When you take family road trips, you put a mixture of personalities into the small space of a vehicle for several hours at a time. Road trips can be a wonderful bonding experience, or they can be hazardous to your relationships.
Here are 10 types of people on road trips, and how you can deal with each.
1. The Nervous Nelly Roadtrippers. Maybe it’s going over bridges. Or that one lost hotel confirmation number. Or worry over whether an appliance is still turned on back home. The Nervous Nellies might even lose sleep over how the pets are doing with the petsitter. They just know something got left undone back home, and it’s worth fretting about. How will the office manage without them at work?
How to deal: Your job is to help these people relax and enjoy the trip. You probably know in advance if your road tripper is the worrying type, so plan ahead. Bring along something else (an object, task, or topics of conversation) to distract them and redirect their attention.
2. The Naysayer Roadtrippers. You’re never going to make this green light. The hotel has probably given your room away. You’re definitely going to crash. The breakfast buffet won’t have anything good to eat. The naysayers won’t like the rest of the crew’s pick for dinner. The temperature in the vehicle will be too hot, then too cold. You know the type.
How to deal: Your strategy for dealing with these people, similar to the Nervous Nellies, is to prepare yourself ahead of time. Do your best to stay positive and nicely point out the many ways your trip is actually going great. Take pictures so you can prove to them later they actually had a good time.
3. The Foodie Roadtrippers. These people use a road trip as an excuse to eat. They probably have at least two food festivals scoped out along the route, and may even know of a food truck or five along the way. Mealtimes aren’t just chances for everyone to refuel, but to celebrate. Also, foodies might be epic snackers who bring along a plethora of goodies. (Bonus points for them if the snacks are themed with your trip.)
How to deal: This is actually not a bad person to have along. Just be prepared to vacuum up those crumbs and to come home 5 pounds heavier.
4. The Imbibing Roadtrippers. Like the foodies above, the imbibers find any excuse to drink alcohol. They may suggest stops at wineries and vineyards, pubs and breweries, in the name of culture and a good time. (“Drive-through daiquiris in Louisiana! Let’s go!”) From aperitifs to nightcaps, from brunch mimosas to dessert wines, indulge your road trip buddy as long as they don’t get so wasted as to bother everyone else.
How to deal: Unless the goal of your road trip is to visit the above types of places, speak up for making sure everyone has something to look forward to on the trip, not just the imbibers. Also be sure imbibers don’t do the driving.
5. The Underplanners/Procrastinators. These folks love the idea of a road trip, but just can’t think about where to go or how to get there. People like this? Will do a road trip someday. Or, they want to go somewhere badly but just don’t want to fuss with boring details like which highway to take or thinking about where you will stay the night. (“We’ll hit the open road and just GOOOO!”)
How to deal: If you can get underplanners or procrastinators on board for a road trip, great. Likely, they just aren’t detail-oriented people. That’s where you can come in, or ask for someone else’s help in planning.
6. The Overplanners. These people plan road trips down to the minute. They know exactly what everyone will be doing at every minute of every day, have already researched where you will be come dinner time, know which restaurants got good reviews on Yelp, where you will be when you need to stop for gas — and how much it will cost to refuel. There are notebooks personalized for each member of the road trip crew, complete with lists and packing suggestions, which they handed everyone weeks in advance. Maybe overplanners are just a tad eager about getting away.
How to deal: It’s really not so bad to have overplanners on a road trip, as long as they don’t become super controlling or turn into the know-it-all type. (See below.) If you can, help these people live in the moment and accept the wonderful, surprising things that happen along the way.
7. The “I’ve been there and done it all” Roadtrippers. Did you do a 10-mile backpacking trip? They have hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail. Did you spend almost a week exploring the Smithsonian museums? They actually interned there. Think you know Disney World like the back of your hand? They have a relative who works there who spills all the behind-the-scenes secrets and gets them in for free. Whatever you have done or would like to do, these folks can beat it.
How to deal: You’ll never have one over on these people, so don’t even try. Just focus on the trip you’re enjoying and remind yourself this person’s claims might be a tad inflated — because why else does this person have to keep boasting?
8. The Scatterbrained Roadtrippers. Are you supposed to be going east on the highway? Or maybe it was west. Anywho, that road sign just said Springfield is ahead — or maybe that was the sign for the Springfield exit. These folks are (almost) certain the map and snacks are (were) right here in the console. With any luck, the scatterbrains aren’t the ones who planned the road trip.
How to deal: If you’re know you’re traveling with people who are a little on the spacey side, consider taking more leadership of the trip. Try not to blame them for being confused — it’s just who they are — and find other qualities about them that are admirable.
9. The Music Hog Roadtrippers. You’ll know music hogs by their 20-hour carefully curated playlist that took 5 hours to put together. Or the way they know the lyrics to every song — and aren’t shy about singing favorite parts even when you’re trying to have a conversation with them.
How to deal: Music hogs just want to have a good time and bring forth their inner DJ. Maybe it’s their way of contributing to the road trip. If you and the others on the trip are fine with it, then you’re all set. Otherwise, smile and ask to share your own music too — fair is fair — or offer them a pair of headphones.
10. The Perfect Roadtrippers. These are people who, perhaps like a unicorn, may or may not exist. They get up early and help everyone else get going, and they have a great attitude about the day ahead, no matter what is on the schedule for that day. They suggest car games and might even lead a song or two, wisely stopping before the singing gets awkward or embarrassing. If anyone has a problem, these people are there to lend a hand. They have a good idea of where you’re going and have good ideas, but humbly take everyone’s input into account. They might surprise you with a small gift for the ride, or a souvenir after you’ve gotten home.
How to deal: Give this person hugs, flowers, and candy (or possibly a gift card). Then plan another road trip together ASAP.
Most of us are probably a mix of a few of these types of roadtrippers, or we might be different types on different days. We all have our quirks and even failings, but that doesn’t mean we can’t love our family and friends and have a great time exploring with one another. When roadtrippers are kids, they need extra grace and compassion. Make memories together and help one another be happy to be along for the ride.