Traveling with your loved one, whether it’s a weekend in Vegas or a month-long trek through the Serengeti, is a great litmus test for your relationship. You can learn a lot about a person by how they react to an overbooked hotel or a stolen passport. The results can be surprising: what starts as a romantic sojourn can lead to you wanting to chuck your loved one face first out of a sea plane.
As a world-weary traveler, I can share some of the things I’ve learned about traveling with your love. So renew that passport, tag that luggage, and get ready to take some notes!
1. Be Honest About Your Vacation Style
Fact: Most relationships start off with some little white lies. Why do you think everyone lists hiking as an interest in their dating profile? Are people really that into hiking? Hell no! But it sounds better than “cheetos and reality TV binging.” (Apologies to people who actually like hiking.)
It’s natural to be eager to share your loved one’s interests. If they love it, maybe you will, too. But there comes a time to be honest. If you hate staying at a hotel with less than three stars, then you don’t have to go backpacking through Europe. If you’re terrified of the ocean, why should you go to Hawaii? Find a destination with activities that you both can enjoy. It beats passive-aggressive camping any day of the week.
2. Do Your Homework
Once a destination has been picked, buy a guide book/hit the internet/download a travel app and make a plan of things you don’t want to miss. My go-to is splitting up my days exploring different neighborhoods, and the sights/museums/activities that it offers. You can also follow the travel experts @hiltonsuggests. They have great tips and recommendations for traveling in every city. Make a travel calendar for yourself and make sure both of you contribute to it. I stress “both” because…
3. Your Girlfriend is Not Your Tour Guide
Planning a trip and activities is a lot of work—it shouldn’t fall on one person’s shoulders. Even if your partner is the more experienced traveler/planner, take some initiative and bookmark some sights or restaurants you want to hit up. That way, we won’t stress out over whether or not you’re having a good time, and we get to relax and let you take the wheel.
4. Make Room for Spontaneity
The best travelers are adaptable and flexible. While it’s important to have a plan, there comes a time when you will want to chuck said plan out the window. Maybe you happen upon a parade or get invited to a killer rooftop party. Or maybe you miss the last ferry because that beachside bar makes the best damn margarita you’ve ever tasted. Guess what? You’re a grown ass adult who is allowed to change their plans and be spontaneous. Go for it.
5. You’re Allowed to Spend Time Apart
We (hopefully) don’t spend every waking moment with our partners. So why do we feel compelled to do so on a vacation? I’m not talking about spending days apart here, but there’s nothing wrong with grabbing coffee with an old friend while your beloved goes to that art exhibit you have no interest in. I recently spent a lovely afternoon sunbathing on a beach in New Zealand while my partner ran a local 5k in a nearby park. You get to recharge your batteries, and you both get to do what you want to do. Love means never having to say “You’re climbing a mountain with me at 6am.”
6. Be a Hometown Tourist
Having friends in from out of town is a great reminder that the place you live can be pretty awesome. I visit more local sights and museums with visitors than I do with my honey. So take a long weekend and become a tourist on your own turf. I’ve been an LA native for almost 10 years, but I still haven’t scratched the surface of everything the city has to offer. My bae and I spent a weekend old Hollywood-style: we booked a room at the luxurious Beverly Hilton, home of the Golden Globes and the Emmys, ate at The Ivy, and re-enacted scenes from Pretty Woman on Rodeo Drive. Sometimes the most exotic place is right in your own backyard.
7. Have an Anticipation Activity
Do something fun together that builds excitement for your trip. If you’re going to Italy, why not take a couple’s pasta making class? Going to China? Take a Mandarin class together. My bae and I are total cinephiles, so we spent the weeks leading up to our big Paris trip watching classic films shot in the city. Watching An American in Paris and Paris Je T’aime got us psyched for our trip and made the experience last longer.
8. Eat Like a Local
One of the best parts of traveling is sampling the local cuisine. But eating out is expensive, and sometimes not authentic. Make like a native and hit up local farmers’ markets and food shops. Instead of splurging on an expensive breakfast, stock your hotel fridge with local delicacies and snacks. Be advised, Kinder eggs do not make a suitable breakfast.
9. Be Anti-Social Media
One of the best parts of being on vacation is unplugging from your daily life. So why are you still on your phone? You don’t need to hashtag or Instagram every waking moment of your vacation—especially if you’re with your honey. Enjoy each other’s company and live in the moment. Take plenty of pictures and put them in a digital album when you get home. Your friends will thank you for not clogging their feed with every step of your trip.
10. Spend the Day in Bed
Real talk: Traveling can be exhausting. Between jetlag, stress, and walking miles every day, you’re gonna get worn out. Recently, my bae and I were so dead tired on a trip we spent the entire day in bed. We ordered room service, watched crappy movies, and—you get it. We spent the rest of the trip refreshed and recharged. Sometimes the best time is doing nothing at all.