When Matt and I decided to move to London and travel the world together we each had the same initial thought, “How am I going to stop myself from killing you?” Let’s be honest, traveling as a couple is amazing and incredibly rewarding for your relationship (should you both survive) but it is also very trying, frustrating and downright annoying at times.
I’ve been very lucky to find a man who loves travel just as much, if not more, than I do. It’s one of the things that really sealed our bond, we dream about visiting new places and talk about our plans to see the world. The two of us are always scheming ways to squeeze another holiday out of our annual leave or take advantage of sale airfares.
As cute as all of this is, and while holidays are supposed to be very relaxing, they are quite stressful at times too. It’s unlikely you spend every second of every day with your partner, so to go from only seeing them in the morning and night, to having them glued to your side 24/7 is fraught with holiday-ruining danger.
If you’re thinking about traveling with your partner or have previously travelled with your partner, you’ll appreciate this guide I’ve put together on what to expect and how to survive traveling as a couple.
1) The Fight
There are many ways to sugar coat a relationship, you can tell yourself, your friends, your family and even your cat that you and your partner will not fight while on your amazing trip away together. Lay all the sugar you want on that bad boy, it doesn’t matter, you will fight. It is happening.
At some stage one of you is going to get horribly sunburnt, eat a dodgy lamb kofta, be sat next to a smelly man on a plane or get no sleep due to insufficient pillow stuffing and find yourself tired, hungry and probably furious. Add to that a lost itinerary, misplaced passport, misjudged departure time and conflicting ideas on how to spend your last day in Rome and you’ve got yourself the perfect ingredients for a good old-fashioned throw-down.
The first thing you need to do is accept that, at some point, there is going to be a disagreement between the two of you. It isn’t a reflection on your relationship, it isn’t even a bad thing, it’s just human nature. The important thing is to not let it ruin a holiday you’ve worked so hard for and planned for so long.
When the inevitable fight does happen, no matter how big or how small, take a deep breath and remind yourself that in the grand scheme of things, a fight doesn’t matter and get back to what you’re really here for – to enjoy your holiday in this exciting location with someone you love.
2) Sharing is caring
There’s no place for selfishness when it comes to traveling as a couple. Women are naturally programmed to pack everything and anything we can think of when going on holidays. Men are naturally programmed to pack as follows: a 1:1 ratio of underwear to days away, a 1:2 ratio of shirts to days away and a 1:4 ratio of shorts/trousers to days away.
This can only mean one thing, men have extra space in their luggage and women have extra items that need space. Refusing to put your girlfriends sand shoes in your luggage when you have ample room, gentlemen, will only land you back at point 1. The Fight.
One of the golden rules of traveling as a couple would have to be ‘What’s mine is yours’. Before you freak out about having to give up half your chocolate bar, just remember it works both ways and whatever you give, you’ll get back at some point.
Offering to put a couple of extra sweaters in your luggage, share your airplane pillow, split your pack of Dorito’s or give up your last bit of face wash can really go a long way on any holiday with your partner. Trust me, being the jerk that doesn’t want to share anything and only looks out for themselves, never ends well.
3) Time out
Being on a holiday together doesn’t mean you have to do everything together. No matter how long you’ve been together or how compatible you are I’m certain you each have interests the other person isn’t ‘in to’. But hey, that’s fine and in fact it’s completely normal.
It’s okay to take some time out for yourself on your holiday, after all it is your holiday too. Don’t feel like you have to follow your partner to the burning underground cave of the shrieking Kaw-Kaw bat or take a 50km trek through a cactus farm to see an albino goat when all you really want to do is get a full body massage and sip on a Mai Tai.
Enjoying a holiday does not mean doing absolutely everything together, it is okay to go your separate ways for a few hours and do something you love while your partner goes off on their own and does something they love.
Taking some time for yourself on a holiday with your partner can be greatly rewarding. You don’t feel like you missed out on spending your day exactly how you want and neither do they. When you meet back up later that day for lunch you’ll have so many stories to tell and you’ll both be refreshed, recharged and excited to see each other and not resentful at having done an activity you didn’t want to do or missing out on an activity you did want to do.
4) Work your weaknesses
I don’t know anybody who is good at absolutely everything, we each have our strengths and weaknesses. When you’re travelling as a couple, it’s important to be honest about these and be prepared to accept your own weaknesses and use your partners strengths.
As it turns out, Matt is fantastic with directions, he’s a bit of freak with it actually, kind of like a human compass. He can be driven into a brand new city with all manner of twisting, winding roads and be completely aware of exactly where he is and how to get around. When it comes to anything related to directions I put my ego aside and let him take the lead, after all he is great at it.
Being prepared to do this also means being prepared to curb the phrase ‘I told you so’. You absolutely cannot surrender a task to someone, watch them fail and then throw it back in their face afterward. Just remember, you’re both in this together and we all get it wrong sometimes.
Letting your partner work to their strengths on a holiday is hugely rewarding, you get to see them at their best and you’ll find your holiday will run a whole lot smoother when both of you are organised and doing the things you’re good at. The sooner things get done, the sooner you get to have a cocktail by the pool.
5.) Honesty comes first
There is nothing more awkward than arriving at a destination and realising you both had completely different ideas for your holiday. While you’ve been planning an action-packed week of adventure sports and all-you-can-eat buffets, your partner has been looking forward to detoxing and micro-dermabrasion facials.
Before you even book a holiday you need to talk about what kind of holiday you want and what you want to do when you arrive. There’s no point in pretending you love the idea of a ski trip to New Zealand when what you really want is to slather yourself in coconut oil and tan-up in Bali.
Another big part of the honesty chat is the sometimes touchy subject of money. It’s important to have a budget for your holiday and even more important for both of you to be on the same page money-wise. The last thing you want is to feel uncomfortable at your partner suggesting a lobster & Moet dinner when you know your budget doesn’t allow it.
Sit down and discuss your holiday budget and the top things you want to spend your money on, be honest with them and yourself. This means you can both relax knowing the other one is making decisions with both your budgets in mind and you’re both comfortable with how much you’re spending and what you’re spending it on.
Matt’s #1 tip to surviving travel as a couple:
“I have a terrible memory (apparently) so the number one tip for me is to remember (There’s that memory thing again) that you are lucky to have someone with you that you can share your experiences with. I can’t tell you the number of times I have flashbacks to hitchhiking in the back of a Chevy truck in Alberta on my way to go skydiving, or cutting down conifers with vegetarian tree huggers in the Scottish Highlands, but having no one to reminisce with. Thankfully, those solo travel days are gone, as exciting and free as they were, there is something more satisfying that comes from traveling with your numero uno. Always be grateful to have that person by your side, sharing these experiences with you and, one day, being able to recall all the fun memories (and fights) together.”
So there you have it, my guide to surviving travel as a couple. Each of these tips are vital, take it from someone who has been at the coal-face, stared into the face of extended periods of time in stressful situations with their partner and somehow lived to tell the tale.
While Matt and I were traveling the world in 2011/2012 we took video of everywhere we visited and everything we saw. When we arrived back in Brisbane, Matt sat down and turned all of that footage into an incredible video of our time away together and we want to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it and also enjoy getting to know me a little bit better.
Phoebe Lee is a writer, award-winning blogger and travel lover sharing helpful travel tips, insight and reviews for regular people. Follow her adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.