Coast of Northern Spain, in the right corner the beach with people on it, on the right in the middle a mountainous area, on the left the ocean and above the almost cloudless sky
Kids,  Road Trips,  roadtrip

15 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip with Tweens

Each age category of kids has different rules and tips on how to travel with them, tweens are no exception.  So I’ve asked fellow travel bloggers for their best tips for road trips with tweens. We’ve already given you tips on a road trip with a baby and on a road trip with a toddler, but road trips with tweens is totally different we discovered the last couple of years with our son. Here are 15 road trip tips with tweens.

Road Trip with Tweens

We’ll look at road trip ideas for tweens, from how to keep tweens entertained to what to bring on a road trip for tweens. First we’ll be looking at road trip games for tweens.

Games

1. Car Games

Contributed by Jill from One Day Travel Guides & Photography.

This one takes a little bit of advanced preparation before your trip, but having some car games at the ready always makes a road trip easier! Especially if you’re looking to cut down on screen time. A few go-to classics in our family were the License Plate Game, Radio, and War. Exactly how it sounds, the License Plate Game is when you have your kids (or the whole family) look at the license plates going by and see what states you pass! Then at the end of the trip you count up your total – you’d be surprised how excited you can get from a far-away state!

In Radio, you don’t actually turn on your radio – but instead the kids pretend to be each station! They can be talk show hosts, they can sing hit songs, etc. But when the driver “changes the station,” they quickly have to change up what they’re doing! It can lead to a lot of laughs. Lastly, it’s always smart to have a deck of cards hidden in the car. The classic card game War used to entertain my sister and I for hours in the backseat. 

2. Electronic Games

Playing on the Ipad, Yuri is sitting in the backseat. He has the Ipad in his hands
Playing on the Ipad

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

Our son doesn’t get car sick and loves to game. Whether this is on the iPad, the Switch or his 3DS. He’s responsible for making sure they’re fully charged before embarking on our road trips. Either at home or in a hotel on a stopover for the next day.

Since our son doesn’t get car sick, how long he looks at a screen doesn’t matter. He gets to decide how long he plays games in the car, this way he has the most fun on our road trips. When Yuri was younger we decided how long he got to play games or watch movies, since if he had too much screen time, he got cranky. That’s no longer the case, so he’s in charge.

3. Download Entertainment

Road Trip by Wyld Family Travel, two girls standing next to a car
Road Trip by Wyld Family Travel

Contributed by Bec from Wyld Family Travel.

When you are on a road trip with pre-teens having age appropriate entertainment is key to a successful trip and has to be a travel with teens essentials. Before you leave home you should make sure you have downloaded some off line entertainment for them to enjoy along the way. Try to delete any unwanted apps, games or photos off the device to make sure there is enough room for all the things they want to download and try to find ones that don’t drain the life of the battery quickly.
You can easily get games, movies, music and books that you can use on your device that can keep your pre-teens happy on a road trip.

4. Set Ground Rules for Tech Use

Contributed by Keri-Jane from Tween Parent.

There’s no denying that whilst we want our tweens to be engaged with what’s going on around us, and with each other, there can be some long and boring stretches of travel when you’re on the road. Yes, we allow electronic devices to be used, sometimes!

It’s important before you set out on your family road trip to have some ground rules on the expected use of tablets and other electronics for entertainment when you’re in the car.

There’s no “one size fits all’ solution, you will need to find a rule that fits your family and your road-tripping style and length of journey. But some ideas include: No devices on journeys under 2 hours, no devices inside national or state parks, one hour of family games/interaction before you can plug in and tune out, or set a maximum number of hours per day electronics can be used – in or out of the car.

We do always factor in, even on our busiest driving days, that everyone is entitled to an “evening chill time”, where they can choose whatever activity they want for 30 minutes to an hour. Not surprisingly, the majority of the time our tweens will save up their tablet time for these evening sessions (no doubt when we have Wi-Fi at our overnight stop!), a worthy reward for seeing through the day with human interactions instead!

Planning

5. Swimming Pool

Cooling off in the swimming pool, a swimming pool outside with Paul and Yuri in the back. In the background mountains
Cooling off in the swimming pool

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

Try to book hotels or campgrounds with a swimming pool on your road trip. After a long day of driving or several days of driving, being able to jump in a pool is perfect to compensate for all the sitting in the car. They and probably you will get some exercise and fun. Our son loves to go swimming with us on our road trips, so we try to book hotels or campgrounds with pools.

Especially at campgrounds it’s also a perfect way to meet kids their own age. This way they can play and chat with someone their own age, which is a good change from the companion of their parents or brothers/sisters the rest of the day. This makes it one of the perfect road trip activities for tweens.

When after a road trip we ask Yuri what he liked the most of the road trip, there’s almost always a hotel or campground with the best swimming pool in his top 3.

6. Involve Them in the Planning

Contributed by Adriane from Put on Your Party Pants.

Long road trips with pre-teens can be challenging, particularly if they are not interested in what you are doing. Let them get some skin in the game. Involve them in the planning. Their tech skills will come in handy.  

What interests them?  Where can they get their favorite foods? What festivals or events are happening at the time you pass through the area? Where can you visit as a family that everyone will enjoy?

Even if your ultimate destination is not somewhere they want to go, let them add stops and activities that appeal to them. Apps like Roadtrippers can help. There are hidden gems everywhere.

7. Packing a Day Pack for the Car

Tween girl in car by Chasing ADVNTR, a girl sitting in the car with a large backpack on her lap
Tween girl in car by Chasing ADVNTR

Contributed by Gretchen from Chasing ADVNTR.

Managing all the car trip gear when you’re on a family road trip can be overwhelming. Trying to find everything you need, sifting through your luggage to find a sweatshirt, or facing crabby kids because you don’t have a snack on hand can turn an amazing road trip into a challenge. During our 5-week road trip last summer, we created a system to help manage and organize everyone’s stuff.

Each kid kept a car daypack with them in the car. This car daypack was their storage and day activity bag and each morning they were responsible for packing their bag. The car daypack includes basic activities for the car (book, journal, games, headphones, and a Kindle), basic needs for the day (water bottle, healthy snacks to get them through the drive, any personal items), and everything they needed for the day’s activity (this would typically include layers, bathing suit, change of clothes, etc).  

Not only did the day pack make organizing the car easier, but it also gave our kids control and ownership over their gear and put the responsibility of keeping track of their gear on them instead of us. It was up to them to have the right layers, drink water, and take basic care of themselves throughout the day. It does take time to perfect the day bag packing, especially for younger kids, but once you have the system down, it’s a great way to keep you organized and ready for any adventure!

8. Pit Stops

Road Trip by Wyld Family Travel, a grils standing next to a car on a stop
Road Trip by Wyld Family Travel

Contributed by Mark from Explore Victoria.

If you are on a road trip with pre-teens you need to know some top places for a break. When you are travelling with kids toilet breaks and snack breaks can easily become out of control with constant stops. Travelling with pre-teens is easier and you can plan ahead on where to stop. Google Maps is a great way to set your route and plan out a couple of stops along the way that are the best for your needs. Stopping at designated places or tourist attractions along the way can enhance your trip with added places to see as well as fulfilling the toilet/food breaks as well!

9. Taking Turns in the Front Seat

Contributed by Nicole from Go Far Grow Close.

As the mother of four, balancing the wishes and demands of four kids has often been challenging. This was especially true when they hit the pre-teen years when older kids thought they had the right, by virtue of their age or size, to take the front seat or control what went on in the car, like what music was played. That was fine when the younger ones didn’t notice, but eventually they did. For my sanity and sense of fairness, I had to find a way to balance everyone’s interests when I was planning a trip

What I decided and what worked was to give each one of them a turn in the front seat (if I was taking them on a road trip without their dad). The rule was that for that whole day, they got the front seat. In addition, they got to control the music. This was only subject to me not liking a song, but other than me objecting, no other child could complain about the music. Everyone knew that they would get their chance so everyone calmed down and waited their turn.

Essentials

10. Books/Comics

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

For us among the road trips essentials for tweens are books and/or comics. When your kid doesn’t get car sick, it’s a perfect activity to do on the road. Yuri loves to read a fun book such as Diary of a Whimpy Kid or comics. He will giggle out loud and have a ton of fun.

So let them pack some books, comics and an e-reader, so they can read. If your tween suffers from car sickness, let them read on pit stops and/or in the evening at the hotel or campground. If they choose their own books they will be entertained and enjoy reading as a way to slow down.  

11. Listen to Podcasts

Listening to podcasts in the car by Bon Voyage With Kids, two boys sitting in the backseat, one with a tablet and a head on, the other with a book
Listening to podcasts in the car by Bon Voyage With Kids

Contributed by Keri from Bon Voyage With Kids.

One of our favorite tips for road trips with pre-teens is to plan or download some podcasts you can listen to as a family. Podcasts are one of the best road trip activities for kids. Because our family’s music tastes differ, with our preteen and nine-year-olds wanting to listen to vastly different tunes, we have found podcasts to be a lifesaver on our road trips. We also try to avoid videos, as our younger son gets car sick from watching TV in the car. But podcasts have turned out to be a great way to keep our entire family entertained, especially with entertaining and mystery podcasts made for kids. 

Our whole family gets involved, and we often can’t wait to get back into the car at roadside stops to find out what happens next! It is also cool enough for our preteen and entertaining for our nine-year-old twins so that everyone is happy. And the best part is that rather than everyone zoning off on their own electronics, we are doing something together as a family, which gives us something to share and bond over during our long drives. Some of our favorite podcasts for teens include “Wow In The World” and “The Past And The Curious.” 

12. Lots of Food

Lots of food!, all placed on a table as seen from above
Lots of food!

Contributed by Karilyn from No Back Home.

One of the best things to have on hand and prepared when road tripping with a pre-teen or teen is a ton of food! If you have ever spent time with a pre-teen boy you will know what I mean! For our family road trips, such as the one from LA to the Grand Canyon, we tend to pack a good selection of snacks as well as a cooler that are easily accessed in the backseat (or wherever your teen is sitting!).

In our cooler we have drinks, cheese sticks, fruit that is easy to eat on the go, such as mandarins or grapes and snack packs. Additional items to consider are yogurt drinks, salami or other sandwich meat. Non-cooled snacks we bring include vegan jerky, a selection of nuts, yogurt covered raisins, popcorn, pretzels, and a few sweet treats. Having lots of food on hand helps cut down unnecessary food stops as well as helps save money while on the go!

13. Tween-oriented Audiobooks

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

One of the things we do as a family on road trips is listen to audiobooks. Our son loves this, but where it used to be Road Dahl stories we listened to, now we’re listening to high school stories. We’ve listened to almost every “Hoe overleef ik …” (How do I survive) books, a Dutch series of a girl and her tween and teen troubles.

First we had the audiobooks as cd’s, but since our car doesn’t have a cd player anymore, we now download them. We use our Kobo subscription for this, but Audible would also be excellent. We all love listening to the stories and Yuri usually hopes for a long driving day so that we can listen to a lot of stories.

14. Headphones

Headphones are a good idea, Yuri in the backseat with headphones on and one hand in the air
Headphones are a good idea

Contributed by Corritta from Itz A Family Thing.

As an aunt of five nieces, with three of the five being pre-teens, the best advice I have is to always buy separate headphones for pre-teens. For some reason, tweens love to fight over everything. There is always an argument about the music, movie, podcast, book, or game and road trips seem to increase the arguments because you are confined in the car for long periods.

Having headphones for your teens will save you a headache, trust me, I’m speaking from experience. 

A rule that we have is that everyone gets to listen to whatever they want for the first hour and a half, then we have to interact together for an hour and a half before anyone can listen to their headphones.

Creating this rule has helped us reduce the bickering between our nieces and make the road trip more enjoyable. Everyone gets to listen to whatever they want, but we also have time to talk and play games together as a family. Plus, this makes the time go by faster, especially for long road trips. 

15. Motion Sickness Bag

Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.

If your tween suffers from car sickness then bring a motion sickness bag with you and place it where they can easily reach it. If they have medication for this that helps, make sure to bring it with you.

Other things that can help is to let them sit in the front seat. This is what helped for my husband when he was a tween. He could keep his eyes on the horizon. My parents used to open a window so that I had fresh air, this helped immensely for me as a tween.

That’s a Wrap on the Best Tips for a Road Trip with Tweens

So go on that road trip with your tween, they might not like everything but there will be plenty of moments to make long lasting memories.    

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