Tips for Traveling As a Couple (for the First Time)

When was the last time you traveled as a couple? Do you have the routine down, or is hitting the road à deux a source of stress in your relationship?

If you’re newly involved and considering a vacation, are you anxious about traveling together for the first time?

Recently, I’ve been contemplating vacation destinations – (a girl can dream) – and it occurs to me that most of the recreational traveling I’ve done has been solo.

What if I had the opportunity to travel as part of a twosome?

I never had a problem traveling alone before marriage. I traveled on my own during marriage as well – for business – though I rarely took so much as a day or two for myself. My spouse on the other hand, took long weekends and recreational breaks. And in the years since?

I can only recall one day trip seven years ago, shared with a gentleman friend. Other than that, with few exceptions, whether for work or for play, I’ve traveled on my own and thoroughly enjoyed doing so.

In fact, when it comes to being a woman traveling alone, I’ve got plenty of tips. But the prospect of traveling as part of a couple? That one makes me nervous.

Travel Style, Vacation Smile?

My idea of a vacation? Anywhere there’s sun, quiet, wifi – with gobs of sleep, time to read, and ideally, a swimming pool.Or – Paris! Any time, at the drop of a dime, though it doesn’t meet the above criteria!

But what if I find myself romantically involved with someone whose travel style is very different from mine? What if his ideas of vacation are more active, more exotic, and more spontaneous?

What if he’s tent and campgrounds, while I’m Ritz and day spa? What if he’s mountains and backpack, while I’m ocean and room service?

What if he can eat anything and feel fabulous (pas moi), sleep like a baby on any bed (pas moi), and has a job that allows him to leave town and take no work with him – in his baggage or his head?

And what about my predisposition to scads of solitary time?

Am I capable of adjusting, of compromising, of trying new things on vacation?

Is he?

Compromise in All Things?

Don’t all relationships require compromise? Don’t we seek a comfortable balance between time alone and time together? Is traveling together one more test of a relationship – a couple’s ability to express what they need, to negotiate, and to choose a workable destination, accommodations,  and set of expectations about how to spend their time?

I seem to recall describing my dream break (yesterday) as including the following:

I would observe my surroundings, and I would answer to no one – at least for a few days.

Is that my personal bottom line? Does that require that I be solo? If so, is that need the consequence of my nature, or years of excessively busy single parent juggling? Am I suffering from a shortage of time alone, and trying to wrangle some while on vacation? Isn’t that unrealistic, when you’re enjoying the company of a special person?

Travel Stress

Traveling can be a stressful time for some of us. We may not like to fly. We may get cranky when we’re cooped up. We may worry about food where we’re going, or how many nights until we actually sleep, or the aches and pains that are more manageable at home.

We may fret over the money we’re spending, who’s watching the kids (and how well), not to mention our pets.

The work of preparing for the trip – extra hours on the job beforehand, and knowing the catch-up will be rough after – may play on our minds and our moods more than a little before and during the time away.

And aren’t some of us more prone to worry than others – no matter what the reason?

Travel Mess?

My sons pack for international travel the night before (and sometimes the morning of). They throw the clothes into a duffel bag or small suitcase, grab the toothbrush and passport, and they’re pretty close to ready.

Couple Traveling in LondonMe?

I allow myself extra time (so I’m not rushed), and I bring a heating pad for the airport (ugh, those old injuries).

I do better if I don’t eat until I arrive at my destination. It works for me, but not so well for others (who keep telling me to eat). Though I travel light (relatively speaking), I’m not the great packer I was when airports, jet lag, and rental cars were a routine part of my life. Yet when I arrive – wherever it may be, I am exhilarated. I adore every moment.

Tips for Good Travel Time, Couple Time

But voyage à deux? Isn’t that an entirely other matter? Isn’t it about “us” rather than you or me, and doesn’t that pour on the pressure?

Would I be a mess of stress if I traveled as part of a couple? If I’m part of a couple and our travel style differs dramatically (but all else is great), then what?

I’m trying to figure out if this is something I could do, and if I do, how well I’ll do.

My only tips for myself: think ahead, be considerate, stay open, communicate clearly, and compromise. But surely there’s more to it than that!

  • What is your travel style, and is it different from your partner?
  • How soon did you travel with a new romantic interest – and were you sorry you did?
  • Do you prefer to vacation alone, with friends, with one person, or with family?
  • What other couple firsts brought differences to light?
  • Ideas for traveling well as a couple?


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  1. says

    I’ve been seeing a man for nine months. Our first travel was a quick 24-hour excursion to visit some of my friends. There was a two hour drive, separate rooms, fine dining and lots of downtime.

    I discovered that he is a heavy-packer (which tickled me greatly). He isn’t stringent about time and deadlines, is happy to stop for breaks and is a great conversationalist.

    Recently, we ventured a seven-day trip which included more eight-hours of road time, more family involved and still separate rooms. We discussed ahead of time things like general schedules, the need for alone/downtime, and budget factors. This made the trip so pleasant! We discovered that our vacations styles worked together very well. I would choose to spend a little more time on the beach and he more time watching soccer, so we gave each other the freedom and space to do just that.

    We’re already planning another get-away!

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Wonderful information, Missy June! (Sounds like you took it slowly, which seems like a wonderful approach.)

      Your next getaway? Somewhere exotic?

  2. says

    I travel frequently (monthly) for business but those are short two-and-three day trips around Californina. No big deal. My husband and I have taken little weekend getaways, again, just around California and we travel well together. I do the packing and he gets us where we are going and everyone is happy. We are taking a trip to the East Coast in September, our first real trip in years(last one was an Alaskan cruise in 2005!) and I think we’ll be fine. We do have 34 years together under our belt so we’ve definitely learned to compromise and accommodate each other. Traveling together, even little weekend getaways, makes us feel like lovers and not just old married people. It’s nice!

  3. BigLittleWolf says

    @Old Married Lady – all I can say is it sounds like you two are doing something right! Traveling like lovers after all that time? That’s incredible. (Lovely of you to join the conversation!)

    There was something about “underindulgence” in last Sunday’s NYTimes. Perhaps the infrequent vacation falls into that category. When you can finally get away (even briefly) as a couple, you savor it.

  4. says

    Hi Wolfie, what a timely post.

    I always traveled solo before marriage, easily made friends on the spot when wanted.

    With kids romantic getaways were rare, more family oriented naturally, but at least once a year we planned a few days escape to NY for some exhibition or off-Broadway premiere, or NY City Ballet – for cultural oxygen. Later kids joined to introduce them to great cities and museums NY, Chicago.

    My husband is more up for nature’s marvels, I’m for urban photography for the last 9 years out of 23 together. Gradually he grew to love my travel inclinations and style on one condition: to pack light, and I learned how to. Can’t imagine the joy of discovery without sharing with him, mirroring our excitement. And after all these years we still enjoy very much our duo and trio (with pre-teen youngest) trips.

    …and Paris? Yes, it’s where my heart belongs (secretly), ready any time to jump over the pond, if only…

    • BigLittleWolf says

      So lovely to hear when couples can manage even a few getaways… and enjoy them!

      (Why do so many of us feel so good in Paris, you think?)

  5. says

    I almost now always travel alone on big trips but when I am traveling I also try and stay with friends along the way. If it is a big trip on a small tour usually I find someone with similar interests to share my thoughts and hear theirs.

  6. says

    Years ago, I went on a vacation with a guy I had only been dating for a few months. It was a long drive, and apparently he broke up with me (in his head) on the drive. But he never told me. We each did our own things during the day; he went scuba diving and I went to the beach. But by the end of the trip, we were staying in bedrooms on different floors of the beach house. I learned about the breakup when we got back.

    Last year, my husband and I traveled around the world together for 10 weeks. We are great travel partners, and were able to have a great mix of relaxation and exploration of new places.

    I prefer traveling just the two of us. I think family travel would be stressful. We have traveled some with friends, but as an introvert it’s exhausting to be around people all the time. I always prefer to have my own space to retreat to.

  7. BigLittleWolf says

    @Madge – Your recent trip sounded like a huge success. Sounds like you found a winning formula that works well for you.

    @MsHalfEmpty – your 10 weeks are quite an adventure. It’s wonderful the way you two shared that time and those experiences. I must admit, the idea of traveling with one’s partner sounds appealing. (And sans kids / toys / ‘stuff’ would make it calmer…)

  8. says

    Fortunately, both Fran and I are “tent and campground” (etc. etc.), although in some ways we are rather different in our styles while sharing interests and values. We’re back from our New England vacation visiting with family. I drive, she navigates, but we get stressed at times (got lost today, somewhat as usual). But we try to make it so that it doesn’t really matter. We got home safely. Are vacations necessarily a “vacation?” This one had some stresses as we arranged to bring my 102-year-old mother to the beach for a few days while simultaneously arranging for her to begin hospice care. There was also a large, but somewhat exhausting, family gathering. Ultimately, sharing all this with Fran was a million times better than doing it alone.

    p.s. Your title mentions traveling together “for the first time” Never knew that to be a problem —the sex takes care of everything. It’s later that issues may arise.

  9. says

    My best friend (male) and I traveled to a resort hotel once about a three hour drive from where we lived. Both of us were single at the time–we just wanted interrupted hang out time for a whole weekend. Of course, we were regarded as the gay couple. We had a blast.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Interrupted… or uninterrupted time, Wolf?

      Hey. Women are “allowed” to be besties and no one gives a hoot. Why not men? It seems fair to me. (Don’t we all usually have a blast with our best buds?)

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