Road Trip Tips

Travel for Teens – Tips for Stress Free Road Trips and Stress Free Driving

Family Road Trip in a Trabi in Berlin
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Travel for Teens – Tips for Stress Free Road Trips

Have your kids outgrown your favourite summer holiday resorts? Looking for more challenging travel for teens? A road trip could be the thing. But with a whole host of personalities stuck in a small space for hours at a time, how do you prevent driver distraction and family fall out? We recently took part in a driving experiment for Shell looking at how we can manage our driving experiences better. In this, in part an advertising post with Shell, we bring you ten tips for preventing stress while driving, based on the results and our own road trip experience…  

Family Road Trip with Car Packed with Gear

The start of a trip is full of promise – but how do you make a stress free road trip?

Recipe for a road trip

Take three teens with overgrown legs and hormones. Put them in the back of a Citroen Picasso for five hours. Add two co-drivers with very different personalities and habits. Sprinkle in a series of apps, gadgets and headphones and mix in some confusing sat nav coordinates and a giant picnic. And what do you have? A fairly normal family road trip.

Our family is great at getting on the road and getting on each others’ nerves and who I am to spoil a tradition? But could our road trips be reinvented with the help of the results of a national driving experiment?

Family on North Coast of Scotland

We’ve done road trips since the kids were small but could we learn something from this experiment?

Our favoured method of travel for teens

When Shell offered to monitor my driving habits and feed them into data gathered from drivers around the country I saw the use in it. We love family road trips but I’m not sure we always do them with finesse.

We tackled the interior of Iceland without even being sure we were able to drive through rivers. We managed to get around Japan with inexpert use of an unreadable sat nav. We still haven’t worked out the best seating arrangements when everyone is tired and tetchy.

Road trips are an efficient way to travel for a family like ours, allowing us to carry bikes and cover a lot of distance while avoiding the inconvenience of flying. But like everything they are a skill, and often shaped by the skills of the driver.

Manga Style Japanese Roadworks Marker

Driving is about more than the road, the car, petrol and bollards

Personalised tracking

The Shell Driving Experiment was set up to help people understand more about how factors other than the car affected their performance on the road. In a two week period, 417 British motorists were interviewed with 3,869 journeys completed and over 430,000 data points captured. As part of the experiment I was monitored and asked the kids about my driving performance on a road trip to Scotland.

The experiment used emotion tracking wristbands to monitor biometric information like heart rate, breath rate, sleep, steps, emotional state and mood. The Shell Motorist app tracked GPS location, journey duration, speed, harsh braking and acceleration. Chatbots asked me questions before and after my journeys and there were real time traffic and weather updates using relevant apps. I also completed a personality quiz about my lifestyle, habits and personality type. Goldsmiths then collated all this data from me and the other drivers and produced personalised and overview reports.

Using their analysis and the report produced, here are my ten tips for a stress free family road trip.

Expedition vehicle

Road Trips come in all kinds of shapes and sizes

10 Tips to Help you Avoid Stress When Driving

1 Take care of yourself

As the driver you are the most important person in the car. Bear that in mind when everyone is treating you worse than the dog. Prioritise your well being, before and during a journey. This will improve your stress levels and make for a safer environment.

The Shell Driving Experiment research study found many UK motorists who take active measures to combat stress and low mood do better in the driving seat. This means taking time to relax, eating a nutritious diet and doing what you want to do when you want it rather than being driven by the moods of those in the back.

Stop. Road Trip in the Austrian Alps Sign

Stop. Why not reduce stress while driving by taking a break? You can carry on fighting afterwards.

2 Take a break

If you are like me then this one is preaching to the converted. But needless to say it is important to stop regularly to recharge your emotional and physical batteries. Ignore anyone who protests. Or offer to buy them sweets or a magazine at the services… or let them have a go in one of those massage chairs.

Model Car Legoland Florida

Never too old for Lego – the services may provide some fun distractions on your road trip travel for teens

3 Get enough sleep

Sleep is particularly important – the study found that those with  a higher quality of sleep reported less stress behind the wheel than those who experienced disrupted sleep. It sounds simple, but before and during a road trip, get an early night to avoid a second gear brain and other factors that bring on stress while driving.

If you are tired on route there are plenty of cheap options for you to rest your weary head and start again the next day refreshed. Travelodge and Premier Inn often have stops on the motorway in the UK and we did a good tour of Days Inn Motels recently between cities starting with Durham and ending in Leicester where we got lost in space.

Space suit at the National Space Centre, Leicester

If you get a road trip right it literally opens up the world regarding travel for teens

4 Listen to the radio

‘People who turned their radio on while driving to try to relax reported more efficient journeys and enjoyed their time behind the wheel,’ said Goldsmiths researchers in the report. It’s easy to work out why; when you aren’t counting the miles till junctions they pass much more quickly.

If you are planning a trip abroad then get the kids to download some of your favourite radio programmes. Radio Four comedy has accompanied us on many journeys; last year we listened to The Now Show all the way around Germany. Audio books are also worth the investment; a complete set of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings can keep you going till bedtime and beyond.

However not everyone like the same things; on the road to Scotland the kids were vocal about our listening choices:  check out this video to see what they think about this and other aspects of our driving.

5 Let the most extrovert take the wheel

This one surprised me. Apparently extroverts make less stressed drivers than introverts. In fact in the UK study, personality was found to have a significant impact on driving performance. Social, gregarious people who like team activities were found to have less stress behind the wheel and more efficient journeys. They also reported safer experiences in the car and enjoyed driving more.

The data captured during the experiment told me that I display ‘two dominant personality traits – extraversion and openness’And scoring higher than the average study participant for extraversion makes me more likely to be energetic and accepting of creative or abstract ideas and concepts.’

Extraversion is apparently a personality trait shared with high performing British drivers who are inherently  less stressed and more efficient and experience more enjoyment on the road. Perhaps I should have been a racing driver?

Be proud of your car and avoid stress when driving

Perhaps I was destined to be a better kind of driver?

6 Be proud of your car but don’t worry if it’s a banger

‘People who were proud of their car were more efficient and safer drivers who enjoyed driving’ the study found. But it doesn’t have to be the best car ever. ‘People who cared about the status of their car equally enjoyed driving but had lower driver performance – meaning supercar drivers aren’t necessarily better than those who drive a Ford Focus.’

The study failed to mention a Citroen Picasso that was pebble-dashed with golf ball sized icicles in Italy last year. Can’t think why.

Boys can dream in the Hall of Fame at Ferrari Museum in Maranello

Supercar drivers aren’t necessarily the best drivers..

7 Choose a route that suits you

It’s patently obvious that your route is likely to affect your performance, so choose a route that keeps you in your comfort zone. If you hate traffic lights, the Lake District may suit you more than New York. But then the countryside was found to be easier anyway.

‘Those who drove in rural areas had better driving performance, whereas those who drove in suburban areas were mores stressed and distracted behind the wheel. Not surprisingly, drivers who commuted primarily on motorways over other driving terrain reported feeling less safe and more stressed,’ said Goldsmiths researchers.

Taking in the scenery on a Lake District Scenic Drive

The countryside provides less stress while driving according to Goldsmith researchers

8 Enjoy the company

The study found those with passengers in the car enjoyed their journeys more and demonstrated better performance on the road, when compared with those who drove alone. Think about it – you don’t even need to unwrap your own sandwiches!

However while drivers with kids in the car felt safer, they also reported feeling slightly more stressed.

Company on a road trip is a good thing

Company is a good thing…although little ones can give you a bit of stress while driving

9 Eat little and often

Talking of food, ‘drivers who consistently took snacks on the go and hot beverages with them in the car reported more efficient journeys.’ said the researchers.

I am the master of snacks on the go and never leave without a bacon sandwich if I’m going further than the village border. Hurrah for giant picnics; bread and cheese truly is the pot of gold at the end of the road trip rainbow. And at the beginning. And in the middle.

Is this a sandwich in the making or actual stress free road trip gold?

Is this a sandwich in the making or actual stress free road trip gold?

10 Enjoy the driving itself

As a whole, people who said they love driving had more enjoyable, efficient and safer journeys. And they also reported less stress and distraction. So maybe you should find out if your partner enjoys going behind the wheel as much or more than you do, and dole out the hours in the driving seat accordingly. Or get one of the teens some driving lessons.

Let them be a bigger part off organising travel for teens

Teens like cars? buy them a lesson and then them stress while driving while you sit in the back

Coffee anyone?

So that’s my tips for a happy healthy stress free road trip. Of course, on the day you may find you are exhausted, the kids are grumpy, the service stations are crowded and expensive, there’s nothing on the radio, the weather is rubbish, the motorway is shut and no one want to drive at all. What to do? I suggest stopping for at least two more coffees to avoid carmageddon. Or setting out tomorrow. But then I would say that wouldn’t I?


Road to Landmannalaugar Iceland

Road to Landmannalaugar Iceland

Disclosure Note: This post is a paid collaboration with Shell. The terrible driving and loo stops were all our own, as is the opinion, video and photography.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow Us

We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


Trips100 - Travel Blogs   Trips100

© Copyright: Stuart Wickes & Kirstie Pelling 2000-2018