Study Abroad Meets Family Vacation – London Style

 Posted by on July 17, 2014  Comments Off
Jul 172014

Flag_-_Great_BritainEvery year more than 250,000 US college students study abroad.   Thousands of them choose London due to access to world class universities, its modern urban vibe and easy access to popular historical and cultural tourist sites in the UK and across Europe.   Many families choose to plan a family vacation to meet up with their college student overseas.

If your student will be studying in London next semester or in the Spring, now is the time to plan out your vacation strategy.  If there are younger siblings you will probably have to work around school vacation periods so booking airfare early is a must.  Hotel booking sites such as Travel Hotels England are a great way to discover a wide range of options including traditional hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations in London, its suburbs and across the country.

At a minimum plan a couple of days in the city to see the sights and take in a show.  Teens will want to shop at landmarks such as Harrods and Carnaby Street.  Sports fans may want to visit Wembley Stadium or the Wimbledon Tennis Museum.  And of course, don’t miss out on the changing of the guard and viewing the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.  Did you know you can skate on the frozen moat surrounding the Tower in the winter?

Most families will also want to explore beyond London; perhaps taking the train to York, Oxford or Cardiff, Wales.  You might also consider grabbing a cheap flight to Edinburgh for a few days.   Hotels UK  is a great resource for planning your trip across the region.  There are many options for guest houses, hostels, hotels and apartment rentals depending on your needs.

Whatever type of family visit you plan, you can be sure that your college student will be excited to see mom, dad, brothers and sisters and to show off their temporary hometown!

Snow, Sun, and Fun — Taking Teens to Lapland

 Posted by on June 29, 2014  Comments Off
Jun 292014

Santa and elves in LaplandHere is another great family travel idea from our partners around the world!  Traveling to Lapland with teens can be absolutely tremendous fun, especially when you make sure that your itinerary has a little something for everyone to enjoy. Teens are just always up for an adventure (once they’ve had their 13 hours of sleep, of course!) You can certainly find that if you head up north in the world on holidays in Lapland

Although it’s situated within the Arctic Circle, it’s not continuously engulfed in snow (a cause of joy for some, a cause of dismay for others!). In fact, Lapland actually has four diverse seasons, just like most countries. From spring until fall your teens can enjoy activities such as hiking or biking, and, if the weather is warm enough, they can swim in the lovely lakes in the area. Summer temperatures can hit as high as 30°C. On days such as these, your teens might prefer a swim and a picnic lunch in the shade.

In contrast, the winters can get chilly, to say the least, with temperatures dipping to as low as -30°C, but in spite of this many people prefer to take their Lapland holidays during the winter season. The country has so many riveting activities for teens to enjoy that they wouldn’t have access to in the warmer months. In winter the snow can get as high as 50 cm in some areas, which makes it the perfect time for your teens to go snow shoeing. Who wouldn’t enjoy a ride on a dogsled? Can you imagine the fun of getting your teens all bundled up warmly and then traveling through a winter wonderland while your sled is being pulled by a group of friendly huskies?

There are also many other outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, skiing, reindeer rides and they may even appreciate catching up with Santa. If you’re lucky, the family may get to see nature’s amazing light show, the Northern Lights. This is a rare and glorious sight, and you’ll want to be sure to have your camera ready and loaded if they should appear. Be sure to bring plenty of batteries or a charger and adapter because batteries don’t last very long in the freezing cold. Your teens will also need adapters to recharge their cell phones etc.

Remember to bring particularly warm clothing if you decide to visit Lapland in the winter. Don’t let the kids refuse the thermal underwear on the grounds that it’s not cool. When they whack on that along with their scarves, then the only thing they’ll notice is how much fun they’re having. And holidays are for enjoying, after all, rather than complaining about the weather!

Five Must-See London Musicals for the Whole Family

 Posted by on January 31, 2014  Comments Off
Jan 312014

Our UK travel partners are always coming up with great ideas for fun family travel activities and a visit to London is always high on their list. There are many fun things to do and see when you are on holiday in London with the whole family: paying a visit to Buckingham Palace, taking a stroll along the river of the Thames, or doing some shopping on Oxford Street, but if you want your London holiday to be truly memorable, we recommend that you see a show in one of the theaters in the West End.  Book a room in one of many cheap hotels in London, and read below the list of the best must-see musicals of this season.

Thriller Live

Are you a fan of Michael Jackson? If your answer is yes, you cannot miss this show at the Lyric on Shaftesbury Avenue in Soho. After the death of the famous American singer, this show has become a tribute to the memory of the man and his incredible music. With a cast of 80 singers, musicians and dancers, the show is truly a great success, thanks also to the big stage and excellent sound system of the Lyric theatre. The musical will be on until March 2014.

The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber has been running in Her Majesty’s Theatre for almost 10 years and it is still one of the most popular and successful musicals in London. The show was inspired by Gaston Leroux’s novel, and tells the story of a beautiful singer and a haunted composer who lives in the Opera House of Paris. The scenery and special effects are magical and absolutely breathtaking.

Mamma Mia!

For a fun night at the theatre, where the audience gets the chance to dance and sing along with the main actors, don’t miss Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre in Covent Garden. Like in the famous Hollywood movie, Donna recalls memories of her happy past while her daughter Sophie dreams of her wedding, to the tune of 22 of the best known songs of ABBA. You can see this musical until April 2014.

Billy Elliot

Another musical version of a famous movie, Billy Elliot has been shown at the Victoria Palace Theatre since 2005. With beautiful songs by Elton John, and the choreography by Peter Darling, this show has been very successful, and even considered the greatest British musical of all time by the Daily Telegraph. The musical tells a story of Billy who is a young boy from a mining community who wants to become a dancer despite his family’s complaints, a touching and entertaining story for the whole family that you should not miss!


Wicked, at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, tells the story of the Witches of Oz and how they became the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch, years before meeting Dorothy. In the first part of this musical, the audience learns about the background of the witches in their old school, while the second part is set during the events from the Wizard of Oz, telling the back stories of the main characters. The musical is entertaining, but also full of political and social metaphors.

Photo courtesy of Andreas Praefcke via WikiMedia

Travels Around Europe: Five Favorite Family Destinations

 Posted by on December 29, 2013  Comments Off
Dec 292013

europe-travels-2Our travel partners continue to send us great ideas for family vacation destinations that appeal to families with teens and tweens, as well as younger kids. Katie from recently sent us some great recommendations for family friendly resorts and destinations around Europe.   Here are just a few of her favorite European family vacation destinations:

A Road Trip through Spain

Katie knows that long journeys with older children (particularly if the batteries on their game consoles and tablets have run out) can be a recipe for disaster unless you’ve got the right mix of activities planned. Her first recommendation is a road trip through Spain. Families can picnic in the Andalusian countryside before heading to the enclosed resort known as La Manga Club in Murcia. Older kids can explore by themselves before meeting back with the family for dinner and evening activities. Be sure to visit Valencia to see the zoo and the aquarium and consider staying at on a farm near Girona to really soak up the local color.

Living the High Life on the Cote d’Azur

Another winning destination for families with teens and tweens is the Cote d’Azur.  Tell the teens they might spot an A lister in France’s St Tropez or Cannes. And, even if they don’t, they can still have some special film star moments of their own. Try introducing the kids to Michelin-star dining in Mougins.  Buy jewelry from the night market in Antibes and catch the ferry to the little-known Iles de Lerins, just off the coast of Cannes for a day on an uncrowded beach.

Surfing and quad biking in Devon

It may not be as famous for its surf spots as neighboring Cornwall, but don’t let that stop your family from hitting the waves together in Devon, England. Take the opportunity to learn to surf by opting for a family lesson.  If you are traveling by RV (aka a European caravan) park it at Parkdean’s Ruda camp on Croyde Bay. Devon’s waves are perfect for beginners as there are long, peeling waves that can make it easy to get the hang of whizzing about atop the water, although some moms and dads might decide to spend more time on the beach than in the water.  Take a drive to Quad World, where the kidswill  love  getting to grips with the quad bikes on the half-mile track.

Fado and Fish in Portugal

The little fishing village of Alvor in the western Algarve is another favorite family travel destination. This is a great destination to visit any time of the year. In the summer, take a boat trip from the harbor, stopping off to snorkel and tan on sandbanks that are only visible at low tide. In the winter, the village is lit up with decorations for the holiday season. This is one place where tweens and teens can celebrate New Year’s Eve with the grown-ups since in Alvor it’s a family affair with all ages gathered together to dance to Fado music at the harbor before watching fireworks over the water.

Tigers and a Treehouse in France

Back in France, consider visiting the Vendee region for some really out of  the ordinary accommodations.  Specifically, try staying high in the treetops beside a lake. The kids will love the pulley system for getting suitcases into the treehouse. And, because there are two ‘pods’ – one with a double bed and one with two singles – the grown-ups and kids can have their own bedrooms. Also be sure to visit  the nearby Puy du Fou theme park which takes families on a trip through history, even using live tigers in the Roman gladiatorial arena.

Thanks again to Katie for sharing her European family travel recommendations.  Let us know where you will be taking your kids in 2014.

Photo courtesy Cyril Attias via Flickr

Travel with Teens and Tweens in 2014

 Posted by on December 22, 2013  Comments Off
Dec 222013

The teens are becoming young adults and as they grow up Travel with Teens and Tweens will be taking on a new look in 2014.   Why?  Because, as the teens get older (in fact, #1 Son is now 20 years old and isn’t really a teen anymore) our family travel plans are evolving.  There are fewer “big ticket” family adventures and more travel to visit #1 Son at college, to see aging grandparents, to visit colleges, and to keep up with the Princess’s sports schedule.  We expect that 2014 will see more, shorter trips to many places that we have written about in the past or to destinations that really are not all that interesting for a family travel planning blog.

Save time for a hike after visiting the caves

How did they grow up so fast?

While Travel with Teens and Tweens will stay live in 2014,  our future postings will be somewhat sporadic.  We are still very interested in posting articles about great travel ideas that come in from our global travel partners and we will continue to post updates on our family travel ideas when we have something fun to share.  We also hope that the hundreds of posts from the past several years will continue to provide resources and inspiration for many families with teens and tweens.

We appreciate all the support our readers have given us over the years and hope that you will still check in from time to time.

So, until we meet again, happy travels to all!

Nov 072013
London's Piccadilly Circus at Christmas

London’s Piccadilly Circus at Christmas

Many American college-age teens opt to study abroad in the United Kingdom.  The availability of world class academic and cultural  experiences, plus the familiarity of the language, makes it a natural choice whether your student is interested in economics, political science, mathematics, humanities or any range of topics.

Many families find that their college student’s semester abroad offers an opportunity to create a special family vacation with parents and siblings meeting up with the college student during a holiday break or at the end of the semester.  For families planning to connect with their traveling college students in the United Kingdom, finding the right accommodations can make the difference between a run of the mill vacation and a cherished family memory.  But where to start?

Our U.K. based travel partners gave us a great tip, suggesting we check out hotel bookings sites such as Star Stay to sort through the myriad of potential United Kingdom hotel options.    The best search sites will offer quick links to hotels listed by country, county, and town.  They will show you a quick overview of many different properties and allow you to check prices and availability and book online all at one site.   We particularly like the sites that show pictures of actual rooms and allow us to accurately evaluate whether a specific room will work for our needs.

Bed and breakfasts provide another option for getting to know an area, but, since most are independently operated it can be difficult to explore all the options and to check availability and prices.  Sites for bed and breakfast bookings are really helpful when it comes to exploring a wide range of options quickly and easily.   Most of these sites will provide photos, pricing, and availability information, but, we particularly look for sites that allow for instant booking and confirmation online.  It is so much easier to confirm a bed and breakfast reservation online via these types of services, in comparison to having to send emails or make international phone calls and deal with delays caused by different time zones.

Each town, county and country in the United Kingdom has a different personality and something to share.  Online hotel and bed and breakfast booking sites make it easy to consider your options and find the best match for your needs.   Let us know what you think.

Photo courtesy VisitBritain

Happy Halloween from the Teens!

 Posted by on October 31, 2013  Comments Off
Oct 312013

Its been a couple of exciting weeks here in Boston with the Red Sox winning the 2013 World Series last night.  We’ve been focused on cheering on the team, catching up at school, researching colleges, getting a driver’s license and going to the rink so are sorry we haven’t been able to post too much lately.  We hope to have more updates soon, in the meantime, Happy Halloween!


And for everyone working on early decision college applications, take time out for a candy bar!