Guide for couples going on road trips - best tips to enjoy the drive
Tatiana Gekman/

Couples! This is how to avoid killing each other on a road trip

Updated by Sasha Yanshin on May 7 2024

As romantic as a weekend somewhere far-flung sounds, the truth is that if there's one thing that can test the longevity of that warm, fuzzy, butterflies-in-your-stomach, stars-in-your-eyes feeling that you get when you're still in the honeymoon phase of a new relationship, it's taking a road trip together.

The time you spend away from home is, quite often, when you see a person's true colours.

Does their terrible taste in music rear its ugly head? Do they refuse to stop at once-in-a-lifetime sights but insist on spending a couple of hours cooped up in the hotel and room ram-raiding the mini-bar when you get to your destination? Do they - heaven forbid - leave wet towels on the floor assuming the maid will pick them up?

And if you've been together a long time, then the stakes are even higher; gone are the days when they're desperate to impress, and when you'll forgive them every little flaw.

Instead, standards slip, gross bodily functions become part and parcel of loving them, mother-in-laws are insulted, and the bickering begins. *Sigh*. We never said road trips were easy.

But what if we told you there is a way to minimise arguments and avoid all of this, so that you can just enjoy a nice, peaceful weekend somewhere lovely? Don't worry, we're not talking about breaking up with them (at least not yet).

From practical things like making sure your route is well-planned and sticking to a budget, to the more personal ones like arming yourself with a steady supply of car games and making sure you leave your grudges at home, there are so many things couples can do to make sure their road trip goes to plan.

So what's the secret?

Well, to be honest, it's the same as every other piece of relationship advice you've ever been given - to be conscious about the other person's feelings, every step of the way. That said, there are certainly ways that you can tailor it to your own road trip.

Without further ado, here are our top tips for a couple's road trip…

A couple driving down a road at sunset with his arm around her shoulder

Before you go: Plan it together

And we mean all of it, because to be honest, planning a road trip is half of the fun.

Decide on the route

In the era of Google Maps and SatNavs there's no longer much need to spend all evening poring over paper maps, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do your research anyway.

If you're going on a scenic drive through Southern France, for example, Google will naturally advise the quickest route, rather than the much prettier and more exciting coastal road.

By making an effort to do things your way, especially when it comes to seeking out unusual routes, you'll not only share a bonding experience in the run up to the trip but also be too distracted during the drive to really focus on each other's flaws.

After all, it's much easier not to be irritated by them when you're being wowed by incredible views rather than looking at the grey concrete of a motorway.

It's not only the road and the views that matter, however, because every so often you're going to want to get out and stretch your legs.

Search for fun things to do and cool sights to see between your point A and point B, and agree on where you're going to stop off along the way.

Hopefully, you've got fairly similar tastes, but remember that if you don't necessarily feel like going to a particular landmark, it's still important that your partner gets to have their say too - even if it is the 15th sports stadium you've been to this week. Sorry.

Set a budget

If you're going to make a road trip work as a couple, then you need to be realistic about practicalities - as much as talking about money might not be very sexy, it's important.

Although you don't have to stick to your budget religiously, it'll help save any awkwardness over finances and give you a good idea of whether you're expecting vastly different things from the trip.

Before you even set off, make sure you have a clear idea of how much you can afford to spend per day as a duo, and how you're going to go about paying for things.

This should cover the basics such as fuel and car hire, but also things such as food, hotels, activities and any little extras such as magazines.

As a matter of common sense, your budget should really be guided by the person with the lower cash-flow, unless the other is feeling generous. Even if they are, be cautious with how much you borrow as feeling in their debt will most likely put a downer on the whole thing.

Be sure to leave some leeway for unexpected costs such as engine repairs - or that spontaneous extra night somewhere incredible.

Find where you're going to stay

Have a good think about where you're going to stay overnight during your journey - are you both okay with roughing it in shabby motels, or does one of you have slightly classier tastes?

If you can, book at least some of your hotels in advance; this way, you both know what you're getting at the end of the day and it takes the stress out of having to find somewhere along the way.

There's nothing more frustrating (or likely to tip you over the edge) than going from hotel to hotel being constantly rejected when you just want a nice lie-down after a long day of driving.

Shot from behind of a couple looking at map
Maria Savenko/

On the road: Enjoy the moment

Okay so the planning stages are done and the moment of truth has arrived: it's time to bite the bullet and get on the road.

Split the driving

As we said before, a lot of getting on is just about being fair - and this counts for the driving too.

Although it's not always possible, if you can share the job then it's worth doing; no matter how much you love being the one behind the wheel, there's a lot to be said for just sitting in the passenger seat, watching the world go by and enjoying the scenery.

Just as importantly, it's not all that safe for one person to drive for hours and hours on end, so you'll be able to cover further distances in a day if you've got another person to share the job with.

Plus, with more than one person doing all of the concentrating, it should cut down on tiredness, and by extension, those ratty little arguments we're all guilty of picking when we need a nap.

Now is not the time for grudges

On the subject of arguments, it's important to point out that the first rule of long couple car rides is this: leave your grudges behind you.

If there's an issue that's burning a hole in your mind, bring it up and clear the air before you set off. No matter how unpleasant it is at the time, you will thank yourself later.

Otherwise, resolve to forgive and let live, or at the very least to wait until you don't have to spend the next 10 hours trapped together in a metal box to say your piece. At the end of the day, driving is less safe when you're angry and less enjoyable when you're sad.

Be flexible

Like most things in life, it's likely that - even with all of the best planning in the world - something will go slightly off course during your journey. It could be that you hit some unexpected traffic, get lost down a maze of country lanes or even break down in the middle of nowhere.

In this situation, remind yourself that these things happen and it's not your partner's fault (even when it kind of is), take a deep breath, and keep your cool.

At some point in the future - okay, maybe the distant future - the time that you got lost in *insert horror story here* will be a funny dinner party story, but for now, it's merely an annoyance. Try not to take it too seriously.

Couple arguing on the road while having problem with a broken down car

Be fair about the breaks

We hope for your sake that the love of your life isn't one of these people with the bladder of a baby ant, because there is nothing more annoying than hearing that meek, whiny 'Baaaaabe, I need to wee' voice every 15 minutes.

And while it can be tempting to either pretend you didn't hear them or just flat out refuse to stop, in the interests of maintaining the peace simply giving it an exasperated 'Again??!?!?' and rolling your eyes before dutifully stopping is almost certainly the better option.

When all is said and done, everyone knows how uncomfortable needing to pee is and there's no point ruining a journey (or in the worst case, causing 'accidents') for the sake of an extra 10 minutes.

If you're the wee-er, at least try to be polite enough to find the delicate balance between suitably hydrated and unnecessarily coke-guzzling.

To be fair, this works in your interest too, as service station bathrooms are rarely lovely places - but then you probably know that already.

Agree on the playlists

Ahhhh, back to the music tastes, the cause of many a road trip argument.

While it's easy to smile politely and say: 'You do you, hun,' when you know they're going to be listening to their terrible house tunes through headphones, when it's blasting in a car, it's a whole different story.

Once again, the secret to success is compromise. How you work this out is up to you - it could mean you each get an hour on the decks, you agree not to play anything too out there, or you both get to ban certain songs from the airwaves. Or you could just listen to the radio.

An even better idea though is to have an evening on the sofa with a pizza and your Spotify open before you leave, creating playlists that you both agree on.

Plus, it can double as your wedding playlist (okay, so we may be getting ahead of ourselves here, but you never know, if this goes well…)

Our top tip? Get some cheesy classics on - they can't complain while they're busy singing along without even realising.

Keep the driver occupied (but not distracted)

Theoretically, you'll both be sharing the driving. But even if you've done your time at the wheel and need a bit of rest, make sure you're being fair to the driver - that means not falling asleep straight away and not spending the entire time staring at your phone rather than talking to them.

Instead, get to know each other better with a good heart-to-heart, or up the rivalry by playing some classic car games - and the loser has to do a forfeit, of course.

Couple laughs while playing a game on a road trip
Monkey Business Images/

Let others join you

No matter how much you adore somebody, spending too much time in their presence can easily drive you to the point of insanity.

But no one said you had to do the entire thing with just the two of you, so why not invite friends, or another couple perhaps, to join you along the way?

Whether you only take them for a short duration or they stay with you for the whole ride, having someone totally different in the car allows for different ideas, stories you've never heard before and even more laughs.

To be honest, even if person no.3 is the one that ends up annoying you, then at least you and your other half have someone to bitch and bond over. It sounds harsh, but you know you'll do it.

Once you arrive at your destination

Treasure your alone time

It might seem counter-intuitive for a trip you're taking with your partner, but once you get to your destination make sure you both take some time for yourselves.

Unless you already work together, the chances are that you've been directly together for longer than you usually would be, so it's totally okay to need a bit of solo time to decompress.

Focus on what went well

Even with all of this advice, it's a fact of life that there will probably be some kind of hiccup, minor annoyance or sneaky side-eye during the course of your road trip.

But once you arrive at your destination, either at the end of each day or overall, make a mental note to draw a line under anything that's happened and wipe the slate clean. You'll enjoy the rest of your time together much more.

Good luck!