Solo travel is a hot trend these days but I think most people still prefer to travel with someone, often a significant other. To help you enjoy your trip and not ruin your relationship, we’ve put together our top tips for traveling as a couple.
Know What You’re Getting Into
Before you even start planning a trip together, it’s helpful to know exactly what you’re getting into by traveling as a couple. Even if you live together, when traveling you’ll likely be spending WAY more time together than you are used to. Think about it… you won’t be headed off to work, hanging out with other friends or running errands.
That’s right, you’ll be together pretty much 24 hours a day. Make sure you’re ready for that!
To top it off, travel can be stressful. You’ll likely be in new places doing new things and dealing with new circumstances. While this is part of the fun of travel, it can also be challenging. Especially if things don’t go as planned or expected.
These new and stressful circumstances don’t always bring out the best in people. I think we can all admit that we’ve likely overreacted once or twice at times like these. That might not make for the best situation with your travel partner.
Please don’t let these things scare you from traveling as a couple. Instead, just know you’re likely to encounter these situations and be prepared with our couples travel tips.
The first trip Grant and I took together was less than two months after we started dating. I am quite sure neither one of us really knew what we were getting into with the other. Thankfully, the trip went well with no major issues. It probably helped that it was only a 5-day trip and we were both seasoned travelers.
Set a Budget
Let’s be honest… Money can be one of the most stressful parts in any relationship. That doesn’t change when you’re traveling.
You’ll need to know your budget before you can even figure out where you’re going, much less what you’re going to do when you get there. Seriously… if your budget is $1,000 you’re not going to get two flights to Europe and have money to spend on hotels, food
This may be a bit of an extreme example but having a budget is necessary for many of the travel details. What hotel can you afford? Will you be eating out at fancy restaurants or will you need to stick to fast food? How long of a trip can you afford?
Our first “big” trip was to Yellowstone National Park. By this point, we had been dating a few months, but a two-week road trip was still a big risk. Before we left, we each figured out what we could afford to spend. We also agreed to do some tent camping to help save money. Setting those expectations ahead of time helped to ensure we were still in love when we returned home!
Knowing your budget can also help you figure out how long you can afford to travel for. Of course, work schedules and other responsibilities at home often dictate that but money is important here too. After all, you’ll need to know if you afford that hotel room for 5 nights or only 2 nights.
Communicate Activity Expectations
This is all about figuring out exactly what kind of trip you want to have. Do you want to spend all day out and about seeing the sites? Or would you prefer to sit by the pool and relax?
Chances are if you’re traveling as a couple, you know that other person fairly well. You probably know how active they like to be at home. The truth is, though, that isn’t always the same when traveling.
Some people prefer to make the most of their travel time and see everything they can. Others like to relax so they return home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Both travel styles are ok. You just have to communicate your preference to each other.
Thankfully, Grant and I are usually on the same page with this. I do sometimes get overly ambitious as to what I think we can fit into a single day, though. When that happens, Grant will gently remind me to slow down, enjoy the trip and rest. Just be careful how you approach this so it doesn’t turn into an argument.
If one of you wants to spend time relaxing but the other wants to see as many new things as possible, you’re going to have to find a happy medium. Of course, you can always choose to do your own things (more on that later) but if the point is to travel as a couple, then you’ll probably want to spend most of your day together.
We went to Disney World one break with my sister, Molly. Molly and I grew up going to Disney on a regular basis and can spend a lot of time in the parks. Grant, on the other hand, was burned out after two very long days. He decided to stay at the hotel one day to allow Molly and me time in the parks.
When you’re not on the same page with your expectations, figure out how you’re going to compromise before you pack your bags (or even before you start planning). That way no one will be caught off guard once you’re on the road.
Plan Independent Activities
As I said earlier, when traveling as a couple, you’ll likely spend a lot more time together than you are used to. Grant and I live in a one-bedroom condo, work at the same school and only have one vehicle. We are used to spending A LOT of time together.
Even we sometimes get tired of each other while traveling. And that’s ok!
If you’re really worried this will be a problem, be sure to schedule some independent activities. That could mean one of you going to the gym while the other is at the pool or in the room. Or it could be taking two different tours depending on your interests.
It could also be as simple as each having a book to read or games to play on your computer or tablet. For Grant and I, that is often enough.
When we’re camping, sometimes one of us will stay inside while the other sits outside. If staying at a hotel, you can often book a room that has a separate living room and 2 TVs. This is a very easy way to have your separate space yet still be together.
This can also mean being proactive and planning independent activities once you get home. I almost always plan a night with the girls for a few days after we return. Since we travel a lot, this also helps to preserve those friendships.
Make Time to Enjoy Each Other
If you do agree that you want your vacation to be busy and filled with sight-seeing, it’s important to make time to slow down. We have made the mistake several times of trying to cram too many things into one trip. That was only amplified once we started the blog, since travel is also work for us now.
Since you are traveling as a couple, it is important to make sure you are actually enjoying some quality time together. And, no, not all time together is actually quality time together. When you’re constantly on the run to catch a train, get into a museum or find the right restaurant, you may be together, but you’re probably not really thinking about each other or really investing in your relationship.
To balance that out, be sure to schedule some down time together. The might mean a leisurely walk through the park or maybe a romantic dinner. Perhaps it means planning a morning in bed instead of getting up at the crack of dawn for sightseeing. It could just mean making a point to watch a movie together instead of reading your own books individually.
Whatever you decide, make a point to be intentional about spending quality time together doing something you both enjoy.
Share the Work
Many people think of travel as just fun. And it certainly should be fun. Travel is also work. You have to figure out where to go, plan how you’re going to get there and what you’re going to do once you arrive. You need a hotel and a place to eat. These are all things that take time.
It is important that you share those responsibilities.
Over the years, Grant and I have settled into a system that works well for us. I love to plan things, so I tend to do most of the front-end detailed research. That means I’ll typically work out the itinerary, find campgrounds or hotels and research activities in each city or national park.
I will certainly ask Grant’s opinion and run things by him every now and then but for the most part these are my responsibilities.
Grant will then take on more responsibility during and after the trip. He is usually the one that is busy taking pictures and editing them. That may not sound like a lot of work, but trust me, it is! He also tends to drive a bit more when we’re on the road and that can be very tiring.
Whether it is planning the itinerary, researching restaurants or doing the laundry when you get home, be sure to share the responsibilities. It’s never fun for one person to do all the work, no matter how much they might somewhat enjoy it.
Know Your Itinerary
While planning, keep track of your itinerary somewhere. This could be as simple as saving your email confirmations in a specific folder. It might mean creating a spreadsheet. That all depends on how complicated your travel is.
If we’re just doing a weekend away at a hotel, then we can both access our reservations through the Hilton Honors app. We use a lot of joint accounts for travel and booking for this very reason.
Pro Tip: Create a joint email address for reservations so you both have a copy.
For a summer road trip (which is usually about 7 weeks with 10-15 different stops), I’ll create a spreadsheet. This is how I keep track of where we’re staying and what we want to see in each city. I also usually note drive times and any other important information.
Regardless of how simple or complicated your travel is, know your itinerary! And make sure you both can find it when needed. If you’re traveling as a couple, both of you need to be responsible for knowing where you need to be and when you need to be there.
Be sure to research the details. Trust me on this.
When in Italy, we had planned to visit Bolzano, a mid-size town in the Italian Alps. The main reason for going there was to visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, which houses a 5,300 year old corpse that was found frozen in the Alps. Based on our tight itinerary, we only had one day in this town. We realized at the last minute the museum was closed the one day we planned to be there.
Thankfully, we hadn’t bought train tickets or made a hotel reservation yet. Thus, we were able to change our plans and head straight to Milan. It was truly a last-minute decision. This is the one time we had to actually run to the train and pray that we didn’t miss it.
That truly was a stressful time. Honestly, if we had missed the train, there’s a possibility that one of us would have tried to blame the other. That is never a good position to be in. A little bit of prior research would have made this a lot less stressful morning.
And, when these things do happen, try not to place all the blame on one person. Yes, chances are one of you is the “researcher” and somehow missed this. But, the reality is that you’re in this together. Ultimately, if you’re traveling as a couple, you should both be prepared.
That doesn’t mean you need to double check everything your partner does. But, it also doesn’t mean that you have to wash your hands of it and not even think about it. Friendly reminders and checking for yourself can sometimes prevent a lot of stress.
Don’t Get Hangry
Ahh…so hungry that you get angry. Yes, this truly is a thing. The sooner you realize that and accept it, the happier you will be. Being able to recognize it in your spouse (or significant other)… Even better!
Grant and I discovered that we both get hangry on that first Yellowstone trip, back in 2009. We had gotten up REALLY early for sunrise pictures one morning. By midday, we were driving around trying to find the “right” place to eat lunch when things between us just disintegrated. We had trouble making decisions; we were yelling at each other; it really wasn’t any fun.
Finally, Grant just stopped at a random picnic area and said we were eating. I don’t think we even realized that was what we needed to do until after we finished our lunch.
We quickly realized that if we don’t eat by a certain time, things are likely to go downhill fast. Unfortunately, we are both fairly susceptible to this. But, it can happen to anyone.
Just trust us… If you’re angry and can’t figure out why, stop for a snack. Even if you don’t think you’re hungry, it will probably help. Sometimes you just need that time out to reset everything.
Communicate While Packing
When traveling as a couple, you can often take advantage of sharing certain items. Additionally, you want to make sure you pack similar items so you can partake in certain experiences.
If one of you is looking forward to getting in the hot tub but the other forgets to pack a bathing suit, that could be a not-so-fun evening. For a nice dinner out, you may need to have a certain type of outfit. Be sure to discuss this as you’re packing so that you can actually do the things you want to do while you’re away.
Grant and I always make a point to discuss how many “nice outfits” we take for going out to dinner. Likewise, we’ll decide ahead of time if we want to pack workout clothes and, if so, how many sets.
Sometimes you can save room by sharing things such as toothpaste, a hair dryer or a first-aid kit. Or you may want to have one person carry all the shoes while the other carries all the electronics.
Other times, it’s about remembering to pack certain items. Just this morning, while packing for our Bahamas cruise, Grant asked if I needed anything from the truck. I immediately responded “no.” Thankfully, he followed up by saying he was going to the truck to get his raincoat so he could pack it. That made me realize that I needed mine and it was, indeed, in the truck.
Be Flexible and Enjoy the Trip
Anytime you travel you have to just expect the unexpected. Things will go wrong. You’ll hit traffic and miss your flight. You’ll take a wrong turn and drive in circles for a while. Maybe you’ll forget to book your hotel or book it for the wrong day.
Things happen. We certainly have made plenty of travel mistakes. Instead of getting angry or blaming each other, try to just accept it and move on.
If you’re traveling as a couple, enjoying the time together should be more important than anything else. Yes, you’ll want to see and experience new things. But, that shouldn’t be at the cost of your relationship.
Make time to enjoy what you’re doing and enjoy the time together. Even if it means saying no to something you really want to do.
The first time we went New York City together was for a theatre conference. It was only a day or two after returning from a month-long trip to Italy. Just a week before that we had moved and the day after moving our condo had flooded. It definitely had been a stressful couple of months!
For our last morning in New York we had booked tickets to go to the Statue of Liberty. We woke up that morning and were just exhausted. Seriously… We could barely get out of bed. Despite the fact that the tickets were non-refundable, we decided we just had to pass. We needed the rest.
Sometimes saying no to your plans is the better option.
Final Tips for Traveling as a Couple
Just like relationships in general, successfully traveling as a couple is really all about communicating. You have to make sure you are on the same track every step of the way. If your expectations are vastly different there is no way that you’ll enjoy the trip or the time together.
By discussing your desires and expectations with each other you can plan a trip that you’ll both enjoy. Continuously sharing your plans and discussing your options will ensure an epic trip that you’ll both remember fondly.
If traveling is something you enjoy, start traveling together early in the relationship. This will allow you to build a travel style together and quickly determine if traveling together is something that works for you. If not, you’ll know before you invest too much time in the relationship.
Yes, you’ll likely have to compromise some. But, again, that’s what relationships are all about. Grant and I both enjoy hiking, but he often prefers longer trails, while I prefer shorter trails. We both have to communicate what we’re up for and sometimes compromise to find something that we are both excited about.
Whatever the circumstances, by communicating and being willing to compromise, you can both enjoy traveling as a couple.