Are you planning a road trip with your partner, spouse or significant other? Are you worried about what to talk about, how it will go or how not to argue?
Never fear, dear reader. In this post, I’ll share all our best tips and advice for couples on a road trip together- and how to still be talking at the end of it.
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Couples Road Trip Advice- our story
Before buying a motorhome and touring almost fulltime, my husband and I lived on boats for 15 years.
Some very VERY small boats.
To say that we’re good at living together in a small space without committing murder (or getting divorced) is possibly an understatement- but I don’t want to imply that we’re one of those magical couples who never argue.
Oh boy, do we argue. Seriously, we’re both stubborn, strong-willed Type A personalities who hate to lose and refuse to back down, even when we’re fairly sure we’re wrong.
So how the heck have we survived 19 years and counting?
Our biggest secret- and probably the hardest thing to master (sorry!) is communication. Mr WB was deployed for a lot of our early relationship (which is another great tip for a long-lasting relationship: get them to live in a different country for a while!)
Yes, yes I’m joking. Sort of.
Sorry, I digressed. What those early years taught us was how to communicate well. Shrugs and a half-hearted ‘I’m fine’ were useless over a phone or email. Instead, we got really really good at getting to the heart of the problem quickly- and learning how to talk about it without upsetting the other one.
(TOP TIP: Use the words ‘I feel…’ rather than ‘you’re really pissing me off…’ A small change, but it does work!)
Another thing we do well is learning how to let the small things go. When you only get to talk for a few minutes every once in a while, it really focuses the mind on what’s important- and what’s not REALLY that big a deal.
Living in a small space with someone holding a grudge, or sulking when you don’t know what’s wrong is no fun at all, so figuring out how to say ‘I feel angry/ sad/ frustrated because…’ is a huge step towards being able to work out how to fix the issue.
(And yes, it’s perfectly ok to say ‘I’m mad at you and I have no clue why so I’m gonna go for a long walk and get some space for a while’.)
It’s ok to want some YOU time
It’s also really important to SAY when you need space. Even in a small van, it’s possible to avoid each other for a few hours while you read a book or draw or listen to music (or, in my case, watch the F1/ Rugby/ NFL highlights.)
Couples Road Trip- Avoid the ‘Big 3’ fights
In our experience, the biggest fights while travelling are caused by the following:
- Storage/ space
- Getting lost /feeling out of control
Now, of COURSE there are other issues. We’re currently having the annual ‘debate’ about family and Christmas (oh joy!) But the MAJORITY of fights can be traced back to the three things above. So, let’s start with those.
Set a budget for your couples road trip
Like it or loathe it, you’re going to need to talk about money with your partner. It’s essential that you’re both on the same page before your trip even starts.
Here are some questions to ask your partner whilst planning the trip:
- Where do you want to stay? (eg: Campsites/ Hotels/ Wild Camping/ with friends or family)
- Do you want to take the fast route (which often have tolls) or the slower but pretty route
- How long do you want to go for/ how far do you want to travel (fuel costs money!)
- What activities do you want to do? (Do you need to book tickets in advance)
- Do you want to cook, or eat out each night (or a mix of the two)
Once those questions are answered and agreed, you can work together to start planning your road trip.
Sharing space together
The next biggest fight of couple van life is caused by trying to fit two (or more!) people into a small space together, especially if you’re living in a motorhome or campervan.
Our biggest tip for this is to share the storage space as equally as possible- which is often not as easy as it sounds.
For example, I have more clothes onboard than my husband. We each have a locker for underwear and t-shirts, another one for jeans/ hoodies/ etc and we share the shoe locker. But he wants more wardrobe space (he usually carries with shirts and clothes for work, in case he has to fly last minute to visit clients etc), so he has more space there and I grabbed an extra locker for… stuff (more t-shirts, jeans and another 3 of my favourite Wandering Bird hoodies – they’re so warm and snuggly 😊)
The trick is to find a compromise that works for you both/ all. Don’t forget to consider your motorhome payload– just because you have a space to fill, doesn’t mean you have the payload to use it!
Also, don’t forget to use the interior of cushions to store scarves/ winter gear/ blankets/ socks and other soft things- it’s amazing how much you can fit into a couple of those! You can see all our best storage tips for campervans and motorhomes here.
Don’t forget, you can also get a motorhome storage box on the back of your van to increase space if needed.
Couples Road Trip- Stop Feeling out of Control
If you had unlimited time/ money/ fuel, getting lost or taking the wrong turn probably wouldn’t bother you much.
For most of us, the worry starts because we feel the campsite or hotel will close and we won’t get there in time, or we’re going to miss an event, or we’re going to run out of fuel, or daylight or… something.
Play to your strengths
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. I LOVE planning motorhome road trips. Mr WB hates it and is very rarely involved in any planning at all- unless he wants to do something specific. Instead, he trusts me to figure it all out and he just goes along for the ride.
HOWEVER, if you feel anxious about not knowing, make sure you are involved in the planning of the trip. Just knowing how far there is to go, and what route to take, will make you feel much better. You’ll know how long you can stop for lunch, or for a walk around a pretty village and you’ll feel much less anxious. You can also download and use some of these best road trip apps to help your journey run smoothly without the stress.
You can grab your FREE printable road trip planner here.
Allocate tasks accordingly
Mr WB is an awesome driver and will happily take the motorhome and trailer down any stupidly small road I point him at, whereas I would be much more cautious.
On the flip side, I can navigate us anywhere, while he… struggles. It’s not that he can’t read a map or sat-nav, but he gets distracted easily and therefore misses a junction- usually when the next one is 7000 miles away.
So he mainly drives and I navigate. Other couples prefer to split the driving. Similarly, he will prepare the outside of the van for driving, whilst I do the inside jobs. It’s all about finding whatever rhythm works for you.
Allow for mistakes
But most important is to allow for mistakes- especially if you’re fairly new to road tripping together. It’s highly likely that your partner won’t know what you know and vice versa.
Be kind to each other, especially when parking the motorhome, or trying to figure out how things work. I guarantee something will go wrong on your road trip- something always does. It’s how you deal with it that matters most.
More Couples Road Trip Advice
Here are some more tips to help things go smoothly
- Stop regularly for breaks and to stretch your legs- tiredness does not help in a happy road trip
- Keep a supply handy of easy-to-eat road trip snacks – hunger is also not your friend. If you’re in a van, be sure to grab one of these cute motorhome mugs to make your partner smile when they see it.
- Make sure you have an epic road trip playlist to pass the time. Now is NOT the time to bring up sensitive issues. Being trapped in a small space can make things really awkward. Wait until you are either outside and can walk away if you need to, or ideally until your trip is over!
- Alternatively, have some fun road trip games or questions to ask your partner, such as the ones in our Road Trip Survival Kit. Be warned- these can get competitive!
- Be honest about when you need some space. Your partner is not a mind reader and doesn’t know when you’ve had enough and need a break. I usually make it really obvious by grabbing the dog and walking out the door, but there have been plenty of times where I’ve drawn the curtain across the van and put in my noise cancelling headphones… just for a break. (Trust me, those things are a godsend!)
- Write in a road trip logbook, so you remember all your adventures in the future
I hope that helps you feel more confident about your upcoming couples road trip. If you have any other tips, feel free to share them below so we can all benefit. And feel free to share a copy of this with your partner before your road trip, so they can be on the same page as you.
Just print it out and leave it casually laying around. Sellotape it to the back of the toilet door. Or staple it to their forehead. Whatever works… 😉 Good luck!
Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
If you’d like to connect with Kat, send her an email or follow her adventures on social media.