It seems like just yesterday that our two big boys were over the moon excited by the simplest of things like sticks and inchworms. Nowadays, I point out the inchworms while my boys ask questions like, “Is there going to be good Wifi?” The transition from kids to teenagers has required a shift in perspective, a change in expectations, a big dose of empathy (after all we were teenagers once too), and a willingness to just roll with it. The truth is our almost 13-year-old just doesn’t get as excited about the Junior Ranger programs as he did when he was 8 and our almost 15-year-old would rather text than sit through another ranger talk on coyotes. But that doesn’t mean meaningful memories can’t be made; it just means you might have to work a little harder to spark that excitement.
Ten Tips For RVing With Teens And Tweens
Today I’m going to share ten tips for RVing with teens from my perspective as a former teenage girl who remembers complaining about missing her friends on her family RV trips growing up. As a mother of teen and tween boys who I live with in our beloved RV day in and day out, I want you to know, I get it. I get how wonderful and fun teenagers can be and I also get how some days you want to pull your hair out. I also know that RVing is a great opportunity to build bonds and memories with your teen that will last a lifetime.
So let’s talk about some strategies to make RVing with teens and tweens the fun adventure it can be!
1. Put Them to Work
Give everyone a “job.” Hey, are you rolling your eyes at me? I know at first this may sound crazy and, no, I don’t have perfect teens. They complain as much as the next teenager but we’ve found that our kids actually enjoy having some responsibilities even if they complain at first. A great time to assign jobs is during “set ups” and “pack ups.” Sure you may get some initial resistance but it builds camaraderie in the family and it allows your teen to feel “useful” and take pride in fulfilling a responsibility. It’s a win-win for all.
2. Make Mealtime Memories
Let your teens and tweens have a say about the meal plan. If there is one way to a teenager’s heart, it’s through food. Let them help make the weekend menu and then bring them on board with meal preparation. It can be a family affair. Perhaps they would like to learn how to BBQ or how to use a Dutch oven in the campfire. Consider making special meals or snacks (s’mores!) that you always have when RVing and they’ll associate those foods with happy memories well into adulthood. To this day, Cracker Jacks remind me of road trips with my family.
3. Plan Together
Let the teens in on planning and take their interests into consideration. Not long ago, we went RVing near San Francisco. Thing 1 who loves to play the piano asked if we could go to the Steinway Gallery in the city. To be honest, it wasn’t my first choice of activities to do in San Francisco and it took up a considerable portion of our morning, but we did it. The store even allowed him to play a huge grand piano. It made his day!
4. The More the Merrier Approach
Perhaps you have family friends with kids the same age who also like to RV. If so, plan a group camping trip. We regularly meet up with other RVing families. We enjoy the company and so do our kids. Or consider allowing your teen to bring along a special friend. When I was a teenager, my parents often let me bring my friend, Reanna, along with us. I loved having her along and I’m sure my parents loved not hearing me complain about missing my friends.
5. Family Movie Night
Most people go RVing to “get away from it all” and experience the great outdoors. The great thing about RVing is that you can have it all, the great outdoors and modern comforts. Take advantage of the technology that most RVs offer and have a family movie night. Some RVs even have TVs outside where you can watch your favorite movie in a comfy camp chair under the stars. Just remember to be considerate of your neighbors.
6. Circle Around the Campfire
It doesn’t matter how old or young, everyone enjoys a warm campfire and s’mores on a crisp evening. Campfires are the perfect time to connect and share conversation with your kids. Be intentional (but not pushy) by asking your teens questions about school, friends, or their interests. Most importantly, listen and let the kids do most of the talking. You might be surprised at how much they open up or the funny stories they will tell. Reminisce about the past and retell funny stories. There is nothing like humor to build strong family bonds.
7. Get Your Game On
If your teen is like ours, at first there may be a little resistance to family games but 9 times out of 10 when we insist, it ends up being a great time for all. Head to the store with your kids before your weekend away and pick out a new game together.
8. Pitch a Tent
Maybe your teen needs a little more space. If so, bring a tent and it can be a crash pad for the teens. You’ll still have all the luxuries and comforts of home in your RV and your teen will have his or her own space. In the morning, they’ll appreciate the RV even more when they come in for their hot breakfast and shower after sleeping on the hard ground all night.
9. “Share” and “Like”
Allowing your teens to use social media is a personal decision and often a hard one for parents. What works for one family won’t necessarily work for another. It was something we put off for as long as possible but there came a time when we decided it was time to teach our teen to use social media responsibly and let him open Instagram and Facebook accounts. Sure he posts about some typical teen stuff like movies and music but I’ve also seen that childlike wonder that lives in all of us when he posts things like pictures of sunsets, mountain vistas, and videos of the bears we saw wandering off the side of the highway. While he may not often verbally express his appreciation or excitement for our RV adventures, I see it…in his Instagram account. 🙂
10. Find Common Ground
Admittedly this may take a lot of work and some trial and error, but find or develop a common interest. Maybe everyone in your family enjoys music? Spend a weekend camping near a music festival. Fishing, biking, geocaching, beach combing, surfing, art, hiking, history, swimming…the opportunities for RVing family fun are endless. For us, it’s snowboarding. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I was scared to death to try snowboarding for fear I would break something, but my boys were learning (Brent already knew how) so I enrolled in lessons with them. It took me a few days, some serious muscle soreness, but now we have a family activity that we all love (even if they can ride circles around me). This makes RV trips into the snowy mountains a pure joy and I can thank my teen and tween for helping me to discover a new passion.
RVing gives us a chance to really connect with our teens. Even if there is some resistance and sarcasm, they need us now more than ever. These are our last years with our kids as kids. As emotionally challenging as they might be at times, we know we will miss these moments of nagging and headache one day. It won’t be long before we are dropping them off at college, so we treasure our family time in the RV.
I’m far from a perfect parent and always looking for advice on cracking the teenage mind mystery. So what do you do when you go RVing with your teen or tween? What sort of family activities do you all enjoy?