Taking a trip with your significant other can conjure up visions of sunset smooches and romantic dinners, but truth be told, it’s not always so rosy. Travel can be a stressful endeavor, and being in unfamiliar surroundings can amplify issues if you’re not prepared. Expectations of packing each afternoon with adventures, sticking to the budget, and long-haul travel days can be a minefield if you’re not on the same page. But the payoff certainly outweighs the minor pitfalls you might encounter along the way. Traveling as a couple creates intense bonds and unforgettable memories that you get to share with the person you care most about.
Whether it’s your first trip together or you’ve been married for years, use these eight travel tips and tactics to make sure you and your better half comfortably enjoy that romantic getaway.
Budgeting Your Expectations
Whether it's Euros, Pesos, or Dollars, money can cause friction wherever you are if you’re not upfront about it. Every afternoon isn’t going to be spent gliding on a gondola through the canals of Venice after eating a seven-course meal. Travel costs money. How much money? That depends on your travel styles, which you may find differs a lot once you've arrived abroad. Before venturing off on vacation, get an idea of what matters most and how much disposable cash you have to play with. I’m not advocating a budget breakdown for every single activity, but when unexpected costs arise, and they will, an enjoyable escape won’t turn into a fight over finances.
But budgeting goes beyond banknotes too; time is a huge factor to take into account when traveling as a couple. Face it, you’ll never have enough time to see everything, and jam-packing nonstop sightseeing or travel into each day is a recipe for exhaustion, which leads to stress, eventually arriving at arguments and irritation. Plan days out with both of your interests in mind, but allot some free time to just enjoy each other’s company without worrying about making it to the museum before closing time. Romance doesn't quite blossom as well when it’s set in a strictly regimented schedule.
Divide and Conquer
Sure, sitting next to your sweetheart is nice, but what's even sweeter in a cramped economy cabin is an empty spot between you. When picking seats, choose the aisle and the window, leaving the gap in between open in the hopes that no one will manually select the dreaded middle seat. Because, let's face it, who in their right mind would want to pick that as their first option. If the plane is full and someone gets assigned the middle, almost 99% of the time, you can convince them to swap out and avoid the feeling of being awkwardly stuck between the couple.
Play to Each Other’s Strong Suits
Traveling is prime time to let your strengths shine, and you can get a head start before the trip begins. For example, I'm more analytical and even though it's my job, I do actually love looking up airfare deals all day. My wife, on the other hand, could care less about which carrier we’re flying on. However, she’s the one that enjoys spending the time sifting through accommodation pictures and hip neighborhoods to stay in when we’re on the road. By splitting up these two vital trip tasks, we can both have a hand in planning without feeling like it’s a cumbersome research project.
If one partner’s internal GPS points true north, then let them guide you through the city streets. And if you’re better with languages, then you’ll know who’s turn it is to speak up when the waiter comes by the table. Every couple is different, so take stock of each other's interests and strengths so you can divvy up duties that you each enjoy. That will limit stressful situations and prevent one partner from getting sidled with all the travel tasks.
Credit Where Credit’s Due
If that pricey annual fee is scaring you off from signing up for a high-end travel credit card. You may want to think again if you regularly travel as a twosome. Top cards that allow airport lounge access generally include free guests, so you’ll both be allowed inside even if there’s only one cardholder. Many airline-branded cards also allow for free first checked bags for the entire traveling party, so, when ticketed together, both luck out with luggage allowances. If your card covers the cost of TSA Precheck or Global Entry, have one partner sign-up, and more often than not, you’ll find a hidden bonus of both boarding passes stamped with a PreCheck logo when traveling on the same ticketed itinerary. Only one person needs to be the primary cardholder to receive these perks, and if you split the annual costs, it’s half the price.
Avoid the Blame Game
Things don't always go according to plan, and when you’re away in a new environment you can expect it on the regular. A mistake is bound to happen but save the "We wouldn't have gotten off at the wrong subway stop if you were paying attention" barb and either take it as a learning experience or, better yet, a chance to explore a new area. Some of the more memorable travel moments occur when hiccups force teamwork to figure it. Sucking it up and not shifting the blame can save hours arguing over would've, could've, should've, and more time actually enjoying your trip. See, I told you so!
Don’t Get Emotional (Over) Baggage
If packing for an extended trip that requires checked baggage, try your best to spread outfits equally among both bags. By avoiding the common "my bag" vs. "your bag" packing default, you'll ensure that if one of the pieces of luggage gets lost along the way, one person won't be stuck in the same clothes or need to carve time out of the trip for an impromptu shopping spree. With baggage fees ever-rising, condensing all items into one larger bag instead of two individual ones per partner, you can save up to $120 roundtrip on an itinerary to Europe. So, ditch the emotional connection of needing your personal suitcase. And not only will you save cash, but you'll also have a back-up in place if one doesn’t appear on the reclaim carousel.
Related: The Best Checked Luggage for Travel
Personal Time and Separate Activities are A-OK
Spending every single second together might seem romantic at first, but it’s a surefire way to send your trip off the rails real quick. Even those in the hunny-bunny phase of their relationship will find some time apart key to a successful journey together and skirt annoyances brought on by overexposure.
Individual personalities and interests brought you two together, so keep them alive while away. Whether you classify it as “me time” or just a breather from each other, setting off on separate activities can make the trip all the much better. My wife is a huge fan of going to the theater in NYC or London, but that’s not my cup of Earl Grey. So instead of me counting down the minutes until curtains come down, I skip the shows and do my own thing. Usually, checking out a local sporting event that would bore her equally. We each have a memorable night out enjoying what we’d prefer doing with new stories to share with each other afterward.
Disconnect from the Day-to-Day
Vacations are about escapes from your everyday duties, so mute the group chats on the office gossip. Checking in on the latest story about Susan in sales isn’t worth missing that stunning sunset with your significant other. Yes, mobile phones definitely make trips easier with travel apps and one-click snaps, but they’re the biggest culprits in stealing you away from your companion, and the new sights around you.
Sure, sharing selfies on Instagram to prove you’re actually away on vacation makes it almost impossible to stay off social media. Post it when there’s a pause in the action. I guarantee you’ll better recall your time spent in Paris chatting away at a wine bar instead of searching for spots with wi-fi. Because traveling as a couple isn't about who's getting the most likes. It's all about sharing experiences with each other in the moment.