An Introvert’s Guide to Surviving a Road Trip With Others

Two introverts on a road trip

Even though you are on vacation, you still need plenty of time and space alone to recharge.

I have some good news, introverts: With a little bit of preparation, you, too, can enjoy the experience of a road trip (even a long one!) with friends or family. Gone are the days of suffering through family vacations, sleeping in a room with your whole family for a full week, or slogging through public tours and trips to the overly crowded zoo (I might be speaking from personal experience). 

Group vacations can be absolutely draining for an introvert. But I have some tips for you to make your next road trip the adventure of your dreams.

4 Ways to Survive a Road Trip: A Guide for Introverts 

1. Create a calm space for yourself in the car by bringing all your favorite comfort items.

When an introvert takes a road trip with others, it’s important to be prepared, both physically and mentally. Physically, you can make your very own introvert sanctuary for the car. What do you need to have with you to feel comfortable? Some items may include:

  • Slippers
  • A blanket (or weighted blanket to help quell any anxiety that pops up)
  • A neck pillow
  • Your favorite water bottle
  • Giant sunglasses
  • Your purple teddy bear from second grade

Whatever it is, figure it out and take it with you. You are going to be spending a lot of time in the car, and as introverts, we need to feel comfortable and happy to keep up our energy. Everyone should feel comfortable, but I have found that if I make a space feel like all mine, then I am much more likely to have a successful day on the road. 

Mentally, too, think about how you recharge and what you’ll need to quiet your mind. What is it that you typically do at home when you have alone time? Perhaps you:

Think about how you typically recharge when you’re not on the road, and make a car-friendly version. My go-to is fancy colorful pens, my beat-up journal, and some serious noise-canceling earbuds or headphones.

Be sure to pack a bag with your in-car essentials and keep it with you at all times. You never know when you’ll need to write a quick poem or journal entry, or cuddle up with that purple teddy bear. 

2. Let your road trip partner(s) know when you need alone time.

When at home, I need time each day to myself. I read, journal, listen to music, and just recharge my introvert batteries. Why would it be any different on the road? It might be a little more difficult to get some introvert “me time” on a trip, but it is possible. 

Whenever my partner (or I) need some space, we try to find a spot to stop and decompress. If possible, we find a park or somewhere to be alone with our thoughts. I like to find a bench, put on my headphones, and scribble in my journal while my partner prefers to sit in the car and listen to music. Find out what works for you and make it happen. There is no “wrong” way to do it. 

It also works best if you and your partner/road trip teammate(s) discuss this prior to hitting the road. Let them know that you are an introvert and that you will need a bit of alone time every day (or multiple times a day) — however often you find it necessary. You can explain that introverts need time to recharge their social battery. You can even find an article that explains introvert alone time (and how our minds work) and share it with them prior to the trip. 

My partner and I travel with each other often, and it took us about a month to realize that we both really need daily alone time. We have an understanding that either of us can request it throughout the day. It’s not something we take personally, and we understand that it helps us have the best experiences together.

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3. Prep your food in advance so there are fewer stops.

I am a big planner, and a big snacker. Planning comes naturally to many introverts, and it’s a skill that I use often when embarking on trips. I usually snack between meals, and if I am on a long road trip, then snacking will absolutely be part of the itinerary. It can help energize you on the road and also allows for fewer stops (which means less interaction (and small talk!) with strangers, less worrying about what to buy, etc.).  

So plan ahead. We often buy:

  • Granola bars
  • Apples
  • Pretzels
  • Hummus
  • A fun dessert-type snacky food (Gluten-Free Oreos, here’s looking at you)

We sometimes even pack more substantial food for meals in order to make sure that we are nourished on the road (and avoid getting “hangry” — hungry = angry). Planning ahead means that we don’t need to stop and eat at restaurants multiple times per day on the road. I would much rather snack throughout the afternoon than stop for both lunch and dinner, surrounded by strangers in a loud restaurant

This alleviates some anxiety and lets both of us know that we are ready for a full day. We won’t have to worry about where we’ll stop, if the town nearby will have good food, or if we will have to make dinner when we finally arrive at our destination. Planning ahead can make the day run smoothly and can give you and your traveling companion(s) peace of mind.

4. Take (and use!) headphones to create a little separation between you and the other people in the car.

My partner loves listening to basketball podcasts, ones where the commentators speculate on everything from the future of the game to the best coaching strategies. It’s not my thing — and he knows it. But, during long road trip days, the driver picks what we listen to, and sometimes it’s a long-winded podcast about sports. 

In these instances, I pop on my noise-canceling headphones and listen to something more reasonable (like a murder podcast). It creates a little separation between the two of us and allows us both to hear what they prefer.

This is also a good trick for finding “me time” when you just can’t be alone. Last summer, we traveled across the country and spent a wonderful week in Yellowstone National Park. Wonderful, albeit very windy and rainy. The wind and rain meant that sometimes we were both sitting in the car, or in our tent, when we would’ve rather been alone. 

While it might not fully recharge those introvert batteries, noise-canceling headphones — and some private focus time — will help immensely. It gives all parties the mental space needed, gives permission for you to ignore each other (so to speak) and focus on a preferred task (or podcast), and creates pseudo-“me time” that will suffice in a pinch. 

Even Though You’re on a Trip With Others, Don’t Forget to Fit In ‘Me Time’

The bottom line is: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Sometimes introverts forget that even though they are on vacation, they still need space to recharge. Remember that taking personal time for yourself will make the road trip experience better — for both you and your traveling companions.

Introverts, what about you? What are your must-haves when it comes to taking a road trip with others? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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As both an introvert and avid traveler, I love exploring the world and sharing my experiences through writing. My first travel experience was when I studied abroad in Ireland during college, and since then I have visited 19 countries and counting. I have a bachelor’s degree from The College of Wooster, and a master’s degree from Columbia University. In the past, I have written blog posts, grant proposals, research articles, and have contributed as an editorial review board member to Giving USA.