I have both a tween and a teen…aren't you so jealous? Lol! Recently Pigeon Forge, Tennessee invited us to visit and they sponsored this post. The trip got me thinking since I've now taken 5 road trips with myself and my daughters, what do we do to make the trips successful and fun….and even come away with decent memories as well as my girls asking when the next trip will be?
I've had a lot of you ask me that exact question, so today, I'm sharing our recent trip to Pigeon Forge as well as my tips on travel with teens and tweens. The tips will be in bold, so you don't miss them. As always, I'm going to keep it real and honest with you because we moms gotta stick together and give real advice to help each other out.
Travel with Teens and Tweens
Tip 1: Involve them in the planning
Tip 2: Let them pack themselves
This seems basic, but they're old enough. Give them a packing list and let them figure it out. They may forget a few things or pack “incorrectly,” but they are old enough to begin learning the skill of packing. They also like it and like that feeling of adulthood that they can pack for themselves.
You can get my free packing list or snag my road trip planner to help you plan your trip. The road trip packing list is more detailed and will help you figure out what to pack for the road as well as regular packing.
On this trip, my oldest daughter packed all summer clothes. She said she was hoping it would feel like summer. Of course, I had told her it was going to be in the 50's most days we were in Tennessee. She didn't listen and was cold most of the trip. I, of course, felt terrible she was cold, but it was a good learning experience for her.
Tip 3: Have fun getting there
Tip 4: Create travel traditions…and stick with them
On our first road trip, my girls were 10 and 6. We started a tradition of stopping to take pictures at every state line. Now that they're 17 and 12 sometimes their little tween and teen attitudes seem less than thrilled to get out and take a picture. Yet, I've learned that they like the tradition and even if their attitude doesn't show it, this is one of the things they like about our trips.
That's the way it is with teens and tweens. They don't always show it, but they like it when we are part of their lives and do these ‘dumb' little traditions.
So, create some travel traditions and stick with them. If you don't already have any and your kids are tweens and teens, I'd suggest you talk with them and see what they think would be fun versus trying to force something on them. That generally doesn't go very well.
Wow! The Great Smoky Mountains don't disappoint. They're so pretty! As you can see it had snowed the day before our drive through the mountains to Pigeon Forge.
Tip 5: Sleep
Make sure you let them get enough sleep. They need more sleep at this age, and everyone will have a better time if they've gotten enough sleep.
Our hotel in Pigeon Forge was Ah…mazing! They hosted us at the Margaritaville Island Hotel. We had a fireplace in our room…it helped keep my daughter warm since she didn't pack appropriately. Lol!
When we travel together, I make everyone bring earbuds and something quiet to do while others sleep. Now they use their phones, but when they were younger, they would read, color, or whatever.
The bathroom seemed picture worthy as well.
My girls and I loved our time at the hotel so much; we kinda wanted to stay there and chill.
Tip 6: Involve nature in your travels
It'll help keep the cranky away, and there are so many incredible things to see all over our amazing country you should have no problem finding something to do outdoors.
Anytime we're cranky traveling together if we can get out and go on a walk somewhere or do something outdoors it fixes the cranky — every time.
We went on a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains every day we were in Pigeon Forge. They're so close and so beautiful.
Our first day we hiked to Laurel Falls.
Everyone enjoyed the hike and getting to see the waterfall and beautiful mountains.
Tip 7: Let them be silly…or strange 😂
On our hike the first day, we saw this sign. Now it's true that the path near the waterfall was a sheer drop with no railings at all, but we all found the sign funny.
So, rather than be serious or embarrassed, I let my girls be silly tweens and teens and make fun of the sign. Who cares if someone saw us and thought we were weird…we are. Lol! But, it made it fun for the kids, and I bet you when they talk about the trip, this is one of the things they remember. To me, that's what it's all about.
After our hike, we enjoyed time browsing the shops at The Island in Pigeon Forge. It's an area connected to the Margaritaville Island Hotel and has all kinds of shops as well as activities.
We loved the Nourish shop. They have all kinds of amazing Organic and Vegan bath products. 😍
Tip 8: Go your own pace
Go the pace that works for your family.
You don't have to cram everything in. I promise.
Now if that is what your family likes, then go for it and cram away.
We tend to be slow, especially in the morning, and only do a few things each day. Sometimes it seems wrong. I see other people's trips and see all they do, and I wonder what we're doing wrong that we only did a few things, but for us, adding all the other stuff would make us stressed and make the trip not fun. We go the pace that works for us, and that means we have more fun. Do that with your family.
Do that by asking everybody what their top activity is that they must do on the trip. Then make sure to hit everybody's top activity. If you have more time add more fun. This way everybody gets to do what was most important to them, which means happy campers.
One thing we all wanted to do in Pigeon Forge was The Island Ropes Course right by our hotel at The Island. We had done an indoor ropes course in Arizona a few years ago, but this one was outdoor and 3 stories high. You can bungee jump off the 3rd story as well as a zip line.
A ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel was another must for us as well. It's also at The Island in Pigeon Forge. We wanted to take a ride right at sunset. It was beautiful to see the whole area and mountains at sunset. The wheel itself is also so pretty lit up at night.
Tip 9: Do the activities with your teen and tween
They love it when you do the stuff with them….even if they don't show it.
Don't sit by the side and let them have all the fun, but jump right in with them.
Tip 10: Be flexible
Being flexible is a must any time you travel, but especially when you travel with teens and tweens.
There are just those days, and I know you know what I mean. Rather than pushing through, change things up and go with what is for the day. Everyone will be much better for it rather than trying to force whatever you wanted to happen. It's part of what makes good travel and great experiences.
We still found water. We had fun, and all enjoyed our time even though it wasn't the hike we wanted.
Tip 11: See your kids
I think that sounds weird, but one of the things I've learned about being a mom is that one of the main things my kids are looking for from me is for me to see them. To value them. To appreciate their effort and to notice them and what they're doing.
Tip 12: Find a little me time
Then we headed to the pool. Yep, it was in the '40s, and we were in an outdoor pool and hot tub. Thankfully, they're all heated.
It was something my girls wanted to do. It was cold and fun. It's so neat that you can sit in the hot tub and watch the Great Wheel. I found it mesmerizing.
Tip 13: Let your tween be a tween
Tip 14: Pick a location with tons of activities
One of the things that makes Pigeon Forge such a great destination if you're traveling with the whole family including tweens or teens is that there are SO many activities. You can find anything you want to do from shows, to go-carts, to alpine slides, white water rafting, zip lining, ropes courses, and themed restaurants to name a few.
If you have a place like that to travel to, you'll be more likely to have a successful fun trip with your tweens and teens because everyone can find something they want to do.
Tip 15: Be silly with them
Tip 16: Trust your gut and your tween and teens
On our way home, we stopped at a state park to get out and hike and enjoy some outdoor time. It didn't go as we planned as a man began following us.
I had sort of noticed him, but my youngest daughter had really noticed him.
When we crossed over this bridge onto a little island with an amphitheater. Since we were the only people on the little island, my girls were going to put on a play in the amphitheater. My youngest noticed this man coming on to the island as well. I could tell she was scared and quite frankly when I saw he'd followed us out there it scared me as well. We booked it off the island and away from him. There's a lot more to the story that I'll write about in a post about staying safe while traveling, but suffice it to say he was following us, and it was scary.
We got to a ranger station, and park law enforcement went after the man while a park ranger gave us a ride back to our car.
If someone bothers you or your kids…don't squelch that, but listen to it and react to it. It's far better to respond and realize it wasn't anything than to second guess and have a terrible outcome.
I split up the drive home into 2 days. There's more info about optimal driving distances in the notes that come with my road trip planner.
And found a coffee pot-shaped home to see.
And take more silly pictures in front of.
Alright, there are all my tips for travel with teens and tweens.
These tips have created successful trips for us time and time again.
That's not to say we never fight or don't have a bad day here or there, because we're normal and have those days. These are the things I'd say contribute to our fun and desire to travel more and see all 50 states together.
So, instead of having another miserable family trip, try a few (or all) and let me know what you think and if they help. Leave me a comment below. I'd love to hear!
My girls and I also want to Thank Pigeon Forge for hosting us and sponsoring this post. They helped us have a fun spring break together! The variety of things to do in Pigeon Forge make it an excellent destination for families looking for some fun together.