Family Road Trips with Teenagers

Traveling with kids of any age takes work. What works on one trip might not work on the next, especially if you’re traveling with a teenager and especially if that travel involves numerous hours of family togetherness in the car. Fine-tuning the ins and outs of traveling with teens, sometimes referred to as Generation Z or “centennials,” is tricky, but it can be a game changer when it comes to family time in the car.

Driver in Ford automobile
Road Trip Planning Tips

Family road trips tend to revolve around the school calendar – summer, holidays, and long weekends are popular times to pack up and get out of town. Stretches of time together in the car creates opportunities for talking, laughing and listening. But left on their own, family togetherness and happiness typically only last so long. A little bit of preparation goes a long way toward extending the free-wheeling fun, and together with Ford Motor Company, we’ve curated the below tips to help you out on your next family road trip this summer.

Include Teens in Family Vacation Planning

The best trips include something for everyone in the family. Talk to your teen before mapping out the trip. They don’t get to call the shots, but letting them be involved and make some choices will help build excitement about the trip. Whether it’s helping narrow down activities and tours or picking a hotel with a pool, having a say in the planning makes it harder to complain when you’re in motion.

Roadside Eats

Never underestimate the power of food. Pack plenty of healthy snacks for your journey, maybe letting your kids indulge a little with treats you don’t typically buy at home. Make sure the cooler is easily accessible, so you don’t have to stop the car when someone wants to grab a drink or bite to eat.

No matter how well you pack and plan ahead, you’ll like have to eat a few meals on the road. Do a quick search to see if your teenager’s favorite food can be found anywhere along your driving route. A familiar dish can go a long way in an unfamiliar setting. Surprise stops for frozen yogurt on your journey can be a good way to stretch your legs and maybe even discover a new neighborhood.

Many cars come equipped with smart features that enable quick searches for nearby destinations. Ford SYNC in-car communications and entertainment system also includes popular apps such as Domino’s, Spotify, Pandora via AppLink that can ensure the drive is fun and interactive from the food they eat to the music they listen to.

Ford SYNC In-Car Communications System
Ford SYNC In-Car Communications and Entertainment System

Behind the Wheel

Depending on the age of your teen, driving or learning to drive may be a part of your family’s summer itinerary. Don’t let that disappear. Driving dos and don’ts can help keep teens engaged during long stretches on the highway. If your son or daughter has their driving permit or license, be sure to find some time for them to safely get behind the wheel. Technology can contribute to safer situations on the road involving new drivers including teenagers, but parental involvement is key. Ford technologies such as MyKey, Blind Spot Information System and Active Park Assist can make the drive safer and more convenient for both parent and teen.

Keep Teens Charged

Even the most remote locations have internet access these days. Asking your kids to take a break from their phones and other electronic gadgets, makes sense, but taking them away completely could send your vacation into a tailspin (especially since teenagers send an average of 109.5 texts per day and multitask across five different screens).

Keep Teens Connected

If you let your teen use popular social media like Instagram and Snapchat at home, don’t suddenly change the rules on vacation. Ford found that 65% of “Gen Z” respondents like to share something funny they saw on social media more than anything else.* So let them talk to their friends – if you’ve done your road trip homework, there’s a good chance they are bragging, I mean, sharing the adventure with their friends.

New 2016 Ford Explorer
Enjoy Family Time Outside of the Car

Room to Roam

Days in the car need to be balanced with time to stretch your legs. That applies to everyone in the family, not just mom and dad. Try to factor in room to roam when you choose a hotel or resort to spend the night after a long day on the road. Learning about the property’s grounds in advance will help determine how much freedom your teen will have during your stay. At some locations, within hours of your arrival, a majority of the staff will recognize and most likely even know your child’s name, which allows for more freedom and independence so that a teen can wander freely – with watchful, caring eyes everywhere.

Be Flexible

One of the biggest differences between a teenager and the school-age set is that teens don’t need – or more importantly want – their days scheduled from start to finish. Whereas little ones love being busy and thrive going from arts and crafts to scavenger hunts to puppet shows, teens are happy to do a lot of well, nothing. Whether it’s floating in a pool, or seeing a movie after a long day on your feet, the best trips leave time to relax. Sleeping in is one of the best things about vacation. If your kids are sleepers, give them time to do it. Some days you’ll need to be up and moving early, just make sure it doesn’t become a daily occurrence. If you are a morning person, learn to cherish the “me” time.

*Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), an independent research company, conducted a poll on behalf of Ford Motor Company among 1,000 Generation Z (aged 16-22) and Generation Y (aged 23-34) respondents in the U.S. The online survey was conducted between April 29 to May 4, 2015. The margin of error for this poll is +/- 3.1%.

Need Help Planning a Family Road Trip? We Can Help!

Need more comprehensive guidance? CB! Vacation Consultants specialize in helping families book travel to top destinations around the world. Our expert consultants do everything from recommending and booking accommodations (including a qualified option not featured on Ciao Bambino) to developing comprehensive multi-stop itineraries that include activities and vetted guides. For more information and to request assistance, go to our Connect with a Travel Advisor page.

Editor’s Note: Ford Motor Company compensated Ciao Bambino to publish this article. Photos provided by Ford Motor Company.

Relevant Links:

Browse all of our family road trip tips on Ciao Bambino

Tips for traveling with tweens and teens

A Grand California Family Road Trip

Preparing for a California Road Trip with Babies and Toddlers

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