How to survive travelling as a couple – 9 things to remember

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It may seem like we always get along, but that’s because the internet is a strange realm of constant marketing.

We’re a couple and, like all couples, we sometimes disagree. One time our tensions can boil over is during travelling.

We have different habits, different needs, different perspectives on things. Yet they can all be normalised and adapted for – it just takes a bit of care.

Here are some things to keep in mind when travelling as a pair.

1. Flying affects everyone differently

We both react differently to flying. While we both fall asleep relatively easily, or can stay awake to cater for time differences/connections, we have different concerns when flying. Jo is not a fan of the touchdown part of the flight, and I (Ash) tend to hate the entire descent as it hurts my ears EVERY SINGLE TIME.

The Screndels hit up Lisbon.
The Screndels hit up Lisbon.

Do you need to eat throughout the flight or does it kill your appetite? Do you rush through the airport or do you like a leisurely stroll?

We’re different and we experience things differently. And yes, while we tend to align on the struggles of jetlag, food and so on, it’s taken some practice. Just keep talking to one another and remember that we all have different stressors.

2. We all prefer different transport methods

Simply put: we get sick on different modes of transport. I tend to be particularly sick on anything road-based, so cars, buses, etc. Jo on the other hand openly reads in cars and on buses, sometimes prompting me to ask her to turn the book away from me (even a glimpse of text can sometimes set off my travel sickness). I am also often seasick and try to avoid small boats, whereas Jo has no problems with these.

So yes, Jo is the hardened individual out of us. In any case, keep in mind what options your travel partner prefers and try to adapt where possible. It minimises the fights (and sickness), believe me. There’s nothing wrong with doing your own activities, especially if your travel partner would just be leaning off the railing the whole time.

3. Spending time apart is fine

Luckily Jo and I enjoy similar things on a trip: history, decent food and drink, and nature. That isn’t to say that we won’t go clubbing, but we prefer to spend our days wandering through different landscapes and just soaking it all up (over a coffee or two along the way).

Me (Ash) at the summit of the Lang Biang mountain in Dalat, Vietnam, something I did on my own to celebrate my 26th birthday. Jo sat in a cafe on a lower summit (wise move).
Me (Ash) at the summit of the Lang Biang mountain in Dalat, Vietnam, something I did on my own to celebrate my 26th birthday. Jo sat in a cafe on a lower summit (wise move).

However, as our trips become longer and more stressful at times, we’ve both learned how important it is to take some time apart. Now we schedule time in for activities which split us up for a bit; not because we hate each other, but because we’re not interested in 100% the same things and so would rather do things a little different. For example, I might want to spend a few hours of an afternoon looking at a car museum, while Jo wants to relax in a local cafe while reading her Kindle.

There’s a mixed reaction to this ‘split up’ nature. Some people argue it’s good to try and get your partner interested in everything; others agree with our tactic. Either way, we still travel together overall and just have a few hours break here and there. The first step to couples travel is realising that there is no need to live in each other’s pockets, and it’s totally fine to schedule in alone time.

4. No one EVER aligns their paces of life

I’m a pretty regimented, organised guy. I hate being late. Unless flexibility is expected, I think it’s the ultimate sign of rudeness.

Jo exists in her own timezone at times. It’s frustrating at (often late) times, but it’s something we’ve together grown to understand. My regimented schedule works well on trips with many legs or activities, but it often means there’s no flexibility if something goes wrong. Jo’s approach is to take some things as they come, giving much more genuine, free-spirited experiences.

Jo planning a day out
Jo planning a day out

There are advantages and disadvantages to how all of us manage our time. The important thing to do is to manage expectations when travelling as a couple, so you can both set what you want to get out of a day and try to get it done while allowing for flexibility.

5. Budgeting can be tough

We’re not made of money; budgeting is extremely important to us. So we align 99% of the time on this, but we’ve heard many tales from others travelling as a couple who had COMPLETELY different spending priorities.

“He just wanted to spend money on beer,” we’ve heard. “She just wanted to shop,” we’ve heard in response.

The best solution? Set an overall budget for the trip and then divide up roughly ow much you can spend each day. Plan accordingly from there on in. And if you’re not sure how much things cost in the country you’re visiting, make rough estimates as to the portion you’ll be spending on certain things (e.g. 50% on food, 20% on alcohol etc.).

6. Packing is always a nightmare

NEWSFLASH: Jo and I are different genders. Shocker, right?

But beyond that, packing is all down to personal preference. Do you take 700 pairs of pants with you, even though you’ll probably only wear five of them? Or do you pack 20 pairs of shoes, even though it’s a two-day trip somewhere? And do you have technology you need to pack (cameras, laptops etc.) and pack too little clothes to fit it all in?

Jo and I have a rule: checked baggage is shared baggage. That way neither of us packs too much as we’ve always got to be mindful of each other. And if you’re scared you’ll forget what you packed, make a list of the things you’ve packed and tick them off as you pack them before you go, and then double-check the same list when you return so you can make sure you remembered everything.

7. Routines are hard (but vital) to set

We pretty much wake up at the same time and go to bed at the same time, so there’s no problem there. But our paces in the mornings differ drastically at times, as do our paces in the evening (with Jo being a nightowl while I just get irritable unless I’m out or something).

Jo in a cafe, as usual. But it's hard to rush a day along when you get to sit across from this beauty...
Jo in a cafe, as usual. But it’s hard to rush a day along when you get to sit across from this beauty…

Again, it’s all about expectations. What do you need to get out of a day, a week, or a month? How long are you travelling? Are there any daily tasks you can repeat and speed up?

Just remember: keep talking. Every problem can be solved by talking over a cup of tea, I’m sure of it.

8. Everyone expects everything to work

We all expect things to go as we want them to. That doesn’t make any of us selfish or naive; it makes us human. It would be weird if you aimed for everything to go wrong.

Remember to laugh off the mistakes, even if they don't seem funny at the time
Remember to laugh off the mistakes, even if they don’t seem funny at the time

However, we all cope with failure differently. I tend to overreact, thinking that if a day-trip somewhere is delayed that it spells the end of the world. Jo sometimes assumes I know what we’re doing when I don’t, so we don’t end up doing what the assumption was.

Again, communication is key. And if anything does go wrong – and yes, we’ve had a fair few travel mishaps while travelling as a couple, from illness to delays and more – remember you’re there to support each other. Be strong. In the words of the famous philosopher Thomas Petty (alright, rockstar): “Most things I worry about never happen anyway”.

9. We are ALL different people

This is the most basic, but most important, thing to keep in mind when travelling as a couple. WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT.

And that’s why travelling as a couple is amazing! It’s a trip with someone who gives you a different perspective on things, someone you can debate with, someone you can enjoy the same things as, and someone who just enriches everything you do. So grab a friend and get out there!

Terrible two, or travel buddies?

How well do you travel as part of a pair? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe for more couples travel tips 🙂

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