Planning a vacation begins to look a little different once your kids start moving into their tween and teen years.
As they grow older, kids start becoming more independent. They want to break away from their parents and family and start exploring things on their own, maybe they want to bring some friends along, and they start to grow out of those “baby” experiences.
Orlando has earned a reputation for being a great family-friendly vacation spot because of its wide variety of experiences on offer; it fits the needs of everyone in the family… regardless of age!
If you are taking your tween and teenage kids to Orlando, there are some can’t-miss experiences that you will want to put on your agenda.
Today we will cover everything you need to know about a trip to Orlando with your teens, including the best attractions and experiences to enjoy, where to stay, and tips and tricks that will help you survive along the way.
This post is part of our Orlando travel advice series
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10 Top Tips for Tackling Orlando with Teens
Let’s be honest. The teen years can be a challenge. Teens are flooded with emotions. They are starting to learn who they are and experimenting with how they handle and react to their surroundings without assistance from their parents or family.
This makes traveling or vacationing with tweens and teens a bit challenging sometimes, but have no fear!
These ten tips will ensure that both your teen and you, the parents, have a great time during your visit to Orlando, Florida!
1. Involve them in planning
As your teens grow older, they start to form their own opinions, and they are more likely to enjoy themselves if they are involved in the planning process.
Ask what they want to do, and if your family has visited Orlando theme parks in the past, ask them to make a list of their favorite can’t-miss attractions and experiences that they would like included in the agenda (Psst, rest days, and time to ‘just hang’ are legitimate itinerary requests!)
2. Spring for extra space
Once your kiddos reach their tweens and up, they may want a little more personal space or privacy. You may consider looking into a hotel room or lodging option that offers more space or individual rooms to allow for everyone to have their own personal space. We’ll share more on this and our recommendations for teen family accommodations at the end of this article!
3. Try more “fine dining” experiences
With little ones, sometimes trying out the fine dining experiences in Orlando can be challenging because you may not want to take younger kids into a nice restaurant, or maybe you don’t want to spend the money for something your little ones may not eat.
As your kids get into their tween and teen years, their palate may be expanding more, and this opens up the opportunity for you to explore more upscale and fine dining experiences that you may not have the chance to do when your kiddos are little.
(Don’t worry if nuggets and french fries are still the only things they’ll eat, we’ve got ‘one of them’ too!)
4. Late mornings/late nights
Teens love their sleep, and on vacation is no different! If you want to avoid getting up crazy early, this may be a great time to take advantage of sleeping in and staying out later at the parks rather than getting there super early. Anything to avoid a fight waking up your teens in the morning, right?
5. Consider after-hours events
Both Universal Studios and Disney World parks offer after-hours events at various times throughout the year. While these events can sometimes be hard to attend with little ones as they are typically past bedtime and can lead to tantrums and cranky toddlers, these types of events are perfect for teens and offer a great opportunity to enjoy the parks with a limited crowd.
If your teens are a fan of horror movies/Halloween, you may consider a visit to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights.
6. Give teens some freedom
As mentioned before, the teenage years are when kiddos start to become more independent, and they may want to explore independently. If you are within any of the parks in Orlando, it is relatively safe to allow your teens to split up and do some exploring on their own within the park. With the tools of smartphones and devices, you are able to track their location and keep in touch easily.
(Pro Tip: using any sort of GPS tracking can drain your batteries fast! Have a recharging plan and a physical meeting point backup plan in place if you’re relying on devices to meet up)
7. Use single-rider lines
When visiting the theme parks in Orlando, most rides offer single-rider lines that will allow you to board your favorite rides much quicker than waiting in standby.
When your kids reach that teen age, you may feel more comfortable being separated using the single riders line than if you have little ones.
(Pro tip: The single rider line almost always will allow you to be on the same ride car, but you may be in a different row)
8. Bring a friend
If you have a teen who is alone or has siblings much younger than them, you may consider allowing your teen to bring a friend with them. Having someone their age whom they can have fun with will likely let your teens have a much more enjoyable time.
If you are unable to support an additional teen financially, discuss with their friends’ parents to see if they can contribute to costs to allow for the extra guest.
9. Pack External Battery Packs
Kids are constantly on their phones/tablets these days, and spending a whole day out and about doing activities will undoubtedly lead to drained smart device batteries (and to our point above about needing to stay in touch!)
We always recommend keeping a couple of external power banks on hand to ensure you can keep your devices charged and ready to use. These are our personal favorites; super thin, but 10000amh x2 gets our family easily through a full theme park day:
10. Let teens be kids too
While some teens may be growing out of the “baby” experiences, others may also want to hold onto that time in their life. Be sure to allow your teens to be big kids if they want to, let them ride the baby rides or meet their favorite Disney characters…hold onto as much of their youth as you can!!.
Disney World is, after all, the most magical place on Earth; sometimes, that magic brings out the kids in all of us!
Best Things to Do in Orlando with Teens
Orlando is an entertainment hot spot making for a great family-friendly vacation destination. Most know Orlando for the theme parks in the area, but there is so much more to do and enjoy.
Here are some of the can’t-miss attractions and things to do in Orlando with your teens:
Walt Disney World Parks
Disney World gets a rep for being catered more towards younger children, but the truth is amongst the four theme parks and two water parks that the property hosts, there is something fun for people of all ages to enjoy.
Teens may find visiting Hollywood Studios featuring Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge or EPCOT more fun than the Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom parks – but it really is down to personal taste and preferences!
Disney Springs is an entertainment hub that is fit for all age groups. Throughout the property, you will find hundreds of restaurants, fun activities such as Splitsville Luxury Lanes or live music at the AdventHealth Waterside Stage, and plenty of opportunities for shopping.
Spending the day at Disney Springs is a great way to enjoy a fun-filled day without theme parks.
Universal Studios Orlando/Wizarding World of Harry Potter
While Disney is more well known for catering to the younger crowd, Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is more known as a theme park that older kids or teens may enjoy more. Here, you will find more thrilling rides, roller coasters, and experiences.
The theme park is split between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure – we explore the pros and cons of each in this guide.
Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are Potterhead favorites, whilst Marvel fans will get a kick out of the thrill rides you’ll find in Super Hero Island. A day at Univeral’s Islands of Adventure is a must for your adrenaline junkies and thrilling water-ride lovers!
Universal’s Volcano Bay
If you are looking for a fun spot to cool down and get some relief from the Florida sun, Universal’s Volcano Bay is the perfect place to do so. Here you will find water activities for all age levels, including a lazy river, water slides, and the more thrilling and exciting rides and attractions, including huge water slides and high-speed water coasters.
Universal Studios CityWalk
Similar to Disney Springs, Universal Studios CityWalk offers a variety of shopping, dining at popular restaurants such as Bubba Gump’s and the Hard Rock Cafe, and entertainment making it a great stop for your teen vacation. Here you will find fun activities such as Hollywood Drive-In mini golf, movies at Cinemark, and Universal’s Great Movie Escape.
With the excitement of Disney World and Universal Studios, SeaWorld Orlando is often forgotten about and overshadowed when planning to visit Orlando. If your teens are into sea life and animals, or you simply want a theme park that will please the entire family, I highly recommend making a visit to SeaWorld a priority for your itinerary.
SeaWorld combines the chance to enjoy fun rides and attractions with the chance to see a variety of marine life, including whales, dolphins, fish, and more!
ICON Park is similar to Disney Springs and CityWalk in that it is an entertainment destination that offers shopping, dining, and entertainment/attractions. Some popular highlights of the park include The Wheel at ICON Park, the Museum of Illusions, the Pearl Express Train, and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (If you can’t meet your favorite celebrities in person, taking a photo with their wax figure is the next best thing, right? Those things are pretty life-like!),
Florida is known for its abundance of gators, and if found in the wild, they are extremely dangerous, but if you want the chance to see them up close and personal in a safe environment, a trip to Gatorland is a great place to include in your Orlando itinerary.
We used to think Gatorland was great for toddlers when you’re looking for a break from the bigger theme parks, but we’ve discovered it works equally well for our tweens and teen!
Gatorland offers fun outdoor activities such as zip lining, rock climbing, and off-road adventures, plus the chance to see, meet, and touch a variety of reptiles and animals, including alligators, crocodiles, wild cats, birds, snakes, and more!
Orlando Escape Rooms
Escape rooms are really popular these days, and there are plenty in the Orlando area that make for a fun activity for the whole family to enjoy – a great option for a rainy day!
Popular options in the area include The Great Escape Room Orlando, The Escape Effect, and the Bureau Escape Rooms. (Pro tip: if you have an angsty teen, this may be a great way to have a family team-building activity and get some quality time together LOL)
Kennedy Space Center
If your teens are into science or space, a visit to the Kennedy Space Center is a can’t-miss activity in Central Florida. It is located in Merritt Island, FL, which is just about an hour outside of Orlando but trust me…it’s certainly worth the drive, and it makes for a great opportunity to have a day trip outside of Orlando.
Here you have the chance to explore a variety of exhibits and attractions that feature real-life space equipment and knowledge from astronauts from NASA – Grab your tickets here in advance to avoid the queues!
Orlando Tree Trek
If your teens love adventure and the outdoors, you may consider a visit to Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park. Only a short drive down to Kissimee, there are a variety of fun outdoor activities, including ziplining, aerial tree courses, and more! There are courses for all skill levels ranging from beginner to advanced. A visit to Orlando Tree Trek is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of Orlando and enjoy some time out in nature.
Orlando Watersports Complex
A visit to Orlando Watersports Complex is a can’t-miss activity for those teens that love the water and adventure. At this water park, there are a number of fun water activities that your teens will love, including boat rides, water sports such as wakeboarding, waterskiing, wakeskating, and kneeboarding, as well as a beach area, inflatable water courses, and more.
Consider buying an Orlando Sightseeing Flex Pass – for activities beyond the theme parks, including The Escape Game Orlando, Wonderworks, an airboat tour, along with access to I-RIDE are included
Where to Stay in Orlando with Teens
Sleep arrangements are the next big question when planning a family vacation with teens and tweens.
As we mentioned above, once your kids start getting into their teen years, you may find that you need lodging that allows for extra space and privacy; topping and tailing in one big shared bed ain’t going to cut it when they’re starting to get taller than you…
The great news is, there’s more family accommodation in Orlando and surrounding areas than any other city in the US, if not the world!
Here are our top picks for where to stay with teens in Orlando:
Vacation Rental Home
If you are a family that enjoys your own personal space and privacy or perhaps traveling in a larger group, you may consider renting a vacation home or Airbnb. This allows each family member to have their own personal space, multiple bathrooms, often a private pool, and so much more.
We suggest looking up OrlandoVacations.com, specialists in finding this sort of accommodation.
Holiday Inn Resort Orlando with Waterpark
The Holiday Inn Resort is extremely close to Universal Studios Orlando and the Disney Parks, making it a convenient location that has plenty to offer for teens.
At this hotel, you will find there are several on-site amenities that will cater to your teenagers, including laser tag, game rooms, 4D movies, and of course, the huge waterpark located on site. Staying somewhere like this allows the freedom to let your teens roam free and have fun without leaving the safety of your resort.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Want to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort with the perks of being on-site and bundling your accom and Disney entry ticket?
The Beach Club resort is great for families with teens! Some of the Disney resorts can seem “kiddie” like with the themed rooms, decor, and activities around, but the Beach Club Resort offers a bit more of a grown-up environment.
Here you will find there are plenty of fun activities for your teens to enjoy on-site, including the Stormalong Bay pool area, a fitness area, and a short walk to popular teen parks, including Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Teens can be expensive, so we felt it was only right to include one of Disney’s value resorts on our list. Disney’s Pop Century resort is a great way to enjoy a Disney-themed resort without it being too “cutesy” and geared toward kids.
Simply walking through the resort is so much fun as this resort features a number of fun trends, fashions, toys, and more that were popular in the 1950s-1990s, but there are also great on-site amenities, including the Hippy Dippy Pools and shopping at the Everything Pop shop.
Got a larger family? We’ve picked out the best Disney World resorts that can accommodate families of 5+
Universal Studios Cabana Bay Beach Resort
The vibe and esthetic and the Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Studios is so much fun, and it makes you want to have a good time during your stay. You will find fun, colorful, retro-style rooms that feature designs inspired by Florida beach resorts from the 1950s-1960s.
Your teens will love the amenities on-site: the delicious food court, two huge pools and a lazy river, bowling at Galaxy Bowl, spending the day with fun arcade-style games at Ace the Arcade, and more.
Universal’s Endless Summer Surfside Inn and Suites
If you’re looking for a great resort at an affordable rate, the Universal Studios Endless Summer Surfside Inn and Suites is a great choice! The environment is a very cool-surfside theme, and it just allows for rest and relaxation…exactly what you are looking for on vacation.
Not to mention, there are plenty of great on-site amenities that your teens will love, including a surfboard-shaped swimming pool, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a game room filled with arcade-style games as well as video games, and an excellent Universal Studios souvenir shop.
What teen doesn’t love swimming, shopping, and video games? Am I right?
Other Orlando Resorts to Consider
If you’re looking to split your time between the Disney World and Universal Orlando theme parks, why wouldn’t you?! Then we would also suggest looking at hotels and resorts that offer a shuttle service to both theme parks.
- Search here for more hotels close to Universal Orlando
- Search here for more hotels near to Disney World
Beware of the resort fee! These can range from $5 per day to as much as $50 per day! Always read the fine print behind a headline price to see what amenities exactly are included when booking a resort hotel in Orlando – you will soon see why so many families use a professional vacation planner when organizing a trip to Orlando!
More Advice For An Orlando Family Vacation
If you’re still in the planning stage of an Orlando and Florida vacation, you may also be interested in
- The best family-friendly vacation spots in Florida
- Making a festive season trip to Orlando – Disney in the Winter Planning Guide
- The closest beaches to Disney World – combining the best of a magical theme park holiday with a relaxing time on the best beaches in Florida
- Explore the most beautiful islands and keys of Florida
- Enjoying the best of Orlando WITHOUT theme parks
- Your complete introductory guide to a Univeral Orlando Resort vacation
- Don’t make these Rookie Mistakes when planning your first trip to Disney
- Universal Studios vs. Hollywood Studios – what’s the difference?
- Make packing a breeze for your Orlando trip – as well as our downloadable packing guide for teens, we share here with you exactly what to wear to Universal, the best outfits for Disney, and most importantly, the best theme park shoes that must be on your packing list!
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