5 Tips for Traveling as a Couple

The first time I went on vacation with a significant other, I had dreams of romantic dinners, discovering new and exotic places together, and taking the perfect Instagram pic of us kissing in front of a fireplace with cups of hot cocoa in our hands. After all, who hasn’t had visions of themselves and their SO walking hand in hand on a beach as the sun sets? But I’ve also had plenty of sunsets ruined by small fights caused by the stress that traveling can create. Once, in the middle of a beautiful dinner, I found myself screaming at my boyfriend about how we could have stayed at a nicer hotel if only we’d booked our trip sooner. Instead of leaving with doggie bags, we brought home hurt feelings and frustration. I don’t want you to share the same fate, so here are five tips to ensure smooth sailing on your romantic getaway.

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1. Manage your vacation expectations

Make a point to sit down together before your trip and talk about what kind of vacation you want to have. Are you in need of a really relaxing few days, or do you want your trip to be filled with endless adventures? Are you hoping to soak up the sun on the beach or absorb as much culture as you can in a new city? All are great options! The most important thing is that you two are on the same page about what to expect before you leave. Ask your partner what three things would make them feel like the vacation was a success, and share three of your own. When you’re stuck trying to figure out what to do next, refer back to your must-do list, and you both will leave feeling like you made the most out of your time!

2. Prepare for imperfection

From delayed flights, to hot taxi cabs, to getting lost in a new place — travel can be stressful! Sometimes the stress that comes along with those situations can inadvertently seep into your relationship. On my last trip to a wedding in Santa Fe, my boyfriend and I had flown from New York City all the way to Ohio when the plane had to turn around because of an issue. Our 8 p.m. takeoff slowly turned into a 2 a.m. takeoff, and we felt tensions rise all around us. Luckily, other than a few cranky moments, we were able to stay relatively calm, since we knew from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be perfect. If you and your partner are fully aware that the your vacation isn’t going to be without a few hiccups, you are way ahead of the game!

3. Handle bumps in the road like a pro

When challenges do come up, do what you can in advance to be sure that you’ll keep yourselves entertained. I download our favorite podcasts, tv shows, or movies onto my phone or computer in case we get stuck. I also pack a few amazing snacks, like dried mangos, cookies, chips, and pretzels (no need to be hungry on top of frustrated!), and if I can’t control my emotions (I am a stress crier — not my most attractive trait!), I make sure to explain what is going on in my head as soon as possible! For example, “I know that I just started weeping, but I’m overwhelmed about the situation and not upset with you. I think that I’m going to need those cookies now.” Naming what’s going on (and then eating that snack) relieves the tension and also keeps your partner informed.

4. Give yourself a little you time

Traveling as a couple doesn’t mean that you have to spend every second together. Be sure to allow you and your partner a little time to yourselves. I am an early riser, and instead of waking up my boyfriend and forcing him to start adventuring with me, I put on my sneakers and go for a power walk in our new surroundings. I usually get a great lay of the land before the city has woken up and ideas for places I’d like to visit during the day. It also gives me some time to reflect, be grateful for the time away from work, and come back to the vacation with a refreshed attitude. And my boyfriend gets to enjoy his morning the way that he wants to.

5. Make the memories last

No matter how wonderful a trip is, the relaxation and joy can quickly disappear when you get back to “real life.” Pick up a postcard while you are still on vacation, and write a note to your partner about the things that you loved and appreciated about the trip. Then mail it to your significant other at a later date after your back from your trip. The thoughtful (and romantic!) gesture will be a great way to give the gift of happy memories to your future selves. Looking for something more interactive? Plan a date night activity to create an album or scrapbook filled with all of your photos and mementos. That way, you not only have a fun night in, but you also have a beautiful home for all of those memories.

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Katie McKenna is a professional speaker and life coach living in Brooklyn. She runs a blog called “Small Bites and Little Victories” and is an expert on the best date spots in New York City. “How to Get Run Over by a Truck” is her first book.