Essential Travel Tips for Couples on the Go

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Essential Travel Tips for Couples on the Go

 Traveling with a significant other can be a mix bag of experiences and feelings. On the positive side, travel often cements two people’s dedication to one another; it’s a golden opportunity for a couple to immerse themselves in a radically new environment, sharing in the excitement, beauty, frustration and foibles. But it can also “stress test” a relationship – the competing aims, rival itineraries, intense emotions and near-constant together time.

In this article, we’re exploring ways to ensure a positive experience. Don’t concern yourself with perfection – you rarely get a 100%-friction-free, happy-all-the-time travel experience as a couple, and that’s okay. The measure of a successful couple’s trip is an overall sense of companionship and shared enrichment.

That said, we’re tackling the topic from three angles. We’ll discuss our favorite travel destinations for couples (even though you could make the case that any destination is a good destination for couples). We’ll explore how to pack as a pair for maximum travel enjoyment, whether you’re packing for a beach vacation, city trip or backcountry adventure. And finally, we’ll run through general tips on making this the travel experience of a lifetime.  

Partner up, and let’s dive in.

Couple Travel Destinations: The Best Places to Travel as a Couple

As mentioned, you could argue that any travel destination is a good destination for couples. Where you choose will likely depend on your interests, comfort levels and budget.

Still, we see some consistent criteria for couples’ destinations – they’re often relatively romantic, easy to navigate as a pair, and filled with opportunities for shared activities. If you want to head off any arguments about where to go, consider destinations that fit those criteria:

  • The Mediterranean: A classic option for couples' trips, Mediterranean countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece have an earned reputation for being romantic. (It’s where the term Romantic comes from, in fact). They’re beautiful, beachy, easy to navigate by train, and chock full of fine dining opportunities. What’s not to love?
  • The Indian Subcontinent: Another popular option, subcontinental countries like India, Sri Lanka and Nepal are ideal for couples who prefer their travel big, bold, sensual and spiritual. They’re a smidge harder to navigate, but therein lies the fun; stuffing into a packed train in Bangalore is an experience that brings two people together. If you’re making your way up to Northern India or Nepal, don’t forget to pack warm with our compact travel hoodie.
  • Central America: Studies show that you get dopamine hits from physical activity, bright colors and nature – and Central American countries like Costa Rica, Belize and Mexico have those things in spades. (See: the “dopamine travel” trend). It’s reductive to explain Central America’s appeal from a neurochemical standpoint, but couple’s looking for a pleasurable and satisfying experience may want to take note.
  • East Africa: Not every couples wants the “beaten path.” They want all the romance and excitement of those popular destinations, but without the fanfare around it. May we suggest East Africa? Countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana and Uganda are gorgeous. They each feature stunning nature, opportunities for adventure, and welcoming hospitality.  
  • The “Resort Circuit”: Finally, we have to give a shout-out to the resort circuit. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a popular choice for couples. We get it: the accessible amenities, relaxing locales and fuss-free service are purpose-built to help couples relax. If it’s relaxation your relationship requires, consider resort destinations like the Bahamas, Cancun, Varadero, the Maldives or Polynesia. Just be sure to leave the compound, support local businesses and partake in the local culture.

For specific couples-oriented picks, check out our article on the best honeymoon destinations, where we break down a long list of destinations according to "adventure," "romance," and “relaxation.”

Couples-lounge-chairs-overlook-a-beach-resort

Credit: mrsiraphol Via Freepik

Packing as a Pair: Light, Equitable and Individual

With a destination booked, you can turn your attention to packing.

Some couples merge their packing into one large suitcase in an attempt to consolidate their efforts. However, our opinion is that it’s better to pack separately, with both parties doing their best to pack light. Packing one large suitcase invariably leaves one person to haul the luggage, puts you at the mercy of checked bag fees and luggage carousel waits, and generally bogs down a trip.
Consider two minimalist carry-ons flush with merino travel clothing. In this arrangement, each person is responsible for their luggage. However, the luggage is light enough that it won’t slow either person down – leaving you more time, energy and money to enjoy the shared experiences.

And the clothes you pack, like our lightweight travel shorts for women and men’s merino wool travel pants, are versatile enough to accommodate virtually any experience. Take our odor-resistant clothes on a demanding day-long hike and still feel fresh enough for a candlelit dinner in town. Wear our breathable travel wear on long, stuffy train rides and then layer up for a cold foray into a new city’s nightlife. They handle temperature fluctuations like a champ, and their neutral colors and sophisticated designs make them suitable for a range of occasions.

As for communal items like cameras, tents, first aid kits or chargers, aim for equity. You have three options here: share the load equally; share the load according to whomever has more space in their bag; or share the load based on each’s ability to carry the weight. There’s no right answer, and the arrangement may change during your trip.

For more packing tips, we encourage readers to peruse our back catalogue of the blog, where we’ve posted handy guides on what to bring, how to pack them, and items to leave at home.

How to Pull off a Seamless (Argument-Light) Trip with Your Significant Other

Notice that we’re using “argument-light” as our verbiage of choice here. As mentioned in the intro, there’s no point in striving for perfection – that storybook trip where everything’s roses and smiles. Every human relationship experiences its share of friction, a fact that’s doubly true when you take two people out of their comfort zone, drop them in a new environment, and force them to spend loads of time together.

What you do with that friction is what matters. In general, you want to keep open lines of communication, find common ground, and practice patience.

Here are a few tips for pulling off a (mostly) seamless trip with your significant other.

Understand Each Other’s Aims and Criteria

Taking an enjoyable trip involves communication from the get-go. Before you delve into the finer points of an itinerary, consider laying your proverbial cards on the table; talk about one another’s aims and criteria for travel.

Some people travel like they’re medieval royalty: they want lots of good food, plenty of rest and relaxation, and very little in the way of actual responsibilities. Other people travel like it’s their last day on earth: they have to see everything noteworthy about a place, do everything in the guidebook, and photograph it all for posterity.

Inevitably, these two people will end up together and start a relationship. The more they can each acknowledge and embrace these differences, the better they can move on to the next step.

Credit: freepik Via Freepik

Compromise on Itinerary

If you aren’t lockstep in your aims and ambitions, you’ll need to compromise. It shouldn’t be a matter of “the loudest voice gets the biggest say.” It should be a democratic exercise in mutual enjoyment and sacrifice. Not only will this make the trip run smoother, but it’s a terrific microcosm of what makes a healthy relationship purr.

Remember, there are 24 hours in a day – roughly 16 to 18 waking hours. That’s more than enough time to satisfy two people’s wishes. As you plan your trip together, have each person brainstorm some “activities” they want for the trip. (“Activities” is in heavy quotations, as this could be as simple as “stroll around the city,” “lounge at a café for a couple of hours,” or “relax”). Then, do your best to nestle both of your activities into the itinerary.

Not up for a granular, hour-by-hour breakdown of your trip? Fair enough. In this stage, it’s enough to make an informal commitment: “Let’s try to be respectful and encouraging of our individual wants and needs while traveling, even though they may contradict or change.”

Agree on a Few Communication Shortcuts

Travel does funny things to the brain and body sometimes. Whether it’s jet lag wearing at your last nerve, a foreign environment briefly triggering your flight response, or the sweltering heat zapping your energy, you might feel testier than usual. Again, you can’t change that; however, you can change how you deal with it.

Consider some “communication shortcuts” while traveling. What are these shortcuts, exactly? They are simple, relatable phrases/questions that aim to increase transparency and understanding even in confusing or otherwise stressful moments. They include things like:

  • “Headphones in.” This is a pithy, humorous, verbal example of what we all do in public sometimes: we want to be alone with our thoughts and feelings, so we put our headphones in. Maybe you’re not on the same wavelength as a partner, who’s chipper while you’re feeling groggy; maybe a tough travel day has taken the wind out of your sails, and you want to avoid being argumentative. By saying “headphones in,” you’re lightheartedly signalling for a moment alone.
  • “Time out. What’s the compromise?” Rather than digging your heels into a disagreement, call a time out, take a deep breath, and then search for a compromise together. Often, there’s a simple compromise lying in plain sight.
  • “Are you solutions-oriented about it, or in the feelings stage?” This line might be a meme, but it’s also an effective gauge of where you partner is at with a problem. Let’s say the monument they wanted to see is closed when you visit; do they want you to brainstorm alternatives, or just share in their misery for a minute? Understanding what they need from you could avoid unnecessary tension.

Every relationship has its own shorthand, so feel free to sub these suggestions. The idea is to be comfortable enough to express your emotions candidly, ask for space, and jointly attempt some compromises. If you can manage this kind of openness, disagreements will only be a fleeting, inconsequential part of an enjoyable trip.

Create a Budget That Pleases Everyone

Creating a budget is a fantastic way to give shape, boundaries and even some fun in a trip. Especially if you’re the type to worry about money (you aren’t alone), setting budget categories for various aspects of travel can alleviate some stress.

In this situation, you might earmark, say, $500 to dining out, another 500 for shopping, a grand for accommodation, etc. Breaking things down into categories allows you to stay within your overall travel budget while giving each of you something to get excited about (“I can go hog wild on a shopping spree,” or “I’m going to live off street food so I can order surf and turf on our last night,” e.g.).

If you’re heading somewhere warm, can we suggest working a merino crew neck t shirt into the shopping budget? As other travelers will readily tell you, it’s a fantastic investment in a cool, comfortable trip.

It’s Okay to Be Alone

As we mentioned a few sections prior, alone time can benefit everyone. Some people “recharge their batteries” by being alone. Others just need some time to process the whole experience in solitude. And sometimes, striking off individually can be a form of compromise when you each have different ambitions for the day.

It's okay to be alone, even on a quote-unquote romantic trip abroad. Just make sure both parties feel safe, and establish a mode of communication (phone/text/DMs) in case something happens.

Hopefully, these tips come in handy the next time you head abroad with a travel partner. Where are your personal best places to travel as a couple? Do you have any sage advice for packing and adventuring with a travel partner? Let us know in the comments below.

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