How to survive a family road trip with teens
Nothing beats arriving in a new city and already feeling at home. That’s what it feels like when you swing the wide hips of your family van into a parking spot with a view and have all the creature comforts on hand.
However, as those who have travelled with kids will tell you, it takes more than a few camp chairs and boxes of sultanas to ensure a road trip runs smoothly – especially as your children morph from tots to teens.
In fact, unless you’ve prepared for this adventure in parenting, your cross-country trip may be more like a scene from Meet the Griswolds.
Here are a few tips and tricks on how to best survive a family road trip with teens in tow.
Plan to stop. A lot.
Avoid the “Are we there yet?” chorus by factoring in lots of stops along the way.
When you do pull over for a break, try and plan ahead and stop at a scenic spot where everyone can stretch their legs while enjoying the local sights – either along a coastal path or through the rainforest.
Adjust your expectations about sticking to a schedule so that you can allow for as many stops as required. It’s much easier to keep teens happy if there’s a playground or water park to play at.
Pack a load of healthy snacks
Plan ahead. If you’re not fond of fast food, you will have to have a box of provisions on hand to deal with hangry (hungry + angry = hangry) teens who will need refuelling more than your car.
Pack lots of healthy high-energy snacks such as nuts and bananas and have options such as cut-up celery sticks, capsicum and carrots on hand.
You can also do your homework ahead of time and let your taste buds steer you towards pit stops with a food focus that will keep the whole family happy.
Use technology to your advantage
Road trips are about taking unexpected side trips, beautiful landscapes, people and places.
While modern technology can certainly detract from the romance of a road trip, it can also be a handy tool to inspire young travellers.
Ask your children to try out an app that can track your trip and keep a map of the route that can be saved. If you’re renting a motorhome, you can also hire a portable WiFi router.
As well as being a wonderful way for your teens to practice their penmanship, writing regular updates in a travel journal or blog is a great record of a family adventure.
While the grandparents will probably appreciate a few postcards, encourage your children to make mini movies using their GoPro to capture and record great family memories.
These activities will keep them busy and help them stay connected with family and friends back home.
Strike a balance
Travelling in a tiny sedan or wagon may result in cabin fever. Whether you’re travelling with small children or with hulking teenagers, it’s worth factoring in time each day for the whole family to burn off energy.
Pack your car with toys – skateboards and surfboards – so that when you hit a local beach break or skatepark the teens can burn off some energy while you stretch your legs before clicking over any more Ks.
Find your rhythm
Encourage your teens to download their favourite music on iTunes and plug into your Road Trippin’ playlist. Surfing and science podcasts are another great form of entertainment on the go.
You can also try and convince your teens you have cred by bombarding them with some of your old-school beats and taking them to their first music festival. Bring on the mum and dad dancing! (Only if you want to completely humiliate them.)
Old-school games such as UNO, a tennis ball for playing classic catches in or out of the water, and a Frisbee are great to take on a road trip as they don’t take up much space. Again, if you have reluctant walkers, encourage them to skate or play Frisbee golf to get from A to B.
If they really are reluctant heroes, set them up under a shady tree while you set off to explore the local area. Sometimes teenagers just need their own space. Ask them what it is they’d like to do instead.
The whole idea of a road trip is to be a bit flexible, but you will have to plan ahead and book a few nights during peak holiday times. And what better way to keep your teens happy then by getting them involved in choosing your beachfront location or luxury resort!
Whether you’re staying at a campsite or a resort, you should also encourage your children to make friends with others their own age, which will make for happy campers.
Pack the bare minimum
There’s nothing worse than having a car crammed so tight the kids are on top of each other.
The weather in Queensland will allow you to keep clothing to the bare minimum. Take plenty of books, a rechargeable lantern, spare blankets and a 12v power board for charging up all those devices.
You should also pack eco bags to encourage your children to travel green.
Although a GPS takes the guesswork out of where you’re going, it’s great fun to teach your children how to read an old-fashioned map and to occasionally change your plans on a whim after getting some great local advice.
Take lots of side trips – it’s only when you pull away from the hum of the highway that you will be able to show your children some of the state’s most awe-inspiring sites.