Essentials you need to survive a family road trip with tweens
OK, sure, your tweens don’t wail uncontrollably every time you strap them in their car seat – in fact – you can probably even ditch the car seats and additional child restraints altogether!
No more need to strategically plan every stop around feeding times – as long as they’re fed and watered at regular intervals, you can certainly stave off the hangrys and cover some decent miles – but how else can help you survive a road trip with tweens?
Calling in the experts from familyroadtrip.co, they’ve helped us with these 10 fabulous tips for how to plan a road trip with tweens.
- 1. Plot the Route
- 2. Passing the Mile Markers
- 3. Family Games in the Car
- 4. Keeping Tweens Self-Entertained on Road Trips
- 5. Listen to Podcasts and Audiobooks Together
- 6. Regular Road Side Stops With Tweens
- 7. Change Things Up
- 8. Collecting and Road Trip Memorabilia
- 9. Keeping The Peace
- 10. Road Trip Snacks!
- What to Pack for A Road Trip With Tweens
1. Plot the Route
While you might have a basic plan of where you need to be by nightfall, let your tweens help with the day planning. Show them the distance you need to cover and let them plot your stops.
Google Maps or apps like Road Trippers or Roadside America are great for picking out roadside stops. And Pinterest is an ever-ready source of inspiration for family travel.
The random and unplanned stops on a family road trip are often the most fun. Build in time in your itinerary for unscheduled stops that might catch the eye, too, insta-perfect picture-opps to a farm gate sale, your days don’t need planning to the nth degree!
We’d also suggest adding some shorter driving days where the attractions you’ll visit are the main event rather than the miles you’ll cover. Remember, it’s the journey, not the destination, right 😉
2. Passing the Mile Markers
Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
Yep, No matter how many times you road trip with your kids, this NEVER grows old!!
Why not find a fun and creative method though for dealing with this:
- Keep post-it notes with the mile markers on the car roof, they can take one down and get a reward for every mile marker completed.
- A dollar is added to their spending money for every X miles completed without asking how long.
- Get their math brain working! Ask them to calculate the miles per hour you’re traveling, how big the fuel tank is, and the cost per gallon. The first one to work out the cost per gallon of your journey before you hit the next mile marker wins a prize or can choose the next playlist.
3. Family Games in the Car
Outgrown I-spy? Not to worry, there are plenty of family games with no props you can play perfectly for the tween group. Why not try these fun road trip activities with tweens:
- Would You Rather? Challenging questions giving an ultimatum, how will they answer? They can be practical or completely outrageous!
- Bored of counting cars and number plates? Time to get technical with our older kids! It might depend on your landscape, but what about a points system allocated for different animals or unique vehicles, buildings, and roadside signs – take sides of the car and add your tally at the end of each day.
- Alphabet games give hours of mental challenge – you can do a simple listing game – pick a category and go around the car naming things A-Z until someone can’t answer, then they’re out – eg, animals, countries, cities, people’s names, sports teams. Or make it more challenging; the next word needs to start with the last letter of the previous word!
- Road trip trivia games are our favorite for this age group – these can be apps on your phone with prompter questions like Popcorn Trivia or Jeopardy! World Tour, games you can bring with you like Do You Really Know Your Family or make up your own trivia games.
- What about some brain-twisting riddles? Let your tween play game master with this selection of Riddle ideas.
4. Keeping Tweens Self-Entertained on Road Trips
We’re not going to deny we occasionally use electronics in the car, but not as the default!
Here are some non-screen road trip games for tweens can try if they’re looking for fun ideas and activities to undertake on their own:
- Journaling – this is the perfect age for your child to start a travel journal of their very own. Collect memorabilia and tickets along the way. You can start with a completely blank journal or there are plenty of specialized travel journals with basics ready-filled that kids can use.
- If paper journaling isn’t their thing, what about making their own video diary? Everyone is a budding YouTuber or TikTok star these days. Why not get them hosting their very own travel show? Whether it makes it to air is another story, but plenty of fun to practice their camera skills and reporting on the road. Using simple apps like CapCut they can make their own video edits.
- Brain Twister Games – your tweens aren’t too old to be packing a few entertaining toys for a long journey. Some basic brain teasers or even a classic Rubik’s cube will keep that brain ticking. Or keeping hands and minds busy, what about Origami?
- Coloring Books – mindful coloring is the perfect way to pass the hours on the road or old-fashioned activity books from word search to logic problems.
5. Listen to Podcasts and Audiobooks Together
Whether it’s for listening together in the car or on their own devices, having a great collection of tween-friendly podcasts for the car and audiobooks are great road trip activities for tweens.
Podcasts can provoke some great road trip conversations – try the likes of Short & Curly and Brains On make for good all-around family entertainment.
Audiobooks are more immersive and excellent for kids who would otherwise suffer from motion sickness as they can sit back with their eyes shut and just listen.
Don’t forget a good set of headphones if everyone wants to listen to their own thing too.
6. Regular Road Side Stops With Tweens
Our tweens are still bound with energy, and being couped up in a car all day will only exacerbate this, yet the second you suggest you’re going to stop and actually go on a hike…
You will be the judge of your child’s character. If you know they are up for longer hikes, it will be ideal to place a nature stop en route with an opportunity to stretch the legs properly.
** Remember US families, when your tweens are in the 4th grade, you can get your FREE Every Kid Outdoors pass for visiting national parks across the country.
Some kids are simply more city folk, timing your stops for a town, or well-known tourist attractions may be more their thing, grab some ice creams or find an amusement arcade for a few hours.
Distances and the importance of breaks on road trips
It’s important to remember just because they’re not tiny kids anymore, it’s unreasonable to expect them to do excessive hours sitting still.
There should be at least one quite physical activity built into your days: hiking, an inflatable amusement park, or hopping on some bikes. All of you need to keep your bodies moving, and a change of scenery with outdoor activities is essential – rain or shine. Regular restroom breaks are still important, too.
And don’t forget your tweens can start to suffer from motion sickness. Even if they didn’t suffer as young children, this can kick in during their tweens. Frequent fresh air breathers (especially on mountainous drives) and some Dramamine might be in order.
7. Change Things Up
A change is as good as a holiday? Well even once you’re on the move this is true.
Why not change up the seating pattern in the car. While your tweens may not yet be tall enough for a front seat, often rotating siblings along the back seat (especially if there’s a child stuck in a middle seat or squished in the back row with the suitcases!) will help break up the journey and make sure everyone’s getting a fair go.
Even without siblings, a grown-up sitting in the back with them so they can play some games together also helps.
Or can you travel in tandem with another family? Kids will love mixing and matching between families, and it definitely breaks up the conversation and experience for everyone – go all boys and girls, or all younger kids and older kids in one car.
8. Collecting and Road Trip Memorabilia
What can your tween keep from your trip? Aside from journal keeping, here are some fun things to think about – perhaps with the pocket money they can make from the mile marker game?
- Fridge magnets
- Pressed Pennies
- Caps or t-shirts
- Key chains
- Christmas ornaments
- National Park Passport
It’s important you set an overall budget for roadside stops and vacation spending. This way, we keep it even amongst our tweens, and there’s less tendency to waste on superfluous purchases when they have to balance their own spending.
9. Keeping The Peace
It’s all fun and games on family vacation until it isn’t; we know how much your tween siblings love a good squabble for no apparent reason. Yes, they looked at you funny; how do you deal with this?
As much as there might be a reward system in place for good behavior and pocket money, think about what penalties apply for misbehavior away from home. Some might keep their regular system of rewards and discipline they use at home or think up something imaginative away from home.
Attaching behavior to reward money, snack choices, and sound control in the car seems to work well for us. You’ll want to set the ground rules with your tweens on expected behavior on the road at the outset.
10. Road Trip Snacks!
How could we have possibly of left this until last?
Snacks are the answer to all your travel woes with kids of all ages.
Long road trips especially, keeping the kids regularly fueled up – though not overhyped on sugar – undoubtedly helps pass those miles and get that little more out of their patience and stamina.
Keep to low-sugar and low-salt snacks where you can, as you’ll soon work out that over-hyped kids in small, confined spaces can be a recipe for disaster. We have a great list of healthy road trip snacks for kids here to give you some ideas on how to keep your tweens fueled up.
What to Pack for A Road Trip With Tweens
Remember, if you are taking any sort of family vacation with your tweens, we have a downloadable packing checklist you can use over here, plus plenty of advice here on the best types of luggage for tweens to keep them packed and organized.
Tween Road Trip Essentials
Road trip essentials for tweens we always check we have in the car with us:
- Electronic devices (loaded with games, podcasts, audiobooks)
- Water bottle
- Neck pillow
- Small backpack with toys/games
- Coloring book/journal/activity book
- Spare Battery Charging
Car-ready supplies for the whole family
- Wet wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Car seat organizer
- Motion sickness tablets
- Back up paper maps
With thanks for this fabulous contribution from Jane at familyroadtrip.co – make sure you pop over and check out all of their road trip essentials, destination ideas, and family road trip tips.
- Still not sure where to head on your family road trip with tweens? We have this great round-up of suggestions for the best tween family vacations
- Even if you’re sticking around home, try these fun summer outdoor activities for tweens