It’s that time of year again when people travel to spend the holiday season with their families and loved ones. Some may travel by plane or train, others hop in the car for a cross-country road trip to visit family members several states away.
Many of our readers have asked about ways to prepare for long-distance road trips and proper vehicle behavior for being a good roadtrip passenger. Wherever your holiday travels may take you, implement the following 6 tips to be the best travel buddy:
  1. Offer, Offer, Offer Whether you’re a passenger with cousins or friends this holiday season, it’s considerate and polite to offer gas money. Although most drivers won’t ask their passengers for gas money, it’s up to the passengers to take initiative. If you don’t know how much to give, consider the following factors: the capacity of the car’s gas tank, the number of passengers, the distance, and if the driver is going out of their way to give you a ride. If they still decline your money, either leave it visible in their car without them knowing or if you make stops along the way, pay for their road trip snacks or food. Either way, show your appreciation!
  2. Music Master As a passenger, it’s important to understand that the driver has control over the music. Even if they’re playing your least favorite song, refrain from pressing the next button. Instead, start a conversation with everyone in the car and learn more about them. Make the road trip enjoyable by playing a car game, such as ‘I Spy’ or a fun guessing game.
  3. Appropriate Food Some people don’t like having food in their car, whether it’s due to the crumbs or fragrance. If you would like to eat something in the car, ask the owner of the vehicle if they allow it. If so, avoid buying smelly, messy, or complicated food such as wings, ribs, pizza, or a burger with extra barbecue sauce. Instead, opt or finger food or a salad in a bowl.
  4. Seize Restroom Breaks If you’re driving cross-country, be cautious of how much water or beverages you drink. Anytime you have the opportunity to use the restroom, take it – even if you don’t have to go. The one thing everyone in the car has in common is wanting to get to their destination safely and quickly. Don’t be that person causing the car to stop at every rest stop so you can take care of business. Instead, limit your fluid intake and seize any moment to use the restroom when you’re at a stop already.
  5. A/C Control With several people in the car, it may be nearly impossible to satisfy everyone with the air temperature. Travel lightly with your attire if you’re typically someone who gets hot easily. If you normally get cold in public places, like restaurants or stores, take a jacket or a small, light blanket. Although it’s acceptable to kindly ask the driver to increase or decrease the temperature, you also have to be considerate to the other passengers and their preferences. Prepare ahead of time to warrant a comfortable road trip environment.
  6. Shoes: On or Off? Auto travel for a road trip of over 20 hours can be exhausting – fight the urge to remove your shoes. Remember, you are not in the comfort of your own home and taking your shoes off may release an unwanted fragrance.
Wherever your travels may take you, be the best passenger you can be to contribute to a smooth road trip experience. If you’re an easy-going passenger, no one will think twice about taking you along for the ride!

Sharon Schweitzer and Paola Guevara co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary seriesConfucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Paola Guevara is the International Business Manager with Access to Culture. She’s lived in Mexico, France, and different states throughout the US, including California, Florida, and Texas. As a multilingual third-culture kid, Paola’s been exposed to different backgrounds and cultures in both academic and professional environments. She graduated with honors from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas with a major in International Business and a focus in French. Connect with her via LinkedIn.