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Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona. Photography by iStock

8 Trips for College-Bound Teens and Their Parents

Article by Michelle Shih 11.16.2018

Your child has been accepted to college — congratulations! It’s time to celebrate with a trip that’s geared to both parent and teen.

With PSAT prep and sports recruiting starting as early as 10th grade these days, the college process can be long and arduous. By the time acceptance season comes around, a celebratory trip will be in order. Here are four early-decision destinations and four post-graduation getaways that will expand your teen’s mind and give you some senior-year bonding time.


EARLY-DECISION JAUNTS

It’s early winter and your teen’s acceptance letter just landed in your mailbox. Here’s where to celebrate.  
 

New Orleans

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Beignets at Café du Monde. Photography by Jennifer Wright/Alamy

Whether they know the difference between Cajun and Creole, your teen will appreciate the multicultural mix of New Orleans. Wake up early and head to Café du Monde (800 Decatur St., cafedumonde.com) for beignets and coffee. If your high schooler doesn’t fancy coffee yet, you can prep them for college all-nighters with the slightly sweet flavor of chicory coffee (coffee mixed with the ground root of the endive plant, which creates a chocolaty flavor), a New Orleans staple. Afterward, consider a swamp tour to explore the coastal marshes, or a haunted cemetery tour to learn all about the city’s rich and mysterious history (check with your hotel concierge for tour recommendations). Lastly, if the Saints (the city’s professional football team) are in town or a college bowl game is scheduled, consider giving your teen a taste of football fanaticism at the Superdome (1500 Sugar Bowl Drive, mbsuperdome.com). 

 

New York City

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Ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Photography by iStock

There’s no better destination to experience a panoply of firsts: first Broadway show (a true test of parental love is whether you’ll splurge for “Hamilton” tickets); first time vintage clothing shopping in the East Village; first time ice-skating at Rockefeller Center (45 Rockefeller Plaza, rockefellercenter.com), to name just a few. You can also pick from two versions of an art-and-outdoors day: Explore Central Park, then walk a few blocks to the Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd St., moma.org) to view art history class staples like van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory.” Or head downtown to the High Line (highline.org), the former elevated railroad tracks that have been renovated into a landscaped walking path with views of the Hudson River and New Jersey, and stop in at the Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort St., whitney.org). Or wait in line outside a Supreme (supremenewyork.com) store — an emporium of cool-kid clothing — on a Thursday, when the new goods come in each week, for the memento your kid really wants.

 

Puerto Rico

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El Yunque National Park. Photography by iStock

The Caribbean island is still recovering from Hurricane María, but most hotels and resorts are open for business — and if your child has a do-gooder bent, what better way to show it than to support Puerto Rico’s economy and explore its natural wonders? If you’re both ready for some relaxation time on the beach, no one will fault you, but also consider a few day trips: snorkeling at an underwater nature preserve in Culebra, a tour of the rain forest at El Yunque National Forest — look for the coqui frog, the national symbol of Puerto Rico, and the ylang ylang tree, whose flowers are used in Chanel No. 5 perfume — or, perhaps, head to the eastern tip of the island and for an evening kayak ride on Laguna Grande, one of the island’s three bioluminescent bays.

 

San Francisco

The Ferry Building. Photography by Nat and Cody

If your teen is a foodie, San Francisco is a great place to explore. Start at the Ferry Building (1 The Embarcadero, ferrybuildingmarketplace.com), the 120-year-old marketplace that hosts local and artisan food purveyors. Consider stopping by Cowgirl Creamery for delectable cheese, The Slanted Door for authentic Vietnamese fare or the farmers market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Down the street is the science museum Exploratorium (Pier 15 The Embarcadero, exploratorium.edu), which may seem more appropriate for little kids, but the interactive exhibits appeal to both adults and a teen who acts like one (there are motion-detector strobe lights that capture your shadow in a photo as you jump in the air). Fisherman’s Wharf (fishermanswharf.org) is touristy, but the waterfront locale is beautiful (and the Ghirardelli chocolate shop is great for a late-afternoon pick-me-up). Stroll the ultra-twisty Lombard Street and stop for that requisite photo op walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

SUMMER ACCEPTANCE VACATIONS

With only a few months until the start of college, treat your teen with a more exotic getaway.
 

Barcelona

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La Boqueria. Photography by iStock

If ever there was a land made for teenagers, it’s Spain. The entire country stays up late and sleeps in, so it’s a lovely place to relax while broadening your child’s horizons. Plus, your kid can practice their high school Spanish before they lose it entirely. For a taste of modernist architect Antoni Gaudí, visit Park Guell (parkguell.org), an outdoor space that showcases his whimsical designs in forested grounds (the people-watching is fun too, though it can get very crowded). For tastes of an epicurean sort, La Boqueria (La Rambla 91, boqueria.barcelona) is a must-see. The famed market is brimming with olives, jamón and eye-catching seafood displays (the classic place to eat is Bar Pinotxo, a counter stool-only stall open for breakfast and lunch). After your meal, wander the El Born neighborhood, with its chic independent shops and winding streets, and stop by the Museu Picasso (Carrer Montcada, 15-23, museupicasso.bcn.cat) just to say you did. Finally, for a taste of the spiritual, pay a pilgrimage to Santa Maria del Mar (Plaça de Santa Maria, 1, santamariadelmarbarcelona.org), perhaps the most beautiful church — and arguably the most famous — in Barcelona. (Tip: Make sure your child is dressed appropriately, as anyone in short shorts or tank tops will be turned away.) 

 

Berlin

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The Berlin Wall. Photography by iStock

Visiting Berlin is the European equivalent of the requisite eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., but this time, your child is old enough to appreciate the history. The remnants of the Berlin Wall, with barbed wire and checkpoints reminding of what life was like in the divided city from 1961 to 1989, are a must-see. The DDR Museum (Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, ddrmuseum.de), which captures what life was like in East Germany, is also worth a visit. The interactive exhibits include a driving simulation where you sit in a Trabant — the notorious German-produced car that was made from hard plastic and today has a cult following — and wind through the streets of East Germany. For some unbridled fun, stop by Bikinihaus (Budapester Str. 38-50, bikiniberlin.de), a mall with a mix of big brands, stylish boutiques and pop-up shops, plus an art space with rotating exhibits (British graffiti artist Banksy is showing until January).

 

Dubai

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Sandboarding in Dubai. Photography by Wavebreak Media ltd/Alamy

College is all about being exposed to different points of view, and a trip to the Middle East is a good first step in that direction. The best time of year to visit Dubai is between November and March, but if you need to wait until after graduation, the good news is that it’s less crowded. The bad news is that the temperature will likely be in the triple digits, with high humidity. Regardless, you and your teen will still want to explore the desert — ask your concierge about camel rides and sandboarding (surfing on sand dunes). Luckily, there are plenty of things to do to beat the heat, like Ski Dubai, the indoor ski slopes at the Mall of the Emirates (malloftheemirates.com). If you’re not a skier, you can swim or cavort with penguins there instead. Your teen will marvel at Burj Khalifa (1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd., burjkhalifa.ae), the world’s tallest building, at 2,717 feet. Consider introducing your kid to the art of high tea at the At.Mosphere restaurant (atmosphereburjkhalifa.com) on the 122nd floor of Burj Khalifa, where you can sample more than a dozen blends of tea and nibble on finger sandwiches, pastries and scones while taking in the spectacular view.

 

 

Hong Kong

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A traditional junk. Photography by iStock

This is a city of extremes: steep green mountainsides and vivid blue waterways; bustling city streets and serene nature walks; inexpensive food stalls and Michelin-starred restaurants. Start by exploring the Central Business District, CBD for short (8 Jackson Road), using the world’s longest outdoor escalators. Expand your teen’s palate by doing a tasting tour of Hong Kong cuisine while hopping on and off the escalators to try noodle bars and milk tea stands (and making sure to save plenty of time for Instagram pix). For a taste of life on the water, cruise around the harbor on a junk, an old-fashioned wooden sailboat, or take the Star Ferry (starferry.com), the commuter boat that connects Hong Kong with Kowloon, HK’s grittier and more urban cousin. There you’ll find the Harbour City shopping mall (3-27 Canton Road, harbourcity.com.hk), which has a whopping 450 stores and the Ocean Terminal Deck, which offers expansive views of Victoria Harbour.

Speaking of views, instead of joining the hordes of tourists boarding trams to Victoria Peak (the highest point on Hong Kong Island), we suggest taking the scenic route up the 1.75 mile-long Morning Trail and experiencing a different side of the city. Either way you’ll be rewarded with stunning views at the top.

If you want to give your teen a real local experience — or at least an expat one — check out a karaoke bar. Look for one that allows kids and carries Western music, like Red MR Karaoke (5 Tonnochy Road, redmr.com) or Music Box (10 Prat Ave., musicbox-hk.com).

 

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Plan Your Stay in these Destinations


  • New Orleans

    Location New Orleans, Louisiana

    Experience Enjoy a Celebration of the Senses.

    • Explore the iconic French Quarter steps away
    • Enjoy jazz in our Davenport Lounge
    • Relax in the Maison Orleans Club
  • New York, Central Park

    Location Midtown Manhattan

    Experience Sweeping Central Park views from your hotel room

    • Travel + Leisure's 2016 World's Best
    • Steps away from Central Park
    • Just one block from the famed 5th Avenue
  • Dorado Beach

    Location Dorado, Puerto Rico

    Experience Intimate luxury at one of the most exclusive Caribbean resorts.

    • Secluded on 1,400 acres of natural wonders
    • Two- to five-bedroom beachfront residences
    • Mi Casa restaurant by chef José Andrés
  • San Francisco

    Location San Francisco, California

    Experience Timeless elegance in the heart of downtown San Francisco.

    • A 20-year AAA Five Diamond award winner
    • Newly renovated guest rooms and suites
    • Historic cable car stops right outside
  • Barcelona

    Location Barcelona, Spain

    Experience A beachfront hotel overlooking the Mediterranean

    • Mediterranean and city views
    • 5 outlets, including a two Michelin-starred restaurant
    • The highest spa in Barcelona
  • Berlin

    Location Berlin, Germany

    Experience A striking hotel in the vibrant Potsdamer Platz quarter.

    • Fantastic views of the Tiergarten
    • Minutes from historic Berlin attractions
    • An exceptional on-site restaurant
  • Dubai

    Location Dubai Marina District, UAE

    Experience Inspiring views on the coast of the Arabian Gulf.

    • Pristine beaches at your doorstep
    • Exceptional restaurants to enchant the palate
    • Luxury resort amenities and spa experiences
  • Dubai International Financial Centre

    Location DIFC

    Experience A luxury retreat in one of the world’s most exciting cities.

    • Art deco inspired architecture
    • Executive Residences for long-term stays
    • Internationally inspired spa
  • Hong Kong

    Location Hong Kong, China

    Experience The energy of the City of Life.

    • A Forbe’s Five-Star hotel
    • Two Michelin-starred restaurants
    • The highest bar in the world, Ozone