One of our favorite activities as a family is to pack up and go on a spontaneous road trip. For instance, for our 25th anniversary this year, we decided on a Friday night that we would drive 750 miles one way to Colorado Springs, Colorado for a fun weekend and include our 14 year old son. If you have teenagers, you know that going on a road trip with a teenager can be an adventure in itself!
A road trip with kids can be difficult enough but traveling with teenagers is a whole different story! Needs change as kids get older. They go from constant rest stops to change diapers and the never-ending toddler songs (grandkids are very much into the baby shark song!) to the boredom or embarrassment to be seen in public with their parents.
Going on a road trip with a teenager can also be very rewarding and fun! You just have to know how to keep them entertained and you’re golden!!
Road Trip with a Teenager
In the time that we have spent in the car with our teenager, we have come up with some tips to keep him entertained while actually enjoying himself on the trip. Because the main point to the get-away is to make memories and have fun with the family, right?
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Match Interest to the Destination
The last road trip we took was to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and we had the best time. So for this road trip, our son wanted to see if the Rocky Mountains look the same or any different. We also let him decide on some fun areas to explore while we were there. I have found that our teenager enjoys trips more when he’s involved with the planning and destinations.
Our son is also very interested in history so for the next road trip, the plan is to travel to the Smithsonian or find a route that documents history such as Route 66. While he is living at home and taking trips with us, he will be a major influence on where we go and what we do.
There will always be time when it’s just my husband and I to go to all the places that we want to but we usually have a great time no matter where we all go together as a family.
Accept their Moodiness
It’s inevitable that a teenager will have times where they are just moody. This is a good time to give them space and let them be by themselves for a bit. I have raised 2 teens. With another at home, I know that their attitude will change and they’ll be back to their happy selves in no time. Choose your battles because this too shall pass!!
Schedule Down Time
This brings me to my next point. With teenagers, it’s very important to schedule some down time. Sometimes, they like to chill out watching a movie or YouTube instead of always having an activity. This is okay. They just need to recharge before setting off to do another adventure. To tell you the truth, I am all for recharging and regrouping!!
Set a Budget for Their Souvenirs
It’s really easy when you’re on road trips to want to stop at all the fun shops along the way to gather souvenirs from different places but it also can be very expensive!
Give them a budget to pay for their own souvenirs so they can choose wisely and won’t break the vacation bank.
Snacks, Snack, and More Snacks
Let’s face it, teenagers love to eat! One of the best things that you can do for your road trip is to bring a cooler and stuff it full of snacks and drinks. If you don’t have room for a big cooler, you can always find smaller ones for everyone in the family to have their own. We like this Coleman cooler because it’s easy to stow and go.
Some of our favorite snacks included granola bars, pretzels, fruit that are already cut up, nuts and water.
We also let him bring some junk food for the long ride. He is definitely a foodie and loved to have a mix of items to choose from. We also loved the flexibility of driving at our pace instead of always stopping because he’s starving!!
Try Something New on your Road Trip with your Teenager
While on the road trip, our son helped us plan out most of the trip but we also encouraged him to try new things. Sometimes, we went off the beaten path and found the most amazing adventures.
For instance, we saw a sign for a waterfall but didn’t realize that the only way to see it was to take a shuttle bus. We were disappointed that we didn’t get the chance to see the falls but we ended up driving up the most beautiful mountain and made several stops to enjoy the scenery along the way. He loved it!
Give Them a Task
One of our teens most favorite things to do is to use his phone as a GPS for our destinations. I would give him the destination and he would tell us exactly how to get there. Another task that we would give him is to go on Yelp to find the best restaurants in the area.
He would be so proud that he was able to be a big part of the trip.
Road Trip Essentials
Teenagers need familiarity to be comfortable on long road trips. We made sure to pack his pillow and a light blanket for naps. We also packed chargers for all of the electronics and headphones because, of course, he doesn’t like to listen to our music!
Another essential that sometimes gets overlooked is a camera. If your teen doesn’t have his or her own phone, buy a disposable camera and let them preserve memories of the trip. They might surprise you with some of their photography skills!!
Road Trip Games with a Teenager
Take some fun games on your road trip. We love Our Moments because it provokes great conversation starters while on the trip. Of course, we also love the classics like the license plate game and travel bingo. Cards games are also great to bring along especially if you have multiple children in the car.
This whole list from Amazon is actually amazing for some fun times with the kids!!
Pack Extra Patience
No matter what you do or plan, sometimes a road trip with a teenager can really try your patience. They might not act like they are enjoying anything and everything you do is annoying them but just remember that, secretly, they really are having a great time and they will remember this time together forever.
Even if they might die of embarrassment just by admitting it!
Our impromptu road trip to Colorado was definitely a success! We ended up making it an extended 4 day weekend and would love to return soon to see more of the things that we missed.
Check out our latest YouTube video to see the highlights of our trip:
Do you have any tips for traveling with teenagers that you want to share? Leave a comment below!!