Ah, the joys of traveling with a friend or partner! Although going solo is a pleasure in itself, having someone to share memories with for a lifetime is fantastic and can be safer and more comfortable than starting out alone.
However, we’re all familiar with the problems that can come from traveling with others– Maybe they want to take things slowly and you’d rather run around. Maybe they prefer traveling at a higher level of luxury than you can afford or aren’t interested in the kinds of activities you are. Maybe they’re not as fit or adventurous and may hold you back from doing things you’re excited about.
Small nuances like someone who talks all the time when you want quiet aren’t even noticeable until you’ve spent 48 hours with a person and can lead to vicious blow-outs.
I get surprised when people ask me how I can spend so much time alone with my husband, Brian. After getting used to our life, I forget that it’s not the norm- We’ve spent months traveling as just the two of us when some partners and spouses I know barely get to spend 24 hours in a row together. Brian and I got our travel lives started early- two weeks after I asked him on a date, Brian asked me to come to Las Vegas with him for a week. In fact, it was on that Vegas trip I knew we were destined for great things because Brian, terrified of heights, offered to go on the zipline over Old Vegas with me.
When I realized how white-knuckled he was when it was our turn, I asked him, “Wait, why are you doing this if you’re so afraid of heights?”
And he answered, “Well, if we’re going to have adventures together the rest of our lives, I figured I’d better start now!”
(COME ON GUYS IS THAT NOT A KEEPER??)
But I digress:
How do you travel with a partner and avoid wanting to kill them?
Much of the prep of a good trip happens long before you get to the airport. Good research and solid communication sets you up for a good time before you get there. Many of the questions are the same ones you should ask yourself when planning any trip, even if you’re going alone.
Questions to ask yourself and your travel partner:
- What do I want out of this trip? What are my biggest must-do experiences?
Are you going to Italy for the food? Are you really into art museums? Has it always been your dream to sit in a hot spring and watch the Northern Lights over Reykjavik? Being real and honest about your top priorities makes sure they won’t be skipped. You may need to trade and negotiate with you travel partner to make sure you both get some of what you want. The earlier in the process you do so, the happier everyone will be. Of course, some flexibility is still key!
- Which areas am I most likely to splurge on? Which am I okay saving money on?
Maybe you have an enormous budget and can do whatever you want. More than likely, though, you’ll have to set priorities. Which is more important to you: a fancy hotel or some amazing dinners? Do you want to spend time shopping in flea markets and boot sales or on the Champs Elysee? Be realistic about your budgets and always give yourself some wiggle-room in case of emergencies and unexpected costs. Are you two okay with splitting meals? That can be a great way to try a wider variety or higher quality of food than you might otherwise.
- Am I an early bird or a night owl?
This one is easy to forget about but can lead to significant frustrations. No one wants to be sitting around, waiting for someone for hours. Also, if you know you snore, do your partner a favor and grab some nose-strips! Avoid the temptation: sometimes going full-day-early-morning-up-all-night is doable, but only for a short while. Any trip a week or more is going to require some down time if you don’t want to crash (and you may want to account for some jet lag)!
- What’s my “activity level”?
Some people have an entirely different idea of what the word “vacation” means. I am one of those crazy types who loves exploring cities by foot for days upon days (and miles upon miles.) Only recently (as we go for longer trips) have I learned the value of taking it easy now and then, for Brian’s sake as much as mine. Some mornings we sit in a cafe and read. Some afternoons we lie on the beach in the sun. Most days, we explore as much of the city as we possibly can, usually by foot or by bicycle. Some people on vacation want nothing more than to be fed mixed drinks through a straw poolside for a week. There is no wrong way to travel, but understanding expectations in advance will avoid bumping of heads later.
- How flexible am I?
Some people are planners: they want to know exactly where they’ll be staying, what they’re eating for dinner, and which museum they’re going to see when they get up every morning. Some people fly by the seat of their pants and do whatever looks good that moment. If someone gets panicked about not knowing where they’ll be staying in advance, book a night or two ahead. No matter which style of planning suits you, to avoid conflict, plan on where you’re going to eat before anyone gets hangry. Food rage is a very very real thing when traveling in groups of any size!
- Keep talking!
No matter what happens on the road (and anything can happen on the road) be prepared to listen and communicate clearly about your needs. No one is a mind reader and learning to be patient, to explain yourself in a nice way before tempers flare can save whole vacations. Remember your partner is relying on your to have a good trip too!
Do you travel with partners or friends? How do you choose who to travel with? What have you enjoyed most about traveling with others? Do you have any horror stories? How did you deal with them? Tell me in a comment!