Road Trip Stress: Why Couples Fight On Vacation?

Can road trip stress create arguments between couples? The answer is a resounding yes. Nineteen percent of couples argue during a road trip. Are you surprised? Have you ever fought with your partner over directions? We are all human, and arguments are a fact of life. And you know how men are with directions :),  His response, “I know the way, the app is pulled up.” And I think to myself, and yet somehow we are lost!

This article in the  UK’s Daily Mail shares just how much couples do fight while on vacation:

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  • Surprisingly beach holidays were found to be the second most taxing situation for couples at 18%, followed by:
    • 17% City Breaks
    • 14% Family Trips
    • 11% Coach Tours
  • 18% of respondents said spending too much time together was a problem
  • 40% of couples argue at least once a day —YIKES!

These findings don’t surprise me. I will explain why these stress triggers can happen and what to do about them to make your trip a blissful and happy time instead of an unhappy, negative experience!

Road Trip Stress Triggers

A brief lesson in practical travel psychology will give travelers a clear understanding of why arguments surface in the first place. Have you ever heard of Myers-Briggs® Typing? It’s a practical approach to psychology based on innate personality characteristics. Every person on the planet has a Myers-Briggs® Type, and now every person on the planet has a travel personality types which I’ve developed around the teachings of Myers-Briggs®.

Scientifically we all deal with the world using these four personality preferences:

  • Extraversion vs. Introversion: How we gain energy.
    • Extroverts thrive on lively social interactions while Introverts find spending time in reflection to be very positive in nourishing their souls.
  • Sensing vs. Intuition: How you process and receive information.
    • Sensing types are literal, tangible and sensory-driven while Intuitive prefer to see the big picture, trust their gut and are dreamers.
  • Thinking vs. Feeling: How we make decisions.
    • Thinkers remain cool and calm, and pride themselves on objectivity while Feelers are gentle-hearted, and make decisions based on people’s feelings first and foremost.
  • Judging vs. Perceiving: How we approach life.
    • Judgers have a place for everything, are punctual, keep lists handy and thrive on order while Perceivers are likely to find an alternative to everything, are easily distracted, and love to explore the unknown.

How to Avoid Stressful Driving Holidays 

Like most things in life, once you have an awareness and an understanding of something it makes dealing with differences easier. Now it’s time to write down your travel stress triggers and ask your partner to do the same. Then it’s time to discuss these traits calmly. I suggest you have a discussion about your desires, wishes, and goals for the trip before the bags are packed.

If your partner has a judging trait (this doesn’t mean they are judgemental) why not appoint them as the designated driver. They like to plan, and are happy to map out the trip and follow it to a tee? Leave the driving to them and then sit back and enjoy the scenery. And yes, I understand you may have kids in the car repeatedly asking, “Are we there yet,” possibly getting on your nerves, but hopefully, you’ve planned road trip games for their personality types too?

Why Would Beach Holidays Trigger Stress?

Why would dreamy bleached-white, sandy beaches, and deep blue turquoise waters, with (insert you here) sipping frozen cocktails topped off with a romantic sunset walk be an issue? All beaches are not the same. So before you pack the cooler, let’s look at a few travel personality traits to consider before planning a beach vacation to keep disagreements to a minimum.

Google beach vacations and 22 million+ results appear.

Whaat? How in the world do you decide?

It all goes back to knowing who you are traveling with and understanding their unique travel personality traits and applying this knowledge to your holiday.

  • An introverted type would probably find Miami Beach very taxing, while an extrovert would love it.
  • A perceiver might not opt for a beach vacation to Rio de Janeiro because what’s there to explore? Been there, done that!
  • A sensing type would relish a beach vacation to assist on a rebuilding humanitarian mission as this fills their need for sensory experiences.
  • A thinker may find “discussing the merits of surfing” with a local suffer to be a fantastic encounter while their partner is mortified they are arguing with a teenage kid who’s been surfing since they were in diapers. It’s a thinker’s nature to debate as it helps them expand their unending curiosity.

18% of Couples Said Spending Too Much Time Together is a Problem

The first step is to understand your travel partner’s characteristics. Let’s break down this topic a bit further to help identify what the triggers are, and how to prevent them from bubbling-up.

Too much ‘togethering’ makes sense especially if an introvert is traveling with an extrovert. An introvert needs downtime no matter the circumstance — give them the downtime they’ll be so much happier. Plus alone time is critical for Introverts to refocus, and center themselves.  An extrovert, on the other hand, loves all of the interaction, excitement, and crowds of people — it’s what fuels them. Quite frankly, they typically don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t feel the same way.

What’s the Answer to Spending to Much Time Together?

The answer, spend some time apart! Agreed upon of course.

If you are traveling with an introvert, (and you may be as 50.7 % of the population are introverts while 49.3 % are extroverts), you’ll probably want to plan a vacation with a few solo adventures. NOTE: we are all a mix of both traits, regardless of gender and there are no absolutes.

  • An introvert might enjoy a solitude hike, playing golf, wandering through a museum or being planted by the pool reading a good book.
  • An extrovert might enjoy time spent on a guided tour with other like-minded travelers appreciating the interaction with fellow tourists, heading over to the arts festival or joining a kayaking adventure group.

Being apart allows each party to enjoy a part of their genuine travel personality without worrying about the other. This simple idea releases the guilt of trying to make everything perfect and fulfills the needs of each partner, so they come together both renewed and ready to get on with the rest of their vacation. Tip: An introvert may need more than one solo adventure!

40% of Couples Argue at Least Once a Day While Vacationing.

Can you start to understand that arguing may stem from not knowing one another before planning a vacation? I get it. We fall in love, supercharged by the magic of the moments while trying to keep up with our hectic daily lives. It’s a lot.

Often, the problem with this popular case scenario is we don’t know what makes our travel partners tic. This creates issues. These issues may go unnoticed in your daily routine as the comings and goings are at such a fast pace you don’t recognize the signals. But when you are on vacation, it’s 24/7 time! The daily grind is gone, which changes the dynamics of your relationship while on holiday.

There is Good News 

The good news is you are not the only couple on the planet experiencing this argumentative vacation style. I’ve been in the travel industry for over two decades, and this situation is not unique I’ve witnessed couples argue over money, where to eat and shop, what activities to plan, money issues plus spending too much on their phones. Today more than ever, work is a big issue and can cause stress triggers. These issues can be sorted by taking steps to understand and apply practical travel psychology in advance.

  1. If you already argue about things during your daily life, these arguments aren’t going away. Work and money are always a big deal. As I  introduce the 16 travel personality types in future posts, you will gain an understanding as to why some types are lavish spenders and others aren’t. Why some types are workers, and some are not. But for now, have the conversation before planning a trip.
  2. If one partner is a planner and the other isn’t, then the planner should set and schedule the itinerary. If you, an extrovert need time to be spontaneous, speak up. Put it on the agenda;  half-day of spontaneous fun for (insert name here.  Now you can both happy, and not worry about one another.
  3. If you seek inspirational travel, then you are probably constantly gathering information, and are always on the lookout for possibilities. This trait can and does drive a travel partner who seeks a more realistic approach to travel, nuts! Give each other the space needed to experience your deepest desires and embrace your differences. You will be surprised by what you learn about each other and yourself.

Stay Tuned

I briefly touched on the subject of travel personality typing here, but a blog post can’t cover the triggers for each of the 16 travel personality types. I am working on a free quiz, to be followed up by 16 distinct travel personality types to help travelers better understand one another before they even hit Google or plan a vacation. An understanding of your travel type should come first. Planning a vacation should come second. Stay tuned!

Discover Your Travel Personality Type

Want to learn more?

If you haven’t had a chance you can listen to my radio interview on my upcoming book topic, Discover Your Travel Personality; Let Your Inner Guide Be Your Travel Guide.  The interview aired on Speaking of Travel archived on iHeart Radi with host Marilyn Ball. I made it easy to listen, click here for direct link to the podcast. Or visit my travel page, which presents the premise of discovering your travel personality and the import role type plays when planning a vacation.

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Photo by Arihant-Daga: Unsplash

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