Departing on your first trip together as a couple can be daunting. This may be the first time that you'll be spending an extended period of time away together without the safety blanket of your friends, family and familiar surroundings and in the challenging context of navigating and exploring a foreign city.
Couples travel, as with any group travel, it's all about compromise and working together to make sure that you both have an enjoyable time. However, traveling together comes with its own unique set of challenges and your first trip together as a couple will serve as a learning curve for (hopefully) many more couples vacations to come in future.
1. Where do you want to go?
The first – and most important – question is where do you want to go? Obviously, before departing on your holiday, you'll both need to decide on a suitable destination for your first trip together.
You may prefer tropical island villas while your partner may like to rough it in remote places, which is fine, but you will need to agree on a destination that will offer something for both of you. Heading to a destination that appeals to the both of you will increase the likelihood of you both having a good time while traveling together.
Pick an "easier" destination to travel around for your first trip together and save the "extreme" stuff for later down the track. While travel is an exhilarating experience, it is also frustrating and demanding at the same, and it may be wise to get a good idea of how you travel together as a couple first in a more relaxed scenario.
You may even want to do a test-run and organize a weekend trip away in the countryside or a brief interstate trip before going on your first overseas trip together.
2. How do you travel?
This is a really broad question that covers a helluva lot. Sit down with your partner and have an in-depth conversation about the way that you like to travel or which you have travelled in the past. Make sure to discuss the following questions:
- How do you pack? Do you usually pack five suitcases or do you prefer to have one teeny-weeny backpack for a two-week holiday? The issue of packing may seem insignificant but it does suggest a lot about the way in which a person likes to travel.
- What accommodation do you prefer to stay in? Do you enjoyed being pampered in luxury five-star hotels or do you like to stay in local Airbnb apartments and cheaper guesthouses?
- What area of a city do you prefer to stay in? Are you always on the hunt for the most hipster neighborhood you can find – even if it's in a more obscure location – or do you just want to stay in the centre of town so that everything is close by and convenient?
- What mode of transport do you prefer? Do you like to walk everywhere once you arrive at a destination, or do you prefer to catch taxis from place to place? Do you prefer catching public transport, cycling, etc.
- How do you like to plan your day? Do you prefer to sleep in during the mornings and party all night long, or do you like to wake up to early to cram in all of the sights and attractions? (See point four).
- How flexible are you? Do you have a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to planning what to do each day or do you have a strict itinerary that you want to knock off?
Ask all of these questions (and more) to get a sense of your partner's travel style. Figuring this out early on will assist in the travel-planning stages and will also let you know what to expect when traveling together for the first time to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
3. What is your spending style?
Couples don't always have the same salary range and one partner may not want to spend a fortune (or have a fortune for that matter) on going out to Michelin-starred restaurants every night – as appealing as that sounds. Discussing money is always awkward but the last thing you want to be arguing about on your first trip together is money. Have a conversation with your partner about budgets and how much each person is willing to spend; talk about whether everything is going to be split right down the middle or if you will take turns paying for things. In order to make things fair, the trip should align to the person with the lower budget.
Compromise on certain things to make your budget work. For example, if you stay in cheaper accommodation instead of swanky hotels then you may find that you'll both be able to afford those Michelin-starred restaurants every night, after all.
4. What activities are you interested in?
By this stage, you're most likely already aware of your partner's interests, but it never hurts to make sure that you're on the same wavelength. What kinds of activities do you like to do while traveling? Are you a history buff interested in exploring museums and going on walking tours to learn more about the history of a city? Are you a foodie interested in trying out the local cuisine and finding the most authentic restaurants to eat at? Or are you a fitness freak who packs runners and gym gear with you while you travel (props to you!)?
Also make sure to discuss how keen you both are on checking out the nightlife. Traveling as a couple is different to when you're traveling with friends and you're probably less likely to be partying until 5 am at the local techno club. But again, make sure you're on the same page!
Bear in mind that you don't need to do everything together, and, in fact, it's healthy to take some time away from each other while you are traveling together. However, it is nice to show an interest in your partner's interests when taking a trip together and it all comes back to the idea of compromise. If you're really intent on doing your own thing, then solo travel may be the answer for you.
5. What travel role do you usually play?
Finding out what travel role you and your partner usually take on is critical in being able to plan and delegate tasks appropriately before your first trip together. Are you normally the "organizer" when you travel or are you content to let others take the lead? If you both like to organize or let others take charge, you'll need to reach an agreement as to who is going to plan what to avoid any arguments or the risk of nothing getting done at all.
If you are terrible with transport timetables and directions but great at finding out the "it" places to go, then consider planning the itinerary while your partner takes charge of the logistics side of things. Work out your strengths and weaknesses and plan your first trip together around them accordingly.
6. What has been your favorite vacation experience so far?
Discuss your favorite vacation experiences so far in order to get a good idea of how your partner has traveled in the past and the kind of holidays they have enjoyed. Work this information into everything else you have already uncovered. If anything, it's also a great excuse to take a trip down memory lane.
Asking these simple questions before embarking on your first trip together will ensure that you're both ready to take on the challenge of traveling as a couple.
Don't worry if your travel styles don't align, it only means that you'll be able to have more experiences outside of what you would normally plan for yourself. Lucky you.