Travelling with your partner (and surviving the trip) is definitely a skill. A skill that, for some, doesn’t come easy. When else have you had to spend all day, 24/7 with your significant other in your relationship? Unless, you’re working together, probably never. And even then, your social commitments, gym, act as valid excuses to take some very necessary time apart. Not on a holiday though. You’re about to learn how tiresome it can really be to spend every waking hour with someone else — even if that person is the so-called love of your life. Here’s how to navigate travel as a couple from a couple who’s done it often!
Craig and I had only been dating for 3 months when he decided to book our first trip together: a beach holiday in Mauritius. It was incredibly nerve-racking knowing that: a) it would be the first trip travelling as a couple; & b) we were so new that we hadn’t yet fully learnt each other’s quirks. In fact, we hadn’t even taken a local getaway by then as yet. Many people said that this could make or break our relationship.
Since that trip, we’ve gone on and done a lot more travelling together including an extended Europe trip; long road trips; and even moving abroad (here are the things I learned from that). So after all that travel as a couple, how do we navigated unexpected challenges and the unknowns that come with travelling?
#1: Plan your holiday extremely well when travelling together, but be prepared for unexpected challenges.
My number one tip of all time? Try limit the travel stress as much as possible. When travel plans are going as smoothly as possible, there are less frustrations and inevitably, less reasons to fight or argue. That means, look up train times, ticket queries, double-check confirmations & have directions on hand. Rather be over prepared than not. I always have set itineraries, with opening times, street addresses, directions or a map and possible alternatives or back up plans. This also ensures you maximize your time on holiday rather than feeling rushed or panicked about time.
I also find that this tip applies more to cultural, sight-seeing holidays, rather than beach holidays. For example, our holiday to Mexico was a breeze, but our European holidays, like Paris, are usually more stressful in terms of planning.
#2: Make sure your travel plans line up with what you BOTH want to do.
For the most part, you and your partner probably enjoy doing the same thing, but don’t assume that you have the same travel styles. Put those communication skills to use by being upfront about both of your non-negotiable must-do things, as well as a general idea of how you expect the holiday to unfold. It may seem silly to discuss your goals of a trip, but it’s better than assuming you’re on the same page, when you’re really not.
For example, when Craig and I haven’t vocalized what we envision for a holiday together, we have had different ideas about whether a particular trip would be about relaxation, or exploration. This has resulted in frustrations and unmet expectations.
Ask Each Other & Brainstorm Plans:
- Do we want to relax or explore? Or a little of both?
- How quick or slow should the pace be?
- What are non-negotiable must-sees?
- Are we including things in the trip for both partners?
- Are there things while travelling that usually upset one another?
- What things should each partner be on the look out for, to ensure the other partner will be less stressed?
#3: In the planning stages, agree on a few important things, especially the budget.
Finances is the cause of most disagreements for couples abroad. When unexpected costs come up, one partner inevitably spends the rest of the trip worrying about the budget. Plan for these.
Things Couples should agree on beforehand:
- Who will pay for what & try pre-book & pre-pay accordingly as much as possible.
- Whether you will be splurging or skimping and on what.
- How will you pay (Also NOTE that credit cards like American Express aren’t accepted everywhere & some ATMs don’t accept Amex either – prepare for that in Europe).
#4: Have realistic expectations—everything won’t always go according to plan.
Understand that things can and will go wrong and try to roll with the punches. Don’t get caught up in the inconveniences that inevitably plague travel. Everyday won’t be perfect, so don’t expect it to be.
This is where I usually go wrong, and I find Craig has to manage my expectations A LOT. In fact, he does it in our daily life too. For example, where I’m craving a particular meal from a restaurant on a particular day and we make the mission to go get it – he will still talk me down from my expectations in case they don’t have it and sometimes even call ahead in case. Similarly, when I bought my car, he prepared me for the long wait at the registries before I actually got to the exciting part, driving my car out the lot. If you plan for inconveniences, it won’t affect you as much – or you will at least be prepared for them.
#5: Travel as a Couple is about knowing your partner’s quirks and accommodate them in advance.
Poor Craig finds that ensuring I have gluten-free options at restaurants in a new country, one of the most stressful parts of travelling with me – and I don’t blame him. Hangry is a thing. He now ensures I always have a snack on hand, or that we have a meal plan before hunger sets in, well in advance of meal times, so that we aren’t forced to eat somewhere which provides few options for me to choose from. This to me, is the sweetest thing. So think about what stresses out your partner and try to accommodate them as much as possible (and in advance) and you’ll avoid most of these little upsets.
#6: Don’t try to jam-pack your days.
Don’t try to cram too much into your daily itinerary as things always take longer than expected and trying to make it in time for numerous reservations will only add stress.
#7: Check in with each other often.
Remember to constantly check in with your partner throughout the day, and trip. Be aware of the fact that things change, and so does your mood. It seems really simple, but being aware of your partners needs and keeping an open line of communication will prevent any other potential stressors unplanned for. Remember the point of travelling together is to enjoy a new place together.
Examples of Checking in:
Do you still want to go out for dinner? Would you rather head back to the hotel now for a power nap? How about a quick coffee to sit and regroup? I would like to do [insert activity] while we’re here, when would you feel up to it? This also enforces each other to be patient with their partner.
#8: When you do squabble, kiss & make up.
In the moment, it’s hard to be rational, but account of the environment change and outside stressors when giving your partner a hard time while travelling. Fights while travelling are usually as a result of things outside your control, so don’t let it ruin time that could be spent together exploring and making memories. When you’re being unreasonable, call yourself out on it straight away, break the tension and laugh about it.
#9: For some couples, giving your partner space might be key.
Craig and I do generally need space. We both have our “me time” back home so you would think that this would be necessary on holiday, but we usually don’t outright plan for it – it just hasn’t been necessary when we take short trips and work on all of the above. That being said, I think it is important to allow your partner the space to regroup without you breathing down their neck every second of the day, especially if it is a particularly long trip. Sometimes this could just be a quick visit to the hotel gym, or leaving for breakfast a little earlier than you partner to give them time alone. Embrace some down time.
#10: Lastly, make a real effort to relax.
Check yourself at every chance you get. Are you blowing certain things out of proportion? Are you letting silly things upset you? If I have learnt anything from travelling (or life , for that matter), it’s that there is really no point in getting too wound up about the small stuff. I promise you – it’s more than likely not worth wasting the time on your holiday which you’ve likely spent a lot of money on. At the end of the day, you’re in a new city to explore it while enjoying time with hopefully the love of your life. Relax, and enjoy every moment.
Couples who travel together, stay together?
I think travelling together from early on in our relationship has set us up for success in our relationship.
We’ve been so lucky to have been able to travel as a couple to so many different places in the world. The most trying trip of them all would probably have been our first visit to Paris, as we navigated each of our own expectations for the holiday. Funny enough, it also happens to be one of our all-time-favourite holidays we’ve ever taken. It just goes to show that the hiccups we experience on a vacation can, and will, be some of the memories we cherish the most.
One half of a travel couple, Leigh