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.
Read on to ensure your next vacation with your loved one is blissfully stress-free.
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.
It may seem obvious, but don’t plan a relaxing beach getaway if your partner is an avid adventurer who loves to hike. Create a travel plan together that includes a diverse mix of activities based on each person’s preferences. And don’t be afraid to plan some solo activities. “You’ll have experiences to share with each other when you meet up later,” Dombrowski says.
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.
Remember Your Partner Is Not A Mind-Reader
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.
Don’t put your partner in charge of something they hate doing while traveling, and vice versa. You’ll just end up frustrated that the task is taking longer than you’d like, and you may feel the need to act more like a manager than a partner.
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.
Luckily, there’s a super simple way to stop hanger in its tracks: Always keep snacks on hand. “Trains and planes will run late, restaurants will be closed, tours will forget to mention they don’t offer a meal,” says travel writer Valerie Stimac. By keeping a box of cookies or bag of chips on hand, you can avoid unleashing your worst self to your partner.
Make Backup Reservations
Though you may be tempted to just “wing it” and look for a restaurant with a good vibe while you’re out walking around, consider doing some research on Yelp and Google beforehand, says Julia Carter of Craft Travel Group. She even recommends making a few reservations so that you always have a backup plan, which is especially important if you’re starting to get hangry.
“You can always cancel or modify a reservation, but at least you know you'll have a well-informed option and everyone will be happy,” she says. Sure, spontaneity can be fun, but not having a plan can sometimes backfire and lead to conflict. Set yourself up for success by doing a little homework beforehand.
Make Sure Your Vacation is an Escape
If you’re a busy couple with kids, work and other commitments, vacation may be the first time in several months that you’ve had an uninterrupted block of time together. But just because you finally have downtime together doesn’t mean you need to talk about money, work, childcare and all the other stressful topics you’ve been meaning to discuss.
“The purpose of getting away is to escape from daily stressors,” says Keisha Stoute, a professional mediator. “Use this opportunity to mentally and physically escape from everyday life.” Remember that talking about stressful or unpleasant topics will likely lead to arguments.
Don’t Jam-Pack Your Schedule
While it may be tempting to cram every hour of your vacation with something to do, resist the urge. Rushing from place to place while on a tight schedule may lead to you snapping at your partner. Instead, build time into your vacation to look inward and reconnect with each other, instead of always turning your attention outward to your new surroundings.
“Take this opportunity to sleep in, and to enjoy the amenities, culture, scenery and perks of your time away,” says Stoute. “This is a great opportunity to bond and to strengthen your relationship.”
Plus, if you’re waking up super early and going to bed late, you’ll feel tired and grouchy throughout your trip, which can lead to fighting.
Make a Budget — And Stick To It
Money is one of the most common topics that couples fight about. With this in mind, take the time to create a budget for your trip — and don’t veer from it.
This is important no matter how you divvy up financial responsibilities at home — budgeting can help reduce fights among couples who have joint finances, as well as those who keep their money apart. If your accounts are separate, your budget should also take into account how to split the trip expenses.
“Who’s buying the plane tickets? Who’s buying food and drinks once you’re there? The sooner you know the answers to these questions, the better off you’ll be down the line,” says Samantha Daniels, a dating expert and the founder of the matchmaking service Samantha’s Table.
Always Give Yourself Extra Time
No matter what type of trip you’re on, it’s a good idea to give yourself extra time, says Raffi Bilek, a couples’ counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center.
For example, consider leaving early for the airport or the train station and be sure to build in extra travel time on your way to an expensive activity. “Feeling time-pressured to be somewhere at the right time is a common situation where people tend to get tense and snappy with each other,” Bilek says, noting that this is a common catalyst for arguments and fights. “Make sure to plan extra time for getting lost, traffic and all the unexpected things that happen while traveling.”
Make Time for Romance
It’s easy to get caught up visiting museums, taking tours and going on excursions. But remember to create some space for romance, whether that’s a date night without the kids (many hotels offer babysitting services) or a steamy night staying in and ordering room service.
“Create a sexy to-do list to ensure you make time for intimacy,” says Vikki Ziegler, a divorce attorney and the author of “The Premarital Planner: Your Complete Legal Guide to a Perfect Marriage.” She recommends packing a few sexy outfits and other accessories to get you in the mood and help the sparks fly. “Vacations are a great time to spice things up in the bedroom,” she says.
Pick Your Battles
Yes, it’s annoying that your partner always leaves his wet towel on your side of the bed after he showers. But while you might normally get frustrated about this behavior at home, remember that vacation is supposed to be a time of relaxation. For a conflict-free trip, increase your tolerance of your partner’s irritating behaviors, suggests Ziegler.
When you feel yourself wanting to haggle over the hotel thermostat temperature, ask yourself if that’s really what matters right now. When the sun is shining and you’re with the person you love on an exciting trip, try to avoid looking only for the negative things your partner does. “Make it a memorable trip for all the good reasons, not one filled with resentment and fighting,” Ziegler says.
Look for A Third Option
If you want to take a nap and he wants to go for a hike, you may feel like you are worlds apart from one another. Instead of arguing why one option is better than the other, consider doing something else entirely, suggests Tristan Pollock, who is traveling around the world with his wife this year on a “sabbatimoon,” which is a sabbatical combined with a honeymoon.
“There will be times when you both want to do something different or you are looking at things in a different way, but instead of compromising, look at what deeper values are behind your intentions and find a new alternative that satisfies both of your desires,” he says.
This same advice applies to ideological disagreements — there’s almost always another perspective that neither of you considered.