When kids are small, family vacations are a joy. Sure you have to compromise – picking the hotel with the sandpit and swings over the one with the seductive spa or eating in restaurants where the cuisine is, well, not cuisine. But the kids are thrilled with everything, excited by the novelty of being somewhere different and most of all delighted to have the company of their parents all day long.
It’s a bit different when you are planning to travel en famille with teens in tow.
I’ve on more than one occasion seen families stoically trudging around some scenic attraction or heritage site, the youngsters looking bored and detached, the adults smiling grimly, determined that it will be fun, dammit.
The truth is there are not that many teenagers who really want to be in their parents’ company for 10-14 days pretty much without a break. And there are few parents of teens who would not contemplate a day or two on their own with the greatest of longing.
The answer is a vacation within a vacation, for everyone.
Around Ireland there are a number of activity centres or camps where the younger members of a group can meet people of their own age, have fun and get away from their parents for as little as a day or a long as week or more. Many of them cater for families, but that is not the way you want to go here. The better plan is to drop off the teens, say your goodbyes and drive away on your own mini break. Alone.
All of the places below are very well run – you can be quite happy leaving your kids in their care – and have the additional advantage of being located in areas that you’ll be happy to tour while your teens are otherwise occupied.
Delphi Adventure Centre and the nearby Killary Adventure Co, both in Co Mayo, offer a wide range of adventure sports including rock climbing, hill walking, surfing, kayaking and so on, with evening activities such as quizzes, discos, beach parties and barbeques. Both are very well run, with good supervision and are very popular with Irish teenagers.There are 5 day and 7 day camps during the Summer, but if you’d prefer a shorter stay ask – they are good at accommodating those who cannot do a full camp.
If the great outdoors does not appeal, and you are in Ireland in July, then Whizz Kids which runs at the University of Limerick from the 13th to the 17th might fit the bill. There are sports but the main focus is on technology – making and editing videos, creating websites, designing games, doing stuff with phones. Campers stay in campus accommodation.
Horizon run camps at three locations around Ireland (Tipperary, Westport and Mayo). The camps are multi-activity, but campers can choose to emphasise a particular activity such as horse-riding, motor sports or stage skills. Camps last seven days and can be attended as a resident or on a daily basis.
If you’ve a horse lover, the the 5 day residential pony camp at Errislannen Manor in Connemara will fit the bill perfectly. During the day there is tuition, cross country courses and rides along the beach on lovely Connemara ponies, most of which were bred by the owners. Kids stay at a local house where they are looked after very well indeed.
As to how you spend your time while your kids are at camp? Anyway you please!
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