There’s nothing worse than planning a romantic getaway, only to spend the entire trip bickering with your partner. Instead of dreamy afternoons on the beach and candlelit dinners, you end up sniping about, well, everything — where to eat, what to do, how much money to spend.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Traveling together as a couple, with or without kids, does not have to result in constant cranky arguments. To ensure your trip goes smoothly when you’re traveling with your significant other, we consulted with a variety of travel and relationship experts to get tips on curbing anger, resentment and miscommunication.
Before you even think about hitting the open road, get on the same page with your partner about the trip. “It’s super important for both partners to be involved in the planning so that the activities are things that both of you enjoy doing and the budget meets both of your expectations,” says Jennifer Dombrowski, one half of the married couple behind the travel blog Luxe Adventure Traveler. Dombrowski and her husband Tim Davis have been married and traveling together for 16 years, so she speaks from experience.
You’ve heard it a thousand times: Relationships require compromise. And that sage advice also applies when you’re traveling.
If you’ve been with your partner for a while, chances are you have a good understanding of their habits. Get out ahead of a potential fight by accommodating their needs, and vice versa. While our natural tendency is to be a little selfish, consider putting your partner’s wishes first when it makes sense.
“Breakfast is super important to Tim and one of the first things he thinks about when he wakes up, so instead of making him wait while I shower and get ready, I throw on some clothes and head to breakfast first,” Dombrowski says.
As you set out on your trip, have a meaningful conversation with your partner about your goals for the coming days. Discuss the fact that you do not wish to argue on vacation and explain why.
It sounds simple enough, but setting an intention at the beginning of the trip can work wonders, says Farrah Hauke, a licensed psychologist based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Just bringing awareness to your goal of not fighting can help keep it front of mind when you feel yourself about to start bickering. Hauke also suggests coming up with a code word that reminds you of your commitment not to argue. When things start to get testy, simply mention the code word and remind your partner that you are on the same team.
Remember that Vacation is Not a Cure-All
If you have a history of fighting with your partner, do not assume that a romantic getaway will magically make everything better, says Ashley McGirt, a licensed mental health therapist based in Seattle and the author of the book “I Tried to Travel it Away: Mental Health Tips for Travelers.”
She encourages couples to work on their issues before traveling. “If there have been some stressors in the relationship, vacationing to Bali won’t make them go away. You will come right back home to it, or worse, it will show up on your trip,” she says. If you go into a vacation hoping that your issues will miraculously disappear, you will feel a huge sense of disappointment when the trip falls short of your expectations, which could actually make things even worse.
While it’s tempting to make passive-aggressive comments or silently fume at your partner for not offering to put sunscreen on your back, take a deep breath instead. Your partner cannot read your mind, nor should they be expected to try to guess at what you need. Instead, tell them exactly how you feel and what you need from them as often as possible.
“Do not be afraid to make requests,” McGirt says. “The more you communicate, the clearer you will be on what to expect from your partner and yourself.” And don’t be afraid to get specific — if you’d like your partner to scour Yelp for a place to stop for lunch, give them some food parameters and a deadline.
You’ve likely already figured this out at home: One person mows the lawn, while the other prefers to vacuum. This same role specialization can be super helpful while traveling, says JB Macatulad, who runs the travel and food blog Will Fly for Food with his wife Renée.
“Deferring to each other’s strengths usually works well for us,” Macatulad says. For example, Macatulad usually plans the trips beforehand and handles navigation when they’re on the road, while his wife is in charge of where they stop to eat.
Always Bring Snacks
The struggle is all too real when you or your partner starts to get hangry (aka hungry and angry).
While this may sound like a made-up phenomenon, there are actually biological reasons why we get cranky when famished. If you haven’t eaten recently, your blood sugar starts to drop, and since your brain is totally dependent upon glucose to function properly, things can start to go downhill fast. In addition, your body releases several hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, two stress hormones that can make you feel edgy and anxious.
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