There’s a lot to love about traveling as a couple. Not only do you get to create new memories with the person you love, it can be safer, more practical and more economical than traveling solo (though that certainly has its benefits as well).
That said, traveling together can be a bit testing on a relationship. It’s just the law of averages that something will go wrong, and when you’re sick, tired, have just lost your iPad and stuck in Hong Kong on the 45-hour rerouted flight from hell (true story), it creates some tense moments!
After seven years, we’ve picked up a few tips along the way to ensure traveling together is always fun… even when it’s not!
Give each other space
Going from your regular life to spending every waking moment together can be a big adjustment. For us, slightly different work and sleep schedules (I – Rach – start work by 7am every day, while Ed heads in around 9am), social commitments and hobbies mean we only spend a few hours a day together during the week. But when we’re traveling, that all changes!
We’re both introverts, so when one of us gets a bit testy on a trip, sometimes it means we need a bit of space. That might be as simple as sitting in silence for a bit reading, or one of us might go for a coffee run or down to the hotel pool.
There’s nothing wrong with needing a bit of alone time and communicating that. Don’t be afraid to take a bit of time to yourself. Having a happy trip starts with taking care of yourself and each other.
Compromise and find common ground
This one is such a cliche, but it’s true. There’s a good chance you and your partner have slightly different ideas of what the perfect trip is, so it’s a good idea to sit down when planning so you can each pick a few must-dos. Ed is a sports fanatic, while I am definitely not, but at the end of the day, it’s about having new experiences together. So I will happily tag along to a rugby match and the next day he’ll come along to a museum I’ve picked.
That said, I do think it’s important to have at least some common ground when you decide where you’re going. It’s easy to have a great trip even if you and your partner have different ideas of what the perfect trip to Paris looks like, but if one of you hates the idea of Paris altogether, that’s a recipe for trouble.
Whether it’s food, wine, culture, nature or adventure, try to find some common ground and then you can compromise on the finer details.
Keep up your habits
We all have little habits that keep us happy and sane. Maybe you call your parents every day, go for a run in the morning, or spend half an hour in silence with a coffee and the paper.
Those all sound like small things, but I’ve found it’s really important to keep up those small habits when you travel. If you do something every day without fail, there’s usually a reason for that, and hopefully it’s because that habit enriches your life.
When you’re traveling with your partner, it can be easy to feel like you need to do every activity together or like you’re taking away precious moments from your trip, but that’s not the case at all. As I said before, I firmly believe that taking care of yourself – especially emotionally – is the first step to having a great trip.
Get over it
Look, I’m a talker. I analyze everything to death and I’m not one to sweep things under the rug, but travel has taught me that sometimes you have to just let it go.
Whether it’s exhaustion, general frustration or culture shock, there will likely be a time where either you or your partner get snappy with each other. So you have two choices: waste valuable time and energy arguing about something petty or just get over it. If you still care in a few days, then bring it up, but you will have had so many wonderful adventures by then that you don’t care.
I should clarify that when I say ‘get over it,’ I’m referring to the silly, petty arguments that occasionally happen. Obviously, some things are important enough that they need to be brought up right away, but your husband rolling his eyes at your overpacking isn’t one of those things.
Don’t go crazy over romance
Life isn’t always pretty and neither is travel. If you expect your travels to be nothing but talking over bottles of wine, sharing gelato and holding hands through quaint European city streets, let me stop you right there.
Don’t set your expectations so high that you’re let down when something inevitably goes wrong. Whether one of you gets sick (either because of airplane germs or a bout of Bali belly), your travel plans go awry or your destination isn’t exactly what you had in mind, sometimes life is unexpected.
By that same token, there’s no mandate that says you have to do the typical romantic couples trip – even if it’s your honeymoon. I’m a firm believer in doing what’s right for you and not worrying about the rest. Some of our best friends recently took an engagement trip to Europe. But rather than wander around Tuscany or kiss on top of the Eiffel Tower, they went to see torture museums and concentration camps. To a lot of people, that might not sound romantic, but I think having a shared passion for something like history is the most romantic thing of all.
Going away doesn’t mean you stop being you or life stops being imperfect. No matter where you go or what you do, life is always better when you can laugh through the inevitable (but hopefully occasional) crappy moments.