Back home again after our first big road trip for the summer. I drove a group of teens from Seattle to Estes Park, Colorado for camp. After spending over FIFTY hours in the car with teens, I learned a bit. Let me dish on my best tips for preparing for a road trip with teens. Affiliate links are included, I might earn a commission if you purchase from my link.
What to Bring on a Teen Road Trip
We hooked up our DVD players on the headrests, assuming the teens would want to watch movies during the long drive. However, I was shocked to discover they were more into their phones. While they did watch two movies during the trip, two movies over fifty-two hours is a pretty small amount of time. I think teens are perhaps more into texting with friends and playing apps rather than watching a movie.
I’d recommend each teen have a personal device like a phone or tablet to use during the trip. Some of the teens had cell service to allow them to text friends during the drive. My girls only have wifi on their devices, so relied on asking me to use our car hotspot when they wanted to do some chatting or download a new game.
Snacks & Drinks
Munchies were a big part of our road trip. Both for the teens and the adults. Some of our favorites were granola bars, flavored tortilla chips, twizzlers, and fresh fruit. We did pack some plastic jugs of water. The teens could refill their water bottles on our stops if there wasn’t a water dispenser handy. As much as you don’t want to encourage too much drinking, we were headed into a much higher elevation and wanted to keep the teens hydrated to prevent altitude sickness.
If you don’t feel like packing your own snacks, you can always grab great snacks along your route. Consider giving your teens a budget that they have to manage for snacks. If they choose to blow it all on Red Bulls and Takis on the first snack stop, that’s their choice and you’re off the hook for controlling their spending.
Here’s a big tip, make sure everyone has their own headphones. This is especially important if you have a group of teens because they won’t all want to listen or watch the same thing at the same time. In our group of six teens, they were all wearing headphones for most of the trip.
We did have some singers in our group, and sing along songs from Moana and Pitch Perfect were especially popular. We have a bluetooth device that allows for a “DJ” in the car to play their music over the car sound system. Newer cars have bluetooth built into their radios, but if yours doesn’t, I highly recommend grabbing a bluetooth transmitter before the trip. Our teens loved taking turns playing their favorite songs.
If you have book fans, there are some great family-friendly audiobooks that the whole car will enjoy listening to.
Pillows & Blankets
Teens like to nap. We had four cars traveling with 22 teens and many times the cars were quiet. It soon became obvious that boredom and early mornings mean time to sleep for many teens. I recommend having them pack a small pillow (think thin throw pillow or a travel neck pillow) and perhaps a hoodie or blanket in case they get cold from the air conditioning. Not every car passenger agrees on the same comfortable temperature.
This one is important for teens and adults. Take breaks! We used apps and a road atlas to help find rest areas since they often allowed the teens room to roam and stretch their legs. Also, they’re fast to get in and out of for bathroom breaks.
Put the kids to work during your stops so that they get out of the car and stretch. The kids liked taking turns cleaning the windows while the adults filled up with gas. Highway gas stations often have shopping districts nearby which can be a great spot to grab some drinks, food, or snacks during your break.
Extra Road Trip Ideas for Teens
Don’t forget the air freshener and deodorant!
Remember to pack some wet wipes and paper towels for snack food clean-up.
Bring a pump bottle of hand sanitizer for using after public stops.
I have to say that road tripping with teens is easier than taking a road trip with a baby. Yes, you might face some surly attitude or rolled eyes, but in the end, you’ll be creating memories. In my opinion, some relaxed screen rules and a well-stocked car can go a long way towards creating a peaceful road trip experience.