5 “Off the Beaten Path” Vacations to Unplug With Your Teen

Ditch the phones (for a while, anyway) and reconnect with your teen on these cool getaways

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 5 “Off the Beaten Path” Vacations to Unplug With Your Teen

Written by: Eric Beuning

Our lives are filled with digital distractions, commitments, deadlines, and a sea of “gotta run” errands that have a way of coming between us and our teens. And, to make life even more challenging, our kids are growing up fast... they’re starting to pull away from us so grabbing that one-on-one time with them isn’t always easy.

Sometimes, what we need is a chance to break free from the constant chaos, a chance to regroup, reconnect and unwind, and mostly, a chance to unplug. 

Of course, unplugging can mean different things to different people. You need to know your kid and be realistic about just how willing they might be to “rough it” without technology at their fingertips 24/7.

If your teen is spending every free moment hiding in your basement-turned-gaming dungeon, then plopping them in the middle of a forest and asking them to catch their own food is going to lead to instant rebellion.

You also have to be realistic about just how capable you are of unplugging. If you know you’ll need to check in with the office once or twice a day, you might want to choose a vacation destination that’s at least within striking distance of civilization.

With all this in mind, I’ve come up with 5 cool vacations to unplug with your teen AND make amazing memories. Depending on how “unplugged” you’d like to get, these vacation ideas are listed in such a way that the farther down the list you go, the harder it will be to secure an internet signal. 

5 “Off the Beaten Path” Vacations to Unplug With Your Teen


Exploring Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula

The Keweenaw Peninsula is a great place to get away and unplug with a teen who loves hiking, mountain biking, and rock hounding. It’s that little fang of Michigan that sticks up into the cold, majestic water of Lake Superior.

The only reliable cellphone signal is at the base in Houghton-Hancock and a little bit in Copper Harbor near the point of the peninsula. The rest of the Keweenaw is unspoiled wilderness with verdant green forests, tons of hiking trails, and agate-laden beaches.

If your teen just got their driver’s license, the town of Hancock is a good opportunity to test their skills. It has a lot of one-way streets and split-second turns that will challenge even the most confident new driver.

Summer in the Keweenaw is festooned with scenic cycling trips, waterfall tours, and remote hiking trails. The nearby cold waters of Lake Superior also mean pleasant temperatures, which makes this a great vacation to beat the summer heat.

Winter brings massive snowfall to the Keweenaw Peninsula, but if you can tough it out, you and your teen will be treated to world-class snowmobiling and skiing, plus tons of local winter festivals and events that are hosted by the two universities in Houghton-Hancock.

If you know your teen needs to have at least “some” contact with the outside world, or you need to check in with the office, the city of Houghton makes a great home base. The waterfront district is a great place for an evening walk, there’s plenty of Wi-Fi in town, and a lot of great artisanal restaurants to enjoy. Then you can spend the day exploring the majestic wilderness of the Keweenaw Peninsula and the Porcupine Mountains.

For more information about Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, CLICK HERE

Camping on Florida’s Forgotten Coast

Florida’s Forgotten Coast offers just the right mix of unspoiled beaches to unplug with your teen, with modern amenities reasonably nearby.

This is a stretch of coastline and barrier islands in the panhandle of Florida where the Apalachicola National Forest meets the Gulf of Mexico.

If you make your reservations early enough, you’re spoiled for choice of accommodations. If your teen isn’t into roughing it, you could rent an RV or if your teen needs all the comforts of home, there are a lot of cottages and rental homes to choose from.

Though the real gem of an opportunity to unplug with your teen is to camp on St. George Island. You can get away from it all with your teen to do a little shore fishing, canoeing, and hiking along the rustic natural beaches.

The ideal time to camp at St. George Island is during the winter or early spring when the bugs and humidity aren’t a problem. It might just be the perfect way to take your teen on a spring break trip without getting caught up in all the party noise the college kids are making everywhere else in Florida.  

For more information about Florida’s Forgotten Coast, CLICK HERE

Exploring The Black Hills of South Dakota

South Dakota’s Black Hills is a premier destination that draws tourists from every corner of North America. 

Unless you fly in, you’re going to be a little wiped out from the long drive (no matter which way you’re coming from). So, why not take a few days to check off all the bucket list items like seeing Mount Rushmore and the Badlands?

If your teen recently got their driver’s license, the needles highway is a perfect crash course in switchback mountain driving. It even comes out at Custer State Park, where there’s a good chance you can drive right up to a real buffalo herd.

Once everyone has recovered from the drive, and you’ve toured the main attractions, you can unplug and delve into the majesty of the Black Hills National Forest. There are a lot of options to consider. If you need amenities, you might want to check out one of the family-friendly KOA campgrounds. If you’re willing to get away from it all, there are primitive campgrounds and rugged dispersed camping areas everywhere.

However, I think the best opportunity to unplug with your teen in Black Hills National Forest is to do a little dispersed camping. There are tons of rugged campgrounds on public land that have established campsites with awe-inspiring views, and tons of hiking trails.

For more information about the Black Hills of South Dakota, CLICK HERE

Contemplation in the Mojave Desert

The Mojave Desert in the Sierra Nevada mountains is a great place to unplug with your teen and get lost in contemplation.

Though the timing is a little bit of an issue. If you’re not accustomed to soaring heat, then it’s best to plan this trip for the winter months – perhaps even the second half of your kid’s winter break.

Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, and the Salton Sea are two of the best areas to set up as your home base. The easy thing to do here is to secure a vacation rental or get a nice hotel room with good air conditioning. The area is easy enough to tour in a single day. North to south, the drive from the Salton Sea in the south to Death Valley in the north is only a five-hour drive.

Still, you’d be cheating yourself out of the full experience if you didn’t spend at least one night camping at the edge of the Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, or the Mojave National Preserve. Not only is sunset and sunrise in the desert inspiring, but the chance to get out with your teen and lose yourself in the starlight of a true dark skies experience is immense.

If you’re making it a family trip, it might work out best to get a hotel room in Palm Springs or Palm Desert. Then you can strike out taking day trips to all the area hot spots. 

For more information about the Mojave Desert, CLICK HERE

A Canoe Trip on Montana’s Upper Missouri River

The Upper Missouri River of Montana is a place where cell signal and Wi-Fi dare not tread, which makes it an ideal area to completely unplug with your teen.

This is also a popular spot for Lewis & Clark history buffs with tons of connections to their epic journey. Not to mention the sweeping vistas at every bend in the river.

There are also a lot of guides and outfitters who provide you with everything you need and escort you down the river for a reasonable price. Many even offer discounted rates for youth under 15 years old. The three-day package will give you the full experience without wiping you out. Though some outfitters also offer four-and five-day trips for those who are a little more accustomed to roughing it.

The great thing here is that the outfitters also handle cooking duties. This isn’t the warmed-over can of beans cooked by the campfire that your teen is sure to gripe about. They make full-blown bacon, egg, and pancake breakfasts, build-your-own deli sandwiches for lunch, and grilled suppers that are straight out of a cowboy steakhouse restaurant.

The guides know all the best places to camp with the most creature comforts. They even build in time to enjoy the dark skies and stargazing that you can only find in a handful of places on Earth.

For more information about Montana’s Missouri River, CLICK HERE

About Eric Beuning:

Eric Beuning balances being a single father with being an entrepreneur and professional writer. He builds his flexible schedule around his daughters, to be a hands-on parent. He’s an experienced traveler, an avid gardener, and a foodie with a personal philosophy that strives to find wisdom in every experience. He brings this to bear when working with area youth groups and guiding his own daughter through the everyday challenges of growing up.

If you enjoyed reading, “5 Off the Beaten Path Vacations to Unplug With Your Teen,” you might want to check out these other posts!

10 Cool Spring Break Vacations for Families with Teens and Tweens

6 Ways to Connect with Your Teen: Step into Their World

25 Things to Do With Your Teen Before They Leave Home

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