Having recently returned from a four-day trip to Las Vegas with my significant other (an inadvisable amount of time to spend in Las Vegas), it felt like a miracle that we hadn’t fought during our extended drinking binge. Okay, maybe we fought once, but it was a brief spat over whether he could smoke indoors (something you can do in most casinos, but apparently not that one) that we quickly resolved.
This made me reflect on our past trips as a couple. Since we started dating about two years ago, we’ve gone on an impressive number of trips together, many to visit our respective parents. My partner’s parents live in Newfoundland, an island off the east coast of Canada. Because of this, we’ve experienced tedious flights (one flight that takes you to Newfoundland has to make three, separate half-hour stops along the way), plenty of airport grumbling, and some harrowing hanger.
Having accumulated all this joint travel time, we’ve absorbed some important lessons on how to survive the ups and downs of journeying as a pair. I can now safely say that I am an expert on couple’s traveling and shall impart my wisdom to those who are contemplating taking their first trip with a new partner.
1. Set out trip goals/priorities in advance.
Are you going to Las Vegas and obsessed with UFOs, so you really want to rent a car for a day to travel to the mysterious government facility that allegedly houses extraterrestrials, Area 51, about an hour away from the strip? If this activity is extremely important to you, communicate that to your partner before you fly to Vegas, and make sure they are on the same page about a potential day trip.
That way, you’ll avoid a day of passive aggressive grumbling when your partner decides, while in Vegas, that the trip won’t work with your time frame. It’s not your partner’s fault, as they didn’t know the day trip was so important to you. If they had known, you two could have had a conversation in which you both acknowledged that while it’s a bummer you won’t be able to spot any aliens, it’s just not realistic given your schedule.
This is an extremely specific example, but the lesson applies to any new (or old) couple. Before heading to a certain location, each choose one or two specific activities you want to do there. That way, you’ll avoid arguments during the trip about how to spend your time. It sucks when you’re supposed to be having fun together but one of you feels like you wound up tagging along on the other person’s dream vacation because that person happened to do most of the planning.
2. Know when it’s time to take a break from each other.
When you vacation with your significant other, you’ll be with them nearly every moment of every day. If you’re in a new relationship, you likely don’t live together, and this constant togetherness may be an… adjustment. Even if you do live with someone, you likely spend most of the week working at separate places, and therefore are used to getting plenty of solo time.
Remember that going on a trip together doesn’t mean you’re now glued at the hip. You’re both free to do your own thing. When you’re at home, do you usually wake up early and go for a solo jog (#goals)? Do it on your trip while your partner gets an extra hour of sleep. Feeling obligated to skip out on the solo activities that make you feel good will make you resent your partner, which is a bad way to feel when you’re also constantly by their side.
3. If it’s a family vacation, respect your partner’s family and your own time.
Often, it will happen that your first trip with a partner involves one of your families. The first time I went on a trip with my current significant other, we traveled to my parents’ house because they were out of town for the weekend. We could get the place to ourselves while exploring a new (for my partner) city.
Somehow, instead of solitude and a family-free vacation, we ended up wearing my aunt and uncle’s wet suits and swimming in a cold lake where my uncle insisted my partner face his phobia of being submerged in water. A good time was had by at least two of us (hint: not my partner).
Sometimes you’ll have to roll with the punches when exposed to other people’s families. Maybe you’re used to your mom offering you a beer the moment you walk through the door, but your partner’s family consists of teetotalers. Drinking heavily at your first meal with them is a little bit insensitive. However, when spending time with your partner’s family, it’s important to let your partner know if and when you need some me-time to escape from the onslaught of family bonding (or fighting, or whatever else families do together).
4. Make a budget.
Before you set out on your trip — better yet, when planning it — make sure you’re on the same page about what kind of money you want to part with while you’re traveling. If one of you wants to go away for spa time and five-star dining experiences while the other plans on surviving purely on peanut butter sandwiches, you certainly don’t want to find that out once you arrive. Estimating beforehand how much you each plan on spending will help keep money-related anxieties at bay during your trip.
5. Treat your partner’s “traveling personality” as a whole new person to fall in love with.
People change when they’re on the road or removed from their daily grind. Don’t be alarmed by these changes in your partner. Instead, embrace them for the opportunity to fall in love all over again… swoon.
6. Take turns navigating.
Some people love to be the map holder, while others are totally chill with letting someone else take the navigational reigns. Unfortunately, these two personality types don’t always come together like perfect, relationship puzzle pieces. If both you and your partner like to be in control of the map, don’t fall prey to the old “let me see that” map-grabbing attitude. Instead, let one person have full map-reading privileges one day and switch off the next. It may be hard, but you can always say, “I told you so,” the day your partner leads the way, refuses to ask locals for directions, and gets you both lost.
7. Always bring snacks on the plane.
Hanger is the number one enemy of traveling couples. If you find yourself stranded on a plane, train, or bus without a bag of salt and pepper chips or peanut M&Ms, the hanger will find you. And then it will slowly tear you apart. In fact, it’s probably best to have snacks on you at all times when you’re traveling with your new significant other. It’s hard to say when the hanger will strike, and you’ll want to be prepared in case there aren’t any food stops for miles. You really don’t want to ruin your first couple’s vacation just because you forgot to bring M&Ms.