8 Best Travel Destinations For Couples Who Can't Agree Where To Go

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best travel destinations

Eight promising destinations that you and your other half can enjoy.

Ever planned a ten-mile bike ride when your lover was thinking Cartoon Network marathon? Or been dragged to a champagne and black-tie celebration when you felt like Chinese takeout and cuddling?

Plenty of couples have conflicting ideas of how to spend their time off, and it can get ugly wrangling over the details in a cramped hotel room.

The solution: Figure out ahead of time what you each want from a trip and pick some of the best travel destinations that are right for both of you. These four composite couples helped pinpoint some ideal vacation spots for mismatched travelers.

Beach Bum vs. Action Addict

Thomas and Katy, Chicago, Illinois

Thomas works hard in his finance job, and when he takes a vacation, he wants a real vacation. No stress — hell, he doesn't even want movement. His ideal revolves around white beaches, the sound of waves lapping the shore, and an anonymous person serving Mai Tais.

Sleeping in is mandatory. At dinnertime, Thomas would rather saunter into a nearby restaurant than hunt down a venue serving great regional food. His favorite destination: A resort in Jamaica.

Katy understands that Thomas wants to relax, but she can't handle lying around on a beach for more than a day. In all honesty, she can't even sit through a two-hour movie without fidgeting. The feeling of doing nothing frustrates her.

Sand and sun are fine, but couldn't she and Thomas also climb behind a waterfall, go snorkeling, and canvass a neighboring town for vintage shops? For Katy, leisurely exploration leads to spiritual rejuvenation.

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1. Outer Banks, North Carolina

A chain of barrier islands off North Carolina's shore, the Outer Banks offer sandy beaches, plenty of history, and southern hospitality. Unpack your bags at the Tranquil House Inn, nestled on the waterfront of Manteo, and test out the four-poster bed before heading to the boardwalk.

The beaches are made for lounging, but there's also plenty of opportunity for windsurfing, fishing, and clamming. Bone up on American history by visiting Roanoke Island, where a group of early settlers mysteriously disappeared, and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, dedicated to the 1,000 ships that have sunk off the coast.

Dine at the inn or head to Awful Arthur's Oyster Bar for steamed shrimp and tender steak. Be sure to pop by Mama Kwan's Grill & Tiki Bar for a drink. For fun, try climbing into the 1970 Volkswagen bus sticking out of the wall, and see if they kick you out.

2. Cape Town, South Africa

Dig your toes into the sand of Cape Town's fine beachfronts and heave a sigh of relaxation. Where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet at the continent's tip, South Africa has a wealth of national parks, vegetation, and, of course, a phenomenal coastline.

Book a room at Floreal House, a bed-andbreakfast built into the side of Table Mountain. The stunning 1,086-meter peak (ripe for climbing, but only with a guide) provides an amazing view from its top, and those too lazy to walk can ride up in a cable car. Another day, visit Stellenbosch vineyards, in the pastoral region where South Africa's best wine is grown, and taste a few heady shirazes.

The country's apartheid past still casts a lengthy shadow; you can learn more about it by touring Robben Island Museum, where freedom fighter and president Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Afterward, wander down to the neighboring fishing community, Fish Hoek, choose any seaside restaurant, and enjoy the fresh fare.

Explorer vs. Homebody

Sarah and Patrick, St. Louis, Missouri

Sarah likes trying out new restaurants — Thai one week, Tunisian the next — and she rarely orders the same dish twice. She's adventuresome and outgoing, makes new friends easily, and can be counted on to go salsa dancing or to jump off a cliff into a running river.

When it comes to vacationing, her list of "things to do" includes windsurfing in southern France, going on an African safari, and learning how to make Tandoori chicken — in India.

Patrick prefers hamburgers, medium rare, served with onion rings. He's known most of his friends since kindergarten, and they still meet every Thursday to drink a few beers and throw darts.

The idea of traveling abroad doesn't cross Pat's mind. A holiday should be relaxing, and he tenses up just picturing himself in a foreign country struggling with the language and eating bizarre food. Most years he vacations in Chicago and takes in a Cubs game.

3. New Orleans, Louisiana

You won't need a passport to go to New Orleans, but the city may as well be in a foreign country. The Cajun cooking, steamy weather, and French colonial history blend together to create a party atmosphere with a southern twang. Live zydeco and jazz, played in Bourbon Street bars, can pacify even the crankiest of travelers.

And while much local food can only be described as American creole, at La Petite Grocery the art of mixing local spices with French cooking has been perfected. To get an intimate feel in this bustling city, stay at the Hubbard Mansion, an inn with a wraparound porch.

Stroll down the French Quarter's cobblestone streets, walk past the Garden District mansions, and, for a fright, take a voodoo and cemetery tour. Sports fans can check out the horse races.

4. Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Playa del Carmen doesn't feel far outside the U.S., despite being hundreds of miles from the border, and the cozy Hotel Lunata may have Spanish-tiled floors, but the staff speaks perfect English. Unlike Cancun, which is 40 miles to the north, Playa del Carmen isn't a strip-mall party spot, so replace those images of messy tequila shots with visions of frosty beers and mixed drinks.

To get a feel for the country, step off the main drag and into the generally welcoming Mexican community. Visit the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Cobá, and sail to the island of Cozumel to dive one of the world's largest coral reefs. Then return to Playa del Carmen, grab a bite of Canadian fare cooked with Mexican spices at Media Luna, sink into the sand, and relax with a Piña Colada.

Pampered Pet vs. Super Saver

Rita and Louis, Raleigh, North Carolina

Rita's a girl, all the way. Every morning, she applies an impeccable layer of makeup and blows out her hair, a two-hour process. For a weekend trip, Rita packs all three of her floral-patterned suitcases.

While she excels at her marketing job and believes in workplace equality, she still expects a man to open the door. She knows she's high maintenance, and her motto—"Why settle?"—also applies to vacations, which Rita likes to fill with spas, room service, and shopping.

Louis loves spoiling Rita, but fears the attached price tag. He'd rather save money for a house, or put it into his retirement plan. He especially can't understand expensive hotels — how much time do you really spend there anyway?

Although he doesn't consider himself cheap and will gladly pay a decent sum for something of value, Louis chooses buses over cabs, and believes that a bottle of cabernet with bread and cheese can taste as good — and be as romantic — as any meal in an upscale restaurant.

5. Canyon Ranch, Arizona

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An Arizona spa Canyon Ranch would be Rita's dream, but steep discounts (for Louis) are available at Arizona's Boulders Resorts in the summer months, when most tourists avoid the desert's 100-plus degree weather. Beat the heat at this Southwestern-style establishment near Scottsdale by starting the day early with golf, tennis, or horseback riding.

By the time the sun blazes overhead, you'll be ready for a swim or indoor activities: the spa and beauty centers, the weight room, a yoga class. When evening comes, have the concierge arrange Jeep rides and nighttime hikes in the cooler air.

The resort's informal Mexican restaurant, Cantina del Pedregal, is known for its fresh salsa and strong margaritas. But everyone needs to bust out of a resort at some point, and in nearby Sedona red rock formations in awe-inspiring shapes sit on the desert like sculptures. Native Americans consider Sedona a well of spiritual power, so tap into the energy.

6. ​Kalkan, Turkey

The pristine beaches and soothing spas of this mellow Turkish city make for an opulent experience at a lower cost than in Greece or Southern France. Lodge for less than $100 a night in the Hotel Patara Prince Resort, set on white stone cliffs on the bank of the turquoise Mediterranean, and loll under an umbrella on the undeveloped beaches,which are interrupted by Roman ruins jutting out of the dunes.

Lounge by the hotel's infinity pool or visit the sauna, then dine on fish or mutton kebab at the romantic, nouvelle Turkish restaurant Korsan, next to the harbor. (Breakfast in Turkey may come as a surprise — tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese with your bread.) Wander by the many shops in town, stopping at Sakir Antik Galery for Arab-influenced copper and bronze souvenirs. Most important, get a traditional massage in the hotel's Turkish bath.

Urban Sophisticate vs. Lone Ranger

Nick and Holly, Ann Harbor, Michigan

Nick grew up in New York City, and feels most comfortable in a throng of people, although he never considered the city crowded: As a kid, he visited his grandparents every summer in Mumbai, India, where the bazaars swarmed with life.

He moved to Ann Arbor to attend university, and stayed because of Holly. When he has time off, Nick wants to visit a big city such as Los Angeles, explore the museums, hear the latest bands, and hit the newest clubs.

A fan of whole grains and bicycling to work, Holly likes to stay active, and her favorite pasttimes include mountain climbing and canoeing. Ann Arbor may be a small city, but Holly often feels it's too populated, so she likes to hike into the woods, soaking in the silence. When it comes to vacation time, she packs her tent and heads straight for national parks like Yellowstone.

7. San Francisco Bay Area, California

The Casa Madrona Hotel, a converted historic mansion overlooking the water and surrounded by flowers, embodies the rugged allure of Sausalito. The hotel also hosts one of the area's best restaurants, Mikayla.

Head to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art — only a short drive away — and take in works by Henri Matisse and Gerhard Richter. Afterward, perk up with a cup of free-trade coffee and indulge in a scrumptious taco at the Mission district's La Taqueria.

Explore the hip neighborhood, checking out a few music shops and boutiques, and make sure to end the evening at Elbo Room, a club with dancing and a live band upstairs. On another day, take a relatively solitary hike at nearby Point Reyes National Park, where few tourists venture. Not to forget: Yosemite is only a four hour drive away.

8. Barcelona, Spain

This Spanish city has the vitality of New York, coupled with the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. Check into the Hotel Claris, a postmodern place about a ten-minute walk from Barcelona's main drag, La Rambla. Stroll through the architecturally rich city, exploring Antoni Gaudí's bizarre designs in Park Güell.

The Spanish take a siesta during the day, and start their evenings long after sunset, so make late dinner plans at Quatre Gats, a restaurant known as much for being a haven for local artists and writers as for its Catalan food and beer. After midnight, break it down at one of Barcelona's hottest dance clubs, Otto Zutz.

Later in the week, take a side trip to breathtaking Montserrat, a village where pilgrims pay homage to its statue of the Virgin Mary. (Montserrat is also a destination for climbers seeking a dramatic rock face). Venture a few hours north, and you'll hit the rugged Pyrenees bordering France.

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Amy Braunschweiger is a New York-based freelance writer, and has been known to selfishly travel exactly where she wants to go: by herself.