Road Trips With Teens & Tweens: Six Tips Parents Need

Like it or not, the summer road trip season is just around the corner. I’m in the ‘like it’ category! My kids? Maybe not so much. Road trips with teens and tweens can be challenging. But hey, that’s (literally) how this family rolls!

For my family of six, the most economical way to get around is in our big family vehicle.

Road tripping is just a fact of life around here, sorry kids!

6 tips for road trips with teens and tweens to make your summer travel & vacation smooth!

Side note: Right now we’re cruising in a minivan, but I’ve got my eye on upgrading (someday) to a big SUV like the 2018 Ford Expedition. This looks like one sweet ride. I got to check it out at our TravelingMom retreat last week and, yeah, this needs to be in my life.

New in the Ford Expedition for 2018: it weighs about 300 pounds less which aids in the fuel economy and performance- you know this mom loves to hear that. Gimme that 360-degree backup camera, yo! I’ll also take the tip-and-slide second-row seats, thankyouverymuch.

The 2018 Ford Expedition would be perfect for your next road trip with teens and tweens.

The 2018 Ford Expedition would be perfect for your next road trip with teens and tweens.

Oh- and you can fit a lot of TravelingMoms, suitcases and beach gear in this baby. I NEED!

Ahhhh… someday. 

It used to be pretty easy throwing the little kids in the car. They took a lot of naps and didn’t have too many opinions on things. The toddler years were surprisingly easy when it came to road trips around here. My how things have changed. With age came a lot of suggestions, drama, angst, and opinions. Road trips are not quite as easy as the once were!

 

Getting Out The Door For A Road Trip

No matter how short the trip or how long we are gone, loading up to leave is always a process in my house.

Calling it a “process” may be giving what happens here way too much credit.

It’s more like an unplanned melee occurring after a much-planned outing. It never fails that we are scrambling to find #allthethings right as we are heading out the door.

Bags to the left of me. Coolers to the right of me. Pillows and blankets, Oh My!

To say getting out the door is a journey in itself is not an exaggeration.

6 tips for road trips with teens and tweens to make your summer travel & vacation smooth!

Yep- there’s a bonus kid on this trip!

You’d think after all the road trips we’ve taken as a family of six we’d have a better system than this, but, well, you’d be wrong.

Oh, we always start with good intentions. There are spreadsheets, maps, and bathroom breaks scouted out along the way. I check and re-check the packing list, adding to it as needed. Snack bags are put together with individual names on them.

The car is serviced, gassed, and cleaned out. Entertainment needs are addressed by age and suitable purchases made on electronics as needed.

We have an all-caps P-L-A-N in place weeks before we ever make it out the door.

This is a nod to my pre-parent days when I managed travel for 20 agents in an insurance office. I share that nugget to say: I have skills  when it comes to planning a heck of a trip for more than one person.

Interestingly I’ve discovered that becoming a Mom both honed and destroyed that skill. All at the same time. Funny how life works, eh?

The good news is that the kids are getting older, and I’m learning to trust in them a bit more when it comes to the whole packing process. I’ve got two tweens and a teen now, and they all love their independence. And I love how they can be trusted to help me with the baby of the family.

My oldest daughter thrives when we give her tasks like packing up for a trip. She’s the little momma of the group and is certain to have my back when I need her. She takes charge of the wee one’s packing needs and oversees the choices that are being made by the 4-year-old.

My boys love that I don’t harass them about clothing choices. When I decided to let them have some responsibility for packing, I also decided that they (and I) would need to live with the outfit decisions they made.

It helps give them some ownership in the packing process and allows me extra time to focus on the trip as a whole. I’ve got to say, road tripping with teens and tweens is getting better now that I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks.

The summer road trip season is kicking off for my family and reminding myself of those tips will help us get on the streets smoother than ever.

6 tips for road trips with teens and tweens to make your summer travel & vacation smooth!

Tips For Road Trips with Teens and Tweens

  1. Expect the unexpected. There was the time my oldest son forgot his shoes. That’s right. 100 miles down the road he lets us know he doesn’t have any shoes. Luckily for him, I had a spare set of flip flops that his man-boy feet hadn’t outgrown yet. Unluckily for him, they were pink. Hey, you reap what you sow.6 tips for road trips with teens and tweens to make your summer travel & vacation smooth!
  2. Kids stink: check their toiletries. Ever have that particular smell come from the back seat? Yep, that’s not your car; it is your older kids. Check that they not only packed their personal hygiene products for a trip but that they are also USING them. I know I said to give them space and all that, but sometimes you do have to get into their business to save the whole family.
  3. Give the kids some space. Our minivan is the perfect size for our family (but see above. Our eyes are on that big SUV!). Everyone has a seat with enough room around them, so they don’t have to touch each other. Do not minimize this important fact: kids should not be close enough to touch each other on a long trip. Nothing good comes from that level of closeness, trust me. Make sure they have enough room to have a small bag packed for their personal use with books, journals, or electronics. Entertainment is key on road trips!
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. One of the beautiful things about traveling by car is the ability to call an audible and change the plan as needed. Did we forget a charging chord? How about that hairbrush? Maybe it’s the entire snack bag (looking at you, Mom, for that fail!). Hey, things happen. But to a tween girl, it may feel like the end of the world. My philosophy is: as long as we didn’t forget a kid or necessary travel documents we shouldn’t have to stop or go back. It seems there’s a Walmart in every city these days; keep driving, and you’ll end up someplace where you can buy what you need, right?6 tips for road trips with teens and tweens to make your summer travel & vacation smooth!
  5. Tweens and Teens need extra time to do, well, anything. So give them plenty of advanced notice when it comes to packing. Be transparent with the expectations and timetable. I start the preparation process with them four days before we leave. It begins something like this, “Hey guys, remember that thing we’re doing in the car soon? Yep. Pack for that.” And three days later I’m sometimes repeating myself, but at least we all started, right?
  6. Everyone needs to pack their patience. From the drivers to the passengers, being in a car for hours at a time can certainly add up. Remember that getting there is half the fun; sit back and enjoy the ride!

Our summer fun is just about to get started. The time together is priceless, and the scenery can’t be beaten. We have a couple of road trips planned that I know will bring wonderful new experiences to my family.

As long as we can get out the door, that is.

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Patty Holliday


Patty is a 40-ish mother of four living in Virginia. A bit geeky, sometimes sarcastic, lover of a candid confession. She's trying to love running, she swears. But much like her marathon, it’s taking a very long time. Ahem. She's searching for the perfect way to balance family, work, travel, and fitness. Perfect defined as high on fun, low on guilt.

TMOM Travel Writer