As I write this we are driving to Florida for spring break. It’s about 21 hr. from Traverse City, MI. I am traveling with my husband, my 23-year-old son and our 16-year-old twin boys. As a mom of 6 kids ages 36-16 I’m sharing some of our favorite tips for traveling with teens.
Get them involved in the planning process:
Get their opinion on where they’d like to go. Now we don’t do a whole lot of exotic traveling with the family. We usually head to Florida for spring break. 1. Because my son, his wife and 3 grandkids live in Atlanta so we always stop on the way down and on the way home. 2. My mom lives in FL so we always have a free place to stay. She’s lived there for a lot of years so there aren’t a lot of choices with this trip but as they’ve grown older we’ve allowed them to have some say into the activities we do.
Find out their #1. There has to be something in it for them. I like to find out what the most important thing they would like to do is. Now it can be hard with 6 kids, 3 spouses and 5 grandchildren and try to make everyone happy but this question is always the goal. Having a more democratic travel process will help them feel more involved, and make them feel less like they are just “along for the ride.”
Give them a packing list. Instead of following them around the house, I text my boys a list of things to pack and they go off the text with no arguments and no comments about “what do I need to pack, again”? I do double check that essentials like meds, toothbrushes, deodorant are packed.
Assign seats. This works great with the twins until one of them wants to have the back seat to stretch out. So, we rotate with each stop. This works for us since we are traveling 15 hours at one stretch.
Set a budget for them. It’s so easy for kids to say, “Will you buy me this?” and then you turn around and you hear, “will you buy me that?” I want this? I want that? So that you aren’t always saying no, give the kids a limit they can spend before you leave. This will teach them how to make decisions on what to spend their money on and will teach them the value of the dollar.
Try not to react to the attitude and eye rolls. I know it’s easy to say but if you can you will save a lot of stress and tension. I’m not talking about outright disobedience but they will complain and act irritated but this is where memories are built that will be talked about years later.
Watch your expectations. I can tend to expect everything to go “perfectly” or it’s a bad vacation. That’s a lie! There will be stress and tension, but nothing in life is all good or all bad. Just enjoy the trip and look for the good in every situation.
Things to pack:
- Books: I make each boy pack a book with the hopes that a few pages will get read, if not in the car, at the pool or beach.
- DVDs: Because we have a DVD player in the van we always pack DVD’s so they can watch a movie or two on the road. We’ve pretty much stopped buying DVD’s so we don’t have a lot of current ones. I have the Redbox app and we will search for a DVD that interests us and is close and rent one. We can turn them in at any Redbox. With LONG road trips, this works great.
- Earbuds: This is a must! I’m not arguing about music choices the whole way to FL.
- Snacks: Get their opinion on the kind of snacks they want. I try to follow this within reason. I usually try to bring a hanging shoe bag to hang the snacks in and keep the car semi-organized. I didn’t do that this time and I’m regretting it. I will be grabbing one tomorrow in Atlanta.
- Baby wipes- I may not have babies but I always have messes.
- Plastic shopping bags: Stash some plastic bags in the car somewhere. They are great for garbage, dirty clothes, things you want to grab quickly, etc.
Activities for the car ride:
Teens like their space but I think it’s important to try and connect with them a little deeper than normal everyday life. So, this activity allows me to know their heart a little better.
Skittles game: This is a twist on an icebreaker game I saw online. This is my travel version for families. Pass around a movie theater box of Skittles. Have them take some Skittles. Tell them NOT to eat them.
For every skittle they get, they need to answer the question to the coordinating color.
For every red skittle- a goal.
For every orange skittle- one area that needs improvement.
For every yellow skittle, greatest strength.
For every purple skittle, your favorite_________________.
For every green skittle-one thing God is teaching you right now.
You can download this 4 x 6 card here:
This game isn’t deep, just a way to kill the time and communicate. This would also be a great campfire game.
Round Game: Choose a topic such as Bible characters, sports, TV shows, cities, books, flowers, movies, etc. Then name something within that category. For example, for sports, the first player might say: “Detroit Tigers.” Then the next player names another sports team. This continues until someone can’t think of a sports team, then they are “out.” Play continues until there is only one person left. So you would stay in a category until you have exhausted it and then go to the next.
Do you have any favorite tips for traveling with teens? I’d love to hear them.