So you’re going on a road trip with your significant other

I’d been dating my boyfriend, let’s call him Rob, for about a year when we decided to take our first real vacation together. We decided on a two-week road trip along the California coast — along with a two-day detour in Portland because, well, have you seen Portlandia?  As we traversed from point A to point B in a rented Honda civic, our trip entailed equal(ish) parts nature-ing and city-slicking. We camped, we hiked the Yosemite Valley, and we stayed in various budget hostels as we took in as much city as we could during our stay.

It was an an amazing experience vaga-bonding with Rob. But while I enjoyed our trip to the max — at twenty-two, I’d never even been on a real getaway with my girls! — we also encountered our own roadblocks. Most of the time we were, of course, happy to be young! and wild! and free! There were other times, though, when we were cranky. We suddenly realized we overpacked. We couldn’t find the next gas station. What to do? Spending 14 days on the road, and with anyone, comes with its challenges. Luckily we were able to resolve any conflicts while letting them bring us closer. So, here are a few tips to consider when road tripping with your significant other to ensure the smoothest ride possible!

Help each other pack smartly and lightly

Packing is tricky. Luckily, Rob had experience with taking two-week (or more) excursions that involved hiking and all that good outdoorsy stuff that I previously had never really done. Sure, I embarked on the occasional day hike, but I’d never really gone beyond those. I drafted a packing list and sought his guidance on what to bring and what to leave behind.

Of course, I could have done way better — concerned with being both functional and stylish, I actually overpacked too many of the same items (think too many trendy distressed band tees, high-waist shorts, and maxi dresses) and too little of what would be more practical (think activewear that isn’t necessarily as cute but was totally needed, extra thermal wear for cold nights, and a baseball cap for hiking). Finding that balance between maintaining your personal style (if that is important to you, of course) and functionality is crucial. Remember to keep it simple and practical.

Share responsibilities while out on the open road

Fortunately, this trip offered us an opportunity to test drive our teamwork. (Had enough of these on-the-road puns, yet?) There were times when being out on the open road got overwhelming for both of us. We had so much planned for 14 days, and it was often a challenge making enough time for all of the things. We were pretty much non-stop doing, doing, doing!

So, we made sure to help each other out as much as possible. While Rob drove, I helped navigate where we were going and fed him from the passenger’s seat. I made sandwiches, almond-buttered crackers, and held bottles of water to his mouth as he gripped the steering wheel. When we camped in Big Sur, we pitched the tent and made food for the day together. We also often split the cost of groceries and meals out in the cities we visited.

Be open-minded (and eat as much local food as possible!)

Rob’s cousin, a Los Feliz local, was gracious enough to let us stay over during the time we spent in the city. We were naturally super excited to explore LA, and we were especially ready to try all the diverse and trendy dining options it had to offer! So, we set aside our pescetarianism (how is this not a word yet?) to indulge in various taquerias, Korean BBQ and In-N-Out. Because, why not?

Sure, we suffered from the massive amounts of pork later that week — we weren’t used to eating so much of it at once. The important thing is that we got to share delicious food with some of Rob’s relatives and make memories with people we don’t get to see everyday, in a place we don’t get to visit everyday. We thought that was worth the bloating, belly-aching, and much more.

Have patience with each other as you try new things

Speaking of being open-minded, try to remember to be patient with your significant other as he or she navigates through trying new things. Rob was extremely patient with me as I experienced my first “real” hike up a mountain in Yosemite Valley. Since he’s used to adventuring and the like, I was intimidated at first to try hiking an unfamiliar place — not to mention, I’m a city-slicker through and through, and I’m also afraid of heights. But I was grateful that I had a hand to hold throughout the process. And better yet — accomplishing something together brings you closer! Who would have thought?

Take time to talk through any differences

It wasn’t always that easy, though; that’s why it’s imperative to communicate your fears and anxieties upon trying new things or about any conflict in general. We both made sure to talk to each other, especially during our hikes. There was a time when Rob felt we could keep going up a particular mountain, but I felt too scared to continue. However, I felt since he was fully capable of continuing — and also since the top was somewhat visible — he could continue, and I could wait for him at the point where I stopped.

About ten to fifteen minutes into his leaving, though, I felt scared. I called him to let him know I was worried (because, BEARS), and he immediately made his way down. He apologized for leaving me for that short amount of time, even though I did say it was okay. Because of communication, we were able to work through this brief moment of challenge, and made our way back down the mountain safely.

Take time to learn through any differences

And because we communicated, we learned. Learning through things is just as important as talking through things. Notice things that challenge each another, then talk or help each other through them. And don’t forget to let these challenges bring you closer. After all, you two are a team.

Record your experience

Finally, don’t forget to record all of your road trip memories! In addition to the usual Facebooking and Instagramming of our voyage, we also kept travel journals throughout the trip. We took time to journal amongst nature and at coffee shops throughout the cities (hello, Stumptown, Dinosaur, and Reville Coffee Co., just to name a few!) Taking time to record memories from your summer road trip is important and just adds to the fun of your getaway.

So, what are you waiting for? If you’re having any apprehension about road tripping with your boo for the first time, go into it knowing it will be a team-building experience. Hold hands as you explore a new place. Let your hair blow in the wind and all that other good stuff. And take pictures, pictures, pictures! It’s going to be great.

Jessica G. is a writer from New Brunswick, New Jersey. She graduated from Rutgers University with an English degree and a caffeine addiction.When she’s not reading and writing, she’s hunting for unique finds at local thrift stores, perfecting her “no-makeup” makeup, and experimenting withkale. Follow her on Instagram @jessjeshjess

[Image courtesy Fox]