few weeks ago, my daughter and I did a road trip across six states. It took us more than 16 hours. I thought it was going to be drudgery. I assumed my daughter would be on her phone all the time and ignore me while I drove. But I enjoyed the road trip MUCH more than I thought I would.

With summer vacation season here, consider taking a road trip with your teenager. It’s time together without normal distractions.

Here’s what you need to know before you hit the road.

Music matters on a road trip with a teenager

Taking a road trip with a teenager comes with the expected challenges. The biggest one is differing music tastes. It’s pretty obvious parents and teenagers have different favorites. I realized early into the trip, things went a LOT smoother when I let my daughter have control of the tunes.

Every once in a while I would pipe in with a request to expose to some good ole 80s music. We stopped to buy an auxiliary cord along the way so she could hook her phone up to the speaker. (Guess we should have thought about that before we hit the road!)

We decided we would clump our music listening into themes. We started off with summer. My favorite summer song: Don Henley’s Boys of Summer. Her favorite summer song: When I Met You in the Summer by Calvin Harris.

Snacks keep teenagers happy

I used to think it was only teenage boys who got grumpy when hungry. I quickly learned that teen girls get grumpy too.  Fortunately, I had loaded up ahead of time on healthy snacks. I even had tucked some snacks away to pull out and surprise my daughter when we crossed the next state line. It made the trip MUCH more bearable!

We are big fans of Zbars. They are organic and delicious!

Share the driving and the navigating


My daughter loved finding our location on Google map and telling me what to expect next. She also told me what colleges or museums were nearby. When I grew tired of driving, I let her have a turn and I took over charting our course. If you’re teen is old enough, getting some highway driving experience can be good, and taking turns gives everyone a break.

Know your limits

My daughter and I did something I normally never do. We drove without a hotel reservation. After 10 hours of driving, my daughter wanted to keep going but I knew it was a good time to stop, so I insisted we call it a night. About five minutes after we checked into a hotel, we were sound asleep.

It’s really tempting to keep going some times, but breaks can be necessary and there are some crazy, fun places to stop along the highway.

Have conversation starters

This is your big chance to ask your teen the questions you have wanted to ask for a while. You know, those questions that normally would come across as prying. For some reason, on the open road with nothing but miles ahead and inconsistent Internet, teenagers relax enough to share their thoughts. I had a few topics pre-planned to ask my daughter and I would toss them out there randomly as if they just popped in my head. Now that’s a crafty mom!

Try new things

I have never listened to a podcast before but a road trip is a great time to try new forms of entertainment.  My daughter and I had a lot of fun checking out different podcasts and even found a few we mutually enjoyed. Some of our favorites turned out to be NPR’s How I Built This and My Favorite Murder.

While there are all kinds of great vacations to be had, there is something to be said for road trips. If you’ve been looking for a way to bond with your teen, you might want to give it try!