How to Successfully Travel With a Partner
Survive Your First Couple's Vacation With These Expert Tips
There's one major milestone in every relationship that truly makes or breaks a couple — and no, it's not meeting the parents. It's traveling together. Though vacationing is often thought of as a fun and romantic experience for a couple, people often forget how difficult it is to travel with someone, especially with your partner for the first time.
"It can feel like a test of what it would be like to live with your partner," clinical psychologist Marisa Perera, PhD, founder of Natal Counseling, tells POPSUGAR. "You will be seeing a lot more of each other while traveling together, including sides of your partner you haven't seen before and sides of you that your partner hasn't seen before."
Not only do you have to navigate logistical stressors, such as when you'll leave for the airport and what your itinerary will look like, but you also have to share a tiny space with them. And I don't care how much you love your person: sharing one bathroom is hard for even the happiest of couples.
My boyfriend and I recently navigated this exact situation when we traveled to New York City for our first trip together. We stayed at the luxurious M Social hotel in Times Square, and I'll be honest, we were probably luckier than most new couples, since M Social boasts some seriously spacious rooms for NYC standards.
Our room was nearly 280 square feet and offered way more sitting space than just its king-size bed. The room had a chaise lounge, where my boyfriend piled his clothes (resulting in fight number one), and also a dresser area where I did my hair and makeup while my boyfriend spent an unfair amount of time in the bathroom (resulting in fight number two).
Though we had our fair share of "Why are you taking so long?" and "No, the thermostat needs to be set to 70" tiffs, we also had some lovey-dovey moments, too.
When we hung out on M Social's gorgeous outdoor rooftop with the light from Times Square bouncing off us, I was reminded how extremely handsome he is, which made up for the fact that he is an airplane-landing clapper.
And when I was rigid about the very structured itinerary I'd planned, his easygoing personality and go-with-the-flow attitude reminded me why my type A heart loves him so much in the first place.
All that to say, we made it through our first couple's trip — and so can you. With help from experts, here's a guide on how to travel with your partner without breaking up.
How to Prepare For a Trip With Your Partner
Start by communicating, says relationship therapist Natasha Camille, LCSW. "Check in about what you each are hoping for in your trip together," they say. This can include discussions about how you want to spend your time, where and how often you want to eat, when you want to wake up, when you want to leave for the airport, whether or not you will need to prioritize some alone time, and more. Establishing this communication from the beginning will help set expectations.
Dr. Perera also suggests discussing how you will handle unplanned moments since you will likely face at least one stressful experience. "Since trips usually involve some level of a mishap despite perfect planning, discuss how you would handle unplanned moments, like a flight being delayed or canceled," she says. This can better prepare you for the inevitable.
She also advises discussing finances prior to traveling, including who will pay for what, how you will split bills, and the trip's general budget. According to a study conducted by Ramsey Solutions, money is the number one thing couples fight about, so it's best to get on the same page prior to spending it.
How to Travel Well With Your Partner
Try to be accommodating. If your partner wants to upgrade to first class while you prefer sitting in economy, discuss why and come to a mutual understanding and agreement. And also, understand that you might handle stress differently than your partner, and that's OK. Be sympathetic and understanding in these situations, like, say, if your partner forgot their laptop charger at home or they dropped their phone during the security screening.
"Even if you don't agree with how your partner is navigating a stressful situation, you can accept the fact that your partner is handling a stressful situation differently than you wish they did," says Dr. Perera. Once things have simmered down, share what the stressful experience was like for you and why you handled it how you did. Then ask your partner about how they felt and why they handled it the way they did. "This helps you each build an understanding of and appreciation for one another," she says.
Lastly, compromise. Traveling together may result in both parties having to compromise in order to meet each other's needs, and that's OK. Understand your vacation may not look the same as it would if you were traveling by yourself, but that's the beauty of traveling with a partner: they likely have different interests than you. Who knows, you may find that you enjoy getting up early in the morning to watch a beach sunrise versus sleeping in as you otherwise normally would.
How to Minimize Arguments With Your Partner During Vacation
First off, know that arguments and disagreements are a natural part of relationships — even on vacations, Camille says. Instead of thinking that it's a red flag, consider that arguing might be a sign you need to work on more deeply understanding each other in some way, they say.
"If this is the first time that you're spending consecutive days with your partner, it especially makes sense that you might learn that there are some practices, habits, opinions, etc. of your partner that you do not align with. The important thing is that each argument and disagreement is processed and navigated together in order to create an opportunity for learning and connection," Camille says.
Small fights might become an issue if you're not allowing yourself some space, too. "Attending social or group events together can help reduce the pressure of needing to constantly entertain one another," Dr. Perera says. Also, consider spending one hour apart daily for personal self-care time, she adds.
That said, there does come a point in arguing and navigating travel differences where the relationship just may not be viable — and if this is the case, a breakup could be the right course of action. But how do you know it's reached a point where you need to break up with your partner?
"If your partner is unwilling to compromise and if the frustration and distress you experience from the traveling differences outweigh the enjoyment you get from the relationship, you may want to take a closer look at the future of your relationship," Dr. Perera says.
The truth is, "traveling may have created the opportunity for you to realize that there are differences and incompatibilities in your relationship that cannot be overcome at this time," Camille says. If you find that you see a difference in values or willingness to compromise, it may be time to end the relationship.
However, if your travel was a success besides a few minor hiccups, that's a green flag. Because fortunately for you, traveling well together is a great predictor that your relationship is in it for the long haul. After all, "how well you travel with a partner is a testament of your ability to compromise with one another, which is the foundation of a lasting and satisfying relationship," says Dr. Perera.