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Surviving Car Trips with Tweens and Teens

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Our road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway

In the world of smart phones, traveling with tweens and teens is, in some ways, quite easy. Leave them to their devices, earbuds firmly in place and you’re not likely to hear from them unless they’re hungry.

However, road trips are about family. Connections. Relationships.

Those earbuds interfere with that!

So, how does a parent engage their tween or teen in the adventure? How can you connect?

Don’t fight ’em, join ’em. My husband and I participate in games with out kids. Words with Friends and Hang with Friends are popular, quick and easy. Yes, it might seem silly to play back and forth in the car, but it draws them out. What could be better?

Engage them in travel planning. Our teens help plan our trip. The oldest, our techie music-man, prepares a road trip specific playlist (or two or three). One playlist we include on every trip is “Name that Tune.” He selects songs across many eras (I’m old) and genres. He plays just a few seconds and then shuts it down. We try to guess the song. Ironically, his little sister, only 7, tends to win. She’s got quite the ear! He uses the same Name that Tune playlist the whole trip, and by the time we get home, most everyone can name each artist and title (except me — I do NOT have my daughter’s ear).

He also prepares a “stuck in traffic” playlist and an “almost there” playlist. This last one has upbeat songs to keep us going at the end of a long travel day.

Our second son is our foodie, and hollow-legged traveler, who helps with food planning and packing. He enjoys it because he is able to influence our choices during travel and he knows that the food got packed!

Beyond the road trip specifics, encourage teens to research the destination. If they don’t get to it before travel, bring vacation guides along and ask them to do research in the car. If they complain, mine don’t, remind them that if they don’t help plan they can’t complain when you take them to the doll museum! They’ll help.

Take breaks! Just as young children need breaks from the car, so do teens and tweens. We pack a frisbee and a football on car trips, which we use at rest areas to break up the trip. A picnic lunch doesn’t take the same amount of time as ordering food from a restaurant, so we use the time gained to play catch. Everyone is in a much better mood after a friendly game.

Let them sleep! Teens need more sleep than preteens. Yet, they get the least amount of sleep of all age groups. (No wonder they’re grumpy.) A car trip is a great time to let teens catch up on much needed sleep. By the time you arrive at your destination, they’ll be refreshed and ready to go.

Traveling with teens and tweens really can be fun! How do you engage yours on trips?

Happy travels,

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