There’s more to a couple’s trip than turning up and hoping for the best. Squeezing the absolute most out of your vacation together takes creativity and commitment. Research shows engaging in new activities with your partner increases feelings of closeness, so if you do things right, you’ll learn a thing or two about each other and create positive shared memories that last long after your vacation tan fades. So whether you’re a brand-new item, celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary, or heading off with a toddler or three in tow, here are 10 vacation ideas to make your vacation the most romantic yet.

1. What is the best place for a romantic vacation?

couple on beacation in winter watching northern lights

Photo: Benas Bakevicius/Shutterstock

Hot, sultry climates have long been touted as the go-to option for romantic vacations, but don’t believe the hype for a minute. Sure, slathering lashings of sunscreen over your other half’s sweaty back may well ignite amorous intentions for some, but have you ever tried city sightseeing in 90-degree heat? What about trying to find a restaurant when you’re both hangry and overheated? And the sweat…sexy if you’re Channing Tatum dancing in a garage, not so great when your hair’s plastered to your forehead, and you can’t lift your hands because your underarms are soaked.

Romantic winter getaways make some of the best vacations. The climate is much more sightseeing-friendly, the crowds are smaller (unless you’ve gone to Lapland) and you have ample opportunity to snuggle up by an open fire, which is way more romantic than sitting on a beach surrounded by mosquitoes and drunk backpackers. Plus, colder places generally get dark earlier, which means you’ll have the perfect excuse to go to bed early if you catch my drift.

2. Pack a surprise gift for your other half

People usually reserve gifts for seasonal holidays and birthdays, so imagine your partner’s delight when you whip out an impromptu treat the moment you arrive. It doesn’t have to be big, expensive, or fancy, it just has to be thoughtful, like a book you know they’ll love or something you can share. Think a couples massage, a fancy coffee pack, or a chilled bottle of Champagne on arrival. If you’re stuck for ideas, throw your mind back to when you first started dating and see if there’s anything from your past you could gift, like framed photos from that time you went in a photo booth together. If you’ve just started dating, pick something thoughtful to help them enjoy the vacation better, like a one-of-a-kind scarf they can wear while sightseeing.

3. Make a mixtape

Communication is a proven way to promote intimacy, but we often get swamped in discussing the boring day-to-day conversations about work and chores. Sometimes it’s tricky to change the subject and talk about something new — which is where a mixtape comes in (or since it’s no longer the ’90s, a Spotify playlist). Pack it full of all the tunes that mean something to you as a couple. Hearing a song from your past will trigger a memory, and you’ll both start reminiscing. As you chat, memories and feelings come flooding back, which helps you both connect and rekindle the romance.

Most people have at least one song they associate with the start of their relationship, but you can fill the mix with other tunes that were on the airwaves when you started dating. If you’re a brand-new couple, choose music you think you’ll both love and use the occasion to create your own soundtrack. Don’t forget to pack a mini speaker so you can play it in the evening over a glass of wine.

4. Learn some of the local language

Couple looking at phone in bar on baecation

Photo: Southworks/Shutterstock

According to one survey from the language company Babbel, bilingual people are considered more attractive than people who speak just one language. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a slice of the action just because you slacked off during high-school French lessons. Learn a few key phrases and you’ll wow your other half, even if you’re just asking for the bill. It’s also a considerate move to at least try to communicate with the locals in their language, so not only are you impressing your other half, you’re being a good tourist.

A tip from someone who’s currently trying to learn to speak French? Confidence is key. Mumble your way through a sentence and it’ll be awkward for everyone when your audience responds with tu quoi? — so don’t be too ambitious here. Learn key phrases and belt them out with a smile. You may even find yourself on the receiving end of a complimentary after dinner shot for the effort.

5. Keep some secrets

You could keep the entire vacation secret, which is a sure-fire way to impress your other half. If that seems like too much effort (or you’re rubbish at keeping secrets), then do something smaller, like plan a surprise day trip, a restaurant experience, or book one night in that fancy hotel you both decided against because it was too expensive. Pay attention to any hints they drop while planning your trip and you should have plenty of ideas for surprises. Just make sure you pay using your own account rather than the joint one because, firstly, they’ll see it on their statement and either guess your surprise or assume you’re having an affair. Secondly, it’s not so romantic if they have to pay for it themselves.

6. Go self-catering. Unless…

Couple hugging in a cabin on baecation

Photo: Carrastock/Shutterstock

Forget expensive, busy hotels. Vacation rentals give you more flexibility. You’re not paying for room service or a breakfast buffet, so you can often choose somewhere bigger and more unique — like a modernist Airbnb cabin or a treehouse. It also means you can have more freedom with mealtimes, not to mention more alone time together because you don’t have to see other guests or reception staff daily. Surprise your partner with breakfast in bed, or share a chilled bottle of bubbly on the balcony one evening while you listen to your playlist.

This said, self-catering isn’t for everyone. If the idea of cleaning up after yourself (or your other half) fills you with horror and sparks tension, then a romatic hotel or B&B is the better option. Unless you have kids, in which case, splash out on a couples resort that specializes in entertainment for little ones, leaving you free to enjoy some alone time together without the guilt.

7. Have sex (with purpose)

Away from the stresses of daily life, tension fades away and your mind is free to wander onto more libidinous topics — so grab the bull by the horns and approach your vacation sex with purpose. This means giving it the same care and attention as everything else on your itinerary. Don’t just turn up, down a bottle of wine, and hope that it’ll be magical. While doing this a few times is fine, it’s not a sustainable approach because while booze increases desire, it decreases performance, enjoyment, and it’s a depressant, so make a so attempt to limit your precoital alcohol intake. Planning also means making sure you pack the necessary accessories (lube and sex toys) and use vacation-induced adventurousness as an opportunity to try new things together.

8. Commit to vacation mode

Romantic getaways are all about fun and relaxation, but sometimes, taking the time to unwind is tough. The trick here is to get yourself into vacation mode before you set off. This means planning early, letting work know well in advance, setting up your out-of-office, and blocking your email account so you’re not tempted to peek while you’re away.

It’s also a great idea to really commit to the experience from the minute you check out of work. Have a nice dinner the night before, treat yourselves to a glass of wine on the plane, and look after yourself in those first few days by getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, and staying off social media (which is proven to increase feelings of anxiety and takes your attention away from your other half). You should also actively avoid topics of conversation that pull you both back to the stresses of everyday life.

9. Plan an activity

Two people hiking at arches on beacation

Photo: Margaret.Wiktor/Shutterstock

Novel experiences release dopamine. This means that after one exciting event, you’ll feel more open to trying new things and be in a better position to deal with itinerary hiccups or unforeseen events if they occur. Hiking, volunteering, cooking classes, and sexy twister are all good experiences for couples because you’ll bond faster when working together toward a shared goal as opposed to doing something passive, like sunbathing. And remember to acknowledge your partner’s ideas and plan together so you do something that you both enjoy. Unless it’s a surprise, in which case do your research.

10. Leave the camera at home

Bad news for Instagram addicts: A study found that taking pictures prevents memories from sticking because you’re not focused on the events in front of you. Reminiscing over shared experiences helps you feel closer to your partner, so if you’re viewing your vacation through the lens of your camera, you could be limiting your ability to fully embody those moments.

It’s important to consider why you’re taking pictures. We’ve all seen (or been) those people who’re way too committed to getting that perfect shot even if it means battling crowds to get a photo that matches the one in the guidebook or spending way too long crouched in a squat to get just the right angle. In moments like this, ask yourself: who is this for? Is your vacation for you or your followers? If social media is your business, then snap away — but that kind of dedication has no place in a couple’s trip. If the thought of no photos is unbearable, try to limit yourself. Agree to leave the camera in the room on certain days. Not only will this help you fully commit to the experience while you’re there, but you’re also showing your other half they’re all that matters to you at that moment.