Planning Your First Big Trip: 6 Travel Tips For Couples

Essential travel tips for planning a vacation you'll both enjoy.

couple at a scenic view

First we considered Latin America. We'd see Mayan ruins, hike in places where the banditos weren't, maybe ride a river in the rainforest. But it'd be August and insanely hot. Then it was Asia. Lorri had lived in Vietnam and Laos after college and still had friends there. We could flop on the cheap, but it'd also be kind of a reunion tour for her. Briefly it was Russia, but doing it right meant spending the entire vacation there and a whole month off felt too precious to blow in one country.


We settled on Eastern Europe: Romania to Hungary to Austria and finally the Czech Republic. We planned to fly in and out and do the rest by rail or bus or whatever—we'd figure it out when we got there. Separately, we'd both traveled a lot so it went unspoken that the trip would also be a litmus test for our relationship. Most of our year-plus together had happened long distance. We'd never killed hours in an airport side-by-side, never fought and had nowhere else to go, never seen each other in the same underwear for three days straight.

The big meltdown happened on day 27, which is not to say that we didn't bicker, disagree, and snipe at each other across the previous 26 days. We did. We also saw monasteries painted inside and out in mosaics, drank way too much bad Hungarian wine, and crashed a house party in Bucharest. Along the way I also came to see how differently I—as a man—traveled compared to Lorri. Here's what I learned:


1. The Game Plan
Take your time when choosing a destination. Fantasizing about different locales is half the fun of getting away together.

"Anticipation is an aphrodisiac," says Dr. Barton Goldsmith, author of Emotional Fitness for Couples. Also, make sure it's somewhere you really want to go or you'll end up sitting on a beach while he surfs or diving with sharks the day after you get your scuba certification. Once you settle on a place, let him book the itinerary if he wants. Men are task-driven control freaks. Use it to your advantage. The upside is he'll let you dictate more of the agenda when you get there, as his work is done. However, keep an eye on what he's doing or you'll end up in a one-star hotel after connecting twice when a direct flight was only $50 more.

2. Pack n' Play
Less is sexy. Yes, he'll probably pack lighter than you and pride himself of doing so. Then he'll use all your toiletries that he made fun of before he realized that he brought only a toothbrush and a stick of deodorant. Know also that he's paying attention to how much you bring because he'll expect to heft your bag from time to time.


"You don't have to pack for every possible outfit permutation," explains Amy Ziff, Travelocity Editor-at-Large. "Three pairs of shoes is the rule." And don't be surprised if his bag gets heavier by the end of the trip.

"I picked up a rug in Istanbul without thinking that I had to carry it for the next 14,000 miles," recounts a friend, James, who traveled with his future wife for four months.

3. Trains, Planes, and Automobiles
Things will go wrong. Modern travel is a crapshoot, especially when you're flying. So don't be surprised when the worst happens.

"Losing your cool is so unattractive," says Ziff. "Always remember that you're not the only person in that situation." If he's the one freaking out, keep your distance. This will let him know he's being a tool. If you're traveling by car, it almost goes without saying that he'll want to do the driving. Let him. Driving in foreign countries is stressful. Instead, take ownership of the map and give him flawless directions. Strange as it sounds, it'll be a huge turn-on for him.


4. On the Agenda
Small concessions make a big difference.

"You've got to give and take," says Jennifer Roberts, director of sales and marketing for VIP Honeymoon, who recounted a recent trip to Thailand where an elephant repeatedly spat in her mouth.

"My husband had to ride an elephant and had to do it with me to enjoy it." That said, "Men tend to be very grateful and find it romantic if she does his stuff with him," explains Goldsmith. To avoid tension, try to find things that you like in common and don't be afraid to split up for a morning or an afternoon. That way, when you re-connect later you'll have stories to share. Lastly, leave room for flexibility. The best stuff tends to be the most unexpected.


5. Eat It Up
Most guys care more about when they eat than where. The big fight on my trip with Lorri was over food. We'd spent every single meal together for almost month and the endless hunt for sustenance got to both of us. Later I realized that I just wanted to eat alone, which was precisely the outcome of the spat. Food can also lead to unexpected bonding. Both James and his future wife got into some bad fish in Indonesia and spent untold hours reading each other For Whom The Bell Tolls, while trading off between the bathroom and the bed. From the way he told the story, it was clearly one of his fondest memories from the journey.

6. Bringing Sexy Back
This is the whole point of the trip, right? If not, maybe you should hold off on going away with your man. Because while he waxes poetic about the deeper meaning of travel, he's thinking of hotel sex. Lots of it. And why not? Half the fun of getting away from home is that lack of accountability, so use the hotel room to the fullest and don't bother keeping your voice down. No one else will.


The take-home advice? Plan together. Flying by the seat of your pants is sexy and fun when solo—but it's frustrating when traveling as a twosome. Save the spur-of-the-moment stuff for the occasional day trip. Plan wisely, and the maiden vacation voyage will make the relationship. Bon voyage!

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