Traveling together for the first time as a couple can be a make-or-break experience. You can learn more about a person on a two-day trip than you can in a few weeks of dating.
When you travel with someone, you quickly figure out how he interacts with other cultures, how she manages money, how she handles stress, or how he deals with conflict when the two of you cannot escape each other. Not to mention, you’ll be privy to all those things the other person may have tried (maybe successfully) to hide from you before: she doesn’t look quite the same without her makeup on, and you do not want to go in the bathroom after he uses it first thing in the morning.
Travel can be a more intense experience than life at home, and that holds true for couples traveling together too. But, traveling with your mate can also be an enriching experience that brings the two of you closer. Here are some tips for traveling with your significant other, whether you’re planning your first trip together or have been exploring the world as a couple for some time.Start small
The length of time you spend on your trip should be directly proportionate to the amount of time you have been dating. Couples who have been together for years have a better chance of surviving long-term travel, while those who have been together for less than 12 months should stick to trips of a week to 10 days.
If you’ve only been dating a month or two, do not attempt more than a weekend jaunt for your first effort, and never plan a trip more days in advance than the amount of time you have been together. Known each other one month? I don’t care if you are in love. I still wouldn’t recommend you buy tickets for a two-week long trip for three months from now.
Pick the right location
I often hear people ask what is a good “romantic destination.” That’s the wrong question. Any destination can be romantic. Romance is more about who you are with, what you do, and your state of mind than where you are on the map. Sure, some locations are more picturesque or have more “romantic” lodging options, but that doesn’t mean they are the perfect place for you and your sweetie.
Focus more on what you want to see and do and go from there. If you get bored lying on the beach all day, you aren’t going to have a great trip, no matter how “romantic” the resort claims to be. Talk to your significant other and discuss what you each want to do and what your travel style is, and select a location based on those considerations.
In many relationships, it seems like one person always takes the reins of planning while the other is content to be led. This can work out fine for decisions such as where to go to dinner, but when you are talking about spending several days, and possibly several hundred dollars, on a trip, both people need to contribute to the decision making. Once you’ve settled on a location, you can divvy up the planning responsibilities in one of several ways.
If one person is more of a foodie, he or she can select restaurants, while the person who is more passionate about history or art chooses which museums to visit. Another option is to alternate days when each person plans the itinerary. You’ll decided what to do on Monday; he’ll make Tuesday’s plan. The third option, and the one that works best for my husband and I, is to each make a plan based on what we want to do. Then we compare (usually finding that most of our “must-do” activities are the same) and craft a final itinerary from there.
In the travel planning and on the trip, you have to realize that you can’t get your way all the time. When creating an itinerary that includes both what you want to do and what your significant other wants to do, you often will each have to give up a few things in order to make it work. One way my husband and I do this is to figure out how many activities, cities, or restaurants we can fit in on the trip. Then we each make a list of our top choices, filling in one from each person until we have maxed out our time. This way we each get to do the things that are most important to us.
Take time apart
For your sanity, and in order to do some things you may want to do that your mate does not, it’s important to take time apart on your trip. Whether it’s 20-30 minutes to clear your head with an early morning run on a short weekend trip, or taking off an entire afternoon of a week-long trip to visit a museum that your significant other has no interest in, spending some time apart is vital. It can help prevent you from getting frustrated with each other and having petty arguments, and it can allow you the time to do things that matter most to you. Plus, a little time apart can make you appreciate the time you spend together even more.
Talk budget before you go
Money is one of the main sources of disagreement for all couples, whether they be traveling or not. It’s easy to say, “I’m on vacation, I’ll deal with it later,” and then cry when you get your credit card bill. One member of the couple may also feel pressured to keep up with the other, which can then lead to resentment.
Before you begin booking your trip, talk openly and honestly about what you can afford and how you plan to divide the costs. Unless your finances are already shared, the best system is to set a budget and go dutch on all costs. This doesn’t have to mean splitting the check at every restaurant though. Just figure out how much you plan to spend on each expense and assign each cost to one person.
For instance, if your hotel will be $500 for five nights and the plane tickets were $250, you can pay for the flights while you mate pays for the hotel. If you’ve budgeted $100 per night for dinner, just switch off picking up the tab.
While I’m a firm believer in making an itinerary and planning a budget for every trip, I think it’s equally important to remain flexible. Things change. Sometimes after a long day of sightseeing, you just don’t want to go to that fancy restaurant you had selected for dinner. The day you wanted to climb the Duomo for the perfect view dawns cloudy and grey. Make a plan but plan for it to change. Always have a Plan B and Plan C and don’t let the little hiccups frustrate you. Sometimes the best things can happen when your plans fall through.
Keep a sense of humor
With precious little vacation time, sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect trip, to enjoy every single second of it to the fullest. When that doesn’t happen, we’re crushed. But things go wrong on the road. Planes are delayed, luggage gets lost, hotels lose reservations and sometimes even the most highly recommended restaurant turns out to be a disappointment.
When bad things happen, try to keep an open mind. So a crazy Italian chef screamed at you for suggesting that the swordfish wasn’t all that fresh(as happend to me on my honeymoon), don’t let it ruin your trip. Find a way to laugh about it and you’ll end up with a better experience, and a better story to tell when you come home. So you’re hopelessly lost, it’s raining and your train leaves in an hour. The worst that happens could be that you are out a bit of money and spend an extra night in the city. Try to keep things in perspective. Remember, in most cases, the troubles you have are minor and temporary.
Make time for romance
Any trip, any restaurant, any hotel, is as romantic as you make it. When we’re running around sightseeing, trying to pack a lot into a short trip, it’s easy to forget to slow down and appreciate the time we have with the one we love. Sometimes we need to schedule romance. On even the most budget trip, find a way to do something special for your partner. Whether it be a picnic with a view, an order of breakfast in bed, a splurge meal, or just a long moonlit stroll under the lights of the city, be sure to plan at least one thoughtful surprise for your significant other.
Protect your investment
Of course you and your love are never, ever going to break up. And certainly not before your week-long trip through Napa Valley or your two-week jaunt through his ancestral land of Ireland. But…..these things do happen. I know several people who’ve lost hundreds of dollars worth of plane tickets because they were dumped right before the trip, or who suffered through an uncomfortable vacation (rather than lose the money) and broke up as soon as they got home.
Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure that your ticket cost can be refunded or that the tickets can be changed. If you need to put down a deposit, find out when the last day to get a refund is. For a trip of significant cost, look into travel insurance, which often contains a “cancel for any reason” provision that would cover heartbreak and allow you to recoup all funds if the relationship goes sour.