Holidays for tricky teenagers

by louise.roddon

On holiday, adolescents are notoriously hard to please. Any ideas? From surfing in Cornwall and cookery in France to cycling in Bangkok, here are five activity breaks with sufficient cool quotient

They are too old for kids’ clubs, too bored by museums – and sunbathing just sucks if you are 13 years old. What are parents to do? When I asked my teenage son and his friend what would constitute an ideal holiday for them, the answer was surprising: “Somewhere we can learn to cook wicked food”. Their response uncovers an interesting truth: teenagers are in fact happy to holiday en famille, as long as they have some say in the decision-making. Here are five of the best tried-and-tested holidays to impress their classmates.

French film noir

Tell your teenagers that Tim Burton shot his first film at the age of 13, and they may feel inspired to emulate the maestro. Cue the digital movie-making course at Domaine St Raymond in southwest France, where participants can learn about the intricacies of filming, editing and producing special effects in a comfortable house-party atmosphere. Family members work together or individually, and there are opportunities to shoot footage in local towns and markets. The bonus? It will open adolescents’ eyes to the French way of life, as they zoom in on café scenes in turreted, Camelot-perfect Carcassonne. The week concludes with four films to take home, and an Oscars ceremony.
French House Party (01299 896819, offers movie-making courses for £895 (12- to 18-year-olds), £995 adults. Or book through French Connections (01580 819303,

Surfing for softies in Cornwall

Surfing looks desperately cool – but try coaxing a shivering adolescent into the sea in any weather other than a heatwave. That is especially true in Cornwall, but The Surf Club at Bedruthan Steps Hotel near Newquay has a device that can help; an ingenious heat pad that you slip into a waistband before struggling into those neoprene long johns. The result? Amazingly toasty wetsuits for year-round surfing lessons. Believe me, they work. My son and I tested them one chilly February and felt we were in the Caribbean. No goose-bumps means teens are more likely to stay focused on the lesson.
Bedruthan Steps Hotel offers surfing lessons with heated wetsuits for £35 per two-hour class. Double rooms with sea view cost from £85 per person half-board, based on two people sharing.

Cycling in Bangkok

Family city breaks can be difficult. Pounding the pavements induces inertia, museums sometimes bore, and shopping blows the budget. Enter the urban bike tour. A guided cycle ride through Bangkok with Spice Roads is not, as you might expect, all about dodging tuc-tucs in the rush hour. Instead, riders explore the jungly oasis of Bang Kra Jao – an island sub-district formed by a loop in the Chao Phraya river. Starting off at the Shangri-La Hotel, the half-day journey through Bangkok’s “green lung” is like a lullaby to the city’s heavy-metal riff: a flat, traffic-free idyll, criss-crossed by waterways and pathways for pedallers. Uncover a world of floating markets, hidden temples and small homesteads. There is also a stop at an incense factory, where teenagers can roll their own joss sticks for the ultimate take-home souvenir.
Spice Roads (+66 2 712 5305, offers half-day tours of Bang Kra Jao for 1,000 Thai baht per person. Children aged 12-16 receive a 25 per cent discount. Pick-up point is The Shangri-La Hotel, where family rooms start at 5,200 Thai baht per night.

Cooking in France – and Hampshire

Here is a chance for teenagers to impress their mates with some crafty culinary tricks – at one of two cookery schools, chosen because they go beyond the standard kids’ cookery staples of pizzas and chocolate brownies. Over in Poitou-Charentes, southwest France, Midge Shirley runs a Teen Cooks Summer School that introduces adolescents to local markets (great for GCSE French) and how to cook a three-course meal, coupled with chill-out time round the pool. In Britain, the course (for pupils aged 13 and above) run by Newlyns Farm in Hampshire has students learning basic techniques from Matthew Fleet, one of Rick Stein’s Food Heroes. It also offers a University Survival course – the perfect way to go beyond a diet of Pot Noodles.
Teen Cooks Summer School (+33 5 46 24 6509, costs £375 per person; the price includes tuition, food, accommodation, trips and transfers. Newlyns Farm (+44 1256 704128, offers cookery day courses for £39. Nearby Tylney Hall has rooms from £170 per night b&b.

Star-gazing in the Pyrenees

Daniel Craig eat your heart out. Here is a chance for teenagers to prepare for physics classes in a thrilling manner. Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy with a star-gazing stay on the summit of the 3,000m Pic du Midi in France. The two-day package includes a dramatic ascent by cable car in time for sunset over the Pyrenees, then an evening in the world-famous observatory. An astronomer explains the galaxy over dinner, the night is spent in simple accommodation and guests can ski down the mountain next morning.
The Hautes-Pyrenees Reservation Service (+33 5 62 56 7000, has packages from €307 for two people, including one night half-board on the summit of the Pic du Midi.