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Top tips for an awesome road trip with teens

The humble Aussie road trip is making a comeback, and not just on Instagram. More families are packing up shop and chasing the horizon on Aussie-bound adventures. Sure, COVID-19 restrictions probably have something to do with it, as everyone looks for getaways closer to home. But the lure of the open road – of Big Things, camp fires, meat pies, getting lost and the retro aesthetic of a kombi van – definitely plays its part. Now that your kids are all grown up and nappy-free, road trips are a lot less stressful. So, get the family on board and check out this list of top tips for a road trip with teens.

Car & caravan on a road in the Australian outback
Road trips with kids – it is possible. Credit: Blonde Nomads / Family Travel

Travel with an Empty Esky

If you haven’t heard of this movement sweeping social media, then your teens almost certainly have. Share your tourist dollars in small towns most impacted by bushfires and COVID-19. Travel with an ‘Empty Esky’ or make a RoadTripPledge to buy local and support regional economies.

Take family selfies

Satisfy those Insta cravings by taking some gram-worthy snaps of your own. Of course we don’t recommend sightseeing through a lens, but seeking out Instagram spots can be a great way of ticking off Australia’s best sites without even realising it. Have you heard of Australia’s silo art trail? For more top Instagram locations on your road trip with teens, click here.

Pack. More. Snacks.

Scroggin. Trail Mix. Or if you’re Canadian, ‘GORP’ – Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. Whatever you call it, a trusty fruit and nut blend (with the odd choc chip) is an energy-dense snack to tide you over to lunch when you’ve got the munchies. Fresh fruit, carrot sticks, rice crackers and dip is another option. The moral of the story is that you can never have too much food at the ready on your road trip with teens.

Bring re-usable containers for leftovers, and a water bottle for each traveller that you make a point of refilling. Wipes or hand sanitiser never go astray.

Bring a soccer ball

Or a frisbee. Or a cricket bat and tennis ball. Trust us. You’ll never know when you might need it. It will double as a nice ice-breaker for meeting the teens of other families you come across en route.

teenager bouncing a soccer ball from his head
Heads up. A soccer ball in the back of the car is a great travelling with teens tip. Credit: Shutterstock

Document the trip

Depending on your family rules, upload content straight on social media. Or go ‘old-school’ and keep a handwritten journal. Keep a box of mementos that you gather, or record a video diary of daily highlights.

Move to the music

With the windows down and the wind blowing, it is all about the tunes. Take turns picking three songs each, make your own family road trip playlist before you leave, or check out the Long Drive playlists already built by Spotify. Audiobooks from Audible or your local library’s app are a great alternative, as are podcasts. Some ‘general knowledge’ suggestions for teens include No Such Thing as a Fish or Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

Pack carefully

Leave everyone in charge of their own belongings, but encourage minimalism. After all, longer legs require more leg room, and personal space is the trick to keeping people happy on a long car ride. Consider using malleable duffle bags instead of bulky, hard suitcases.

South Coast road trip
Road tripping is a rite of passage for families. Credit: Shutterstock

Share the load

These tips aren’t just about keeping the teens happy. Grown-ups, you deserve a holiday too! Share out the chores – it will help give teens a sense of responsibility. Perhaps allocate a night each for cooking, or run up a chore list.

Configure your car

It might sound like overkill, but a rotating seat roster is one trick to a smooth-running road trip with teens. Save yourselves arguments over who gets the luxurious passenger seat, or who is banished to the cruel realm of the middle seat. Packing a pillow each for some napping in the car is another great idea. Be sure to take plenty of breaks en route to stretch the legs. Have some car games up your sleeve.

Leave a little wriggle room

After a long day bunched up together in the car, don’t be surprised if your teens rapidly disperse on arrival at your destination. Allocate everyone a little free time to do whatever they want to unwind – watch a movie, relax unsupervised by the pool. Freedom of choice is key to a relaxed road trip with teens.

Plan a day in advance

We’re all about the spontaneity, but it can help to have an action plan. Decide on a designated navigator or trip captain who is in charge of playing tour guide for the day’s activities. Research what attractions to visit over dinner the night before.

teenage girl looking at an iPad sitting on a skateboard on the side of the road
Letting teens plan road trip activities is a productive use of screen time. Credit: Shutterstock


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