Parents of teenagers know that as our kids grow up, it gets harder to spend quality time together. Social media, friends, sports, academics and summer jobs often take priority over family time. So how do you get your teen excited about family vacations and use those opportunities to create lasting memories? Plan a trip you know they will love.
Morocco is an increasingly popular destination for families looking for a culturally immersive experience. While children of all ages enjoy this North African country, it is slightly better for older kids. Teens tend to be able to handle long car rides more easily and have (hopefully) gotten past the picky eater phase. Most of all, they’re equipped to appreciate cultural differences and will even find these experiences worth sharing with friends back at home. Morocco has just enough “wow” moments and bucket list-worthy activities to engage even the most reluctant of teenagers.
Most Moroccan itineraries will include a visit to the Erg Chebbi desert in eastern Morocco. These Sahara-like sand dunes offer plenty of opportunities to play and many desert camps to stay overnight — a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
You will arrive before sunset and have a choice of transferring to your camp by 4-wheel-drive vehicle or camels. The camel trek is definitely the way to go. As the sun begins to dip, the shadows lengthen and you can experience the glory of a desert sunset from the vantage point of a camel’s back. This is Instagram gold!
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After a night of music, drumming and stargazing in the desert, plan to get up early to catch the sunrise and spend time playing on the dunes before you break camp. For thrill seekers, giving sandboarding a try is an absolute must! Be sure to assign someone to take photos and videos, because this is a moment your teen will definitely want to share with their friends back home.
Activities don’t have to be exotic or adventurous to be fun for teens. For those who enjoy cooking (or just watching it on TV), a Moroccan culinary class is a great way to learn the cuisine and immerse yourselves in the culture.
In Marrakech, you can take a private family cooking class that includes a shopping trip to a souk for ingredients. Each family member gets a shopping list and money to make purchases — quite an adventure! After buying what you’ll need with help from your guide, you’ll gather in a home with local ladies to help prep and supervise the cooking. Meal preparation even includes a trip to the local bakery. As soon as they enjoy the fruits of your labors, teens will realize that nothing tastes as good in Morocco as what they’ve made themselves.
Now that most teens walk around with a camera in their hand at all times (aka their phone), they have become a bit more snap-happy. And that isn’t just for Snapchat either.
If your teen loves artsy photography or just likes taking selfies in cool places, sign up for a photo tour of the Fes medina. There are endless sites to photograph, from beautiful architecture to donkeys walking through the souk. The photographer can make suggestions on finding cool angles or subject matter. Plus, you’re guaranteed to find spots worthy of an Instagram post.
TIP: When taking photos in Morocco, avoid capturing people’s faces, which is not culturally acceptable.
If you are looking for unique ways to explore Marrakech while learning about its history and culture in the process, try out a motorbike sidecar tour with your teen. Now that isn’t something you see in every city! With one passenger in the sidecar and the other on the back of the bike, you can explore the main attractions around town, visit the more remote neighborhoods or even get into the palm grove outside the city.
Unlike European vacations, which tend to be about history, architecture and art, or an African safari, which is all about the animals, a trip to Morocco is about experiencing a different culture. This blend of North Africa and the Middle East offers immersion into a Muslim country with a touch of French influence.
There is a direct 7-hour flight from New York City to Casablanca, making it as easy to get to Morocco as it is to get to Europe from the East Coast. Yet Morocco feels so much farther away and offers such a unique experience.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Tamara Gruber except where noted.
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