I love to travel. There’s practically no place on the planet I’m not curious to see. But even an enthusiastic and laid-back traveler like me still has their quirks. For example, when I’m on vacation, I want to relax. Yes, I also want to see some sights, but I prefer a loose schedule. What that means for me is that I don’t vacation well with folks who prefer to wake up super early and follow a carefully crafted itinerary to the letter. Easy answer. However, it gets more complicated when you and your partner don’t travel well together and you have differing vacation philosophies. After all, the point of having a partner is to share in life’s adventures with them, right? But if you drive each other bananas any time you attempt a romantic getaway, that can be a real problem.
Is being incompatible travel partners a deal-breaker for the relationship? Or is this a problem with a solution? To figure out how to deal, I reached out to relationship experts, and here’s the good news: There is hope in finding a middle ground, but it will take some work. “It’s not an issue to be resolved — it needs to be managed,” Anita Chlipala, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love, tells Elite Daily. “Each partner has their own preferences and values. When they’re at odds, it can seem like a couple is incompatible, but it really comes down to a couple’s ability to understand each other, accept each other, and compromise.”
What does this “compromise” actually look like in practice? Here’s what the experts say to do if you and your partner don’t travel well together.
1PRIORITIZE SOME MUST-DO ITEMS.
According to NYC relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter, the first step to becoming better travel companions is to find out in advance what activities are most important to one another on the vacation. “I always ask the following question before a trip: What three things do you need to do to make you feel that you’ve had a great vacation?” she tells Elite Daily. Then, she says, you make sure to prioritize those things. “In truth, when we’re getting our needs met, we’re less grumpy with our travel mate. Most of the friction comes from not getting our ‘must-do’ and then feeling resentment and anger,” explains Winter. Often this small adjustment is all you need to become more compatible vacationers.
2TAKE TURNS PICKING ACTIVITIES.
Once you know what’s most important to each of you on vacation, Chlipala suggests keeping things balanced by taking turns selecting the activities. “Alternate. You can honor both of your preferences by alternating trips. It shows your willingness to do the things that are important to your partner, and can make them feel accepted and appreciated,” she says.
3MAKE TIME TO DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO — WITHOUT YOUR PARTNER.
Occasionally there will be items on your priorities lists that one or the other of you really have no interest in. In that case, you don’t have to automatically sacrifice one of your must-dos. Instead, Chlipala says plan to spend some time apart. “Do the activity that you want to do — without your partner. If you want to have a day at the beach but they want to go on an excursion, then spend the day separately. You can meet up for dinner and discuss your day,” explains Chlipala.
4IDENTIFY YOUR DIFFERENT TRAVEL STYLES AND HONOR WHO YOU ARE.
It really all comes down to recognizing where your travel styles differ and reflecting on those differences while finding middle ground. Just because you aren’t totally on the same page, that doesn’t mean you can’t overcome this difference. The key to this, says Chlipala, is to “honor who you are” and who your partner is. “If you prefer to be at the airport two hours ahead of your flight’s departure, and your partner prefers to roll up as people are boarding the plane, leave for the airport without them,” she advises. “Waiting around for them could give you anxiety and create a fight, and can start your travel plans off with both of you in a bad mood.”
The fact is that traveling, although exciting, can be stressful, which is why Winter says if you’re not natural travel companions, the key is to try and keep an open mind. “Traveling upsets our normal rhythms of waking, sleeping, eating, and exercise. If your partner likes to be out dancing late into the night and you want to be in bed at 10 p.m., you’ll need to creatively think of a day-time schedule that works for both of you,” Winter explains.
5TAKE SEPARATE VACATIONS.
There is one more option for couples who struggle to travel well together, says Chlipala, and that’s not to force it. “Go on separate vacations,” she suggests. “If your partner loves to ski but you don’t get any enjoyment out of it, they can go with their friends. If you love the beach but your partner feels restless, you can go with friends who also share love of the sand and sun.” After all, there is no rule that you have to take all your vacations together!
The reality is, Chlipala says, that these differences aren’t going to magically go away. “A couple needs to figure out how to accept each other and where they can compromise. Each couple needs to discuss why their way of travel is important to them and identify the needs, values and dreams that underlie their preference,” she concludes. If you can do that and then respect and adjust your style of travel to one that addresses both of your needs, you may discover that you really are each other’s perfect travel companion after all.