Nothing says “blissful couples getaway” like a two-hour fight over how high to put the air conditioning. Makes all that money and the used-up vacation days totally worth it, right? Not that fighting while traveling together is uncommon, but a full-scale blowout that leads to staying in separate hotel rooms can really tarnish your opinion of a trip. Spending every waking hour together can lead to some friction, and learning to manage it is important.
We talked to Greg Cayea, who along with his girlfriend Heather is in the midst of a record-breaking U.S. roadtrip that to this point has had them sharing a Subaru for the better part of three months. So if anyone knows how to travel with a partner without destroying a relationship, it’s him. He offered up some tips, and we added some of our own, for how to travel with a significant other successfully.
1. Don’t try NOT to fight
The phrase “whatever” or “I’m fine” loosely translated means “this is going to erupt into a fight that may or may not get us kicked out of a Super 8 once enough of this rage builds up.” Two people cannot physically spend that much time around each other without somehow working a nerve. So stop trying to be polite and face your disagreements head on. But rather than focusing on why your partner is upsetting you, think about how you’re going to handle your reactions
2. Do your own things
What, the world fertilizer museum wasn’t on your personal bucket list? Unbelievable. Or at least it is to your partner who, until about two hours ago, you had no idea was a manure maven. But nowhere is it written in stone that everything you do on a vacation must be done together. So if your partner is just DYING to do something that interests you about as much tax law, let them do it solo and get some well-needed “me” time.
3. Talk to new people
Maybe not the dude with the bear rug on his chest and a Mr. T starter kit around his neck. But you do meet some genuine characters when traveling, and striking up conversations with them not only gives you a break from each other, but also a chance to find a mutual topic of conversation. Meeting strangers is a lot less threatening when you’re a twosome, so don’t be afraid to chat up locals and other tourists while you’re away. They just might invite you on some crazy adventure you never tell your kids about.
4. Have a morning routine
Cayea and his girlfriend have been on a 91-day, 29,000-mile road trip. When you cover that much ground that fast every day is a disconcerting blur of highway, hotels, and questionable gas station Subways. The only way to stay sane is to create some kind of morning routine to give your life a sense of normalcy, so you can face each day – and your partner – with a clear head. Cayea wakes up at 5, does 120 push-ups, meditates for 15 minutes, then works on his journal. If you’re not that motivated, hotel coffee and Kelly Ripa can work too.
5. Think before you talk
For some reason when you’re at work and your boss says something completely asinine or infuriating, you have a pretty good filter. But for some reason when your partner says something you don’t like, that filter is like the one in your Britta pitcher you haven’t changed since 2012. Replace that filter. When you’re stuck with someone for an extended period of time the last thing you want to do is say something hurtful that will cast a shadow over the rest of the trip. Wait until whatever flip remark you have is out of your head, think about what you really want to say, and bring it up at a later time. That’s not saying avoid conflict. It’s just saying avoid making conflict personal.
6. Set up systems for disaster
There’s really not much you can do when a yak blocks traffic and you end up two hours late to your dinner reservation. Or when that restaurant loses your dinner reservation. Or you inadvertently hit a yak and your car is out of commission. Whatever. The point is traveling to new and exotic places means all kinds of new and exotic disasters can happen. And instead of pointing fingers at each other or freaking out, before you leave think about all the things that could go wrong, and develop systems on how to handle them. Find backup places to eat, sleep, and entertain yourselves if your originals fall through. And do some research to find things like auto mechanics and hospitals near everywhere you’re going, so you and/or your car get the best possible care.
7. Start every day fresh
Cayea suggests never going to bed angry, which means he clearly hasn’t shared a hotel wall with 14 spring breakers from Chico. But even if you do have a miserable nights sleep, or end the day on a sour note with your partner, don’t let it carry over. There’s no more awkward feeling than driving three hours in silence waiting for someone to say “Not to bring this up again, but I just think it’s funny that……” So as soon as that alarm goes off in the morning, focus on whatever adventures you have planned and be excited to discover something new together.
8. Always say you’re sorry
People say relationships are about honesty. And those people are completely full of hogwash. Love means sometimes saying you’re sorry when you’re absolutely NOT sorry, just so you can move on and enjoy your vacation. So, yes, if you took what you felt were a reasonable amount of tequila shots and ended up sleeping comfortably in the bathtub, still apologize for maybe overdoing it. Or in any other situation that arises that your partner seems less-than-thrilled with you about. Swallowing your pride for a minute will make the rest of your trip better.
9. Alternate who picks activities
Like we said before, doing things separately is fine, but the idea of traveling together is still to be….together. Which means every day is going to involve compromise on stuff like where you eat, how long you spend at the beach, and what life-changing hike you go on in the morning. Even the most compatible couples have some differing interests, but spending some time learning about what the other person likes might turn it into a shared interest. So take turns doing the planning, and see if it doesn’t make you even closer.
10. Let everything go
Even if an issue goes unresolved. Even is someone really did screw up and book your hotel for the wrong night. Realize that fighting throughout your vacation won’t make it more fun for anyone, and just let it go. You’ll thank yourself later.