Tips to making a good road trip great, for everyone

Because road trips are fun, because they bring unexpected wonder and adventure, because they’re a good way to see things and experience the country, we often grab some friends, hop in the car with reckless abandon and head for the horizon.

And most of the time it’s really fun, filled with indelible memories, enjoyed by all. But sometimes — not often, but sometimes — it’s the ruin of relationships, the strain of friendships, the thing that never gets mentioned again.

To cultivate the first kind and avoid the second kind, Grand Junction psychotherapist and communication trainer Kathy Ziola offered a few hints for setting road trips on a good path:

Be pro-active: “The more clarity we have going into something, the more we create some understanding beforehand,” she said. “I think it’s important to clarify and check in with everyone about certain things before you even leave: When are we leaving, where are we going, how long are we traveling each day.”

Learn each person’s travel style before leaving. Some people may be seat-of-the-pants travelers while others like a little more structure (and hotel reservations). Some may like to get out and stretch every hour while others may want to go go go. Discuss people’s styles beforehand and how their needs can be met so that everyone can focus on the bigger work of looking around and having fun.

Plan for physical needs in advance. That means enough snacks and drinks for everyone and an agreement about bathroom breaks.

Communicate with each other about what everyone would like to do in the car. Listen to music? Play games? Listen to books? Look out the window in silence? Learn in advance what people enjoy doing, Ziola said, and discuss how people’s needs and wants can be met.

Don’t expect others to read your mind. “You need to speak up honestly in order for others to have the opportunity to consider your requests and input,” she said.

For instance, she said, if you’re feeling tired after a long day and want to stretch, you might say, “After a long day in the car, I feel tired and cramped and really need some movement to feel alive and good again. I would love it if we could stop near a park for a walk or get a hotel with a pool. How do you feel about these ideas?”

If you’re feeling bothered by something, Ziola said, express it in a way that includes: 1. the simple, observable fact of what is bothering you, “minus any criticism, judgment, labeling or evaluation of the person or their behavior”; 2. an expression of what you are feeling, naming a simple emotion; 3. what really matters to you and what you value in the situation; and 4. a request for sharing understanding and then for action only after you fully understand each other.

Have empathy. This means listening and not trying to impose advice or stories about yourself on what another person is expressing, Ziola said.


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