Whether it’s just an hour drive to the parents’ house for the holidays or a day trip to a friend’s wedding in the country, a road trip can put a seemingly solid relationship to the test. After all, being with your honey 24/7, with no escape route, can either magnify your love and affection or intensify your already-existing problems and conflict.

Whether you and your partner have been together for 20 days or for 20 years, there are many steps to take to ensure that your road trip will be filled with fun, connection, and a minimal amount of discomfort.

Remind yourselves that you are spending quality time together, away from the stress and hassles of work. Keeping that in mind, here are some suggestions for ways to prepare prior to the trip to have a meaningful time.

  • Both of you can write 20 “conversation starter” questions. Use your imagination. Anything goes. Questions can run the gamut. They can be bucket list queries (“name three countries you’d like for us to visit”) or questions about childhood, food, or sex. Bring them on the trip and discuss. For already-prepared questions, google “conversation starters for couples.”
  • Create a playlist of songs and/or podcasts and alternate listening to them. Or decide on a few audio books to listen to while you drive.
  • Develop your own “Rules of Our Road Trip.” The best way to come up with this list is to brainstorm about your prior road trips. Focus on areas of conflict and make a plan for dealing with those issues. Be proactive instead of reactive. The following problem areas are universal ones, so discuss them before you even get into the car:
  • Who drives? Figure out a schedule to the best of your ability. Will one of you drive for the entire trip or will you alternate driving responsibilities? Driving styles can be a source of conflict, so know ahead of time how you will deal with these differences.
  • Environment in the car. Compromise on temperature, decibel level, and sound source before the trip.
    Pit stops. Talk about the number of stops along the way.

Should you adhere to a strict schedule or be flexible? Spontaneity can be a plus, however if you have a deadline (like a hotel reservation or dinner with relatives), you might want to reserve that beautiful overlook or fruit stand for the ride home.

The bottom line is that road trips can be a fantastic way for you to connect with your partner—in fact, it can be quite romantic and intimate. But if not handled in a smart way, it can lead to a nightmare. So, when you hit the road, be a team, be respectful, and be considerate. There’s a lot to see.

Happy holiday travels!