How to Travel With Your Significant Other (and Return With Your Relationship Intact)

I’ve always been obsessed with traveling. Tyler has, too.

There are tons of things I love about it: immersing myself in a culture different than my own, tasting new foods, learning about historic sites, and pretending I can speak the language (I have to say my French greetings are starting to sound pretty legit). I love the growth that results from experiences outside of my comfort zone.

But my favorite thing about traveling is what it has done for my relationship with Tyler.

In fact, I attribute a lot of our ability to adapt, recover, and work well together to the fact that we have traveled so much. 

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It’s not all fun and games, though. Traveling with your person can be the absolute best, but I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been times we wanted to kill each other in the middle of a museum.

Tyler and I have had to learn how to really understand each other and adjust (and adjust again). Lots of compromise, lots of coffee.

We definitely don’t have it all down yet. But we wanted to share some strategies that have worked for us (so far) as we hop from city to city in a frantic daze.

Note: this list is helpful even if your travel partner is not your significant other.

 

Know your styles.

In my experience, people become the most extreme versions of themselves when they travel. It makes sense. You’re in an unfamiliar place, jet lagged, and probably hungry (more on that later).

I am generally a go-with-the-flow gal. Planning travel is a hobby, so I do love putting a lot of time into our itineraries. But when it’s time for the trip itself, I want to relax and enjoy the ride. These breezy tendencies become even more exaggerated when I travel. I could spend hours upon hours spontaneously wandering without a map or a schedule.

Type A Tyler, on the other hand, is the type of person who has to close the apps on his phone before he can fall asleep at night. He needs to know the plan, he needs to know it now, and he needs to update his spreadsheet as such. When we travel, he stops every hour on the hour to go over said plan. And I can’t even begin to describe the level of intensity he reaches in airports, train stations, etc. I sometimes need to remind him that we are not on the Amazing Race, and yes, the destination will still be there when we land.

As you can probably imagine, this stark difference has the potential to cause drama when we are traveling. It usually ends up looking like Tyler sprinting through an airport with all our luggage while I stop to browse the bookstore and buy a giant Smart Water.

We have to make it a priority to recognize and respect our different styles when we are on the go.

I’ve learned to just let him tell me what time our dinner reservation is eight separate times throughout the day. And Tyler has become very tolerant of my impulsive and aimless meandering (and now factors it into our daily schedule).

 

Plan together, or divide and conquer.

When more than one person plans a trip together, there is a risk that details could fall through the cracks. (“I thought you were going to buy the train tickets??”)

Tyler and I typically approach planning our trips in one of two ways. Most of the time, we plan everything together. We call this “scheming.” With each of our computers in front of us, we research a city or place together and swap our findings out loud–and on a shared Google Doc. It’s one of our favorite activities.

The advantage of planning together is that everyone is on the same page. You both get a say in how you will spend your time.

The alternative to this is to divide and conquer. Occasionally, there will be a city that one of us is more excited about than the other. (What will it take to get Tyler excited about visiting Coco Chanel’s apartment in Paris??) If this happens, we’ll split it up.

Last fall, I wasn’t really feeling Munich while we were planning our road trip through Europe. I let Ty take the reins and map out our itinerary. Don’t worry, I ended up loving Munich.

The point is this: have a plan for how to plan. You know? Choose what works best and then stick to it.

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Set expectations.

When it comes to traveling, as in relationships, communicating expectations is crucial.

I wish I was the type of girl to roll out of bed and feel flawless with a quick face wash and swipe of moisturizer. What can I say? I like my CC cream, a few coats of mascara, and a pop of highlighter–among a few other key steps. And the beachy waves do not style themselves, alright? Every person is different, but I just feel my best when I take the time to do my hair and makeup when we are out and about.

The whole “getting ready” thing was a bit of a culture shock to Tyler, who grew up in a house of all boys. Luckily, he has some needs of his own (he MAY use a blowdryer more than I do), so he gets it. But I definitely take much longer to get ready than he does.  

I’ve learned to set the expectation every morning of exactly how long it is going to take me to get ready so he doesn’t go nuts waiting for me to get on with our day.

A lot of times when we are traveling, I get up a half hour earlier than he does to get a head start. Coming from someone who doesn’t make eye contact until after 10am, this is a true sacrifice.

We’ve found that the clearer we are with each other about what we need, the smoother the trip goes.

 

Make sure each person’s interests are reflected on the itinerary.

This one is probably obvious, but it’s important to make sure each partner has bullet points on the itinerary that they are excited about.

I love window shopping (okay, and real shopping) in new cities. Tyler does not. But he loves ACTIVITIES (e.g. football game in Paris, horseback riding in Mexico). We try to fit in both and make sure that each of us has time to do our “things.”

We’ll fill the rest of our schedule with things that we BOTH love a lot. It’s all about balance.

 

Schedule rest time.

We have already talked about how Tyler and I are terrible at relaxing. So you might imagine that scheduling “rest time” is a necessary evil that we are still working on.

After spending all day every day running around with your travel partner, it’s important to take time to regroup and unwind before you kill each other.

Scheduling down time looks different for everyone. Tyler and I choose one night every four or five days to stay in. We’ll eat dinner in our room, have a movie night, and go to sleep early.

On these nights, we’ll usually take some time to repack our suitcases and get organized. And if I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll even do a face mask. Leave it to me to make my rest time ambitious.

HOWEVER, do NOT do this in the first few days of an international trip. An early night in is your worst enemy at that point in the trip and will make your jet lag 10x worse. We can do a post on jet lag at a later date.

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Pack snacks.  

This may be the most important piece of advice I have for a couple embarking on their first adventure together. Before your trip–not once you are there, not once your significant other is starving–BEFORE you go, pack a gallon Ziploc bag full of protein-packed snacks. Keep it in your daypack or carry-on to have on hand throughout the day.

Every single person in my family can tell if I am hungry just by looking at me. Without proper nutrients, I either morph into a monster or melt into a foggy puddle of low-energy.  I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s called hypoglycemia, okay?

While I am still working on not using my low blood sugar as an excuse for snapping at Tyler (or becoming completely incoherent and spacey), he knows to always keep a Kind Bar in his back pocket. I know, I’m a child.

The second my eyes glaze over (usually in the middle of a museum or halfway through a train ride, definitely not anytime close to our dinner reservation), Tyler whips out a packet of almond butter and a water bottle and makes me refuel before we do anything else.

Snacks save relationships. It’s as simple as that.

 

And finally, don’t blame your husband for missing the train.

This is my parting piece of wisdom: It’s just travel. It is not that heavy. The best thing you can do is not punish your significant other or travel partner for mistakes.

We have learned over the years to recover quickly and let the little things go. So we miss a train, so we are lost, but we are in Italy. How bad can it be??

Maybe you lost a dinner reservation. Maybe you missed a scheduled tour on account of an ill-timed nap. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is.

Lighten up and enjoy the ride. We promise that your relationship will be better for it.

Grover Beach. CA

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2 Comments

  1. Miriam

    August 31, 2017 at 6:00 am

    So sweet! Love the post

  2. Sara White

    September 10, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    One day my boyfriend will understand that when I say I need to stop and eat while I’m travelling, it’s not just because I want to nibble something, it’s because I can feel that I’m on the verge of sliding into that hungry-aggressive wasteland that’s guaranteed to have me moody and picking petty fights pretty quickly! So yes, the “pack snacks” tip is particularly relevant to me. Love this whole post!

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