Labor Day Weekend is upon us and for my family that means a six hour trip to the lake to see Grandma and Grandpa and to do all manner of fun things in and around the Branson/Table Rock Lake area.
My husband and I are currently in my favorite phase of parenting so far... the teen years. Call me weird or crazy, and both may apply, but I love being the mom of teenagers. That being said, we are getting ready to embark on our long journey in the car with said teenagers and I'd like to share with you some tips I've learned along the way that can help make it a pleasant experience.
Luckily for us, we've moved beyond the years where car travel meant lots of stops to change diapers and feed crying babies and trying our best to be creative when faced with a need for six hours of entertainment. When mom rode in the backseat because otherwise she would throw her back out turning around to yell at a kid or two. When cheerios covered the floor and there was a pack of baby wipes in every cubby and compartment. And while we no longer pack for our children and everyone is responsible for their own entertainment, we do still make frequent stops, mom still packs snacks and baby wipes never go out of style. That being said, here are some of my families suggestions on making car travel easy and painless for families of teens.
Please don't negate their importance in todays society. Adults and teens alike feel empowered and connected through their phones and assuming your teenager is going to want to leave theirs at home for family vacay is crazy talk. Instead, I encourage you to embrace the idea that the device is coming with you and make preparations for managing its use. Perhaps you have a policy of no electronics at the meal table and whether dinner is out at a restaurant, fast food in the car or room service in the hotel you'd still like the family to shut them down to eat. That's totally do-able on the go! Maybe your family has an electronics curfew and all phones get shut down at a certain time. Easy peasy. Shut 'em down and thrown 'em in mom's purse for the duration of the blackout. Maybe you're going to adopt a more lax attitude of being on vacation and curfews are lifted and phones can be used for staying connected with friends and photo ops. Woo hoo! (With a reminder of course about using free wifi when available and responsibly managing data usage.) A final reminder for whichever route you take for managing electronics is to always have plenty of charging cords and blocks. A dead device can put a damper on the mood very quickly.
Many teens provide themselves with entertainment using the before mentioned electronic devices. However, our van came equipped with a movie system and can I just tell you how amazing that has been for our family. There is always a pre-trip movie selection process that the kids manage themselves and then a rotation of movies is played, one from each child and so on. This has proved to be a great lesson in being prepared and working together for the good of all. My son learned his lesson the hard way when he opted out of the movie selection process and decided to let his sisters handle it all. He has not made that mistake again. #highschoolmusicalonrepeat By the way, the movie player came with headphones! Yay! You can also encourage non-screen types of entertainment like drawing or reading but a few of my kids suffer from car sickness and reading is a no-no. More often than not, at some point during the drive, we find the big kids like to partake in family nap time too. Except at this age they don't fight it, they embrace it!
This is an area where mom still helps out. I get a medium sized plastic tub and fill it with all manner of snacks. Some healthy, some not so much. All things the kids like. Sometimes I ask them what they'd like a few days before the trip and make a special grocery run. Other times I just pack what we have in the pantry. Either way, it helps to slightly reduce the meal stop food bill. A small cooler with water, gatorade and soda fits nicely in the back as well.
While we no longer have to stop to change diapers or feed babies, we do still stop to use the restroom, stretch our legs and get gas. At these stops we encourage movement and use of the nearest trash cans to help manage the clutter in the car. Depending on the trip and Dad's mood, the kids also use these stops to raid the local gas station for things mom didn't pack or cool convenience store treats you can only get while on the road. #icee anyone? This suggestion is one you can totally eliminate from your travel planning if you want ~ unless of course, your significant other loves to get travel treats as much as the kids do.
Finally, lets talk about strategic placement of bodies in the car and the need each person has to make that space their own. You know what I'm talking about right? When they were little you carefully placed books and toys and sippy cups where little hands could reach. Maybe you had one of those contraptions that hung on the back of the seat in front of your child that had lots of cubbies for things. Maybe the carseat had cupholders and compartments attached that held books and things close at hand. Well, when traveling with teens I quickly learned that they "nest" and make their space in the car their own. I used to try and manage this by restricting the amount of stuff each child could bring. One backpack or bag, one pillow, one blanket. That was it. I learned very fast that this was not a battle that was worth fighting and I surrendered and lived to travel another day. The child that broke me was my middle daughter. She travels BIG. Lots of blankets, body pillows, cups, art supplies, etc. My new philosophy is if you can carry it and it stays in your designated space, it's fine with me. And let me tell you, sometimes it's hard to find her in the midst of all her stuff. #hoarder My son on the other hand brings one flat pillow and one blanket that has long since ceased to cover all six feet of him. I guess it's all about your priorities people. Some kids have a need to bring home with them and others have less attachments. Either way, having your own space is a crucial detail when traveling with teens.
So here we've come to the end of the road. We've reached our journey. When you look back how did your trip go? Did the family spend quality time with one another? Did memories get made and life get shared? Did small details like screen time and drink flavors really matter all that much? Did your family love and laugh together? I call it a success. Time spent well. Enjoy them while they are still yours to hold. Did I mention I love my teenagers? #wherewillwegonext
I'm Jennifer and I am so glad to meet you! I am a working mother of 4 children, surrogate mother of 2 children's boyfriends, a few children's best friends, a god-son, a prayer pal and a very special boy who smelled his way into my heart. Our home is open and all are welcome here.