How to Not Kill Each Other When Travelling as a Couple
After 9 years of knowing each other, 7 years of living together, 3 years of travelling together, and 1 year of marriage, we have learnt a few lessons along the way that we thought we’d share.
Plus we’re probably due a reminder before we head off on our next trip.
Some of these are specific to travelling as a couple but most are things that we (try to) practice on a daily basis whether we’re at home or abroad.
If someone were to ask for one piece of marriage/relationship advice from us, we would say ‘travel together’.
While this may seem rather obvious coming from us, it is actually legit and comes from our own experience as well as other couples we know.
During our 2 month trip to South East Asia, we learned more about each other than the previous 4 years of living together! Your relationship gets tested in so many different and interesting ways that it will pretty much decide if you’re going to make it or break it as a couple.
So rather than (or in addition to) taking the ‘moving in together’ route as the next step in your relationship, we would challenge any new couple to spend a few weeks or even a month travelling as a couple.
And not just to an all inclusive resort (although that will have it’s own set of challenges); do something that gets you out of your comfort zone.
Now, here are our…
Tips for travelling as a couple
(or, you know, just how to be a functioning twosome in general)
H-anger, it’s a real thing
Starting off with probably the biggest cause of most of our arguments….hunger.
We tend to get hungry at different times and speeds so there will often be moments when one of us is getting a little stabby due to not enough food (*ahem* Dayna).
It’s really easy to get so caught up in your plans for the day that you forget to factor in food or drinks. We now make sure that we always have a bottle of pure water filtered by the best water filter pitcher we have, and some snacks to avoid a meltdown.
Get used to (not) awkward silence
It isn’t possible to fill every minute of every day with thrilling conversation – you quickly need to become comfortable with just being silent in each others presence.
Prepare to know far too much about each others bowel movements
This is particularly true for a couple travelling to any developing nations where you will both potentially have to fight each other for use of the err…facilities. You’ll get some good experience at sharing anyway.
We use codes to helpfully suggest that the other person may wish to go for a stroll or at a minimum create some background sound.
“Hey do you mind turning the TV up a bit? Or a lot.”
“If you wanted to take a short walk, it probably wouldn’t be the worst thing.”
“Do you have to use the bathroom? Might want to get in there before I do….”
Also, get used to odd set ups with toilets. We’ve had thin walls, glass doors and all sorts. Travelling is not the greatest for privacy!
Sense the tone/mood and act accordingly
Much like we expect new parents find with new babies after a few weeks, you’ll be in tune to when your travel buddy is grumpy, hungry, needs changing or wants time to themselves.
You can fast forward this one by communicating better or thinking of some reasons why they may be cranky and subtly coming up with a plan.
Suggest stopping for a snack at a place with a toilet, or if close to your accommodation, no one will turn down a good ole nap.
Have time alone
Everyone needs time to themselves to recharge and just do their own thing. Dayna needs at least a couple of hours a week totally alone to get back the energy needed for being ‘on’ and a functioning human being around people (including Matt). Matt is more like a puppy and nearly always wants to be around people.
It took a little while for us to figure this one out but all it took was some communication (there’s a word you should prepare to hear a lot of) and now we just say when we want our own time and then do it without the other person taking offence.
When you’re tired you WILL fight
Expect it, plan for it and you’ll help avoid little fights exploding in to big fights or at least shorten them. If you acknowledge you’re fighting because you’re both tired and stressed it makes a big difference.
Long travel days are the worst for this which we learned after having a bit of a joint tantrum at Auckland Airport once. We were coming off a 14 hour flight with little sleep and were late for our connecting flight to Wellington (which we did end up missing) and got stuck in the airport all day.
Now we plan for these times and expect we’ll be grumpy with each other which does help avoid and reduce any fights!
Pick your battles
Just because you don’t agree on everything does not mean that it needs to be turned into a big conversation or argument. If you fight about everything, then they all become meaningless.
News flash! Arguing is a form of communication and can be a good thing (so long as you fight fair). Picking when you want to fight for your opinion will make the other person realise “Hey, this must mean a lot to them so maybe I should listen”.
Also, there is a lot to be said for humility and admitting when you’re wrong.
This is one to get good at because trust us, there will be plenty of battles when travelling as a couple.
Accept that your partner will be a dick from time to time and you will be too
People aren’t perfect – sometimes you are going to say or do the wrong thing and it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows.
You need to accept that you both will cause fights every now and then. Everyone wants to be perfect but it’s not possible. Or maybe we’re just both dicks…
Say sorry & forget quickly
Growing up, Dayna was taught that sorry is a very important word (maybe it’s a Canadian thing?) and that you should say it even if you don’t mean it at the time.
Even if you don’t mean it, it can have a huge impact on the other person’s feelings and you might even start to feel sorry after you’ve said it.
Sorry is not necessarily taking responsibility for the fight or admitting you’re wrong, it simply shows the other person that you don’t like fighting, you’re humble, and gives a natural end to the argument.
Then forget fights quickly. Holding grudges is a fast way to end a relationship and doesn’t do any good for anyone.
The key in all of this is resolution. Whether or not you’re following the saying “Never go to bed angry” make sure to say sorry and resolve the fight once you’ve both cooled down.
The timing of this is still something we’re working on (Dayna wants to finish the argument before moving on and Matt shuts down when he’s had enough) but since we’re pretty good at the other points in this post, our arguments are pretty infrequent (depending on who you ask….hmmmm).
Split the planning
This may seem obvious but there’s usually one person who’s better at planning/organising things in a relationship. Of course, you work to each other’s strengths but it’s just not sustainable to have one person do all the planning, all the time. Plus, it’s kind of rude to assume the other person will take care of everything.
There is nothing worse than someone complaining about part of a trip that they haven’t helped plan and book things for.
So split up planning different bits of the trip so each of you pulls your own weight.
Don’t split the planning?
We both like planning so it comes naturally to us to split it up but sometimes it’s nice to take a break. Our New York honeymoon was largely planned by Matt since he had been before and was really excited to revisit all the places he went to on his first trip but together this time. Dayna planned the majority of our Canadian Road Trip for the same reasons.
It’s nice to give the other person a break and maybe even plan a little surprise for them.
When it comes to the big plans – compromise.
There’s always going to be something that you don’t want to do and that’s ok! Sometimes travelling as a couple means knowing when you don’t have to do stuff together.
Dayna doesn’t drink beer and hates standing for a long period of time in crowds so Oktoberfest had zero appeal to her. Luckily friends of ours were going so Matt tagged along and we both had great weekends – Matt drinking all day and getting horribly lost in a taxi and Dayna, getting takeaways, watching TV show gulity pleasures and not leaving the house for 2 days.
It’s ok to have different interests
Matt loves museums and art galleries and could spend the whole day slowing making his way through all the exhibits, reading all the plaques of information.
Dayna scans the room then quickly moves on like a kid with ADHD.
As a couple you want to support each others interests, but there’s really only so much you can take of something you don’t like.
Thank whoever created it for Wifi! Most places will have free wifi so while Matt takes his time looking at all the pretty pictures, Dayna will find a spot to sit and wait. Or we’ll arrange to meet up at a nearby cafe at a certain time etc. Basically those two words again, plan and compromise.
Communicating with people in foreign languages is hard sometimes
Each of us is better at understanding different accents. If we notice the other person struggling, we’ll step in and help with the conversation.
And if neither of us understand what’s being said, then we usually resort to various hand motions or just keep talking until someone stops us.
Or we’ll give each other confused looks and laugh…like we did at our cooking class in Halong Bay.
Step in when other person needs help/support
Once again, long flights and jet lag are often the cause for someone to just not be able to handle one more thing going wrong. Luckily, when travelling as a couple, there are two of you and more often than not, one of you will still be awake enough to step in.
After one particularly long flight it took so long to get our bags that we missed our connecting flight. Then we had to deal with snarky airport staff to try and fix it and the only response Matt could muster was a long string of expletives.
So Dayna, being an expert in dealing with snarky staff anywhere, took over and got us on the next plane out of there while Matt went on the hunt for coffee.
Watch/Have each others backs
This point has two sides. One side is to literally watch the other person’s back. Travelling isn’t always safe so it’s important to not only be aware of what’s around you, but your partner. And if you want to get away from aggressive touts, just remember to grab your wife’s hand and bring her with you (side eye to Matt).
The other side is to stand up for your partner no matter what the situation is. This was so important to us that we put it in our wedding vows. It doesn’t matter if you agree with them or not, you should always always always support your partner. Unless they’re doing something illegal…then maybe try discouraging them a bit.
Take turns being the pack horse
It sucks always being the one that carries everything on day trips so try give the other person a break every now and then if they’ve got the heavy bag.
Take breaks from being a tourist to just be a couple
It is hard to be romantic when you’re sleeping in an overheated, smelly and cheap hostel in Cambodia. But when travelling a lot of couples avoid doing “normal” stuff (like whatever your date night would be at home).
So go to the movies, play minigolf, go out for a nice dinner and splurge on a bottle of wine.
Remember that behind every terrible travel mishap is a great story
When everything is turning to sh*t is also when you will get the best memories so relax and (try to) laugh. We still find that pretty hard to do but we’re starting to be better at getting to the point of laughing at our misfortune quicker than we used to.
All our favourite stories from our travels involve some sort of misfortune whether it was sliding down a poop covered rock face in Dalat, Matt losing his wallet in Luxembourg, a crazy night train in Egypt or pillows exploding with bed bugs in Phuket. At the time these weren’t fun but now they all make us smile!
If there’s one thing we hope you took away from this list, it’s that as a couple, you are equal halves of one whole but you are still your own person. You each have your own strengths and weaknesses which you need to be aware of and take responsibility for.
Remember, you’re on the same team.
And if all else fails and you still want to kill each other then try not to carry any sharp objects or weapons on you (I don’t think anybody has ever been killed with a neck pillow…yet).
What about you? Do you have any tips or funny stories from travelling as a couple?