This post was contributed by our Couples Travel Expert, Christine Culgin.
Even the most compatible, most in love couples are put to the test when they vacation together. While many take trips to lower their stress, relax and get away from the monotony of the day-to-day, traveling can sometimes bring on a different slew of stresses: missed or delayed flights, language barriers, jetlag, culture shock, expenses, navigational problems and so on.
Don’t get me wrong – traveling really is all it’s cracked up to be, and I believe it’s an important step to take in any relationship. But without being prepared, it may not all be smooth sailing (or flying, driving, etc.) while exploring with your significant other. Here are some common arguments that even the strongest couples may have while taking a trip together, and tips on how to avoid them (no need to spoil a perfectly good trip).
Scheduling & Timing
If you’ve been together a while, you probably know most of each other’s habits, but you’d be surprised at how many new things you can notice while vacationing with your significant other.
In my relationship, I am a go-to-bed-early and wake-up-early kind of girl, whether on vacation or not. My boyfriend tends to stay up later and, as a result, sleep in later. We both know this about each other, but when we take a trip it’s one of the things that can drive a wrench between us. I want to get up and go! We can’t miss anything! How can we not be up for sunrise? He lacks the same enthusiasm before 10 AM. Then, when I’m ready for bed at 9:30 PM, he looks at me as if wondering when it was that I turned 85 years old without him noticing. He has a point there, to be honest.
Maybe your situation is different, but there are probably going to be times when you’ll need to decide when to set alarms, how long to stay in each spot, which activities to rush through vs. which ones to truly savor, etc. Maybe you want to spend hours at the beach, but your partner is sunned out after 45 minutes. Perhaps your girlfriend wants to take her time perusing through a local bookstore, but you’re itching to try out a nearby brewery.
Whatever the case may be, the key here is communication, early and often. Before any significant trip, be upfront about what you expect to do – name your priorities (whether they be a restaurant you want to try or a museum you want to tour) and let your significant other, name theirs as well.
Once you know what you want to do, it will be easier to map out your timing. If you plan to jam a lot into one day, you can probably align on waking up early and going to bed on the earlier side (merely from being exhausted!). On the other hand, if you can do things at a leisurely pace, then plan accordingly.
Scheduling quarrels can also arise when booking a trip before you even go anywhere. Make sure you both understand any layovers, connections, etc. that you’ll need to go through – those things are never fun surprises.
Lastly, don’t forget – you don’t have to do everything together. If you want to get up and see the sunrise but he/she wants to keep snoozing, be like Nike and just do it (but tell your partner first!). The worst feeling is to come back from a trip feeling like you were held back from doing something you really wanted to do.
Just as you might be an early bird while your significant other leans toward the night owl lifestyle, you might also have slight differences in interests. That’s totally normal. However, when you go on a couples vacataion together, these differences could pose a problem, particularly when you have limited time in each place. It could be deciding between an art museum or a national park, a winery or a hike, a concert or a flea market, or even just between two different restaurants. The point is, you might not have time to do everything you both want to do.
Compromising is key here.
The divide and conquer tactic may also prove helpful. Here’s my advice:
- Be sure you both have a say in the planning process so that there’s no chance of your itinerary being biased (whether intentionally or not)
- Make a list of everything you’d ideally like to do/see beforehand.
- Then limit that list down to your must-haves.
- Take a look at how your individual must-haves align, if at all.
- Estimate how long those activities will take.If you have time left, go through your individual lists and decide which ones you might not mind doing on your own, and split up for those.
- Depending on time and the number of list items remaining, I’d recommend each picking something off the other’s list – it might not have made your top 5, but making compromises like this can go along way on easing any tension.
- If all else fails, tactics like flipping a coin are fair and random.
It’s not a perfect science and it’s not foolproof. It will also vary trip-by-trip and couple-by-couple (if you’re lucky, maybe your lists won’t be very different at all). But I find that a process like this will help both of you get what you want out of your getaway with only minor sacrifices.
This is sort of intertwined with some of the other topics, but worth calling out. Depending on the kind of trip, you might have the option of camping, glamping, backpacking, renting an RV, or even staying with a friend or relative. On the other hand, there’s the decision of going with a hotel or Airbnb; bringing up questions like whether or not you want a kitchen/kitchenette, laundry, a patio, pool access, beach access, a suite, a hot tub, and so on.
You might disagree on things like:
- Downtown location and accessible or quiet and off-the-beaten path?
- What kind of amenities do you need?
- How much are you willing to pay?
It’s unlikely that one of you wants to backpack and stay in hostels while the other has his/her heart set on a 5-star luxury hotel. But there’s quite a range in between those two extremes. There’s no magic to solving for this one – just be upfront about your expectations, and again be sure to compromise.
Maybe you give up the private patio to be closer to the heart of the city. Perhaps you do one night of camping and one night at a more traditional hotel or inn to get a mix of both vibes. Understand each other’s preferences here and meet in the middle when you can. I certainly wouldn’t recommend staying in separate places, but divvying up the nights you’re vacationing between multiple accommodations is often a good solution for this kind of disagreement.
Splurge vs. Save
In my opinion, this is the trickiest of them all. This is especially true if you’re not at a point in your relationship where you’re sharing finances equally. I recently spent two weeks traveling throughout the eastern coast of Australia with my boyfriend and this was one of the topics that became a point of contention at times. We had a budget, yes, but we also wanted to feel like we were on vacation, and not roughing it. Striking that balance can be tough.
You might have to decide between things like:
- Walking, taking public transit, or paying for a taxi, uber, or another car service.
- Cooking meals at home or packing lunches vs. eating out at nice restaurants.
- (As noted above) staying at a luxury resort or finding something more modest.
- Flying coach or business class.
- Paying for the touristy guides and activities or finding a self-guided, DIY alternative.
- Getting a fancy cocktail or sticking to your water.
- Going with the flow vs. finding all the happy hour deals and specials you can.
- Renting a car vs. taking a bus vs. flying between locations.
- Staying budget-friendly with souvenirs or taking full advantage of all the unique offerings.
This list could go on and on. What’s critical in this case is to lay out your budget when you first start planning your couples vacation. Within the budget, create different categories for things like food, lodging, transportation, activities and “fun stuff.”
If you’re not splitting costs evenly, you don’t have to agree on, for example, how much to spend on souvenirs – that can be up to you. When it comes to restaurants or activities, though, it’s important that you’re aligned.
Balance is important; if you splurge somewhere, try to save somewhere else. Get a kitchen you can cook in but treat yourself to that parasailing tour. Plan one nice dinner out and go low-key for your other meals.
Another thing I’ve found helpful is to utilize gift giving. For example, we had a trip planned in February for Australia, so for Christmas, I gifted my boyfriend one night at a nice hotel plus a vineyard tour around wine country. That way when we got there, neither of us had to worry about the cost or extravagance and the experience was even more special.
Almost all couples I know will bicker and quarrel from time to time, and I’ve found that a vacation adds a certain stress to have everything be perfect and to not miss out on anything. These stresses can take a toll on any relationship, romantic or otherwise, so it is almost expected that there will be some minor arguing (don’t freak out!).
But if you’re mentally prepared for the kinds of tension that can come up and have some ideas of how to mitigate them, disagreements should be fairly minimal. Don’t let things build up inside you if they’re bothering you. Confront issues early and fairly and I’m sure they won’t spoil your trip.