Travel can bring a couple closer, but it can also stress out a new relationship and make you wonder if you’re really compatible in the long run. With every couple sunset selfie and delightful discovery of some amazing café that makes the best Nutella and banana crepes you’ve ever had, comes a lot of opportunities for conflict. You might be able to handle the inevitable travel snafus of cancelled flights, lost luggage, and crazy schedules that cause you to get overtired and over-hungry, but you need to anticipate the differences in your travel philosophies that can cause frustration and disappointment.
Some examples: She’s read five reviews to source the best lobster roll. He wants to eat at the nearest tourist trap with the shortest line. She doesn’t think the ocean view was worth the extra money and won’t stop complaining. He wants to bask in an incredible mountain view and wishes she’d stop looking at her phone. She thinks his attempts to speak Spanish were cute at first, but now they’re sort of getting on her nerves.
Of course, being on vacation together isn’t a good indication of what real life would be like with your partner, but a bad trip can instill doubts that you want to stick around to find out. Here are some tips for navigating the most common travel pitfalls:
1) Keep it short and simple
If you’ve been dating someone for a few months, it’s probably not a good idea to embark on a cross-country road trip or multi-city European journey. Try out a long weekend first.
It’s also wise to hold off on big trips to visit each other’s extended families or friends. The same goes for bringing along your kids. You’re trying to establish your travel rhythm as a couple first.
2) Decide on expenses beforehand
Few couples like to talk about money, but it’s especially important to be on the same page during a trip when you have to reach into your wallet multiple times or pay for big expenses, such as plane tickets or lodging. Perhaps you agree to split certain costs and both put money into a kitty for daily expenses so you don’t have to haggle each bill. If you’re dating someone who insists on treating or is able to kick in airline miles or credit card points for flights or lodging, you should offer to pick up some meals or sightseeing costs. On the other hand, if you have a bigger travel budget than your partner, it’s reasonable to say, “I’m happy to pick up the hotel. Would you mind taking care of the rental car?” You don’t want to spend your precious few days together quietly fuming that one of you isn’t contributing enough.
3) Discuss how you want to spend your money
If you’ve been dating for a while, you probably have some idea about your financial values. It’s a different ballgame on a trip, however. Some people like to eat expensive meals every night or drink $12 cocktails at fancy hotel lounges. Others think making lunch from a local farmer’s market is the best way to experience a new culture. Do you spring for beach chair rental or bring your own blanket? Discuss all these things beforehand. Perhaps you can figure out how much you want to spend per day or agree to certain “splurge” meals or hotel rooms.
4) Spell out expectations
If you’re bringing a date to a weekend wedding, let her know when she’s expected to spend time with your friends or family. Will most of the weekend be booked with wedding festivities? If you’ve invited him to tag along on your business trip, make it clear when you have to work and when you’ll be available for fun. Make sure to carve out some couple time.
5) Plan down time
Don’t expect your partner to hit three cathedrals a day or share your enthusiasm to hit multiple local antique markets. Find time to relax in the afternoon when you can read or nap. Or fit in a run or other activity, if you need some alone time.
6) Communicate what’s important to you
Do you want to stay out late or get up early for sunrise yoga on the beach? Do you want to find time for shopping or exercise? Do you want to start the day by the pool with a beer in your hand or tour Revolutionary War battlegrounds? Do you crave the comforts of a cruise ship or want to go off the beaten path? Don’t concede “I’m cool with whatever you want to do!” Have a quick chat.
7) Go with the flow
This goes without saying, but most trips don’t go as expected. Plans will change. Blood sugar levels will drop. Keep an open mind and bring lots of water, snacks, and pain relievers. On the other hand, don’t place too much importance on your first trip to make or break you as a couple. Focus on sharing an experience together, and hopefully you’ll create the first of many travel memories.
Do you have any tips on how to make couple travel go smoothly?
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate and Salon.