Five Family Travel Tips for Teens and Tweens


So what have I learned about traveling with my family? My kids are now 10 and 16, so I’ve got plenty of insight on successful vacationing with teens and tweens.

1. Be flexble and build in down time. This is probably the most common advice you’ll find traveling moms handing out, but it bears repeating. DO NOT overschedule your family. Give yourself space in your itinerary to linger if something really excites your kids, or to bail out if it’s just not working.

2. It’s OK to split up. I used to be really hung up on family travel bonding. (“We WILL have fun TOGETHER!”) Then I realized that my kids are two very different people and the whole family is much happier if we split up for certain activities. Why force my teenage son to sit through an art workshop with his sister when he’d really rather be at the arcade? A little separation between siblings – and even between kids and parents – eases tension and gives each child a little one-on-one time that makes him or her feel special.

3. If you travel off-season, check ahead that the attractions you are interested in are open. Since we homeschool, we often travel in the off-season, and we’ve been disappointed on several occasions when restaurants were closed or attractions were under construction/renovation.

4. When possible, bring friends along. Riding on the coattails of tip #2, having your kids’ friends or even your extended family along breaks up any family tension. This has been the single, most effective way to guarantee success in my family’s travels. My kids behave better, argue less, and enjoy making lasting memories with their friends.

5. Take care of yourself. Yes, the old, “put on your own oxygen mask first” advice. It’s essential that you are fed, rested, and comfortable in order to deal with whatever the kids may throw your way during your travels.


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70 thoughts on “Five Family Travel Tips for Teens and Tweens”

  1. I agree with SJ, it is a good tip to check in advance about if things are open, even in season. Some museums in particular pick one day a week to close (like a Monday or Tuesday) and it can be a big bummer if that is the only day you have to visit.

  2. My tip is: Let everyone get in on the planning and pick one special event the whole family participates in.

  3. My family travel tip – Let everyone get in on the planning and pick one special event the whole family participates in.

  4. I love the suggestion to take friends along, usually people focus on how to deal with their own family when they travel. Adding in another family not only increases the adults to share the responsibilities but makes it more fun for everyone.

  5. My Tip: Be active. My teens enjoy an occasional museum, but my family is happiest when we are active and outdoors-hiking, biking, surfing, skiing … those activities keep my kids of all ages happy when we travel.

  6. We don’t travel much but when we do I like to have plenty of activities and snacks!

  7. Christy Nelms Caldwell

    I love your suggestion that it’s ok to split up. A lot of times we must do this to survive the trip.

  8. One of my tips would be to always make time for yourself, I know in my case being the grandmother of eight , I often find myself tired out, so I must make take to relax, grab water and an energy bar :) and nana is good to go loll

  9. I agree with #1. Downtime is a must. Because you have a limited amount of time to see as much as possible, it is easy to cram a lot into every minute. You will burnout if you don’t rest and relax a little.

  10. Don’t forget the drugs. It’s always a good idea to travel with some children’s Tylenol (or whatever you prefer) so that you don’t have to worry about tracking down a drug store in a strange neighborhood

  11. Pamela Gurganus

    My best family travel tip is to have healthy snacks, lots of water and books, games, etc. to keep the kids entertained when they get bored.

  12. Allyson Ballard Bossie

    I firmly believe in travelling overnight with kids. When mine were little, baby, 1 and 6 I would feed them supper, bathe them, put them in their jammies and in the carseats. I would drive 12 hours to go see Grandma. I could sleep when I got there for a few hours, and kids slept all night while I drove!

  13. Brandie Manuel

    I love the point about making sure that everything is open!

    Also – we are often tempted to buy new shoes before we go – thinking we need some good walking shoes. However, I have learned the hard way NOT to give in to the temptation – more often than not, they have not been broken in yet and sore feet can make for a rough trip. My tip? If you can’t resist a new pair of shoes…bring a reliable back up pair – just in case!

    I’ve also learned that gallon sized ziploc bags are the BEST. They are fantastic for stinky food scraps/garbage, half uneaten food items that you’d like to save for later, wet clothes, documents that you don’t want to get ruined, or simply other loose things that fall to the bottom of the bag. Also – if you plan on getting wet, you can throw your cell phones inside a ziploc bag so that it doesn’t get soaked!

  14. Great tips, especially that it’s to split up – everyone’s different and enjoys different things, plus it’s a good way to spend time individually with the kids

  15. Making then individual fun mini minders filler with madlibs puzzles and coloring pages

  16. Planning ahead is so important, but it’s also important to be flexible. It’s great to have a plan but you have to be willing to stray away from it depending on the kid’s moods/interests!

  17. My best tip is to pack a lot of snacks for the ride and activities for the kiddos!

  18. Rene Creamer

    I look ahead for deals for the places I am traveling to. I search for coupons for amusement parks, museums, and food.

  19. Don’t pack so much to do into your vacation that you need a vacation from the vacation!

  20. My best family travel tip is to have a schedule but be flexible. We stopped buying tickets to attractions for a pre-set time and date. Nap times change, kids get burnt out or bad weather happens. Don’t waste money booking everything in advance only to have to cancel and do something different!

  21. My tip would be to pack healthy snacks for the trip. I know whenever I’m on the road, I tend to eat a lot of unhealthy junk food so having healthier snacks already with you could keep you from buying that bag of chips or burger and fries.

  22. Lindsey Khatri

    I always, ALWAYS bring one “emergency” outfit for each kid and adult, I pack them in gallon sized ziploc baggies so that any accidents or messes are contained once you have the fresh clothes on. This has proven a lifesaver on more than one occassion and saves the trouble of digging through the luggage when you need a quick change due to mishap or adventure.


    I’ll never take my friends on a trip that’s only supposed to be for FAMILY time. Plan accordingly or the vacation will be a dramatic.

  24. A car trip has to have plenty of movies to watch!! AND Busy toys. I always create a bag full of games, activities and toys for each kid. They don’t get to peek in the bag before the trip. So everything is new and exciting!

  25. Cynthia Richardson

    Make sure the kids are well rested and don’t cram too much into a day

  26. include the kids in planning the trip and don’t do so much and make it feel like a chore instead of a vacation.

  27. Sabrina Joy

    Pack plenty of snacks and dress as comfortably as possible (especially for footwear if you’re planning on doing a lot of walking). And download movies or anything to keep yourself occupies in your devices!

  28. I love your tips! My best travel tip kind of piggybacks on yours about making sure attractions are open. If you can get advanced tickets, do it! Many museums (especially in Europe) have timed tickets and you can only enter during a certain window (like 11:00am – 11:30am). The further in advance you can get your tickets, the better chance of picking your entrance time and you also can avoid what can sometimes be hours waiting in line for tickets or just to enter.

  29. Your first tip is so important. People get so wrapped up in seeing and doing EVERYTHING that they forget about down time. You also HAVE to be flexible–Stuff Happens, so go with the flow.

  30. Great tips! I find it’s helpful to let your kids do some planning of the trip too. It can be as simple as having them choose a few of the activities that you’re going to do during your trip.

  31. My tip is plan ahead, research, and map out your trip to some degree. I went on vacation and said I would just play it by hear and wing it. Horrible idea! I spent have my time figuring out what and where attractions were. Now I figured that all out before going. I don’t plan every minute just what attractions I want to see and what others are on the way to it so I can get to see everything I want to see.

  32. My tip is to bring snacks and a lot of patience to deal with the kids fighting in the back seat. Throw in a few games which they will tire of after the first 50 miles. Turn the radio on and enjoy singing with them. My kids liked that.

  33. My tip is to let the kids help you plan the trip and make suggestions on what they want to do along the way. They are more cooperative if they have a hand in the plans.

  34. Plan stops along the way, snacks, something to remind them of home, planned entertainment.

  35. Emily Endrizzi

    My best tip for traveling with kids is to be flexible and don’t get too stuck on doing every single thing that you had planned on doing/seeing. Just go with the flow because the kids always seem to have a blast even if all they do is go to the beach every day.

  36. Silvia Reid

    It’s always a good idea to bring plenty of snacks and cords or batteries to keep cameras and electronics charged.

  37. When going on an extra long car ride, stop somewhere with a playground to eat and play.

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