Top Tips for Road Trips with Teens

By Joshua Davis •  Updated: 02/28/23 •  13 min read

Family road trips with teens can be a fun and rewarding experience, but they also come with unique challenges. Planning ahead is key to maximizing your family time in the car.

Make the hours and miles seem shorter with some strategic, thoughtful planning!

From packing the right snacks to planning plenty of road trip activities along the way, there are several steps you can take to make sure your teen (and everyone else) enjoys your next family road trip.

Here are some of our top tips and great ideas for making sure your journey goes off without a hitch!

Before the Family Road Trip

An amazing family road trip begins with a bit of planning. Before your family sets off, consider these tips:

Get to Know Your Teen First – It’s Essential!

You will have noticed by now that that giant version of your sweet little guy or gal is a completely different person than the one you used to know. Take some time to get to know your teen and their likes, dislikes, and interests before heading out on a road trip.

Cultivate a sense of mutual respect and understanding by getting to know your teenager.

Find moments to ask them questions like:

Be prepared for some typical teenage shoulder shrugs accompanied by seemingly disinterested “I dunno’s. Trust me: you’ve started them thinking.

Give them some time to ruminate and follow up later on.

You don’t have to bend the entire road trip around their every whim. However, addressing their concerns helps you create a plan that’s mutually acceptable and enjoyable for all family members.

Make Sure the Car is Family-Road-Trip-Worthy

The number one cause of Road Trip Grumps is cramming the fam into a car that is too small.

Make sure the car you take is comfortable and roomy enough for everyone – plenty of legroom to stretch out, elbow room between passengers, and plenty of room to organize any snacks and activities without feeling cluttered.

In other words, if the family car is a 2-door Prius, you might want to consider renting something larger for the journey.

Thoughtfully Consider the Duration of the Trip

Sure, you may think spending all of Christmas Break in Yellowstone National Park is a great idea, but your teen may not share the same enthusiasm.

Take into consideration the age and interests of your teen and try to plan a trip that is long enough for everyone to enjoy the journey, but not too long for them to lose interest.

It’s safe to assume they may want to spend some of their time off from school with their friends at home or, as teens often need, enjoying some alone time.

Get Teens Involved in the Road Trip Planning Process

Teens love to have their voices heard, so involving them in the planning process can help set them up for enjoyment on the trip.

Considering your teens input about what to do and take gives them a sense of ownership of the trip.

Ask your teen what they would like to do and see along the way, respecting their insights without judgmenteven if their ideas seem completely whack-o!

Giving them some ownership of the trip will not only help make it an enjoyable experience for your teen. It can also minimize conflict and enhance family bonding during the long drive.

Plus, this takes some of the guesswork out of trying to plan for them, making your job easier!

Scout for Interesting Mini-Destinations Along the Way

If your family road trip will take you further than you can travel in a day, try to plan overnight stops in interesting places. If you can, spend time in the area before continuing your trip.

Look for destinations with plenty of options for activities that your teen may enjoy, such as hiking trails in nearby state or national parks, or perusing a historical district with eclectic shops.

Luke, Jack, and Dad taking a respite from our West Texas Road Trip in Davis Mountains State Park.

When planning our family vacations, I pack the camping gear and intersperse hotel stays with camping in national parks and state parks along our route. It takes a little more planning but adds a lot of adventure to an otherwise blah trip.

From touring the Pacific Coast Highway to an east coast road trip and everything in between, there are endless ways to make a long road trip every bit as intriguing as the destination!

Budget in Some Fun Money

When Heather and I budget for a road trip or family vacation, we always factor in fun money for the boys to spend on souvenirs or … whatever.

Whether you allow them to earn it by helping out with household chores or just give it to them as part of the trip, giving your teen some spending money will help make the journey theirs.

Allow your teens to choose souvenirs or treats that they may not normally get at home. This helps make the vacation special for them and provides a memento to take home with them.

Build an Arsenal of Travel Activities for the Whole Family

Among the most critical road trip tips is this one: Give them something interesting to do!

This has a two-fold purpose. First, it will help break up any monotony of spending hours driving time that might otherwise seem like an eternity. Second, it’s a great way to engage in family bonding and conversation during the trip.

Spark Conversation

We’ve curated an intriguing list of conversation starters in our post Fun, Silly, and Deep Road Trip Questions for the Family for you to print and enjoy.

Few things spark more interesting conversation and laughter than a crazy round of Would You Rather. Put your intuition about each other to the test with a SUSSED deck!

  • The Classic 'Would You Rather' Game with a Smattering of Laughter
  • Over 200 questions, 600 answers, and 150 score sheets
  • All Ages 6 and Up | 2-10 Players
  • Perfect for getting to know each other and getting a good laugh
  • Travel-sized
  • Easy to playin the car | 15 minute playing time
  • The Classic 'Would You Rather' game that tests how well you know each other
  • Over 200 questions, 600 answers, and 150 score sheets
  • All Ages 10 and Up | 2-10 Players
  • Great for striking intriguing conversation and getting to know each other better
  • Travel-sized
  • Easy to play – 15 minute playing time
  • The Classic 'Would You Rather' Game with Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Adventure Elements
  • Over 200 questions, 600 answers, and 150 score sheets
  • Perfect for flexing your personality and building self-awareness
  • All Ages 12 and Up | 2-10 Players
  • Travel-sized
  • Easy to play in the car – 15 minute playing time
N/A
N/A
N/A
  • The Classic 'Would You Rather' Game with a Smattering of Laughter
  • Over 200 questions, 600 answers, and 150 score sheets
  • All Ages 6 and Up | 2-10 Players
  • Perfect for getting to know each other and getting a good laugh
  • Travel-sized
  • Easy to playin the car | 15 minute playing time
N/A
  • The Classic 'Would You Rather' game that tests how well you know each other
  • Over 200 questions, 600 answers, and 150 score sheets
  • All Ages 10 and Up | 2-10 Players
  • Great for striking intriguing conversation and getting to know each other better
  • Travel-sized
  • Easy to play – 15 minute playing time
N/A
  • The Classic 'Would You Rather' Game with Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Adventure Elements
  • Over 200 questions, 600 answers, and 150 score sheets
  • Perfect for flexing your personality and building self-awareness
  • All Ages 12 and Up | 2-10 Players
  • Travel-sized
  • Easy to play in the car – 15 minute playing time
N/A

Put a story-telling spin on the family conversation with a deck of story prompts. Take turns adding to the story and see what crazy twists and turns the plot takes!

Best Travel Storytelling Game
The Storymatic Classic – Creative Story Games and Storyteller Cards
$34.95
  • 540 cards packed with tons of creative, impromptu storytelling prompts
  • Simply combine character cards with complication cards and follow your collective imaginations into a story!
  • Kickstart your creativity and explore the story prompts by yourself or in a group.
  • Great for travel or game night for ages 12+
  • Part of the award-winning Storymatic family of writing prompts and games. Developed by a writer and teacher to encourage imagination, laughter, improvisational thinking, and empathy. Made in USA.
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03/06/2024 08:27 am GMT

Sometimes, you just need a question to start the family talking about past memories, funny moments, and or fascinating travel trivia – like Lindsey Nuburn’s book 501 Questions: A Travel Game (this second edition actually has 750 questions).

501 Questions: A Travel Game: Second Edition
$14.99
  • A great game to unplug and connect with the ones you’re with on road trips or around the campfire
  • Spark fun, new conversations that will have you learning more about one another, yourself, and the world.
  • Get ready for fun, laughter, and good conversation! In this second edition, you get over 750 fun and entertaining questions and trivia to choose from in four different categories: Would You Rather, If You Could, Tell Me About, and Travel Trivia
  • Recommended for all ages, family-friendly, and for 1+ players.
  • Types of Questions include: Would You Rather ... , If You Could ... , Tell Me About ... , and Travel Trivia.
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We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/06/2024 10:03 am GMT

Classic On-the-Fly Road Tripping Games

Planning fun and engaging road trips with teens does NOT mean you have to pack a bunch of extra stuff. Ever since the automobile became a mainstay in the American family vacation, fun road trip games have been invented to pass the time.

Games on the Go - Portable Roadtrip Family Games
$8.22
  • Turn family road trips into great family fun. Games on the Go is a collection of 50 games and activities that can be played anywhere at any time.
  • Includes silly guessing games, perplexing word games, mind bending memory challenges, wacky trivia questions, searching games and much, much more.
  • A portable game collection that can be clipped to a purse, bag, or stored in the car
  • Games on the Go is perfect to keep all ages entertained during road trips and campouts
  • Challenge the imagination, memory, and knowledge of all passengers
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We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/06/2024 10:55 am GMT

Fun and Engaging Travel Board Games for the Whole Family

Jumpstart some friendly competition with one of these fun and engaging car games!

Most Entertaining Road Trip Game
Most Nostalgic Road Trip Game
Most Brainy Road Trip Game
Best Road Trip Combo Game Set
  • Follow the hilarious and zanny card prompts to play!
  • Contains 200 unpredictable cards, 1 drawstring pouch, and instructions.
  • Brought to you by What Do You Meme?


  • Lead your fleet to victory and sink your opponent's ships before all of yours go down
  • Ultra compact, foldable game set stores all pieces inside
  • Tiles fit tightly into the gridded spaces allowing you to pack up in the middle of the game without disturbing the word tiles
  • Includes zippered storage case for all pieces
  • Strong magnets keep game pieces firmly in place, even while cruising down the road
  • 10 x 10 x .8 in. open and 10 x 5 x 1.6 in. folded with an integrated game piece storage
  • Rugged, drop-tolerant construction
$9.89
$9.83
$36.71
N/A
Most Entertaining Road Trip Game
  • Follow the hilarious and zanny card prompts to play!
  • Contains 200 unpredictable cards, 1 drawstring pouch, and instructions.
  • Brought to you by What Do You Meme?


$9.89
Most Nostalgic Road Trip Game
  • Lead your fleet to victory and sink your opponent's ships before all of yours go down
  • Ultra compact, foldable game set stores all pieces inside
$9.83
Most Brainy Road Trip Game
  • Tiles fit tightly into the gridded spaces allowing you to pack up in the middle of the game without disturbing the word tiles
  • Includes zippered storage case for all pieces
$36.71
Best Road Trip Combo Game Set
  • Strong magnets keep game pieces firmly in place, even while cruising down the road
  • 10 x 10 x .8 in. open and 10 x 5 x 1.6 in. folded with an integrated game piece storage
  • Rugged, drop-tolerant construction
N/A
03/06/2024 10:58 am GMT

And, it just wouldn’t be right to leave out a classic travel word game that has been played by road trippers since 1958!

A Roadtripping Classic Since 1958
Travel Far and Mad Libs: World's Greatest Word Game
$5.99 $4.79
  • Mad Libs is the world’s greatest word game for anyone who likes to laugh
  • Write in the missing words on each page to create your own hilariously funny stories all about travel and adventure
  • With 21 “fill-in-the-blank” stories about cars, buses, taxis, hot air balloons, and more, Travel Far and Mad Libs is the perfect companion for any trip, long or short
  • Play alone, in a group, or with friends you meet along the way
Buy Now on Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/06/2024 01:42 pm GMT

Solo Car Games and Activities for Teens

When your teen starts showing signs of wanting some alone time, have some fun off-screen ways for them to pass the time.

These are some of our favorite road tripping games to play solo.

OFHQ's Favorite Solo Travel Game
Award-Winning Word Game
Best Classic Solo Travel Puzzle
Most Innovative Solo Travel Puzzle
  • Best-selling, award-winning, brain-bending, puzzle game
  • Includes 200 addicting 2D & 3D puzzles from basic to difficult
  • Pocket-sized and portable, the puzzle game is perfect for ... anywhere!
  • Award-Winning Magnetic Spin Game popular for over 25 years.
  • Combines the best elements popular word games!
  • Play with 1 or more players, solitaire or with friends
  • Perfect activity for those who have never solved a Rubik's Cube
  • Includes Apprentice Cube and Guide for beginners, 3x3 Cube, and Classic Rubik's Cube
  • Original Rubik’s Cube – brain-bending since 1980
  • Can you make it through Perplexus Epic’s 125 obstacles?
  • Move the ball through tricky hurdles like the serpentine, launch ramp and Escher’s stairs!
  • Perplexus Epic– the original challenging 3D maze, contained within a sphere!
15,54 €
$19.99
N/A
$24.99
OFHQ's Favorite Solo Travel Game
  • Best-selling, award-winning, brain-bending, puzzle game
  • Includes 200 addicting 2D & 3D puzzles from basic to difficult
  • Pocket-sized and portable, the puzzle game is perfect for ... anywhere!
15,54 €
Award-Winning Word Game
  • Award-Winning Magnetic Spin Game popular for over 25 years.
  • Combines the best elements popular word games!
  • Play with 1 or more players, solitaire or with friends
$19.99
Best Classic Solo Travel Puzzle
  • Perfect activity for those who have never solved a Rubik's Cube
  • Includes Apprentice Cube and Guide for beginners, 3x3 Cube, and Classic Rubik's Cube
  • Original Rubik’s Cube – brain-bending since 1980
N/A
Most Innovative Solo Travel Puzzle
  • Can you make it through Perplexus Epic’s 125 obstacles?
  • Move the ball through tricky hurdles like the serpentine, launch ramp and Escher’s stairs!
  • Perplexus Epic– the original challenging 3D maze, contained within a sphere!
$24.99
03/06/2024 02:38 pm GMT

And, while we believe in limiting screen time, we’re by no means technophobes. We recommend being a bit slack on regulating technology and social media in the car.

Before the trip, allow them to download a game or two along with some movies to their cell phone, iPad, or mobile gaming system. Let them vegetate until the next pitstop.

Download Some Audiobooks

At some point, the conversation is going to peter out, the car games will become tiresome, and everyone is going to need some chill time.

Audiobooks are a great way to keep the whole family entertained in the car without burying their heads in their phones or tablets. Plus, they can still enjoy a good story while not compromising their safety on the road by being distracted.

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Audible Premium Plus
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03/08/2024 02:37 am GMT

Check out the 45+ Best Award-Winning Audio Books for Road Trips to build a library of funny, intriguing, and captivating stories to keep the family entertained through the miles.

Pack Their Favorite Snacks (and Mix in Some Healthy Options, Too)

No road trip is complete without a bag of snacks and treats to keep everyone happy. But don’t forget some healthy options, too! Fresh fruit slices, trail mix, nut bars, veggie sticks – make sure each person has something that will healthily satisfy their snack cravings.

Also, make sure everyone has their own refillable water bottle or tumbler.

During the Family Road Trip

The secret to an amazing road trip is to make the journey as much a part of the adventure as the final destination. Beyond planning fun games and activities, this means taking advantage opportunities as they arise.

Give Them a Turn at the Helm

Are they legal? Can they pilot the family car without making everyone a nervous, nauseous wreck? Give them a turn at the wheel!

When traffic is light and the road is wide open, let them take a crack at driving.

Low-traffic areas and long stretches of highway are perfect opportunities to hone their driving skills. They’ll also accrue some essential experience along the way and learn valuable lessons about time management and safety.

Let Them Navigate … Without a GPS

Road trips with teens are full of teachable moments and navigation is best taught in practice. Have them sit shotgun and learn how to use a road atlas. Let them tell you where to turn and which exits to take for a bit. (It’s not that scary!)

Not only does this give them a sense of purpose. It introduces them to the concept of using maps and other navigational tools instead of relying on GPS.

Plus, this is an opportunity to teach your older kids about governance as you follow their instructions.

Rotate Seating Assignments

This is especially true if you have more than one teen crammed in the back seat. Make sure you switch up their seating assignments every now and then.

And, yes, that means letting them ride shotgun from time to time!

Not only will they appreciate having a different view, but it can also keep them from getting too comfortable or aggressive with each other.

Make Spontaneous Roadside Stops

Of all the ways to prevent hearing “Are we there, yet?” for the entire trip, the most fun way is to make spontaneous rest stops at quirky, unique roadside attractions!

Texas is full of some of the most random roadside attractions, like this commemoration to the movie Giant in Marfa, TX.

See a sign for a UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico? Check it out! Random Cadillacs sticking out of the ground in the Texas Panhandle? Yes, please! Or how about The World’s Largest Collections of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things in Kansas (yep … it’s a thing!).

See something weird? Pull over, take a pic, and make a memory. Break up the car trip!

Route and Destination Ideas for a Teen Road Trip

OutdoorFamily HQ was born out of the matchless experiences we have had as a family touring the treasured lands of the national park system.

Road trips through national parks provide the BEST scenery! Rocky Mountain National Park, CO.

Essentially, we select a national park that serves as our final and primary destination. Then, we plan our route to encounter as many national parks and forests as possible on our way there and back. We make a point to camp a few nights in parks that deserve some exploring.

Aside from national park hopping, we also consider the following to be some of the best road trips in the United States:

If anything, we’re experts in Texas road trips. We’ve cataloged our favorite routes in The Best Family Road Trips in Texas. Check it out!

Wagons Ho!

Regardless of where you go and what route you take, the most important aspect of planning road trips with teens is to ensure your kids feel like they have some say in the matter. That’s why we recommend taking at least one day to properly plan out the entire trip — together.

This gives everyone time to voice their opinions on destinations and activities. And, it also takes some of the decision-making off of your back!

With a bit of planning and preparation, your next road trip can be epic — one that will create lasting memories for all involved! So hit the open road and enjoy the journey!

Now, get out there!

Joshua Davis

Being outdoors is freedom! Being outdoors with my wife and two boys is LIVING! Whether in my backyard or getting lost in a National Park, there’s nothing I’d rather do than explore, discover, and experience the paradise that surrounds us. Give me my family, a backpack, and a trail and my life is full!