Traveling with your partner can be the most romantic thing in the world. Or not. While being together 24-hours a day may sound incredible in the abstract, it can be stressful in reality. After all, trips often mean spending a lot of money, navigating unfamiliar territory, and hanging out in places where you don’t know anyone besides your partner.
But a bit of planning can go a long way. Here are 6 tips to optimize your travel experience as a couple.
1. Agree on what you want before you book
Beach or city? See the sights or lie by the pool? Before you make plans, get an idea of how your partner likes to travel. If one of you wants 5-star luxury and the other prefers wild camping, you’ll have to find a compromise.
2. Set a budget – but build in some slack
Be realistic about the cost of traveling. Careful planning will save you money, of course, but you won’t be able to anticipate every expense. So try to expect the unexpected. A good rule of thumb is to bring 20% more money than you think you’ll need. It’s always better to come back with a surprising surplus than to run out of money halfway through.
The additional money will also help you enjoy your trip, instead of focusing only on staying exactly on budget. Ten years from now, I doubt you’ll regret experiencing that delicious dinner in Rome and going 5% over budget.
3. Decide how you’re going to handle shared expenses
Couples without joint bank accounts handle shared expenses in many different ways. Some just track shared expenses and split them down the middle. Others load shared cash onto a pre-paid travel card, which they use to cover all of their expenses, or they alternate city by city, with one person paying for everything in London and the other covering Paris. Still others divide expenses by category – for example, one pays for flights while the other pays for accommodation.
The best fit for you depends on your situation and preferences. If, for example, you make more money than your partner and prefer to eat at fancier restaurants, you may want to cover a larger portion of the dining out expenses. If possible, discuss your system beforehand to avoid unnecessary tension after the fact.
For couples with a joint bank account, things are a bit simpler. But you should still discuss general spending expectations before your trip, whenever possible. What counts as a reasonable expense? Would you rather pay $50 extra to travel by train, or save the money and take a bus ride that’s twice as long? Discuss it for 10 minutes beforehand to avoid a 30-minute fight afterward.
4. Avoid packing the same things twice
Traveling as a couple has its perks. One is that you can get away with carrying less stuff. By sharing a towel or a phone charger, you both have a lighter load and maybe even cheaper trip. When packing, see if you’re doubling up on any items and if so, leave one at home. Even little things like soap and toothpaste can add up to make a difference.
5. Have a back-up plan
Consider buying travel insurance. You may miss out on the $100 of mojito money, but a broken leg abroad can cost you tens of thousands. It’s not just illness that’s covered: a good insurer will also reimburse you for thefts, lost luggage, canceled flights, and more.
Also, for emergencies, you should always have a second source of funds. We suggest bringing at least two separate cards linked to two separate accounts that you keep in two different places. (If you only have a shared bank account, try bringing a debit and a credit card.) That way, if your bag gets snatched, you can continue the adventure without having to wait for the replacement card to be sent.
6. Take a break from each other
Too much of anything is bad. That includes time with one person, no matter how much you love him.
At home, partners typically spend chunks of their days apart. Whether it’s for jobs, friends, families, hobbies, or just some alone time. Your travel plans should take that into account by including separate activities on the calendar, even if it’s just a 30-minute visit to the coffee shop. The time apart is a good chance to reflect, recharge, or just relax. It will also make the time with your partner that much more special.