Ever been stuck in a car with someone for 16 hours? Depending on your relationship, your level of patience, your mood and how hungry you are, this can be quite challenging. It can be. It can also be an awesome time of singing terribly off-key, laughing out loud and sharing stories, that you never thought you’d tell. Based on my latest road trip to the Cinque Terre and the Dolomites in Italy, here are the ground rules for a road trip with your significant other that you’ll both survive. (Alternatively please insert: ‘best friend’, ‘sister/brother’, ‘buddy’, ‘favorite human being’, or ‘person I happen to road trip with’).
#1: Create several playlists. Talk about the music that you both like and find a common ground for creating a playlist together. Then make some more – individually. In my car the rule is: the driver controls the radio. Particularly on long, maybe even nocturnal road trips, where the other one is sleeping. But even if you’re both awake, the driver is the one who needs to concentrate, he or she is in charge! So make sure that you each have a list or five with all your favorites.
#2: Bring _a lot_ of snacks. People get grumpy and short tempered when they’re hungry. I know I do. Make sure there’s enough to eat during your trip, or know where you can stop and get something. And for in between the bigger meals – bring plenty of snacks – and coffee or tea, particularly when you’re driving at night.
#3: Make a driving plan. With a long road trip ahead it can be a good idea to roughly schedule your driving. How many hours do you each feel comfortable driving in a row? Does it work best for you to switch every 1-2 hours or do you feel confident enough to drive 3-5 hours? Talk about this beforehand, so you’re more or less on the same page. But…
#4: …be flexible. On a night drive back to Denmark from a climbing trip to Southern Germany, there was only about an hour or so left before reaching home and I had driven less than I’m usually able to. But my eyelids got heavier and heavier and I simply didn’t trust that I could drive the last piece. So I pulled over and one of the others drove us home. Fortunately we were four people, so it was no problem to find someone who was ready to take the wheel, and no one was bothered by the fact that I pulled over early. So, if you’re getting tired or having difficulties concentrating and focussing on the road: Pull over. Whether you’ve driven the approximate amount of hours you’ve talked about or not. Safety first!
#5: Schedule extra time for the trip. What makes a road trip really great, is the possibility to be spontaneous. To stop the car and stay for a while, if you cross a place that fascinates you. Also: Feeling stressed and pressured while stuck in a car together is asking for trouble. Once I got stuck in a snow storm on a road trip to Italy (in the spring!!), which forced us to stay an extra night on the road. Considering that we only had a couple of days at our destination to begin with, this led to a lot of tension – and you do not want stressed drivers, snow or no snow. So make sure to have a bit of extra time for the road.
#6: Bring surprise treats. Do you happen to know your travel partner’s favorite sweets? I know mine is crazy about everything that has both licorice and wine gum in it. Bring them! Got into a topic you shouldn’t have gotten into? Made a stupid comment due to lack of sleep? Or maybe you just want to tell driver nr. 2 how happy you are to be traveling with them? Now’s the time to bring out the surprise candy!
#7: Bring a guide book. Sometimes you simply don’t have time to go through a guide book of your final destination before your trip. The solution: bring it with you in the car! The one who isn’t driving can read out loud and mark the things you’re both interested in – aside from being able to planning your trip together that way, you also get to read the funny little anecdotes, that you wouldn’t otherwise have time for. Did you know, for instance, that the residents of the Italian coastal village Corniglia in Liguria are ‘rather rude’? Neither did I.
#8: Let each other sleep. This one’s crucial if you’re driving at night. Yes, of course you’d like to discuss all the world’s problems now that you’re behind the wheel and have hours of driving ahead of you. But your significant other has just driven for hours, and you’ll probably expect him/her to do so again when you get tired. So drink a coffee, put one of those playlists on that you like and he hates, and let everyone else sleep. Also: Bring pillows and plaids, to make it easier to get some rest in the car.
#9: Be patient. When leaving for our road trip to Italy this summer, it took us about an hour just to get out of city we started from – and we were already late… very frustrating. Traffic jams, getting lost and unexpected weather conditions are stressful situations which you’ll both react to differently. Accept this and be patient with each other and yourselves on the road. And if you’ve snapped at each other anyway? No worries – good music and those extra candies will fix it!
#10: If you can, drive more than planned. This one goes hand in hand with #4. On our way back from the Dolomites this summer, I had the worst headache and was generally feeling very tired. After I’d been driving for some hours, we pulled over to switch places. We were still far from home and I went to sleep immediately when my boyfriend took the wheel, knowing that I’d have to drive again in some hours. When I woke up, we were off the motorway and about 10 minutes from home. I could have married him in that moment.
Now you: What are your most memorable road trip experiences? Any cool road trips planned in the future? Share with us in the comments below!