Planning for a family cruise vacation but wondering how to keep your older kids entertained while onboard? We’ve cruised quite a few times with our girls, so I’m using my recent Caribbean cruise aboard Celebrity Cruises to share my tips for things to do for teens and tweens. It doesn’t take much to keep these kids entertained and engaged, but it does require a bit of advance planning. My recent trip was a success, so here are my best tried-and-true tips to help you too.
This post was created in partnership with Celebrity Cruises. I recently took a one week cruise with Mia aboard the Celebrity Equinox Caribbean cruise route.
Have Them Check the Daily Schedule
Each day of your cruise a daily schedule will be delivered to your room the night before. The schedule will show all the activities that are happening on the ship. On Celebrity Cruises, tweens and teens will receive personal invites for special kids/teen club activities in their room.
On our cruise Mia was invited to some fun activities like a GoPro Scavenger Hunt, Pizza Making, and a Dance Party. The special activities were some of Mia’s favorite experiences onboard on the ship.
Let Them Pick an Excursion
Some of the best ways to keep kids entertained on family vacations is by letting them choose what to do. Even teens like to feel like they have a voice while on a trip. Excursions are a great opportunity to allow your tween or teen to explore their interests and create memories that will matter to them.
If you have more than one kid, you could allow them each to choose an excursion at a different port. If you’re working on a budget you could consider splitting the family on different excursions. You want to be together on family vacations, however since everyone is together often on the ship excursions can offer a chance for a break if needed.
Mia’s favorite shore excursion on our Celebrity Caribbean cruise was snorkeling in St. Maarten. She was actually scared initially, but soon overcame her fears and jumped right in. She literally squealed in her snorkel mask when she spotted a sting ray. Two turtles, a puffer fish, and a sunken ship were also some of the amazing sights we saw while snorkeling near Buck Island on our cruise.
SNORKELING Mia was a bit worried about hopping into what she termed, the middle of the ocean. She worried there would be sharks in the water. However she overcame her fears and jumped right in on our stop at St Thomas. The snorkel trip was a success — she spotted turtles, a sting ray, a barracuda, and even a sunken ship! I’m pretty proud of my little adventurer! @celebritycruises #partner #caribbeancruise #celebritycruises #celebritysilhouette #snorkeling #MomAndMeAtSea
Pack a Dry Erase Board
The fabulous thing about cruising with teens and tweens is that they can have freedom to explore the ship on their own and go where they want to go. Mia loved deciding when she wanted to head to the kids’ club or grab her book to read in The Hideaway.
This freedom is great for kids and allows parents to have couple escapes, but having a way to reconnect is important. A dry erase board magnetized to your door would be a fabulous way of sharing messages between free-roaming kids and parents. If you’re uncomfortable with sharing messages, times and locations on the exterior of your room, consider having a notebook in the room where messages can be written.
Set Meet Up Times
This piggybacks on the point above that focuses on allowing your tweens and teens some independence during the cruise. On our recent family cruise, it was fun to tell our girls that we’d see them at dinner while we went and enjoyed a glass of wine beforehand.
These meet-up times can allow your tweens and teens to do their own thing while also teaching them the responsibility of time management and awareness. They’ll also be much more into meeting up for dinner, a show, or an activity, if they feel they’ve had some independent time beforehand.
Find a Friend at the Kids or Teen Club
For my kids, it’s the kids they meet on cruises that make activities and kids’ club exciting. Finding a friend they can hang out with around the ship can be a great way to keep teens entertained. Both of my girls often meet friends in the kids’ clubs that they later make plans to eat with, head to the pool with, and even stay in touch with after the cruise.
For tweens and teens, the kids’ and teens’ clubs can certainly have an “uncool” connotation, so it’s important that you keep a laid-back approach to it. Offer to help them find the clubs on your first day on board and try to encourage them to participate in one of the activities. Once they connect with someone else their age at the club, they’re liking to get excited about meeting up with that other teen and going to events with them.
Book a Balcony
If you have a tween or teen who likes to relax and read or just have some quiet space, definitely look into booking a balcony. It can be a great spot for them to escape and relax if they just need a bit of alone time. Of course, balconies also come with safety warnings so make sure your tween or teen can behave responsibly.
Balconies also offer daylight and the appearance of more space, which is important when traveling as a family.
Consider a Beverage Package
When on vacation, we occasionally let our kids splurge on drinks and food we’d normally not allow during our normal life. Celebrity offers drink packages that include a non-alcoholic option and it might be great for your tween or teen. They can get basic drinks in the restaurants, but the non-alcoholic drink package lets them order some fun blended drinks and juices at any bar around the ship. Mia fell in love with “virgin” pina coladas!
Pack for Sun Exposure
There is nothing like a sunburn to put my girls in a bad mood. Caribbean cruises are the perfect opportunity for sunburns since you spend so much time in the sun. My poor feet after our recent cruise can speak to that! Make sure your tween or teen has a sunscreen THEY love for the trip. I’ve started packing each girl their own choice because I find they use it more when they’re the ones who have picked it!
In addition to sunscreen though, make sure they also have a hat in case they’re planning to hang out on the pool deck. Rash guards or long sleeve swim tops can be great too, but neither of my girls have been interested in wearing them. Be sure to pack some aloe vera too, just in case they do get a burn.
Give Them a Project
If you have a creative kid, or if you’re taking your kids out of school for the cruise, giving them a project can be a great way to keep them entertained. Ask them to create a video of their favorite things about the cruise. Or have them sketch their daily highlights or memories. You can also have them keep a travel journal during the trip.
If you have a young photographer, give them a gift card for a photo book printer and encourage them to create a photo book memory of their trip.
You might be rolling your eyes at me now, but hear me out. Many times, teens will dread family vacations because they feel disconnected from their friends at home. However, if you look into possibly buying internet service that you allow them to use occasionally (set up a time schedule if needed), they can stay connected with their friends. They’ll especially love getting to snap or insta their awesome trip.
We’ve cruised a few different cruise lines and I was delighted at how much Mia enjoyed her time aboard Celebrity Cruises. She met two other girls her age and had a blast swimming with them and going on scavenger hunts with them. And more important, the Celebrity cruise kids staff understood that tweens and teens have a certain mood about kids’ clubs and handled activities and invites in a way that engaged this tricky age group.
Hopefully these tips will help you make sure your tween or teen enjoys their next family cruise vacation!