Traveling with teenagers can be a challenge, but it can also be a lot of fun. If you’re planning a road trip with your teen, there are a few things you can do to make the trip more interesting and educational – but don’t TELL them that!
Before you hit the road, take some time to plan your trip. Decide what cities or towns you want to visit, and map out a route. If you’re planning on visiting national parks or other historical sites, be sure to make reservations in advance. Remember, teenagers really love the odd and weird. Think ghost towns, restaurants with unique food offerings, and generally weird stops that will be memorable and fun. The oddball stops don’t necessarily have to be the destination but try to add a few to pass along your route. Overplanning is never a waste of time!
Pack the Right Stuff
When you’re packing for your trip, be sure to pack plenty of activities for your teenager. Even though they are old enough to pack for themselves, they may only bring their cell phone. Make sure to pack games, books, and movies, as well as snacks and drinks. You may also want to pack a backup portable charger for electronics just in case one inadvertently gets lost along the way. I also suggest that your teen pack fun outfits, dresses, etc. You will no doubt encounter some good ‘Instaworthy’ photo spots, so how thrilled will your teen be if they know to bring a cool outfit for some pics at golden hour? They’ll fight you on this one, but once a teen sees the photo magic results from some well-thought-out pic destinations, you’ll be the future photographer of choice.
Learn About the History of the Places You Visit
When you’re visiting a new place, be sure to learn about its history. Read up on the local history before you go, or ask a local resident for recommendations. Learning about the history of the places you visit will make the trip more educational for your teenager. If possible, try to tie in whatever your teen is learning in school. For example, if they are studying the early workings of the US government, Washington DC, Boston, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia make excellent stops.
Take Advantage of Educational Opportunities
There are many educational opportunities available while traveling. One of the best values out there is visiting our National Parks. I recommend getting the National Park Pass and then you don’t have to keep paying for each one while you travel. The National Parks in the US are beautiful and well-run and many have lodging right there at the park. I’ve personally never had a bad meal at any of the National Park restaurants as well! If time, please plan on taking a ranger-led tour. For some reason, kids may not necessarily listen to parents, but they certainly listen when other educators are speaking – so take advantage of this perk at the Parks.
Teens generally dislike hiking. Find hikes or walks that have a destination point of interest. Can you pick blackberries? See wildlife? Cool hillside ruins? Dinosaur bones? Plan well and no one will realized they had just walked five miles.
Make the Trip a Family Affair
One of the best ways to make a road trip more enjoyable is to make it a family affair. Prior to the trip, gather and chat about the path and discuss options and primary stops. Involve your teenager in the decision-making process. Not only will your teen feel connected to the trip, but he or she will be more vested in the activities.
Things don’t always go according to plan when you’re traveling. Be flexible and be prepared to change your plans if necessary. If your teenager is having a bad day, be willing to adjust your plans to make them happier. Also, remember that eating junk food all day during a road trip is more likely to create a cranky teen. Keep healthy snacks on hand & keep the entire family hydrated, despite how many potty stops are needed.
The most important thing is to have fun! Traveling with teenagers can be a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun. If you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, your teenager will be more likely to have a good time too.