How to Involve Teens in RV Trip Planning

As I gaze out the RV window at the Rocky Mountains looming in the distance, I can’t help but smile at the laughter ringing out from the bunk room behind me. When my wife and I first proposed a month-long RV adventure out West with our teenage son and daughter, we were met with a lot of eye rolls and skeptical looks. Undeterred, we were determined to create a trip our teens would actually enjoy instead of just tolerating. We invested wholeheartedly into the front-end planning, from extensive teen input on destinations to prepping the RV with their tech and entertainment needs in mind. 

And I’m happy to say our efforts paid off big time! Our teens have been all in on every hike, every National Park and museum visit, yes even the informative ones. Thanks to balancing must-do family activities with built-in downtime for them to recharge solo, both teens are still smiling widely almost four weeks later. Here are the things that we have maintained and done for our teens. If you want to do the same then I cordially invite you to have a read till the end! 😉

How to Involve Teens in RV Trip Planning

To get teens enthusiastic about the upcoming RV journey, involve them proactively in the front-end planning process. Their input and participation lay the foundation for an adventure they’ll consider “cool” instead of lame.

Bring Your Teens to the Destination and Activities

Instead of choosing destinations and activities yourself, poll your teens on their location and activity preferences for the trip. Get their opinions on places they’d like to visit, sights they want to see, and things they want to do. If national parks rank low on their priority list, learn what interests them and try to incorporate those ideas into the trip itinerary. Accommodating their suggestions gives teens buy-in right from the start.

Engage curious teens by encouraging them to research potential destinations using vetted travel websites and guidebooks. Ask them to share fun local attractions, events, tours, or recreational activities in the areas you’ll visit that appeal specifically to teenagers. Then take their research and input into consideration as you finalize the RV route and begin mapping out activities and excursions for the trip.

Give Them Research Tasks Based on Interests

Tap into what already piques your teens’ interests and hobbies by giving them related research assignments to help plan parts of the trip. The tasks could connect to existing academic studies, future career paths, or recreational passions like sports, music, art, gaming, anomalies, or anything that fascinates them.

If you have a budding historian or political science buff, set them loose researching significant historical sites and local political issues along the RV route. An aspiring photographer would happily scout out the most Instagram-worthy natural landmarks and manmade oddities. And your teen foodie will find the best regional restaurants and food tours.

As teens research various activities and attractions, they’ll get more enthused about the family adventure. At the same time, they are directing their existing interests and skills toward enriching the RV trip for everyone.

Provide Planning Responsibilities

Now put your teens’ planning enthusiasm into action by assigning them specific responsibilities related to the RV vacation. Giving teens a sense of “ownership” inspires trip buy-in that translates to increased cooperation during travel.

Hand over age-appropriate planning tasks like creating trip playlists and playlists, planning some meals and snacks within an allocated budget, or compiling needed entertainment and camping gear to pack. If old enough to drive, let them map out some of the actual RV travel routes with navigation apps while you supervise and provide guidance as needed.

Empower teens to make choices within their assigned realms like musical entertainment, food options, relaxation essentials, or navigation tools. Guide them in making responsible, informed decisions that also align with the overall trip vision. By contributing their skills and preferences, teens become more invested collaborators instead of just resigned RV passengers.

Create the Optimal RV Setup for Teens

Teenagers need adequate personal space and downtime for unwinding on family RV trips. As you read the RV, create areas conducive to their privacy, entertainment, and relaxation needs. Factor in what matters most in making RV living comfortable for your teens.

Ensure Their Privacy Needs Are Met

Protect teenagers’ need for privacy within the close confines of RV living quarters. Carve out a separate area like a bunk room, curtained-off bed, or corner lounge that designates their semi-private teen zone. Stock it with personal storage space for clothing, technology, and treasured items so things stay orderly and secure.

Respect when teens retreat to their private RV area for alone time to recharge. Limit disturbing them unnecessarily when they chill in their zone listening to music, FaceTiming friends back home, or catching up on social media. Foster trust by not over-monitoring their activities or encroaching on their personal space. As long as teens act responsibly, grant them the solitude they need within the RV environment.

Provide Entertainment Tech and Wi-Fi Access

Today’s teens rely heavily on technology and online connectivity for daily entertainment. Avoid RV travel meltdowns by ensuring their devices are onboard, charged up and internet accessible on the road.

Make sure teens’ personal tech toys like laptops, tablets, gaming consoles, and smartphones are safely packed. Stock charging cords so battery life stays juiced up in the RV or tent. Also, bring portable backup batteries and inverters as needed. Arrange for continuous internet availability through affordable data plans, campground Wi-Fi, public hotspots, or mobile hotspots.

Unlimited screen time is generally ill-advised, so establish reasonable limits that work for your family like no phones during designated family time. But do make provisions for teens to digitally unwind so they avoid extreme withdrawal or boredom during leisure RV hours. Load up streaming accounts and download plenty of apps, movies, e-books, and music to entertain them offline when Wi-Fi is unavailable.

Carve Out Their Preferred Spaces

When organizing the RV floorplan, ensure your teens have their own specially curated spots tailored to their priorities like preferred sleeping quarters, tech workstations, or hangout areas. Maybe they want bunk beds and their mini-fridge, a booth dinette that doubles as a mobile media room, or an outside tailgate lounge where they can chill with new friends at campsites.

Take cues from how teens personalized their rooms back home as you incorporate familiar, comforting touches into their dedicated RV spaces. Let them pick out throw blankets, pillows, or photos to display so the RV reflects their style and personality. Building personalized spots where teens can relax and be themselves helps transport a slice of home on the journey.

Build Flexibility into the RV Itinerary

Trying to rigidly stick to a stringent schedule is an exercise in futility with unpredictable factors like weather changes, RV repairs, or long lines putting tight timetables in jeopardy. Remaining flexible to change helps make family RV trips more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone, especially teens.

Balance Family Time with Free Time for Teens

The RV vacation is meant to bring the family together, but teens also crave alone time or just hanging with friends their age on trips. Alternate blocks of structured family activities like hiking, sightseeing, or playing board games with open blocks of free time for teens to chill and do their things unstructured.

Perhaps teens want to sleep in late, listen to music, or explore the campground on their own instead of another compulsory family outing. Or they meet other teens at the next campsite who invite them to play basketball at the park. Accommodating teen-directed downtime and spontaneous social opportunities makes forcing them onto yet another packed sightseeing tour unnecessary.

As buffer zones from mandatory family time arise, allow teens space to independently reboot and tap into trips at their own pace. Just maintain open communication regarding their whereabouts and return times so you don’t worry.

Research Teen-Friendly Attractions Along the Route

A surefire way to elicit teen groans is cramming the RV itinerary with attractions geared only towards young kids or parents. Ensure your teenagers don’t feel trapped spending endless hours at another stale historic house tour that bored them back in 6th grade. Or the cheese factory might fascinate parents but holds zero entertainment value for teens.

As you map your route search out attractions specifically catering to teenagers within reasonable driving distance like outdoor adventure parks, zip lining, local music venues hosting their favorite indie bands on tour, escape rooms, motocross tracks, cat cafes, zombie runs, e-gaming lounges or water parks.

Maybe some tourist traps like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine don’t sound that compelling to the fourteen-year-old gamer. But it might offer an irresistible photo op for their Instagram feed. Seek out that perfect mix of planned activities specially curated to your teens’ interests so they enjoy the shared experience rather than counting down the minutes till it’s over.

Alternate Planned Activities with Down Days

A crammed wall-to-wall itinerary becomes exhausting for everyone quickly, especially teens who may lag behind the daily momentum of highly energetic younger kids.  Build in “down days” regularly where you have no place to be or sight to see by a certain time. Leave each morning intentionally unstructured without a lengthy checklist of planned or compulsory activities.

Encourage teens to create their daily adventures by wandering the local town or city streets, checking out shops, street art, coffee houses, pick-up games at the park, or whatever piques their interest. Let them set the pace and agenda by sleeping in or tapping into that vacation vibe however they want. Savor lazy days kicking back around the campsite playing cards, chatting under the stars after dinner, journaling, or reading that book series they love.

Embracing a flexible itinerary with intermittent down days prevents teen burnout while allowing more family fun to unfold spontaneously rather than only according to a rigid plan.

Encourage Bonding Through Shared Hobbies

The close quarters of RV living present prime opportunities for family bonding time with teens through shared interests and hobbies. Mutual activities provide natural conversation starters that move relationships to a deeper level away from home distractions.

Transport and Store Hobby Gear

Utilize the versatility of RV functionality and storage capacity to transport hobby gear and recreational equipment for the whole family like instruments, bicycles, sports equipment, art supplies, or photography gear. Dedicating space for safely packing specialized items makes pursuing personal passions possible on the road.

Setting up a mobile music corner with portable keyboards or guitars invites family jam sessions during downtime. Make room for art supplies like sketchpads, rainbow yarn for friendship bracelets, or sculpting clay for rainy days. String up a slackline or hammock outside for some healthy family competition trying out fun balancing tricks together.

Sharing hobby enthusiasm sparks relationship connections over long drives or quiet evenings that linger beyond the trip’s end.

Discover New Hobbies to Learn Together

Trying a brand new activity as a family lets everyone start on equal ground while learning something new together. Take advantage of the variety of environments visited and adventures available on RV trips to experiment with beginner-friendly hobbies requiring minimal gear.

Consider embarking on starter astronomy with star-chart apps guiding you to spot amazing constellations invisible back home. Try your hand at nature photography capturing stunning landscape vistas or close-up wildlife along scenic trails and deserts. Have an aspiring angler teach the family how to bait a hook and reel in dinner at a pristine lake brimming with fish.

Immerse fully in each hobby for the day, learning techniques from experienced locals, researching facts together online, or attempting beginner skills as you laugh through the learning curve as a family. Then unwind reminiscing about favorite moments that stretch beyond the images captured.

Introducing teens to new passions they may continue nurturing long after the eye-opening RV trip stokes inspiration that lasts a lifetime.

Things that Need Extra Care for Not Ruining Your Teens Moments

While RV traveling with teens offers endless chances for meaningful bonding far from hectic daily life, taking special care regarding their unique needs ensures an optimal trip experience.

Respect Their Privacy. Teens are at an age where they are developing their sense of identity and independence. They need to feel like they have their own space and that their privacy is respected. This means giving them their room or area in the RV, not snooping on their belongings or conversations, and knocking before entering their space.

Give Them a Say in The Planning Process. Teens are more likely to be engaged in an RV trip if they feel like they have a say in planning it. This means involving them in decisions about the destination, activities, and itinerary. Ask them for their input on what they want to do and see, and be open to compromise if necessary.

Be Flexible with The Schedule. Teens are not always going to want to follow a strict schedule. Be flexible with the itinerary and allow them to have some downtime to relax and recharge. This could mean taking breaks during long drives, letting them sleep in on occasion, or giving them some free time to explore on their own.

Avoid Overbearing Parental Control. Teens are craving independence, so it’s important to strike a balance between giving them freedom and setting boundaries. Avoid constantly nagging or criticizing them, and instead, focus on positive reinforcement and encouragement.

Respect Their Boundaries. Teens need to feel like their boundaries are respected. This means not forcing them to participate in activities they don’t want to do, not embarrassing them in front of their friends, and not invading their personal space.

Be Open to New Experiences. teens are often open to trying new things, so be open to exploring new activities and destinations with them. This could mean trying new cuisines, visiting local attractions, or participating in outdoor activities.

Make Time for Family Bonding. Even though teens may crave their independence, they still need time to bond with their families. Make time for family meals, games, and conversations. These shared experiences will create lasting memories that they will cherish for years to come.

Be Patient and Understanding. teens are going through a lot of changes, so it’s important to be patient and understanding. If they’re having a bad day, don’t take it personally. Just give them some space and let them know that you’re there for them when they’re ready to talk.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your RV vacation is a positive and memorable experience for everyone involved.

Final Thoughts

Taking an RV trip with teens can bond families if done thoughtfully. Give teens input to foster investment. Ensure their space needs are met in the RV for optimal comfort. Research attractions appealing specifically to them when planning routes. Allow flexibility for some independent downtime too. Shared new hobbies build connections. Make teens feel respected and comfortable so they enjoy travel too. Trips tailored for teens make priceless memories.

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