As a couple, my husband and I have traveled quite a bit. We also work remotely as freelancers which means neither of us takes off to an office during the day. Needless to say, over the time we've been in a relationship, we've spent a lot of time together and often in very close quarters.
Travel is one of those circumstances that throws you into unusual situations with a partner or travel buddy and puts you through some amazing times and some not-so-amazing times. It can be easy to grow frustrated and bicker, even while doing something as fun and freeing as traveling. Yes, travel can indeed be stressful.
Don't believe me? Sneak a glance at the average family visiting Walt Disney World and you'll see that even in 'the happiest place on earth', the kids are often screaming while the parents follow along with looks of horror on their faces; these people are at their wits' end.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Sure, there will be ups and downs (and you should certainly prepare for those downs), but if you put some effort into presenting your best self and avoiding bad habits, you two should do just fine. To help you prepare to travel with a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or significant other, here are 10 things you'll want to be sure NOT to do.
1. Spend every second together.
You do NOT need to be together on your trip 24/7. Even if you're only traveling for a week, be sure to take time now and then (ideally every day) to be by yourself. It doesn't mean you have to spend an entire day apart, but that you simply need to make time for yourselves. We hear this time and time again (self love! self care!) but all it really means is taking time to get in touch with yourself and your needs and get rejuvenated. This is especially a good tip if one or both of you are introverts. A perfect compromise? Spend 2-3 hours alone during one afternoon of your trip, doing whatever pleases you.
2. Expect all couples travel to be romantic.
You're traveling with your lover. Every moment should be roses and fireworks and epic mountaintop couple selfies, right?
Wrong. You will absolutely have some beautiful times like that while traveling. But not every second of travel is glamour and romance. Delayed flights, getting lost, language frustrations. All of these things can suck the joy right out of the moment (not to mention kill the romance.) So don't head into your travels expecting pure, unadulterated bliss.
3. Don't make time for romance.
By the same token, while you can't expect a constant lovefest, you should be deliberate about making time to enjoy romantic moments together. It doesn't always sound spontaneous and passionate, but it's what you gotta do! Whether your idea of romance is an afternoon where you opt to order room service and stay in bed all day, or a special hike you take just the two of you, give some thought to how to make your couples travel sweet and memorable. These intimate moments will stand out and be some of the best-treasured memories of your holiday.
4. Argue about money.
Woof. Arguing about money is the worst. And when you're on a vacation, it can be even more of a buzzkill. There might be an exception to this if you're traveling long term. Then, the issue of travel money is inevitably going to come up, and you'll have to work to compromise and budget as a team. But when you're on a shorter vacation, strive to refrain from financial arguments. How do you do this? Have a serious discussion BEFORE you depart about what you are planning to spend and where you might be able to splurge. It's always wise to budget expecting those splurges, too. That way you don't feel stretched thin when you decide a couples massage is just too good to pass up.
5. Act possessive of your man or lady.
This tip goes for your daily lives, not just for traveling as a couple. However, being in a foreign land does introduce new environments and new people. Especially in certain parts of Europe, men are vocal with their appreciation of female beauty. Husbands and boyfriends: don't freak out or pick a fight. Almost always, no harm is meant, and their whistles are simply a compliment to the lovely lady you're escorting. The same goes for the females. Your man might be a bit googley-eyed over the tall blondes of Scandinavia, but just remember, he came here with you. On your trip together, it's wise to focus on one another. No one else matters. It's just the two of you and an amazing holiday.
6. Isolate yourselves.
Now it seems I'm going to directly contradict myself. The trip may be all about you two and your relationship, but the trip will be enhanced if you expand your party of two a bit now and again. A short vacation or honeymoon is an exception...then it is natural and expected to be hyper-focused on your partner. But if you're engaged in long term couples travel, don't isolate yourselves. Make sure you take time each week to be social. Try and meet other couples. Get engaged with the locals. Participate in group cooking classes, brewery tours, or city walks. All of these things will open up your circle and add so much more to your travel experience. It's sharing those new experiences with your partner that is important.
7. Fall into a routine.
This DON'T applies primarily to long term traveling couples. Whether you're on the road or at home, it can be far too easy to fall into a routine. Soon, routine becomes a rut. Travel has an inherent advantage: you are constantly adding excitement and novelty into your life. Still, routines become habit. Some level of routine is okay, but don't get so caught up in the humdrum of daily life and your schedule that you forget spontaneity, romance, and special, small gestures. Try and shake things up at least once per week...whatever that means to you as a couple!
8. Complain endlessly.
It is horrid when one travel buddy is a nonstop whiner. I should know. I have a tendency to be one. It's not that I am unhappy, but rather that I am highly extraverted and like to share my every thought and feeling. Pebble in my shoe? You'll know about it. I'm hot. I'm cold. You're gonna hear it. My poor husband.
I have made and continue to make a solid attempt to quell this habit. I know it brings down our shared morale and can be irritating to Nathan. If this sounds like you, try and keep your complaints inside. Or better yet, reframe your mindset and for every complaint that you feel you want to make, instead state aloud something you are happy about or grateful for. This will boost your own mood, and perhaps help your partner feel more joyful as well.
9. Don't divide travel responsibilities.
On trips of any length, it can be exceedingly helpful to designate travel-related tasks to each person. If the Smiths know that Husband Smith is responsible for carrying the passports, there will be no "but I thought YOU packed them!!!!" at the airport. Wife Smith can rest easy knowing her man has got it under control. And Wife Smith can be in charge of something else, like printing boarding passes or booking the hotel. This helps both partners contribute and makes the process less stressful for everyone.
10. Expect the trip of a lifetime.
I think Instagram has given us unreasonable expectations. About looks, food, pets...but especially travel. With carefully curated galleries and photos pre-planned down to the minutest detail, it can be easy to believe that your holidaymaking will be or must be one for the record books. In truth, it probably will, but only if you keep your expectations true to life. If you choose to, you will enjoy romantic sunsets. You will have elegant meals. You will stroll hand in hand along the canals in Venice. But remember, life is not a movie, it is not a fairy tale, and it is not what you see in picture-perfect Instagram photos. Embrace the good and the bad of couples travel, and you will be in for an unforgettable treat.
And hopefully, you will travel together for years to come.
Photos by Stephanie Smith