Just got back from an awesome vacation in Florida--my first "real" vacation in several years. I am not much of a flier, so I loaded the boys and their friends in my Edge and off we went for a 20 hour trip (each way). The experience was vastly different with teens than with toddlers, yet oddly, there were some similarities.
My boys are veteran travelers. Andrew has been in 44 states, and the younger 2 have been in 42. I don't think we've added any to their list in at least 10 years. When they were 13, 4, and 2, we did a cross-country journey--21 states in 18 days. That was long before there were things like dvd players in cars or cellphones in their hands. Andrew had his GameBoy, so he was well occupied. For Craig and Matt, it was more of the standard old-school car games. We also had some singalong tapes. Matt had his own rather violent version of Little Bunny Foo Foo that we heard dozens of times... Little Bunny FooFoo hopping through the forest, scooping up the field mice and chopping off their heads. The other kids made the mistake of laughing the first time, so it stuck and was repeated over and over again by all.
I did not get much whining on that trip...we made lots of stops to do fun things, like go through Rushmore Cave, visit Mt. Rushmore and the Little Bighorn battlesite. We saw Mt Ranier and the Grand Canyon...were in Monterrey California (on the beach) in the morning and Barstow in the desert at dusk. There were times when I needed (or wanted) a leash for the younger 2...to try to keep them a bit closer from the edge of the Grand Canyon or Sea Lion Cave (Oregon). The only times they tended to act up, as if on cue, were during heavy traffic or construction zones when I most needed to concentrate on what I was doing.
This trip was different. We had a dvd player with us, and while I had to watch the road instead of the movies, I did get to hear the dialog for movies like Knocked Up, Beer Fest, Old School, Super Troopers and others of that ilk. There was constant texting and conversation that I didn't need to hear...typical teen boy (and adult boy) type of talk. Ipods were occasionally turned up too loudly--if I can hear it clearly while it's in their ears, it's too loud. No cute little songs repeated...just the new version of "you spin me right round baby right round" which is rather vulgar.
They were pretty well behaved overall. I still had moments when I wanted a leash for them... this time it was more to keep hormones in check though...a metaphoric cliff rather than a real one. They slept most of the way back...except for 2 critical time periods: when I hit Friday night rush hour traffic in Atlanta (with the absolutely PATHETIC SIGNAGE ON THE HIGHWAYS IN THAT TOWN!!!) and in a construction zone in the dark, again with poor signage, in Knoxville.
I'm not sure that I have a preference for which age group I prefer for travel. I guess I just like spending time with them regardless of age. As for the driving rather than flying, well, we've seen the whole country via the wheel...I view the journey as part of the fun. I don't mind at all.