Essential Road Trip Tips for Couples

Taking a road trip with your significant other can be a thrilling way to explore new destinations and strengthen your bond. It’s the ultimate adventure, combining travel flexibility with many other benefits. But road-tripping with your partner can also present some unique challenges. Here are my top tips for couples going on a road trip together.

A couple in a small convertible on a winding road at sunset.

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Plan together

When you’re thinking about taking on a road trip with your spouse, planning your trip together is not just necessary, but also part of the fun! It’s a great idea to approach your itinerary and preparations as a team.

Discuss and decide on destinations, routes, and sites you both are excited about. Be upfront about your budget limits and make sure to carefully plan for expenses like gas, lodging, and food.

Open communication is essential for choosing your list of places to stop and activities to do. Don’t forget to account for each other’s travel style. Maybe one of you likes museum stops, while the other prefers nature and hiking. Incorporate both so that everyone’s happy.

TIP: Keep track of all of your important travel details with a digital travel planner like this.

Share driving duties

Sharing driving responsibilities with your road trip partner prevents fatigue and it keeps both of you engaged in the trip. A well-rested driver is safer and more alert. This is especially important for road trips with longer driving days.

Hubby truly enjoys driving, and I’m not the biggest fan of driving in unfamiliar areas. I’m always willing to drive when Hubby needs me to on our road trips, but in actual practice, I almost never do the driving.

For many couples, splitting driving duty will work well.

  • Discuss and agree on a driving schedule that suits both your driving preferences and energy levels. Perhaps you’re a morning person and your partner thrives in the evening; use that to your advantage.
  • While sticking to a plan is helpful, be ready to adapt if one of you needs a break. Keep communication open and honest about how you’re feeling physically.
  • Switching drivers can also make the trip more enjoyable, as both of you get the chance to sit back and admire the scenery.

Have a plan for driving breaks

Don’t forget to plan for driving breaks to prevent fatigue and enhance your overall road trip experience. It’s a great idea to set a routine that keeps both of you fresh and alert. Aim to stop every two hours or so.

Stretch your legs, take in some scenery, or grab a quick snack. Or even better, you might align your breaks with specific landmarks or points of interest so your stop is about more than just taking a driving break. It’s a simple way to make each break seem like a mini-adventure in itself.

over-the-shoulder view of a woman writing and sketching in a travel journal in the back of a car, her feet up on the side window

Use GuideAlong

When you’re planning a road trip, having an audio guide can enhance your trip significantly. GuideAlong is an app that offers audio tours, including many popular options for exploring U.S. National Parks.

We’ve used many GuieAlong tours, and each one has been a wonderful addition to our driving and exploring. They’re really a lot of fun!

Pack plenty of drinks and snacks

What’s a road trip without road trip snacks? That’s just a car ride. A boring car ride.

For lengthy road trips from home, we bring our cooler along to keep our food and drinks cool while on the road. For road trips where the drives between stops might be on the shorter side, a couple of ice packs and an insulated re-usable grocery shopping bag might be enough.

Hubby has some strict dietary restrictions because of his celiac disease, so we have to be careful about what we pack. Check out some of our favorite gluten-free road trip snacks.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial on a road trip. It can keep your energy levels up and help you stay alert at the wheel. Remember to drink water regularly. We always keep our water re-usable water bottles handy and refilled.

Find great things to talk about

Engaging in good conversations can be one of the joys of a road trip with your partner. To make sure you’re never at a loss for topics, use these prompts to kick-start your conversation.

Or try a fun road trip trivia game like this.

Two girls traveling by car near the water.

Embrace the silence

When you’re on a road trip, it’s natural to want to prevent silence, filling every moment with conversation, audiobooks, podcasts, or music. But sometimes, the quiet spaces are exactly what you need. So, instead of fearing the silence, welcome it as an opportunity to appreciate each other’s company without the need for words.

It’s a chance to soak in the scenery, reflect on your journey so far, and gather thoughts for the next adventure ahead.

Spend more time exploring than driving

When planning your road trip as a couple, prioritize the destinations you most want to experience, rather than just covering long distances behind the wheel.

Do you have a travel bucket list? Can you check any of those items off your list on your road trip?

Plot out the sights, landmarks, and attractions that you’re both interested in seeing. I also recommend that you set a maximum amount of time you’ll spend driving each day and leave room in your schedule for some spontaneous stops or exploring.

With a flexible schedule, you’re also less likely to feel rushed and can truly soak in each place you stop.

Romantic couple is standing near green retro car on the beach.

Managing expectations

When you take a road trip with your partner, managing your expectations for the trip is important. Discuss what each of you wants out of the trip. Be clear about your desires and limitations (whether financial or otherwise).

  • List your must-see destinations and activities. Discuss them with your spouse to find common ground.
  • Consider time constraints and distance. It’s better to have a comfortable pace than to rush through attractions.
  • Acknowledge that you both may have different ideas about spending and activities. Establish a travel budget that respects both of your financial comfort zones.

Be patient and understanding

Patience is key to a harmonious road trip with your partner. Staying level-headed during delays or mishaps allows you both to tackle challenges together. Easier said than done, right? Fortunately, for me and Hubby, when one of us is upset or stressed the other is usually pretty calm.

Unexpected events are part of road tripping: a flat tire, a wrong turn, or a surprise road closure. These moments test your team spirit, but facing them together is part of why you’re road-tripping together.

We’ve also found that it helps to acknowledge each other’s strengths and contributions to the trip. A ‘thank you’ or a ‘good job’ to the other goes a long way during the long days on the road.

back of a car packed for a summer road trip

Avoid overpacking

When road-tripping, it’s easy to assume that you might need every conceivable item. Plus, you have a whole car, so why not fill it with everything you own? However, overpacking can lead to a cluttered car (yuck) and added stress. Who wants to drag a car’s worth of stuff into and out of each hotel room every time you stop? Not me!

I’ve said it 12 million times, and I’ll say it again: pack versatile clothes that can be mixed and matched and layered. You don’t need dozens of outfit options per day. Trust me on this.

Find more packing tips

Oh, and make sure you’re disposing of your trash at each stop…in an appropriate trash can.

Bring a physical map or road atlas

While technology offers convenience for finding your way from stop to stop, there’s something reassuring about having a physical map or road atlas on your road trip. Paper maps are your reliable backups when technology fails. A physical map doesn’t require a battery or signal, so you won’t have to worry about losing your way even if your devices do.

Woman sitting in the driver's seat of a car looking at a paper map.

Keep devices charged

Maintaining a full battery on your devices can make or break the convenience of your road trip experience.

Get yourself a multi-port car charger. This allows you and your travel buddy to charge multiple devices at once without fighting for the lone outlet.

Bring along extra-long cables if you can. The added length means you can use your phone freely while it’s connected, regardless of where the outlet is in your car.

Consider purchasing a portable power bank. They come in handy when exploring all day outside the vehicle, so you’re never without a power source. Of course, you just need to make sure your power bank is fully charged before you set out.

Keep essentials within easy reach

While on the road, it’s wise to have key items readily accessible.

  • Begin by packing a reusable water bottle for each of you and keeping filled and always them close by.
  • Keep lunches and snacks within arm’s reach so you don’t need to stop to grab a quick bite unless you want to.
  • We also like to keep napkins or paper towels at hand, along with:
    • Sunglasses
    • Spare charging cables
    • Tissues
    • Paper maps or a road atlas

The bottom line

Going on a road trip with your spouse can be a wonderful experience filled with great memories. Remember to communicate openly and pack your patience. Stay flexible and open to the unexpected adventures that may arise.