Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored or partnered post. All ideas, suggestions and content herein are strictly our own, based on our experiences, trial & error, and success.

Some of the same tricks we can use for traveling with our little ones (see our suggestions here) can also be used for the big kids. For example, trays and seat organizers are still useful even when the kids retire the crayons and opt for solitaire, crafts or puzzles. Trays are so convenient because smaller pieces can be contained and the convenience of the tray on your lap cannot be beat. 

Another example might be to add a twist to the license plate game, whereby offering a small reward or point system for correctly identifying the state capitals of vehicles from varying states. Same game… just upgraded. 

It goes without saying to remember their earbuds but if you are looking for a more inclusive ride, give up some control over the radio. Better yet, upgrade to a streaming service on a temporary basis or download playlists ahead of time. Grab a favorite book series to share for periods of time (Harry Potter, maybe?) with breaks for independent time. 

While we’re talking about car ride… consider making special stops for your rest stops. For instance, if we happen to pass a sign for White Castle… we’re stopping. Done and done. Around here the usuals might be Wawa or Starbucks, but I know that a spontaneous stop at White Castle makes my son feel valued… understood, and well… happy and full. 

One of my favorite tricks… I mean tips… to an engaging road trip with my preteen/teen is to pack a couple brainteasers. Assuming I’m not the driver, I’ll pull out a brainteaser puzzle, which I’m terrible at btw, that in turn becomes a comical exchange as I “struggle” assembling or manipulating said puzzle. Next thing you know… the kid’s got it and is more than occupied. Plus we all shared some laughs. A favorite, although I have yet to solve it… is XXXXXXXX. And our newest brain teasing puzzle was featured in our Easter Gift Guide here… it actually never made it to the basket because I personally loved Ubongo so much as a bedtime activity. Here are a few other favorites from the years… all perfect for a long road trip and that Perfect Travel Tote.

And if laughs are what you’re after… well MadLibs always does the trick for us. Oldie but goodie.

Moving past the transportation tips… let’s get into a couple suggestions for our tweens & teens in planning our travel time. It is always good to get buy-in and their perspective, who knows it might lead to unexpected and surprisingly entertaining revelations. For example, years ago my son’s obsession with US Presidents led us to an outdoor Presidential sculpture museum in Virginia, which sadly is no longer available for tour, but at the time was a small treasure to find. Other examples, depending on your child’s expressed interest, may include a tractor ride at a local farm or feeding the sharks at an aquarium. For assistance in planning an AMAZING & ENGAGING family vacation, you can learn more about my course: CRAFT COMPELLING FAMILY EDUCATIONAL VACATIONS THAT KEEP KIDS CURIOUS!

Invest in a point & shoot camera (if your child doesn’t have a camera phone). Share the below 3 photography tips with him/her and challenge him/her to the following photo scavenger hunt for the duration of your vacation: 

  • Photo of nature
  • Photo of vehicle other than car (vintage truck, boat, snow mobile, etc)
  • Family selfie
  • Scenic postcard shot
  • Hidden treasure (object almost out of view)
  • Selfie with flag
  • Self representing photo (art, horses, soccer, something of personal interest)
  • Unexpected photo of siblings/cousins/parents
  • Selfie with _____________________
  • Image with something seasonal or theme related: beach ball, hockey puck, mittens, pumpkin, ice cream, umbrella, _________________, etc)

Incorporate downtime. Teens and tweens need an opportunity to decompress, text, rest. Giving them some non-scheduled time will make them feel respected and allow them to recharge. 

Consider the menu. Seriously. Pack the snacks… the cool stuff. If they just crave pizza… skip the fancier options and maybe do the local tomato pie thing. Add in an extra appetizer. Look for meal options that are themed or double as entertainment (ex: Medieval Times).  Make an afternoon stop for Starbucks or DQ. 

Planning a vacation is serious business but don’t forget to add something fun or silly, or completely unexpected. Finding a little something that specifically speaks to your child, will offer a memorable experience, as well as the feeling of being supported and valued. An example might be a car show, magic show, surf lessons, or a theme park. 

Remember Happy TEEN = Happy Travel.