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A Complete Guide to the Best Road Trips with Teens, Kids, and Tweens (2023)

Plan the Best Road Trips with Teens

A road trip makes an amazing adventure and travel experience but having the best road trips with teens and tweens takes some planning. Just the idea of hopping in the car to spend hours with a teenager sounds crazy, which makes it even more important to plan ahead. The best road trip with teens and tweens is one where you are visiting a great destination or people and everyone’s enjoying (at least some) of the experience!

Over the last few years, we’ve done several long and many short road trips with our teens and tweens, including a 5 week cross country car trip, an epic single-day 21-hour drive from NH to Georgia, and countless 5+ hours smaller road trips. We love the freedom to travel by car and we’ve put together this guide so you can plan the best road trips with teens.

Also, check out 20 Not Boring Things to do on a Car Trip with Teenagers or our Complete Road Trip Planning Page.

If you want a comprehensive guide to planning road trips (this one’s long!) check out: 12 Steps to Create the Perfect Plan for Road Trip Success (A Complete Guide)

5 Quick Tips for Planning Best Road Trips with Teens and Tweens

Read below for 5 quick road trips with teenager ideas that you can use to plan your next road trip.

1.Pack activities and snacks for the car.

Yes, your kids aren’t in the baby or toddler stage anymore, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need snacks and fun things to do on the road! If you need ideas for road trip activities for teens, make sure you check out the post here. We also ask our kids to pack snacks for each day and make sure each teen or tween has their own water bottle. It’s tempting to stop for junk food (and this is definitely part of a long road trip) but try to balance this with healthy foods as well.

We also work to set expectations before the road trip. Will your kids get to use their phone or other devices the entire trip? Are you all listening to the same music together? Are you expecting your teen to play games the entire time? A little upfront conversation helps keep things running smoothly. The tween and teens in our family are understanding as long as they know the expectations upfront.

The way you handle electronic time is your own family’s decision. We like to use the 1/3 rule. We ask the kids to use their screens no more than 1/3 of the drive, for the next 1/3, they can listen to their own music and audiobooks (but no eyes on screens), and for the last 1/3 of the trip they need to engage with the other people in the car. If we are traveling through an epic destination, we ask them to look up from their screens and enjoy the drive.

Road Trips with Teens: Exploring Italy and Slovenia

2. Plan interesting stops and balance driving time versus stopping time

No one likes to drive for 10 hours straight! Decide what is a reasonable driving time and try to find some interesting stops along the way. These stops should be active whenever possible – walk on a beach or trail, stop at a park, check out a scenic overlook, get some food, and more. We usually try to keep our food stops short since this just involves more sitting.

We also have a rule that when the car stops, everyone gets out. Ideally, everyone uses the restroom but at the very least, everyone needs to take a break and stretch their legs.

Road trip with kids
Road Trips with Teens in Badlands National Park

3. Pack the car for success

When we left on our road trip for 5 weeks last summer we continually packed and repacked our car until we had everything just right. The most important thing we did was to make sure that everyone in the car had a day bag. This included any clothes they might need for the day’s activities, headphones, chargers, snacks, and a water bottle. We also try to keep a few extra snacks, a first aid kit, and a charging station ready at all times. We use a car charger with several ports to keep everything charged. We also keep a pocket juice on hand for charging devices in the back of the car.

Click here to see the charging station we use.

When you pack the car, put the things you are least likely to use at the bottom of the car and the things you are most likely to use at the top. This makes the day easier. If you’re camping put all that gear at the bottom or in a roof rack. We also travel with a cooler that we try to keep accessible during the day and in a place that is easy to add ice or drain off the water.

See more about what we bring and how we pack the car here: The Complete Road Trip Packing List for Families (5 Lists to Make Packing Easy)

4. Choose an amazing road trip destination

Sometimes you are simply road-tripping from point A to point B, but choosing an amazing road trip makes the whole experience more fun. Visit someone special, choose an amazing city to visit or explore some National Parks on your next road trip with teens and tweens. The best road trips with teens include an amazing destination. Look below for some road trip destination ideas.

When possible get your older kids involved in the planning process (see more below about this!)

See our Favorite Places to Travel with Kids of Every Age.

Road Trips with Teens: Hiking on our road trip in Italy

5. Get everyone onboard

If you’ve read other articles here on Teen Travel Adventure, you will know that we believe that trips are better when everyone gets involved in the planning. This doesn’t mean that you need to get your teen to sit and plan your entire trip (my kids easily get overwhelmed with this level of trip planning). Instead, ask your teen or tween to agree on a place to go, or ask them to choose an activity or destination along the way.

On our recent 5-week road trip, we asked the kids to map out our general planned trip on the first part of the drive so they at least knew which states we would be visiting. We also asked them to plan an activity or place to stay so they were invested in the trip.

Where to Stay on Your Road Trip with Teens?

You’ve got two main option for places to stay when you are planning a teen road trip. You can camp (in either a tent or RV) or stay in a hotel. If you are on a long road trip, I would recommend do a combination of both. This helps to save money, but working in some hotels once in a while can be a nice break and everyone can take a warm shower.

If you are camping, you will need a lot more gear. For the car portion of the trip, this means that you will need storage. We like to keep our camping gear on the roof in a Thule roof rack – we’re able to keep 5 sleeping bags, a tent, and sleeping pads in one roof rack. We also like to road trip with our bikes so having a good bike rack for your car is important and we love having our bikes for when we get to the campground or take a break.

Having a roof rack and a bike rack makes a HUGE difference on having enjoyable road trips with teens.

The type of rack that works best depends on your car. You can see some great options below.

If you don’t want to camp, you will likely want to stay at hotels along the way. You can book in advance or find the best place to stay as you drive. Make sure you download your favorite hotel app before you leave so that you can search for places on the road. We like to use a few apps, but is easy to use and to search.

Looking to plan a road trip on a budget? Check out Road Trip on a Budget: 36 Tips to Save Money in Europe

What to Bring on a Road Trip for Tweens and Teens

Having a great packing list for a family road trip with teens and tweens means everyone can get ready on their own and have everything they need. You will need to pack specifically for any special activities based on the time of year and the weather. Here is a base road trip packing list for tweens and teens.

Road Trip Packing List for Teens: Clothes

  • Shorts/pants
  • Tshirts/long sleeves shirts
  • Warm layer (fleece)
  • Rain Coat
  • Rain pants/wind pants
  • Sandals
  • Sneakers
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Hat
  • Bathing Suit
  • More clothes/layer for the winter

Personal Items and Other Things to Bring on a Road Trip for Teenagers

  • Tooth Brush/toothpaste
  • Hair brush/hair elastics
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Feminine products
  • Soap/Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Jewelry

Road Trip Essentials for Teens

  • Book
  • Electronic Device with things downloaded/charger
  • Paper/journal/pens
  • Headphones
  • Snacks
  • Backpack
  • Reading Lamp/Headlamp
  • Water bottle

Other Items for Your Road Trips with Teenagers

  • Camping Gear
  • Bike or hiking gear
  • Road Maps/Guide Book
  • Camera
Road Trips with Teens

Amazing Teenage Road Trip Ideas

There are so many amazing road trips to take in the US and around the world and where you can go depends on how much time you have, whether you plan to drive from home, or whether you plan to fly and rent a car. Planning road trips with teens in mind means choosing a cool place to visit. Here is a list of some amazing road trip destinations to take with your teens in the United States:

  • Road to Hana, Hawaii
  • Road trip around Utah to the 5 National Parks
  • East coast road trip – from Maine to Florida
  • Olympic National Park
  • US Route 66
  • Blue Ridge Parkway

Check out our One Month US Road Trip and follow along with us on Instagram as we take a 2 week road trip this summer in the Pacific Northwest.

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