13 Road Trip with Teens Tips for a Smooth Journey

Want to be cooped up with angst-ridden, hormonal teenagers in a small space for hours and hours while speeding down the highway? This may not sound like paradise. But road trips with teens and tweens can be doable and (dare I say it?!) downright fun. That is, if you plan ahead. Buckle up for adventure with these 13 tips for planning a road trip with teens!

Plan ahead for a happy road trip with teens
Plan ahead for a happy road trip with teens (Photo credit: monkeybusiness, Depositphotos.com)

Travel Mamas and Grownup Getaways sometimes receive compensation and/or hosted travel and sample products related to blog posts. This story may include affiliate links for which we receive a small commission at no extra cost to consumers. As an Amazon Associate, we earn money from qualifying purchases.

1. Consider renting a bigger car.

If you own a compact car, then you might want to consider renting something bigger for your road trip with teens, like a minivan or SUV. This is especially true if you’ll be traveling a long distance or you’re road-tripping with two or more kids.

Teenagers aren’t as little as they once were and need more space for those growing limbs. Plus, a bigger vehicle provides more space to pack more stuff, like shoes for those big teenage feet! Take a look at prices from various car rental companies all in one place with Expedia.

Get a vehicle big enough for your big kids for your road trip with teens
Get a vehicle big enough for your big kids (Photo credit: Olegkalina, Depositphotos.com)

2. Prepare teens for the journey.

Teenagers don’t like feeling out of control. (Who does?!) That’s why it’s important to tell your kids in advance all about the road trip so they know what to expect.

First, tell them when the trip will take place. If your kids are like my teen and tween, then you’ll probably have to remind them a few times as you count down the days until take off. If you have one, add the road trip dates to your family calendar, too.

Then, tell teens how long you expect the road trip to take. This includes how many days you’ll be driving, how many hours per day you’ll be on the road, and how often you plan to stop. It’s best to show the road trip route on a map. Some teens may even be interested in researching some road trip pit stops.

Map out your road trip with teens
Map out your road trip with teens (Photo credit: Klanneke, Depositphotos.com)

3. Play travel games.

Entertainment is always a concern when planning a road trip with your offspring in tow. Old fashioned games like I Spy and 20 Questions are fun even for teens and tweens, if done in moderation.

For even more play, buy some compact games like travel backgammon and Loaded Questions On the Go. Get more ideas from this list of fun travel games for all ages.

Lots of games for teens come in travel versions, like backgammon
Lots of games for teens come in travel versions, like backgammon (Photo credit: chrisbrignell, Depositphotos.com)

4. Listen to audiobooks.

Audiobooks provide a great distraction for the whole family. This is especially true when you choose stories that appeal to all ages like the Harry Potter series. Take a look at additional audiobooks for family road trips.

Best audiobooks for family road trips for kids of all ages
Audiobooks entertain the whole family on road trips (Photo credit: Depositphotos.com)

5. Teens like travel toys, too.

You might think your teen is too old for toys. But there are diversions that big kids still enjoy during a road trip. Mad Libs, a Rubik’s Cube, and adult coloring books will help make the miles zoom by. Explore more travel toys for teens before your getaway.

Toys like Rubik's Cube keep teens content on the road
Toys like Rubik’s Cube keep teens content on the road (Photo credit: MilenneT, Depositphotos.com)

6. Keep teens well-fed.

There’s nothing crankier than a hungry teen. Adolescents are growing fast and need lots of food to keep them fueled.

Be sure to pack lots of snacks for the journey. Bring a cooler filled with healthy options like fresh fruits, sandwiches, individually wrapped cheeses, and trail mix.

Allow some special treats, too, like snack-sized candy bars or chips. In my family, we like to pack good-for-you snacks and stop at a convenience store along the route to grab a “naughty” treat or two. Dig into these delicious travel snack ideas.

Pack healthy foods to eat during the journey
Pack healthy foods to eat during your road trip (Photo credit: fahrwasser, Depositphotos.com)

7. Let teens and tweens choose their own music.

Chances are, your kids have different tastes in music than you do. Encourage teens and tweens to bring along headphones so they can listen to their own soundtracks on their smart devices. This will significantly decrease arguments over what songs to play.

Let teens choose their own music on road trips
Don’t fight about road trip tunes (Photo credit: lightpoet, Depositphotos.com)

8. Watch movies on the road.

There are plenty of unplugged car trip activities to keep your family content, but a bit of technology can go a long way on the road. If there ever was a time to let kids zone out on videos, it’s during a long car trip.

Rejoice if your car or rental vehicle comes equipped with a backseat entertainment system. I have even been known to climb into the backseat while my husband drives so I can watch movies with my kids during road trips.

Kids can also watch films and TV shows on their smartphones or tablets. Be sure to download movies or bring along DVDs for the journey. For travel-themed options, pick from this list of travel movies for kids.

Watching movies can make the miles zoom by
Watching movies can make the miles zoom by (Photo credit: cunaplus, Depositphotos.com)

9. Limit video game play.

Some teens will want to bring along handheld gamers or play video games on their smartphones. Keep in mind that playing video games in a moving vehicle can lead to car sickness.

Therefore, you’ll want to limit this activity on the road. Better yet, make teens and tweens wait until your family reaches your destination before they power up.

Save video game play for the hotel room
Save video game play for the hotel room (Photo credit: nito103, Depositphotos.com)

10. Be prepared for motion sickness.

Hormones often play a role in causing motion sickness. Since teenagers’ bodies are filled with an abundance of estrogen and testosterone, even if your children haven’t experienced car sickness in the past, they might during adolescence.

Reading or watching screens in cars can increase motion sickness, so set technology limits before leaving home. Come prepared with motion sickness medication like Dramamine, just in case. To avoid or handle the nausea caused by movement, read our motion sickness tips.

Be prepared for motion sickness when traveling with teens
Be prepared for motion sickness when traveling with teens (Photo credit: JJFarquitectos, Depositphotos.com)

11. Reward good teen behavior.

To keep sibling fights and sassy backtalk to a minimum, offer rewards for good behavior. Yes, I am suggesting you bribe your teen travelers.

Kids who go an hour or two without arguing or complaining can earn a Starbucks stop or convenience store treat. For teens with a valid driver’s license, offer the opportunity to drive for a portion of the trip.

Teenage girl driving a car
My teen daughter driving (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

12. Stop to stretch those growing legs.

Sitting still is not easy for young minds and bodies. When planning your road trip itinerary, be sure to make room for pit stops along the way. Scope out parks and exciting roadside attractions before leaving home. You might want to bring along a Frisbee or soccer ball for play at rest areas, too.

Cabazon Dinosaur Park road trip pit stop
Plan to stop at roadside attractions, like the Cabazon Dinosaur Park (Photo credit: mkopka, Depositphotos.com)

13. Go with the flow.

You may have misty water-colored images in your mind’s eye of the ideal road trip with your teens. You might picture the whole family singing along to the radio and happily playing the License Plate Game without complaint.

As with any journey, however, a road trip with teens comes with ups and downs. Spending hours crammed together can make anyone start to feel crabby. When parenting on the road, the best path is often the easiest one, so pick your battles and enjoy the journey!

Smiling parents and teens on a road trip
Road trips with teenagers aren’t all smiles, but they can be fun (Photo credit: monkeybusiness, Depositphotos.com)

Get more teen tips!

Big kids love Disney just as much as little kids. Read our tips for exploring Walt Disney World with teenagers and Disneyland with teens.

Explore Arizona, Utah, and Nevada with this incredible Southwest road trip itinerary.

Ready for a long-haul road trip with your teens? Check out these tips for planning a cross-country U.S. road trip from our friends at Crazy Family Adventure.

If your teen is starting to think about life after high school, here’s what to consider for a gap year and how to plan a college tour.

Red Arch Tunnel near Bryce Canyon
Red Arch Tunnel near Bryce Canyon, a portion of our suggested Southwest road trip itinerary (Photo credit: jaymudaliar, Depositphotos.com)

Save these road trip with teens tips!

For future reference, be sure to save these teen travel tips. Simply pin the image below to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Road Trip with Teens Tips

Do you have any questions or tips for planning a road trip with teens? Let us know in the comments below!

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Just the information I was seeking. My husband and I are planning a 3-week road trip with our 3 teenage grandchildren this summer. I will definitely make use of the ideas you shared. Thank you.

  2. Hihi….you got that right when you shared that I should consider renting a bigger car. Teens always “demand” their space and this may be hard to come by, in a tiny car. Also, preparing them for the journey does wonders for everyone.

  3. These are great tips! But fortunately for us, our teens are good travelers. My daughter plays with her tablet and my son listens to his music and sleeps. We took him off to college this summer and it was actually a good trip!

  4. Ah, I can’t wait until we get to travel like this again! Patiently waiting for the COVID vaccine to be available in Canada for me to take. 🙂

  5. There are some really good ideas here for sure, I think the key is deffo to prepare in advance and be organised x

  6. These are great and helpful tips and will definitely be following this once we go for another road trip. Thanks for sharing!

  7. This was some solid advice, I have a 17 year old at home whom I am trying to get to go with us… I will try some of your tricks 🙂

  8. I needed these tips. My oldest is a tween, and I can already tell I’m going to need these tips. She’s gotten a bit surly already.

  9. Those are all awesome road trip ideas with teens. We used to take long road trips (between 12 and 22 hours) in our 1974 Volkswagon bus and then a 1991 Plymouth grand voyager. We did many of those things you listed. Back in those days, there were no ipads, ipods, etc. One time we did rig up the car to be able to plug in the TV and VCR haha and watched movies. Good memories!