our top 10 tips for surviving a road trip with your spouse

Will and I have been on five road trips since we got married almost seven months ago. I’m not talking two hour drives for a day trip, either. I’m talking two cross country moves and three road-freaking-trips.

When we moved out to Arizona in June we had been married for two months. We were blessed enough to have already had a honeymoon, but this four month journey in the desert kind of felt like a second go around. We were about to experience a whole lot of just each other. Not a whole lot of family, friends, or busy lives to distract us. 

We definitely took advantage of our distraction free time. Our first weekend in Arizona, we drove to Utah to visit Will’s family and celebrate his mom’s birthday. We spent almost every weekend in Tucson or at a National Park. Over Labor Day we road tripped to the Grand Canyon. Over Columbus Day we trekked out to San Diego. And by Halloween we moved back home to North Carolina. 

We’ve made some good and bad discoveries about road trips over the past few months and want to share our top ten tips for surviving road trips with your spouse.

Plan the trip together 

Maybe one of you is accustomed to leaving at five am, while the other person thinks nine o’clock is reasonable.  Maybe one of you wants to push and drive fourteen, eighteen, twenty-four hours in a day, while the other person considers six to eight hours a solid day of driving.  

These are all completely normal things, but if you don’t talk about expectations ahead of time, you WILL be shocked when your spouse thinks that driving straight through the night is 100% happening.  

Talk about the foreseeable things during the road trip planning process.  If you can’t plan the entire trip together (because of work, or whatever other reason), at least take some time to sit down and talk it out.  Make sure you understand each other’s expectations up front.  

How many days do you expect to be on the road?  Will you be staying in hotels, with friends and relatives, or camping?  Is stopping for sight seeing an option, or is time more pressing?  

Sit down and talk about these, and other foreseeable things before you leave.

Manage the snack and beverage situation

When I get bored, I like to eat.  Having snacks at my fingertips while on the road is crucial, but also dangerous.  The good news is that you’re in control of yourself, and that you have influence over your partnership.  You and your spouse are literally the people purchasing your snacks for the road.  You can absolutely be prepared.

Will and I go to the grocery store together.  We decide together what we want.  I know I’ll want chocolate.  We’ll both want something salty.  Throwing in healthy options is a positive thing.  We bring some Gatorade in addition to water to make sure we will stay hydrated.  

I consider having snacks for a road trip to be non-negotiable, but I do understand the difference between needing a pick-me-up and needing a meal.  Make sure you have discussed with one another whether or not you’ll be packing your own meals to bring, or if you’ll be stopping along the route.  Will and I like to stop at Subway for healthy, inexpensive options.  I also love throwing a side salad onto fast food meals to get some veggies while on the road. 

Eat the Hostess Donuts

Speaking of eating healthy while on the road, my personal cheat are those tiny little chocolate Hostess donuts you can get at every gas station.  Every morning, I treat myself at the first gas station we stop at with a package of donuts to reward myself for being a good sport about sitting still all day.  

I know I just spouted all this stuff at you about you being the one in control and that you can bring the healthy snack options.  But fo real, these Hostess donuts are an absolute necessity and Will agrees with me completely.  

Create your own custom playlist

If you’re anything like me, you have been creating your own playlists on iTunes and/or Spotify for years.  You hear a song, you think, “That’s my jam!” and you add that piece of gold to your playlist.  

At the start of every road trip I have taken since college, we begin every day with “Circle Of Life” from the Lion King, followed by upbeat songs and Disney princess classics.  Belting it out whether or not you know all the words is a given.

In the weeks leading up to your road trip, throw some songs in a playlist.  Think of songs your spouse loves and put them on there.  The song you danced to at your wedding?  Definitely.  That song from high school you remember all the lyrics to?  Add it!  This is not the time to be sophisticated.  This is absolutely the time for sing alongs, road trip dance parties, and keeping your eyelids propped open by the mere sound of high school’s nostalgic rhythms coming out of your sound system.  

Use Walkie-Talkies

Are you and your spouse going to be driving in different cars?  Walkie-talkies are absolutely, 100% necessary.  Let’s think about it—the likelihood of you being more than a mile apart from one another is slim to none while you’re on the road, talking on your hand held phone is illegal in most states, and in the event that your car is not equipped with blu-tooth (like mine), communicating while driving can get tricky.

Not with walkie-talkies!  Head down to Walmart and pick up a pair.  Bring some extra batteries on the road and viola!  You can talk about a rad podcast you just listened to, exclaim over some huge bird you just saw, or share navigation tips with just the push of a button.

Will and I have code names.  He’s Captain American and I’m Raptor One.  

Listen to podcasts

Speaking of podcasts, remember when you were a kid and you would be driving somewhere and all your parents wanted to listen to was some boring radio show or news broadcast?  I would be sitting in the back being like, “Why can’t we just listen to music instead of this boring stuff?”

When Will and I moved across the country, we both took separate cars, so we could listen to whatever we wanted to.  I could sing as loud and as long as I wanted and he could listen to as many political podcasts as his heart desired.  Once we started road tripping together in the same car, it changed things.

The good news is that we are a team and a partnership.  We’re also BFFs so we occasionally share interests.  We attempt to be considerate of each other and listen to things that interest both of us.  

On the move out to Arizona we both fell in love with podcasts, and the great news is that podcasts are completely free for you to listen to.  You can listen to what you want, when you want, and there are thousands of shows to pick from.  You can even download them when you’re connected to wifi and listen to them later, so you don’t use your data.  See?  Free.

My favorite podcasts lately are the SHE podcast, ONE Extraordinary Marriage, and Elevation with Steven Furtick.  I saved up several shows for our move back to North Carolina and had a blast.

Listen to each other’s needs while on the road

We all have bladders and stomachs.  We all get dehydrated or car sick.  We all have expectations for how our day is going to go.  

My point is, you’re both different and come from different driving experiences from before your relationship.  Don’t allow your need to get where you’re going steamroll your relationship.  When you’re on the road, listen to each other’s needs and allow your partner to be human.  Chances are, arriving later than planned will not endanger or hurt someone.  They may just… alter your plans.  That’s it.  

I can easily go for four or five hours without stopping while on the road, unless the car needs gas.  Will, on the other hand, needs to get out of the car every couple hours to simply stretch his legs.  When we moved to Arizona two months after getting married, this actually really annoyed me.  I didn’t understand why we could never drive for longer than three hours without stopping.  It wasn’t until months later that Will shared how restless his legs and body would get, and that’s something I can completely understand!

The reality is, stopping for ten to fifteen minutes at a gas station will not ruin the trip.  In fact, it might enhance and benefit the experience for your spouse.  Accept the humanity of your spouse and if it’s something that annoys you, realize that they can’t control it either.  It’s just a need that they have, and that is 100% okay.  Show them some love and grace.

Be willing to drive

I grew up in a family where my dad drives basically everywhere.  It is very rare that my mom will hop behind the wheel when both of my parents are in the same car, even while on a road trip.  (Side note—there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, OR if your family was completely different.  I’m just saying, this is my family.)

Will and I are very similar, but this is still an expectation I revisit occasionally in our relationship.  I try to thank him often for when he drives for us, especially if he drove a long way or at the end of a tiring day.  I’ll ask if he’s okay to drive, not as a sign of disrespect, but because if he needs me to drive instead, I would love to serve him in that way.

If in your relationship, one of you tends to drive more than the other, maybe discuss that expectation before you leave for your road trip.  Ask if your spouse wants to drive the most, or if they would like to split it more equally.  Even if you don’t talk about it ahead of time and your spouse asks you to drive while you’re in the middle of your trip, be okay and willing to step up and help.  

On the flip side, if you normally do all the driving, but expect to want to share that responsibility on the road trip, lovingly bring the idea up ahead of time.  Make sure your spouse knows how they can serve you.  Also, don’t be afraid to ask!  If you’re too tired to drive, it is absolutely okay to ask your partner to step up!

Pray over your journey

I actually think that this is the most important thing.  Just like praying in everyday life, over tough situations and illnesses, or over a newly purchased home, praying over your trip should be something you do every time.  Set the intention now, whether it’s before you leave the house or as soon as you sit in the car.  

I try to pray over everything.  Over our own personal and bodily safety, over our own alertness and health, over the safety of our vehicles and their mechanics, and that we will be surrounded by alert and competent drivers.  In everything, God’s plan is highest and His will be done.

Don’t total your car

We did this, when we were driving from Arizona to North Carolina.  On our first day of driving I got rear ended in a tiny town in New Mexico.  

We had been planning on taking a more northern route home, to see friends and family and to frolic in the fall foliage of the mountains.  Instead we ended up staying in New Mexico for about twenty-four more hours while we sorted everything out with insurance on a Friday before the weekend.  The car being a total loss was in our favor because did not have to figure out how to repair it and transport it back home.

Obviously, not being at fault in this situation, there was nothing I could have done to prevent it.  It just happened.  I can replay the scenario countless times, realizing had we not tried to stop for dinner, had we not pulled into that parking lot, had we not done A, B, C, D then this would not have happened and our lives would be very different.  Luckily I trust in someone bigger and greater than myself and I know that God’s Got This.  

I will blog more about the accident later.  This blog post is not about that.  It is about this: always keep proof of insurance in your car.  Always have good insurance that will take care of you in the case of an accident because I don’t care who you are, it WILL happen to you one of these days.  Be on your spouse’s team.  Even if they are at fault, they probably weren’t planning on getting in a car accident, especially when you are 2,000 miles from home.  Recognize that you only have control over certain things.  Explain your situation to the insurance people.  Get people on your team.  They will move mountains for you if you treat them with respect and understanding.  You have been through something tough and if you treat them right, they will do what they can to make this situation a little easier.

But if at all possible, avoid this situation.  It is way too complicated when you are far away from home.

To all of you, I wish you safe and fun road trips with your spouse!  They can absolutely be great experiences, especially if you make the most of them.  

Have more tips for your fellow travelers?  Leave it in the comments below!  If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and don’t forget to subscribe if you haven’t already.

Until next time,
Jamie out.

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