He Said, She Said — Family Road-Trips

If you’ve been reading my blog you know I’ve been daydreaming about a summer family road-trip. How about you? Will you be flying or driving this summer? I’m trying to save money and so will be going by car, which raises all sorts of interesting memories from my childhood. What do you remember for childhood road-trips?

Family roadtrip with wife reading the map

Am I then only one who still enjoys paper maps? Not that I don’t love my phone, too!

Here’s some info you might find interesting. A national survey sheds light on how couples navigate the open road. The survey by TeleNav looks at the battle of the sexes in the car; data suggests which partner is the better driver, who requires more “pit stops”, etc. Think you already know the results? Maybe. Read on…

Results of this recent national survey* commissioned by TeleNav, Inc., a global wireless location-based services providers, indicate that when planning to hit America’s roadways for the beloved road trip, men and women have many, and sometimes differing, opinions as to what roles each member of the couple should fill.

From who normally drives, to who gets lost more, to who requires more “pit-stops,” the survey results provide insight into what is happening inside the cars of American couples as they hit the road.

Family roadtrip through the mountains

The Colorado Rockies have become our favorite road-trip destination. Where’s your go-to vacation spot?

Info-graphic: Navigation of the Sexes:

National Survey Sheds Light on How Couples Navigate the Open Road

click for larger graphic

The Lost Highway (well, hopefully not)

While no one ever likes getting lost, survey results indicate that there are some fairly significant differences regarding who in the relationship is actually better at getting from Point A to Point B:

  • 81% of men indicated they have a better sense of direction than their significant other.
  • In contrast, only 45% of women felt they possess a better sense of direction than their partner.
  • Only 32% of men admitted to getting lost more often than their significant other while driving.
  • 52% of women reported that they lose their way more than their significant other.

Can’t we all just get along?

While road trips can certainly be a great experience, survey results indicate that it’s not all fun and games traveling with your significant other:

  • When asked what annoys them most when their significant other is driving, the most frequent response from men was that their significant other drives too slowly.
  • The most common response from women was that their partner follows another vehicle too closely.
  • When in the driver seat, the largest number of men indicated that the most annoying thing their significant other does is tell them to slow down.
  • The most common response from female drivers regarding their top annoyance is when their partner criticizes the route they take to a destination.

When it comes to the cause of arguments in the vehicle:

  • The largest amount of male respondents indicated that most of their in-vehicle arguments were the continuation of an argument that started prior to hitting the road.
  • That was followed by the couple having opposing views on how to get to the location.
  • The highest number of female respondents indicated that the most frequent cause of arguments in the vehicle was due to one partner refusing to pull over and ask for directions.
  • This was followed by one partner accusing the other of being a bad driver.


No matter how long the drive, it’s likely that someone is going to require a “pit-stop” along the way to use the restroom or grab coffee. Exactly who that someone is might just depend on who you talk to:

  • Only 22% of men said they need more stops than their significant other on a trip.
  • Results suggest that women may require more stops, with 36% of women indicating they have to stop more than their significant other.
  • A number of couples seem to have found a compromise, as 38% of men and 44% of women reported that they need the same amount of pit stops as their significant other while on a trip.
  • When restroom stops are made at gas stations or convenience stores, 38% of all respondents said they feel they should purchase an item in order to use the restroom
  • 62% said they have no guilt with using the restroom and not purchasing anything.

Hey Man, it’s Your Turn to Drive!

When asked who typically drives during longer trips in the car with their significant other, results indicate that:

  • 76% of men indicated they are responsible for driving compared to just 30% of women who reported they are the sole handler of driving duties.
  • When it comes to shorter trips around town with their significant other 84% of men said they take the wheel, compared to only 45% of women who let their significant others ride shotgun.
  • The discrepancy in responses may indicate women and men have selective memories when it comes to who takes the wheel more often on short trips.

Why do men take the wheel more than women?

Perhaps both partners think men may be a bit more skilled behind the wheel:

  • 85% of men indicated they are a better driver than their significant other…
  • Compared to just 57% of women who said they handle the wheel better than their male counterparts.

More Tidbits

A few more interesting survey findings:

  • When asked if they enjoy driving, 42% of men said they get behind the wheel as often as they can compared to just 26% of women.
  • Twice as many men than women admitted that they have driven a vehicle with their knees at one point.
  • When asked if they had ever groomed themselves while driving (put on make-up for women or shaved for men), four times as many women answered yes than men.
  • 21% of all respondents have eaten a meal that required a fork or spoon while driving

Anything surprising in these results for you? Will you be taking a road-trip this summer? I’m trying to save money so if we do it will be by car, which raises all sorts of interesting memories from my childhood. What do you remember for childhood road-trips?

*The survey sample consisted of 610 (310 male/300 female) US residents of driving age. Results are reprinted with permission from Current Lifestyle Marketing representing TeleNav. No compensation was provided for this post.


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  1. We will be driving for our vacation this summer too! Not looking forward to it…but it is something I have been doing all my life. I think I was 18 or 19 when I took my first flight!
    Even though my husband drives, I have a better sense of direction. And he would agree 🙂

    1. Interesting. You’re not the only female who’s said they have a better sense of direction. Personally I’m fine with switching off the driving duties, but on long trips I generally do the driving. That’s my wife’s preference. When I was a kid we did lots of long driving trips in both the US and in Europe. My dad was kinda strict, so when he said, “don’t make me come back there” we probably stopped the “he’s touching me… he’s on my side of the seat” stuff pretty quick. 😉

  2. I am going against the “girls’ club” here and just admitting the plain ole truth. Hubby is the better driver…..way better! He has an uncanny sense of direction (he only has to drive someplace once, and can always remember), so he never gets lost. He can drive a long time because he is used to spending many hours in a vehicle for his job. He is much better with blocking out noisy children while travelling busy city highways. Hard to tell who would need a pit stop more because our stops are based on the kids.
    But I win on two counts: better DJ, and great picnic basket packer!

    I don’t think he minds that he does the bulk of the driving. After all, the co-pilot seat is the one responsible for handing out snacks/drinks, reading Dora books, changing DVD’s, settling disputes regarding who DID touch who first, and NO Barbie certainly could not beat Iron Man in a duel, plus, singing lullabies to fussy baby. Please, driving 6 hours is the easy job. Oh, and pumping breast milk with car adapter too. I definitely win that one.

    Our typical summer vacation drive takes roughly 2 – 3 days — if we drive at night while the kids sleep in the car. We travel 1503 km (933 miles to you)! After 5 summers, we have it down to a science. Our first trip was with only 1 child…and #’s 2, and 3 have never know anything different. The kids pack 1 small backpack each filled with car toys, books, crayons, etc. I pack enough snacks to feed an army. And we never drive more than 2 1/2 to 3 hours at a time. Even I get restless by then. Oh yeah, dual screen portable DVD helps too.
    You just gotta go for it. Expect the first one to have some kinks….maybe even complete disaster. But it will get easier the more you do it. And it is a great bonding experience for the family.
    When you’ve mastered it…..your next challenge….camping with children!!

    1. So you do a lot of it at night so the kiddos sleep? As I said in my response to the next comment, I did tend to think that on the whole guys have at least a different way of processing directions. Everyone is different, though, so I’m not surprised, like the comment before and after you that some women have a better sense of direction. Oh, and you tip about the mini-DVD players is well taken. We tend to get Audible books and listen to those as a family. As for camping with children. My dad did that with my brother and I, but I’m not going to rush that challenge just yet. 🙂

  3. My husband always drives on road trips but he gets lost often. Thankfully we have Google Maps on our phones and can use that to get back to civilization.

    1. I heart Google Maps, Jessica! It’s interesting that you are the second person bucking the “guys have a better sense of direction” trend. I did think on average the sexes navigate differently (e.g. when giving/getting directions guys use directions like north, south, etc… and women tend to use landmarks more)?

  4. No arguments here. Husband always drives, unless it is a super long drive, then I will take the wheel so he can rest. He has a much better sense of direction, whereas I get lost going around a block, Also, I tend to the kids when they need snacks, drinks, entertainment, while he drives. It works!

    1. Hi, Teresa! My wife prefers I do the driving on long roadtrips, which I really don’t mind. As I’ve commented above, I do think men and women (on average) navigate somewhat differently, but that’s on average. My wife is probably better at doling out treats and entertainment… or perhaps that’s just my preference? Hmmm. 😉

  5. I’ve always wanted to take a summer road trip with my family. We do a lot of road trips, but there is always an agenda (wedding, family event, business, etc.), never a vacation. That is my dream!!

    My husband and I have too much fun on road trips. We play all kinds of games, most of which are spot the (fill in the blank) games with a point system made up as we go along. We also blast music and make up dumb stories. And nighttime car rides…. well, those are fun too. 🙂

    When I was kid, we drove to every vacation. I remember not having air conditioning and dad being the only one allowed to have his window down. His window was the “hot air out window.” I also remember having Gameboy battles with my brother like tetris. We always got multiplayer games, hooked up both of our Gameboys (yes, before the days of bluetooth) and had tournaments.

    1. I know what you mean, Ivy. Until recently many of our trips have been either for weddings or Thanksgiving. Much of my wife’s family and friends are on the East coast, and so far we’ve flown. But two summers ago we did a road-trip to Colorado, and now have done each each year since. I’ve done long trips in the past, but never with a child. My family used to do road-trips every summer when I was a kid though. It’s probably that nostalgia that makes it sound appealing to me.

  6. Oh and who has the better sense of direction? In our family, the dark side leads us. Darth Vader narrates our Tom Tom. Without Darth, although we do argue with him, we would get no where!

    1. Google and Apple Maps on cellphones have really changed the way we navigate. I love when Apple Maps on my iPhone suddenly tells me to exit the highway and take a side road before I even realize there’s a traffic jam up ahead. Plus besides saving you time, it guides you down country lanes and through small towns you’d have never otherwise seen. 🙂

  7. Love the article! Who has the better sense of direction is a debate that will always continue, even with studies done. My mother has a great sense of direction while my dad would be driving in circles. It doesn’t surprise me that the study found that most men say they are the better driver, even if they aren’t.

    1. Hi, Julia! Thanks so much for dropping by. While there may be some gender specific beliefs (many self-imposed), I don’t think any of us fall into clean, clear buckets by gender or anything else. In education I believe strongly in fostering a “growth mindset” and an underlying belief that learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. Any of us can do better at something if we work at it.

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