It’s counterintuitive: You’d think that a romantic escape with your S.O. would be a surefire way to spend quality time together, 24/7. Cut to you and your partner snapping at each other as you’re getting lost on the way to dinner, or standing in awkward silence at the baggage carousel because one of you forgot to pack the healthy snacks….
Sound familiar? There are plenty of reasons why getaways can be ticking time bombs for relationships. “The most stressful part of travel—that gets exaggerated on vacation—is the individual personalities of the couple,” explains Janie Lacy, LMHC, NCC, CSAT, a psychotherapist and relationship expert in Maitland, Florida. “If one likes to plan while the other likes to do things at the last minute, this can all come to a head when traveling on vacation together and cause a lot of stress on the relationship.”
“The most stressful part of travel—that gets exaggerated on vacation—is the individual personalities of the couple.”
Turns out, all of that free time—without work and daily routines—can become a source of tension. “One of the main areas that I see couples experience the most stress while traveling is having different agendas during unplanned time: One may want to relax, while the other wants to sightsee,” she explains. Other vacation danger zones Lacy’s noticed in her practice: “Some of the common triggers or challenges when it comes to couple’s travel is how money is spent, how time is spent, and how each wants their own agenda to be elevated,” she says.
So what’s the key to finding a healthy balance?
Scroll down to see 3 rules for reducing relationship stress while traveling.
1. Be honest about what you want to do
If a day of back-to-back museum visits and sightseeing sounds draining, speak up–way before you get on the plane, ideally. Same thing goes if you’re the type who gets antsy with endless downtime. Why? “Disappointment and dissatisfaction can set in when we don’t [talk] about our preferences and desires, so share what you want to do and the things that you’re not excited about, [too],” advises the therapist.
2. Manage expectations
When you’re spending a big chunk of change—not to mention valuable PTO—on a trip, both of you might feel pressure that this has be the “Best. Trip. Ever.” But of course, even with good intentions and a well-thought-out itinerary, there are bound to be hiccups. “Go into the vacation being open and having flexibility,” suggests Lacy. “Sometimes [things] can change—no matter how much we can plan ahead.”
3. Divide responsibilities according to each other’s strengths
Let’s say you’re the planner in the relationship: Poring over Kayak, TripAdvisor, guidebooks, and travel blogs for the best hotel deals and hole-in-the-wall restaurants is your idea of fun. Give your partner room to contribute, too—even it’s not making dinner reservations. “[Everyone] has strengths that they bring to the table. Try not to do it all, so everyone can take part of the process, and thus, also be invested in the vacation.”