Parenting and travel guides are replete with tips and advice to help you keep your little ones occupied during long flights or road trips, but what about your teens? While you don't have to be so hands-on when it comes to entertaining them when you travel, you can help them fill the time appropriately by making some suggestions and bringing along a few items to keep them busy. Long flights often offer in-flight entertainment, but you might need a back-up in case the movie choices aren't of interest to your teen or appropriate for him. Enterprising teens might also use the time to do homework or read up on your destination.
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Let your teen load up his laptop, tablet or personal music device before your trip with his favorite music and movies. Make sure he fully charges electronic devices before you leave, or take along extra batteries if they're battery-operated. Since he's probably "plugged in" most of the time anyway, it won't be a big stretch for him to pass the time watching movies and listening to music. Be sure he uses headphones to avoid bothering fellow passengers.
Buy a few new books from your teen's favorite author or genre, if she's a reader. She'll be happy to have the new books and eager to delve into them during the flight. If your family has a handheld electronic device for eBooks, let her load some books onto it so she can use it during the flight. If your teen isn't into reading, she might be willing to listen to audiobooks through her earphones.
Fudge the rules a little to allow your teen to spend the endless hours of the flight playing handheld computer games. Pick ones that meet your approval based on your family's rules and your teen's age, but let him know that he can play them throughout the flight. He'll likely enjoy the fact that there's no limit on the amount of time he can spend playing games. A new game or two, especially if it's one to which he doesn't routinely have access, might be a popular choice.
Ask for your teen to help you occupy her younger siblings by reading to them or playing with them for brief periods during the flight. Encourage teens to change seats occasionally to sit by younger siblings, in exchange for some "me time" later. If yours is a large family, you might want to assign each teen a younger sibling to help with meals and potty breaks, along with entertaining them.
Remind your teen to take a walking break every hour or two to aid in circulation and prevent the aches and pains associated with slouching or napping in a plane seat for hours on end. Encourage him to stretch in his seat for the same reason. Take some healthy snacks for your kids and ensure they all drink plenty of water to prevent the dehydration caused by the recycled air in the cabin. Finally, if you are flying during what is typically the teen's sleeping hours, encourage him to sleep so he feels rested on arrival and to minimize the effects of jet lag.