No one likes to be trapped with a whiny, bad attitude for hours in a car. And it’s even worse when the kids do it! Kidding aside, grumpiness is contagious so it’s better to banish it before it begins. Use my favorite tween travel tips before and during your trip to keep them involved, interested, and engaged. They’ll be happier and so will you!
Tween Travel Tips – Before You Leave
- Travel Binder — A simple 3-ring notebook can go a long way toward avoiding the cooped-together-in-the-car craziness. One for each kid, and there won’t be any more “That’s MY pencil!” or “MOM! He stole my last piece of drawing paper!”
- Show them how to make a Road Trip Travel Binder, and let them fill it with the printable activity pages below.
- Snack Mix — Keep them busy, and help get them excited for the trip by letting them make their own snacks. Start with a basic chex mix recipe, and add ingredients, switch flavors, or make both sweet and savory options. Try these snack mix variations, or let them use their mad googling skills for good instead of evil. Store in an airtight container. Plus, it’s harder to whine with a full mouth. (Works for grown-ups too!)
- Audio or eBooks — Have teens and tweens choose a few eBooks or audio books (fantastic option for kids who get carsick) to download to their devices before the trip starts. I like to have these as options for driving in the dark, in hotel rooms when someone is asleep and the lights need to be off, or (Gasp!) when wifi and cellular service aren’t available. Borrow from your library or buy online, and read either on the Kindle Reading App from any device. Vacations are an ideal time to use free trials, since you tend to use these services more often when traveling. Two good options for road tripping are:
Get Two Free Audiobooks when you try Audible and
30-Day Free Trial of Amazon Kindle Unlimited
- Travel apps –This age group can find helpful apps faster than they can find a clean sock in the middle of an empty room. Again, let them use their powers for good to find apps for traffic, route maps, and interesting roadside attractions, along with destination-specific apps (national parks, theme parks, hiking trails, museums, etc.). Let them choose some things they find to see along the way.
Tween Travel Tips – Activities On the Road
- Travel Scavenger Hunt — This game was such a memorable part of my road trips as a kid, so I had to
torture my own childrenpass down the fun. Read why we limit electronics in the car, and Download my free printable road trip scavenger hunt here.
- Story Cubes — A Schauer family favorite! Roll the dice, and use the pictures to create a story, each person taking a turn to add parts. The results are creative and hilarious! We’ve used them waiting in restaurants, during sibling sports events, in theme park lines, and of course, in the car. They’re easy to transport, and since the cubes have pictures they’re great for all ages. If you’re looking for a project, make your own by painting pictures on small stones.
- Coloring Pages — Use free pages like these Printable coloring pages from 100 Directions, or pick up a book geared toward your tween’s specific interests. Colored pencils are great for blending color and don’t melt in a hot car, which make them a travel winner. Don’t forget some plain white printer paper for free drawing. Are you an adult dreading what seems like your 168th hour of trying to tune out the backseat chaos? Try this adult coloring book: A Case of the Mondays by Carla Schauer Designs. Coloring is also the perfect activity for pretending you can’t hear children tattling on each other. Get it here.
- Route Map — Print a map of the areas you’ll be traveling, grab one at your local AAA, or pick up a road atlas for kids. Then, use a highlighter to map your route and note any planned stops. You’ll never have to answer any “are we there yet” questions, and they’ll get a good look at the geography of the area. I won’t tell them they’re learning if you won’t.
Tween Travel Tips – Anytime Travel Sanity Savers
- Digital Camera— The tween years are the perfect time to invest in a good quality digital camera, since this age group is better able to keep track and take care of them. Having their own photo memories is important to tweens and teens. Plus seeing what they deemed important enough to photograph is a hoot for parents too. You may get a phenomenal landscape photo you had no idea your kid was capable of taking, or a blurry picture of a squished worm.My kids each have a Fujifilm FinePix XP ( XP120 or older version). I like that it’s weather and kid-friendly (waterproof, shock proof, freeze proof, and dust proof), and they love that they can take it into the pool too. Floating wrist straps are also handy to have for water trips.
- Photo Scavenger Hunt— Create a list of photos for your tweens to take throughout the trip, adding silly fun photos along with some landmarks you’d like them to look at more closely. Fun ideas can include: selfie with a theme park character or park ranger, animal in its natural habitat, and statue of someone on a horse. Use your imagination! This is also a great source of photos for a family trip photo book and a fun look at your trip from everyone’s perspective.
- Geocaching— Use the satellite coordinates of each geocache to find the hidden container. Containers can be large or small, and some even contain small items to trade. There are likely some near your travel route or destination, so it’s an exciting way to stretch your legs. All you need is a free account and the phone app. However, a handheld GPS can be also be useful, especially in low service areas. Register and find out more at geocaching.com.
- Trip Journal— Kids and parents can use printable journal pages and a 3 ring binder (tip: use the travel binders to keep pages together) or a printed trip journal book to record the “what, where, and when” parts of the trip. One person’s “Greatest ball of twine EVER!” is someone else’s “Boring, stupid, heap of rope. I can’t believe we had to stop for that.” A great creative alternative is to use an instant camera and a Smashbook for an on-the-go vacation project that doubles as entertainment and a keepsake of vacation memorabilia. Win-Win!
A great bag of tricks can make the all the difference. Will these tween travel tips ensure smiles and rainbows every minute of the road trip? Well…not likely. If you can accomplish that, you have the holy grail of offspring. Thank your lucky stars, do a little happy dance, and raise your glass to those of us in the trenches.
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