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How to Travel With Your Significant Other (Without Killing Each Other)

2/9/17 by Shaine Smith

Whether it’s a weekend trip or an around-the-world odyssey, traveling with your significant other can pave the way for some of your most unforgettable moments together: some good, some not-so-good, but certainly memorable times you’ll talk about for years to come.

My girlfriend, Lisa Collard, and I have had our share of memorable travel moments since we started traveling together in 2015. We made the decision to sell our house and all of our belongings for a more nomadic lifestyle, traveling throughout the world. We bought one-way tickets to Asia and have been on the road ever since: From the jungles of Borneo to the dunes of the Sahara, we’ve biked, paddled, hiked, and dined in 10 countries on three continents, and have slept in 56 beds with varying levels of comfort. Luckily, both our jobs are location independent. Lisa is a social media guru, and I am a writer and editor. We can literally work from anywhere, so why wouldn’t we?

Along the way, we’ve learned plenty about traveling—more specifically, traveling together. Here, some insight into how we make it work—and some tips on how you, too, can travel with your significant other (mostly) harmoniously.

Think Like A Team.

Riding up to our first oasis base camp, Erg Chebbi, Sahara. 
    Shaine Smith
Riding up to our first oasis base camp, Erg Chebbi, Sahara. Shaine Smith

Shaine : Choosing to travel as a couple means giving up some of your individual freedom and learning to be flexible. That can take on many forms, from planning where to go and how to get there, to maybe sacrificing some of your own comfort for your partner’s. For example, I walk faster than Lisa. But that doesn’t mean anything when we *both *have to get there.

Lisa : Try to think of the total luggage space as both of yours. There is no such thing as "extra room" in your bag. One thing we do is pack items we absolutely cannot lose, like laptops and passports, in one bag to keep with us at all times. The other bag is packed with easily replaceable clothes that gets thrown on the roof rack, under the bus, or wherever. Decide on your own gear, then combine as a couple. You both don’t need an umbrella and shampoo.

Utilize Each Other’s Strengths, But Be Honest About Your Own Weaknesses.

Lisa climbs the walls of an 8th-century Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal. 
    Shaine Smith
Lisa climbs the walls of an 8th-century Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal. Shaine Smith

Shaine : I love planning the next adventure, and I really like the thrill of the hunt when it comes to ferreting out the best deal on airfares and room rates. So Lisa is usually happy to let me endlessly search.

Lisa : Shaine is a better driver than I am, which I hate to admit, but I’m the better navigator, which he admits stings his male pride. So I let him take the keys and he’s learned not to doubt me when I say, "It’s a shortcut."

Take Turns Planning.

Shaine : Whether that means picking the next destination, the day’s activity, or even the music in the car, it’s an absolute must to share these duties and privileges. The key is trusting your partner and rolling with whatever they plan. Lisa once organized a casual bike ride to see some pottery in Laos. After hours of riding uphill in the rain with no water or food, I was annoyed and positive we were lost. And we were. But I’ll never forget these village kids cheering me on as I wheelied for them or the omelette Lisa sweet-talked this woman who was selling eggs into making for us. Turns out, one of our biggest "mistakes" is one of my favorite travel stories.

Lisa : Travel fatigue can be a powerful demotivator. Sometimes one person is just over it, and simply can’t look at another travel site or decipher another menu or figure out what the word for chicken is yet again. At that point, the other partner needs to pick up the slack and just make a decision for you both.

Take Time Apart.

Take some time out to pursue your personal interests apart; here, Shaine rides down to the beach in Madeira, Portugal. 
    Lisa Smith
Take some time out to pursue your personal interests apart; here, Shaine rides down to the beach in Madeira, Portugal. Lisa Smith

Shaine : Sometimes you just need a little "me time," and that’s cool. You do not have to spend EVERY waking moment together. I'll go ride, and Lisa will watch “Downton Abbey” or dye her hair. She'll go hike and I'll clip my toenails and watch The Godfather.

Lisa : We also work from the road while we travel. I’m more of a people person, and Shaine likes his peace and quiet. So I seek out interesting coffee shops and nomad meetups. He gets alone time, I get my social fix. The best part, we have something new to talk about at dinner.

Splurge When You Need It.

The mud-brick city of Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the setting for dozens of movies. 
    Shaine Smith
The mud-brick city of Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the setting for dozens of movies. Shaine Smith

Shaine : Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra here and there for the sake of experiences, romance, or to mark special occasions. It’s well proven that spending on experiences versus stuff makes you happier. The memories of that balloon trip over Cappadocia will last forever. That generic T-shirt? Not so much.

Lisa : We tend to stay in pretty basic accommodations to keep costs down. But for Shaine’s birthday, I booked the nicest hotel in Kuching, Malaysia. Although it was way above our normal budget, he still talks about how the incredibly soft sheets and amazing shower were a true luxury after a sweat-soaked day of jungle trekking.

Keep A Clean "House".

Shaine : Travel is chaotic. You’re navigating unfamiliar cities, communicating in a foreign language, and you’re probably doing all this while tired or jet lagged. It won’t help peace of mind for either of you coming back to a messy hotel room. And, if leaving a wet towel on the floor bothers your partner at home, it’ll drive them absolutely bonkers on the road.

Lisa : So true! If road tripping by car, spend 10 minutes a day to clean out the trash. In the hotel, keep your side of the room neat and don’t leave your toiletry bag exploded all over the bathroom. If you’re sharing a suitcase, keep your clothes neatly folded and on your side. It sounds really basic, but this is an easy and important way to ward off arguments, especially when you’re fatigued from the road.

Good communication is key, no matter where in the world you are.

Paddling the mighty Mekong river in Laos. 
    Shaine Smith
Paddling the mighty Mekong river in Laos. Shaine Smith

Shaine : Speak up if you need something, listen when the other person does so, apologize if you mess up, accept the apology, and never, ever say "I told you so." And keep in mind a very basic tip for relationship bliss, whether you’re globetrotting or just hanging out at home: Don’t be a jerk.

Lisa : What he said.

Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.