Couples often think traveling is one of the most romantic things they can do together. But whether it is their first trip or the tenth, the memories they bring home will hinge on finding a joint travel rhythm. Otherwise, what people look forward to and think will be a fabulous time can become less a treasured memory than a big disappointment.
All the exploring that couples do can be a great way to strengthen the bond between them. But it can also become challenging and complicated. I wish it weren’t so, but post-travel discontent brings far too many couples into my office.
So much goes into traveling together, from planning the trip with plane reservations or a driving itinerary, to booking hotels and restaurants, that knowing that you might not always be on the same page can be helpful. Along the same lines, making sure each person’s needs are factored in when deciding not only where you will go but what you’ll do when you get there is important.
You may think that sleeping late and then spending six hours by the pool in a lounge chair drinking a banana daquiri is the perfect vacation while that’s not at all what your partner envisions as fun. He or she might think that a true good time consists of waking up early, going for a morning run, fitting in a little sightseeing and tennis before lunch, and then spending the afternoon on a sail boat.
The same can be said if you decide to go to another country. And that’s assuming you can agree on a destination in the first place! What if one of you prefers the beach but the other wants to go skiing? Or what if one of you wants to go on an African safari but the other has always wanted to see London? Not to mention that once you get to where you are going, one of you might want luxury while the other might hope to camp or at least take the rustic route.
The bottom line is that while traveling can be fun and exciting, it can also create a lot of room for anxiety. People tend to handle that anxiety in different ways. Some deal with it by wanting to know exactly what to expect, sometimes planning it all out, minute to minute, and leaving nothing to chance, while someone else might feel more comfortable being footloose and fancy free, hoping to stumble across something unexpected. Additionally, one of you might want to hold out for the best deals at the last minute while the other might like to plan everything well in advance and have every detail set.
So, with all the variables, how do you have a good trip? Planning a trip is a great opportunity to polish your skills in compromising, sharing, considering the other person, and developing flexibility. It can begin when choosing the destination itself. Discuss where you each want to go and find a place that fits both of your needs and wishes. Once that is established, talk about how you envision spending your time when you get there so that you don’t arrive at the same place with two very different sets of expectations. Make sure each of you gets to do something you want to do, which might involve on occasion doing something that might not be your first choice; the agreement should recognize that while you are focusing on your partner’s wishes now, you will get to do what you want later.
Factor in time apart, which will also allow for that compromise. So while he takes a long run on the beach you can sit and read the book you’ve been looking forward to. Finally, think about meals in advance. What are you each looking forward to? Are there certain types of food that make you uncomfortable or that you want to avoid? Are you in agreement about the dining budget? The most important thing is to know each of you has contributed to creating the vacation, rather than feel you are being controlled by your partner.
Without spoiling the fun and spontaneity, thoughtful planning will give some form and structure to the way you want your trip to go. It will allow you to avoid being blindsided by two differing visions of the perfect vacation.