Family road trips seem so quaint, so family-focused, so idealistic . . . before you go. And then there’s the “Are we there yet?” the “I’m going to be sick,” and the “I’m bored” calls from the back seat (long drives tend to do this). Road trips with teens and tweens can be amazing and memory-making experiences as long as you plan correctly. We’ve got some road trip activities for every type of family road trip.
When we plan our family road trips with our tweens (everything from the 3-hour trips to the 13-hour dooseys), we start the research weeks in advance. We choose all the hotel rooms, the restaurants, the apps, the car games and the meds (a necessary evil when you have two kids who suffer from motion sickness). While you can’t plan every detail of a family vacation – and surely, this takes away some of the fun of a road trip on the open road – the more you figure out ahead of time, the less drama (AKA screaming) will emit from the car during the family-friendly trip.
Here are some road trip activities I’ve found to make the “going” just as good as the “getting there.” Try some of these the next time you hit the road:
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You might know Waze as your beloved navigator. My 10-year-old believes Waze is her absolute favorite app ever invented. As soon as I pop in our destination, she grabs my phone or ipad (she doesn’t have her own yet, to her dismay), and she’s in charge of the navigation. It makes her feel very powerful, indeed. Anya loves to over-share details about upcoming accidents, curveballs or anything else that will make the driver nervous. On the bright side, it kept her from asking “Are we there yet?” In fact, she told us every few minutes how much longer it would be until we reached our national park or gas station or rest stop. She also started learning her way around maps, and is an expert road trip navigator now (or so she thinks).
Road Trip Travel Games
This app has just about every classic road trip game in one handy app, including Spot It, The Storyteller, Memory Word Games and more (yes, the American classics). This won’t erase hours of time on the road, but it’s good for 15 minutes of every hour.
My kids and I determine all of our family trip bucket list stops before leaving, and we put all of them into the Roadtrippers app. This app is amazing because it creates a route for us that takes us to all those places (you can adjust your trip as you go).
Got Instagram-obsessed tweens and teens? Then they’ll heart this app. Users upload photos of the meals they ate, and you may not be able to resist stopping at each place along the trip.
Because road trips are all about discovering odd, weird, new things, use this app to find nearby local stuff like a random shark museum or a one-room schoolhouse or a huge statue of a shoe. This app also has a sunset alert, so you can map out your photo opps perfectly.
My children can’t read in the car, so we download books for them via Audible. They can each get their own books (one per phone) so this is a great way for some down time.
Embracing your kids’ souvenirs
On road trips, we end up with some weird stuff. I realize now that all that weird stuff is what makes these trips so much fun for my kids. The “walking stick” they scrounged from the side of the road in Wisconsin that was covered in dirt and quite possibly 457 bugs? It made the rest stops 1 million times better. The piece of ice they grabbed in Quebec that they decided to “rescue,” begging me to keep the air-conditioner on in the car despite the frigid temperature already? It fostered a connection between my girls that stopped them from squabbling for an hour. Priceless.
One per child. We used these for everything from quiet time (noise canceling headphones) when there were too many arguments to listening to music (the majority of the time) to listening to books (once in a while).
Stop and shop
Did we need to pull over at every.single outlet mall we passed? To my daughters, this was essential shopping. Did we need to stop at every independent bookstore? For me, this was the whole point of a road trip. When they were little, I could convince my kids otherwise, but now that they’re older, I try to respect their needs during our family travel. And if that means checking out the local Gap, then we check out the local Gap.
Beating car sickness
We’ve tried everything from magic bands to closing eyes to just about everything we read on the Internet for road trips. The best solution for our nauseous kids during a long drive (or even a short one) is a combo: Kids Dramamine plus plastic bags. With the Dramamine, they’ve never had to use the bags, but they feel more confident knowing they’re there in case they need them. So do we.
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Want more road trip activities and ideas? Check these out: