How to improve holidays with children

'I've found a trip fit for a teen'

Not long back from half term in Crete and I'm licking my wounds. Gone are the days of blissful paddling and building sandcastles; suddenly I'm blessed with a nearly-teenager who wants to lie in bed until lunchtime or chill with his mates (that is, anyone but me).

On one sorry occasion, I made the mistake of suggesting a boat excursion. Note to self: never tell a teenager that he might enjoy something. He'll just go all floppy and huffy and you'll end up having to appease him with dangerously addictive fizzy drinks. But all is not lost.

Companies such as Hands up Holidays (0800 783 3554; handsupholidays.co.uk) offer some fantastic adventures aimed at teens, and even more amazingly, they get them doing something useful at the same time.

These are a far cry from your typical resort holiday: take their 16-night Ecuador Encounter, for example, where your kids get to help teach English and maths to the remote highland community of Rio Colorado. And their trip to explore Serbia includes some time helping with village repairs and renovations after the disastrous flood last April.

Exodus (0870 950 0039; exodus.co.uk) is also determined to get teenagers out of their beds and doing something positive with their families. The company has just launched a range of Teenage Departures, including a trip to Turkey's Turquoise Coast and an adventure in Vietnam where it offers snorkelling in the South China Sea and cooking lessons.

For those big kids who are suffering post-GCSE exhaustion, meanwhile, Keycamp (0870 700 0740; keycamp.co.uk) has come up with the novel idea of rewarding them with their very own free tent, to share with their mate when on holiday with the family. The Free Space initiative is offered at 15 sites in Europe until mid-July.

One word of advice though: whatever you do, don't tell the kids they'll enjoy it - you'll regret it.

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