By Kat Tancock
It seems an idyllic scenario: you and the one you love, frolicking on sandy beaches, eating romantic meals and enjoying each other’s company day in, day out on the perfect vacation.
The truth? Perfection doesn’t exist and the stress of travel can amplify the flaws—real or imagined—in your relationship.
But you can make peace with travelling with your better half. We went to three expert travellers for their tips on finding conjugal bliss wherever you might be.
1. Voice your priorities
“The key thing is to communicate expectations before you go away,” says Toronto writer and editor Mary Luz Mejia. “If you’re not in sync with what you want to do and see, you’re not going to have a good time.”
The surest way to ruin a vacation is to each have separate ideas of what you want to do—without sharing them. Before planning your vacation, discuss potential activities, daily schedules, food preferences and shopping itineraries, and make sure you’re both contributing.
2. Do your own thing
Just because you’re on a trip together doesn’t mean you have to be joined at the hip for the duration. “Don’t be afraid to go your own way,” suggests frequent traveller and Montrealer Arjun Basu, a writer and former editor in chief of enRoute magazine.
Mario Stojanac, a Toronto PR professional and Mejia’s husband, agrees. At one point during a trip to Barcelona, the couple had different agendas—he wanted to check out the football stadium, she to visit a local department store. They split up and arranged to meet a few hours later. “It was fine,” he says.
“Just give in sometimes,” says Basu. “You’re on vacation. Get out of your comfort zone.” Mejia, for instance, though not a soccer fan, will accompany her husband to games while on trips, if he asks. “I know it’s important to him and he’ll have a good time,” she says.
4. Be realistic about your needs
There are places to compromise and there are places to hold firm. If your idea of roughing it is a queen-size bed, for instance, and your partner has it in her head to sleep in hammocks in an open-air cabana, this might be the place to be stubborn—or at least only book the hammocks for one night. After all, a poor night’s sleep will make even the happiest camper grumpy.
Basu, for his part, recommends springing for a hotel with a great bed, and other amenities. “Splurge on a hot tub,” he says. “Nothing gets a couple out of the argument zone [better] than those things that encourage romance.”
5. Be flexible
One of the biggest problem areas for travelling couples is out-of-sync body clocks. At home, the early riser has plenty to keep himself occupied; on vacation, he wants your attention—now.
“I don’t sleep much,” says Stojanac, meaning he gets over jet lag more easily, while Mejia might need to sleep in. If she doesn’t want to get up early, he says, “It’s okay for me to step out on my own or go to the gym or for a run along the beach.”
6. Pack light
“The quickest way to a disagreement is to overpack,” says Basu, noting that the unhappiest people he comes across while travelling also seem to be those with the most stuff. “Overpacking leads to arguments, hurt body parts, more things to pack and unpack at each stop and more things to lose.” Underpacking, on the other hand, can lead to gratifying shopping trips to fill in the gaps.
7. Make the most of it
“Travel is a luxury that not everyone gets to indulge in,” says Mejia. “Why be overseas and be miserable?” She recounts the story of the spa vacation she booked in Istria, Croatia, only to discover when they arrived that it was a medical spa aimed at aged and ailing Europeans, rather than the hedonistic getaway they had imagined. “I had booked us in for three days,” she says. Rather than run away, they tried to make the most of it, and found that the staff rather enjoyed hosting younger guests in good health. “We had a really good time,” Mejia says. “He went along with my crazy idea.”
And that’s the bottom line:be proactive, relax see the positive in everything you experience. After all, says Basu, “You’re on vacation. You can always fight when you get back home.”