Get rental apartment near the mall.

San Diego has Balboa Park, which also has lots of museums and stuff to explore including a Science Center. Not the caliber of the Smithsonian of course; and I'm not sure if they're free like the Smithsonian is; but they're nice. And better weather than DC in the summer. And San Diego also has beaches.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:54 PM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

San Francisco? You could go to Golden Gate Park one day, drop him off at the Cal Academy of Sciences in the morning with some cash for lunch, and go to the De Young. Pick him up in the afternoon, go check out Sutro Baths together, and then go eat good food. The next day, you could drop him off at the Exploratorium in the morning, go eat your way through the Ferry Building, and then pick him up and all walk together to the Musee Mechanique. (I haven’t been to all these places but the ones I have been to are awesome and the others sound awesome. And my son’s only one, so I don’t know about teen safety in San Francisco either!)

There’s obviously a lot of tech/maker stuff in the Bay Area too, so a code or maker camp 9-5 at least one or two of the days, as true mentioned above, might be great idea. I’ll also put in a plug for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View if you’re up for a drive/Caltrain ride. It’s awesome and big and easy for all three of you to wander independently and meet up at the cafe at a certain time.
posted by bananacabana at 7:55 PM on April 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I teach kids this age, and I immediately wondered if an “activity holiday”, as they seem to be called in the Guardian, would provide the right mix of relaxation, solitude, fun, stimulation/interest/learning and support for you both and your 14-year-old. A lot of European wilderness is quite wild and weird while still being accessible: wolf spotting in Belarus, perhaps? Here are 20 more. Most seem to be organised by a local/UK company that takes care of some of the logistics, but I assume groups can be customised to be just you three if you choose.
posted by mdonley at 8:01 PM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

You said he doesn’t like most other kids. Is there a kid he does like? Can you take that person with you?
posted by crazycanuck at 8:16 PM on April 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Are kids and adults ok with kid taking public transit alone? Maybe sometimes Uber? I mean, you could do worse than Boston, Portland, San Francisco, Montreal, DC as mentiomed. Maybe NYC, Chicago...could extend maybe to easy international cities (Amsterdam?)

One other thing: what about bringing a friend? Could that make some kind of more traditional non city spot more interesting for him? My teen summers were filled with trips to Cape Cod with a friend, whether with my family or theirs. It might open up all sorts of seaside/lakeside spots.
posted by vunder at 8:27 PM on April 1, 2019

The above idea about Washington DC and the museums would also work with many other cities like London, Paris, Tokyo, etc. depending on the level of independence/ your comfort level.
posted by zeikka at 6:00 AM on April 2, 2019

When I was 14 or so, my mom started bringing my best friend on road trips with us. I agree with crazycanuck that this is a winning strategy.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:59 AM on April 2, 2019

Is the kid comfortable in the outdoors or hiking? I know of few better ways to foster independence than camping/outdoorsy activities. Then again, y'all would have to be of the same mindset as well or else it all might fall apart in a cluster of tent poles and sadness and anger.

I was envisioning a hike where you'd meet up a few times a day on the trail going from point A to point B, perhaps a day hike (or series of the same) or perhaps some overnighters as well.

That or a beach house where the kid could just do their own thing (ideally with a friend) on the beach while the adults do the same and/or mix cocktails inside.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:12 AM on April 2, 2019

Holy cow, it's late now, but it sure sounds like you've described a set of folks who would LOVE the JoCo Cruise.

Cruises in general can be good for varied groups, because everyone can do something different and come back together at meal time, but the JoCo Cruise is a full-boat charter for delightful nerdy people. I've been several times, and always had a blast; many folks bring their kids, from toddlers on up to surly teens.

Unfortunately, the cruise is an annual event, and the 2019 version just happened. They're booking for 2020 now, though...
posted by uberchet at 9:10 AM on April 2, 2019

I’d consider a city like Venice as a real option. Super-safe, no traffic to avoid, lots of nooks and crannies and history to get lost in for hours at a time.
posted by xxyyxxzz at 2:42 PM on April 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

FWIW at 14, I did not have a particuarly good time on a cruise. I was too old for the kid stuff, but too young (to go alone) with the adult stuff (fitness center, casino). Most of the of the game room activities were for two people, and the recreational activities felt like it was me + senior citizens. Port activities were shall we say “phony.”

I went with my parents. I think I might have had a better time if I was traveling with someone around my own age. Also I might have had a better experience on a mega size instead of a mid size ship.

But yes, my trip to NYC with a friend when I was 15? That was an awesome experience.
posted by oceano at 4:19 PM on April 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

FWIW at 14, I did not have a particuarly good time on a cruise.
Just to be clear: the JoCo Cruise is absolutely not comparable to a regular cruise. It's more like a floating con or nerdy summer camp; literally zero regular cruise activities are on offer. The whole week is programmed by the JoCo organization, not by the cruise line (which is HAL at this point).

I'd hate a regular cruise, too. This is something entirely different and lovely.
posted by uberchet at 6:56 AM on April 3, 2019

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