A little while ago I wrote a post titled, ‘5 tips to survive travelling as a couple.’ It’s one of my favourite posts because it makes me laugh when I think of all the funny things that have happened to Matt and I while we’ve been travelling. I’ve learned and experienced a lot since the original one was written, so today I wanted to take that original post and expand on it with this brand new one. I’m sharing a few of the things you face when travelling as a couple and some tips for surviving them!
1) Talk to other people
Matt and I are both introverts and tend to be pretty insular, which is cool because we’re like a really small gang with our own language and very special hand signs (some not so friendly). But it can be bad too, because sometimes when we travel we don’t speak to anyone else which is isolating. It’s important to meet other travellers or locals of the place you’re visiting and have a conversation with them.
If nothing else, it will give you both something to talk about later. More than likely you’ll come out of it with a great new travel memory and possibly a new pen-pal or life-long friend. If you’re an introvert like us, it’ll also give you a chance to become well socialised… like a dog at the dog park!
2) Rely on the Wi-Fi
I love to have quiet time to myself to flick around the internet and visit my favourite websites, read emails and catch up on things. Luckily for me, Matt loves it just as much as I do! Whether we’re at home or travelling, we always take time out to switch off and cruise the net for a little while. We call this time a ‘Wi-fi Session’ and we have an unspoken agreement that you leave the other person in peace and don’t judge them for how long they spend on the internet. It’s guilt free browsing, yo.
Again, this gives us something to laugh and share, like funny cat videos or an email from a friend. It also gives us some mental time out to enjoy the things that interest us, like fantasy league football (Matt) and Beyonce’s music videos (also Matt).
3) Get a strong stomach
There is nowhere to hide when you’re travelling as a couple and we’ve both seen some things that absolutely cannot be unseen. As I’ve shared before, I held two full bags of Matt’s vomit while on a very small plane, on our honeymoon. Rock. Bottom.
Here’s the thing, these stories end up being really, really funny so try to see the humour in them at the time too. The chances are that one of you is definitely going to get a stomach ache or eat too much pork knuckle and some bad stuff is going happen. Moments like these are why I always pack lots of stomach medicine, like Imodium, hydration packs AND a small spray bottle of air freshener.
4) Don’t go to the hotel bed angry
It’s totally normal to have great travel days and bad travel days. One day you’ll want to claw each other’s eyes out with a sharpened bar of soap, the next day you’ll be snuggling under a tree in Central Park. Totally normal. My only advice is that you don’t go to bed angry at night. Stay up and talk out your issues then go to sleep once you’ve reached a resolve. Otherwise, you could end up having a few bad days in a row and that’s just a waste of valuable travel time.
5) Look out for one another
Have each other’s backs at all times and really look out for each other. The benefit of travelling as a couple is that you have someone there to help and support you, so let that happen. Carry their bag or take charge of the day’s plans if the other person is tired, go out and get them medicine if they need it, try the dodgy looking street food first and see if you survive before you let them eat it. Simple gestures of kindness and care go a really long way.
6) Travel compromise
There are definitely going to be times when your partner wants to do something you really don’t want to do or go somewhere you really don’t want to go. It’s totally fine to have time apart, so try to work out if they can go and do their thing while you do something you want to do instead. You can also take turns planning a day, so you do what they want on day 1 anand they do what you want on day 2.
If it comes down to a destination issue, find a way to compromise. Maybe you don’t really want to go back to Phuket, but they do. Why not go there for a couple of nights then go where you really want to go? You’ve got to appreciate it’s their adventure too and if it means spending a few extra days on vacation, well, so be it. Remember, the best travel memories usually happen in the places you least expect them to.
7) Be romantic
Yep, you gotta keep the romance alive, especially when you’re living in each other’s pockets! Take turns planning a date night or adventure day, this can be a great way to add some fun and surprises into your travel and you never know where you’ll end up. Spend a day at the day spa, get dressed up and have dinner at a fancy restaurant or indulge in a special bottle of wine on a rooftop bar. Take charge and plan a full day of fun activities and surprises for your sweetie. It’s always worth going to the little bit of extra effort to spoil the person you love.
8) Respect each other’s limits
I get really run down really easily and Matt’s very respectful of my travel limits. When we travel we go out in the morning but have to be back at the hotel by around 1pm or 2pm so I can have a couple of hours rest before we go out again. I used to try and push through, but once Matt saw how sick I got he understood why the rest time was so important. Keep an eye on your partner and learn their limits. If they need a rest day or struggle with too much physical and adventure stuff, take it easy because fatigue = fights!
9) Be honest
There is no other choice than to be honest when you travel as a couple. If you don’t want to go somewhere and do something, just say so. If you don’t want to eat somewhere, just say so. There’s no way it can work if you say you’re fine when you’re really pissed off because you partner took off at the airport and left you struggling with all the bags. Just tell them you’re upset, explain why and move on.
Travel time is too precious to be wasted on hiding your true feelings! So, speak up! You’ll be really happy with how much you learn about each other and it’ll make your future travel a lot easier too because you’ll know each other so much better. Note to self: Matt doesn’t like you practicing your twerking while he’s trying to sleep.
10) Have some time off
If you’re on the road for a long time travel can start to feel like a never-ending job. You’re constantly planning, moving, on the way to somewhere, buying tickets, finding food etc. Book a week at an all-inclusive resort or beach-front retreat and take a week off from all the moving. Take some time off to just relax and be in one place for a little while, it’ll help you both recharge and rest.
11) Don’t sweat the small stuff
Confined to a teeny-tiny Tokyo hotel room is not the time nor the place to start nit-picking your partner’s habits. Travel is a time to chill out and learn to understand and accept the person you’re with, even if they do like to clip their toenails above your suitcase. Actually no, that’s gross and you should definitely say something. My point is it’s important to see the bigger picture and keeping a cool head and letting go of the small stuff, goes a long way.
12) Be realistic
You are definitely going to have a fight. It’s going to happen. You’re going to be tired, jet-lagged and hungry and they’re going to say or do the wrong thing and it’s going to kick off. But, guys, that’s absolutely normal. There’s no way you can travel as a couple and have every moment be super sweet and lovey-dovey. So, acknowledge that before you go and agree that, when the tough moments come, you’ll both be honest and open and try to resolve it quickly and not hold grudges.
If it makes you feel any better, Matt and I once had a nuclear fight outside a train station in Singapore and stormed off in opposite directions, filthy with each other. It was one of those fights where you really just want to let it all out and you’re really pissed off but you’re in public so you gotta keep it in check: ‘I need to let this fool know I mean business, but I don’t want to look crazy to passers-by.’ We didn’t see each other for a few hours after that and when we finally did, we both felt pretty crummy about it.
Travelling as a couple had an incredible impact on our relationship. We know so much more about each other than we ever thought we could. We’ve experienced some really difficult times when things have been really challenging, hard or scary and we’ve made it through them. Those experiences on the road mean we know we can make it through anything at home too.
We also have a million wonderful memories we can share and look back on for the rest of our lives. Even though we fight sometimes, we wouldn’t choose anyone else to be our travel companion. We know how to care for each other, what the other likes when they travel and how to have a lot of fun! At the end of the day, the amazing moments we’ve shared and experiences we have far outweigh any of the other stuff.
Watch: our ’12 months in 60 seconds’ video
Phoebe Lee is a travel writer and award-winning blogger with a love for storytelling. Phoebe creates practical, fun and engaging written content designed to inspire and energise travel-lovers and dreamers. Follow her and Matt’s adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.