Travelling with a romantic partner can be an awesome idea. Smooches in new locations! Hilarious memories of that time you both got food poisoning after trying a local delicacy! Bonding over the wonders of duty-free shopping! But let's not pretend that it's a smooth and romantic ride all the way: going on a trip with a romantic partner is a notoriously treacherous experience, fraught with stress, arguments, and differing opinions on hygiene, packing, and how much it's reasonable to pay for cuddling an orangutan.
What could be explained or discussed rationally at home can become a far bigger issue in a new place, where everything's already amplified by isolation, expense, and the pressure to have fun. Luckily, this is a known phenomenon — and there are easy ways to get around it.
It's well-known that going on vacation is actually a massive source of stress for many people — ironic, considering how we're meant to come back well-rested. If you go in with your eyes wide open, though, the problems of travel angst don't have to wreak havoc on your relationship. In fact, they might be something you look back and laugh about. Um. Maybe.
Here are 15 tips to make it through a trip with your romance alive, or least without needing somebody to send you bail money in a foreign country.
1. Manage your expectations.
Every day is not going to be filled with sparkles, macaroons, and orgasms. (Though hopefully, they'll be some of all of the above.) Unless you're Mariah Carey and have a host of lackeys to carry your suitcases and organize your every whim, traveling will involve some level of personal stress, and not just while you're getting there. Just because you don't feel completely relaxed and connected all the time doesn't mean your Relationship Is In Trouble.
2. Know that some things just aren't going to be romantic.
You know that look of glossy love that couples advertising romantic getaways have? That will be on your face perhaps 50 percent of the time. Some things just aren't going to have that sheen — at least in the typical sense of the word "romantic." (I personally think there's something deeply bonding about running out for toilet paper in the middle of the night because your partner's throwing up violently, but that's just me.)
3. Share your packing space.
Don't commandeer too much of the space for yourself. Try to be equal, and sensible, about packing: just because you're a girl does not mean you deserve more of the suitcase. Sharing packing space does a few things — it makes you collaborate, keeps you both aware of all possessions (helpful if something goes missing), lets you both have a tally of cords and chargers, and forces you to be open.
4. Divide responsibilities according to your strengths.
This seems simple, but is an absolute requirement: if you're the one who's good with maps, do the location work. If your partner's the one who researches great discounts or has an unerring knack for finding cool restaurants, get them onto that. Maximize your assets.
This can actually be a tricky one, because some people have skills that they're good at in 9-to-5 life — say, project management — but don't want to think about on holiday. If your planning freak of a partner turns around and doesn't want to look at a to-do list once you've landed, it's best to know ahead of time. Talk about this before you get on a plane.
5. Keep track of money — but be relaxed about it.
If you're not in a relationship where it's pretty defined as to who pays for what (if one of you is earning way more, for example), then this is something to work out ahead of time.
Divide expenses in a way that makes sense — one person pays for food and the other for accommodation, for instance, or one of you takes on the spending burden each day — and keep receipts, but remember to be both kind and restrained. Have a conversation about budgets before you go, and adjust it if things are different once you're there.
6. Remember that fights on vacation are like any other fights.
The rules don't change because the scenery's different. If anything, it's even more important to be kind and respectful of your partner on vacation, because they're in a foreign place without their usual support network or places of safety. Even if the superficial causes are completely different, it'll probably be about the same stuff you always argue about.
7. Push each others' travel comfort zones.
Best bit of being on holiday with a partner? Getting a little taste of how they enjoy a new place. If you have very different traveling styles, which can be very common, don't have huge fights and then sulk — compromise. My dude loves to wander the streets and get lost; I like structured itineraries and cultural landmarks. Be prepared to move out of your own comfort zone and make some combination of your two styles.
8. Allow yourself time alone.
News flash: you don't need to be around each other 24/7. Even a small trip to the store while they're chilling in the hotel room can be completely legitimate. If you're independent people, this is probably necessary to decompress.
9. Don't fall into romantic tourist traps — get a local recommendation.
If a local experience is built up as the Most Romantic Thing That Will Ever Happen To You, there are high chances that it'll a) be expensive and b) won't live up to the hype. This can lead to insecurity and disappointment. Don't fall for it.
Make your own romantic moments with some local recommendations: Great Little Place sources hidden gems from residents, Tripadvisor does Romantic Guides that can be charmingly offbeat, while Secret Places and Like A Local give insider knowledge on wherever you're headed.
10. Ban blame games.
Somebody's going to f*ck up. It's going to happen. Your partner's going to forget their travel money, you're going to leave your shoes somewhere stupid, neither of you will remember where the lens cap is, and you'll get hideously lost because somebody was adamant that East was West.
This is the stuff that memories are made of. Get angry, calm down, and leave it there. No bringing it up later to make them feel bad. It's inevitable, so it's best to just go with the flow.
11. Relax on the sex front.
Sex on vacation can be fraught with expectation. If you're expecting some incredible orchids-and-incense moments every night, you are bound to be disappointed. Yes, holidays allow us to be more relaxed (and often to wear less clothing), but realistically they're also highly over-stimulating and tire us out. You may end up snoozing more than doing anything filthy. Relax about it. (You can always have vacation-style sex at home.)
12. Let yourselves do whatever you want.
This isn't just an addition to number 11, though it does apply in the bedroom too. This is your chance, as a couple, to break out a bit: be more affectionate in public, run around all night, spend twenty minutes in a museum, and then run off to get cake. You don't need to be responsible citizens, and that can be very freeing and actually kind of hot.
13. Be honest.
Don't conceal what you're feeling just because you don't want to ruin the vacation. If things are bugging you, tactful openness is the best policy. Being on holiday doesn't mean that you stop being adults with needs and thoughts; it can just mean that you feel a bit more awkward discussing them, because the pressure to have fun is so intense.
14. Leave any disasters where they happen...
If it's a calamity of epic proportions, but not because either of you acted like horrible idiots, chalk it up as a learning experience. Disasters happen; things go wrong; mistakes are made. Leave the sense of distaste and disappointment behind you.
15. ... But do pay attention to any major red flags.
If, however, the pressures of the vacation made your partner reveal their true colors as completely unsuitable to you — and this does occasionally happen — then take the warning. Holidays are real life, and the lessons still apply once you get home. Ignore this at your peril.
Images: Edgar Barany C/Flickr; Giphy.