Traveling with a partner can be a rewarding experience that creates lifelong memories and can even make your relationship stronger — that is, if you don’t totally screw it up before you’ve even left the airport. When done wrong, traveling as a couple can be a rough ride and potentially destroy the relationship by the time you circle back home. In order to dodge avoidable mistakes (and mutual outbursts of tears in front of tourist attractions) here are some are some strategies to help keep your relationship healthy while on the road.
1. Start before takeoff.
It’s best to involve your partner from the very beginning of the trip, and that starts with the planning process. While a surprise romantic getaway can be delightful, joint planning is a safer bet for success. If you’re having difficulty nailing down a destination, separately make a list of your top 10, compare notes and narrow it down to your top five in common. From there, take a look at budget and timelines until you find the perfect option. The same tactic can be used for pretty much everything, from accommodation to activities.
2. Divide and conquer.
The best part about traveling with a partner? You don’t have to do everything yourself. Divvy up your strengths. If you’re a whiz at flight schedules and bus routes but the thought of planning a hike stresses you out, split tasks accordingly. When it comes to packing, making a joint list can be helpful so you don’t a) accidentally bring two of everything, or b) worse, both assume the other person was going to pack toothpaste.
3. Make sure you’re on the same page about accommodation.
You both agree you want to have an “exotic” experience. Except for you, that means a hammock on a beach and a thatched roof, and for your partner, that means Egyptian cotton sheets and a hot stone massage. Check in with each other’s definition of what meets their standards, and make sure not to prioritize one extreme over the other. You may think you’re “winning” now when the argument rules in your favor, but the bitter attitude of your partner once you get there will yield a lose-lose experience.
4. Be honest about your travel goals.
If your partner’s primary concern is extreme R&R but you’re looking forward to a week of extreme sports, things might not go so well. Figure out what you can compromise on, and what’s an absolute, non-negotiable bucket list activity for you or your partner. We’re not saying you have to agree to go skydiving if you’re terrified of heights but if your partner is an adrenaline junkie, try to go out of your comfort zone and maybe hit the zipline.
5. It’s okay to spend time alone.
Does the idea of spending 24 hours a day with your partner in an unfamiliar place sound a little too close for comfort? You don’t need to be joined at the hip for the whole trip. It’s vital to build in some quiet time or alone time. A little separation to explore your own interests or just unwind will help you both keep your cool.
6. Think about safety logistics…
Chances are, your trip will go relatively smoothly, but you don’t want to be caught off guard in the case of an emergency. Make sure that each of you have a record of the others’ emergency contacts, health insurance information, and are aware of any health conditions that may affect your trip. Plus, you don’t want your relationship to spiral when one of you gets offended that the other didn’t know about their blood type or allergy to penicillin.
7. …and that includes your sex life.
If some hanky panky is on your itinerary, make sure you’ve thought about proper protection before boarding that plane. Male condoms are not easily available in all countries, and in some places, female condoms can be dang-near impossible to find, so it’s best to bring some with you if you normally use that form of protection.
If you’re on hormonal birth control, it’s best to make sure you have enough to last the length of your trip plus a couple days for possible travel delays, and make sure that it’s a current prescription clearly labeled with your name. It’s not always possible to fill a prescription while traveling, and, occasionally, female travelers to strictly religious countries may be barred from purchasing emergency contraception.
8. Communicate along the way.
It’s really easy to want to plaster on a happy face and cheery demeanor for the sake of the trip — but if you’re stressed, anxious, or annoyed, hiding your feelings from your partner is sure to result in a blowout. Check in with each other throughout the day and adjust your plans accordingly. It’s ok to ditch a tour because you’re tired, just address the stress openly and deal with it as soon as possible.
9. Archive the good, learn from the bad.
Once you’re home, unpacked, and slept off the jet lag, reflect on how the trip went. What went well? Those are your memories. What didn’t work so well? Those are your learning points for next time. Don’t let any single moment from the trip define your relationship, and, unless it’s a major red flag, don’t let arguments or grudges follow you back home.
10. Start planning for next time.
Sometimes after a big trip, you come home and…suddenly everything pales in contrast. Your hometown is boring. The food is boring. Uh-oh…your partner is even looking a little boring. This will pass, but the best remedy is to go ahead and start daydreaming about your next joint adventure — whether it’s cross-country trip in six months or a staycation next weekend.