One of the challenges of couples traveling is making sure your travel is as stress-free as possible. You want your trip to be memorable because you enjoyed it, not because you had a blow-out fight on the steps of the Louvre Museum.
It takes a bit of advanced preparation to make a shared trip stress-free. Here are some steps to take before you pack your bags.
Share your expectations
Many people save all year for a single vacation. Even if you apply budgeting tips, like saving 10 percent of your income every month, you’re still probably limited by vacation days or other obligations.
That means both you and your partner have lots of expectations about what your vacation should be like.
The only way to make sure these expectations don’t contradict each other, and to plan a trip that includes both of your needs, is to communicate.
Try this exercise
Sit down with your spouse/partner/friend and take 10-15 minutes to write down everything you want or need in your upcoming vacation. Include anything on your list that is important to you. My typical list might look like this:
- Time in the sunshine
- Physical activity
- Plenty of nature
- Bodies of water
- Unstructured days
- Lots of sleep
- Lots of snuggle time
- Good food
As you can see, this list revolves around relaxing and being outside. But imagine if your companion wrote a list like this:
- New cultures
- Big cities
- New food
- Exploring architecture
- Practicing a new language
It looks like your companion wants a trip to Rome or Istanbul while you want to go hiking on the Oregon Coast. The way to solve this problem is to plan a vacation that addresses both your needs.
In this case, you might want to consider something like a German castle tour, taking a week to explore ruined castles (physical activity, nature, architecture, new cities) and having a few nights of German disco combined with a few nights of hotel-room snuggle time.
Outsource the planning
Travel planning is much easier than it used to be! Sites Orbitz take a lot of the work out of booking flights and evaluating hotels. Still, it’s often nice to hand everything over to a seasoned professional.
They are going to know which hotels are nice and which hotels only have nice websites. This is also the person who’s going to be able to tell you which German ruined castle is a must-see, and which one is best to remove from the list.
Outsourcing the planning is one of the best ways to reduce travel stress, as it saves you and your partner from arguing about who’s going to do which booking, and how much you’re going to spend on the whole process.
Just give your travel agent your budget and proposed itinerary, and watch as he takes care of all your needs.
Plan every day and go with the flow
It’s important to have some kind of plan for every day; my partner and I learned that on a trip to Disneyland early in our relationship, when we spent the first day wandering around the park not knowing what to do first.
You have to have some kind of plan, like “let’s do Tomorrowland first, then have lunch in New Orleans Square,” otherwise you end up halfway through the day overheated, hungry, and frustrated that you haven’t done anything.
On the other hand, you have to be ready to go with the flow. When the Jedi Training Academy show starts and your partner looks excitedly in that direction, it’s time to leave New Orleans Square behind, grab a space burger, and watch the Jedi show.
Planning ahead helps make sure you don’t forget to have lunch; going with the flow means discovering a new restaurant.
Agree to let go and make memories
A trip where you’ve decided in advance that anything is okay – losing your luggage, eating at a bad restaurant, or getting lost on the way to a castle – is much better than a trip where you feel like everything has to be perfect.
Once your vacation starts, agree to let go.
Unexpected things will happen: like many people, I got really sick to my stomach after Space Mountain, but that didn’t ruin my vacation.
It became a memory that my partner and I now share, one where she helped clean me up and then bought me a silly Space Mountain t-shirt from the gift store to replace the one I ruined.
This is probably the most important key to a stress-free vacation, especially one shared with a partner or another loved one.
Once you’re on the trip, let the trip happen and collect the experiences and the memories as they come. That’s the way to enjoy travel.
Do you have other tips for sharing a stress-free vacation? Let me know in the comments below!
If you happen to be traveling with kids to Asia, check out seven kid friendly travel destinations in Asia.