It’s summertime. For many, thoughts turn to vacation time, and ways to enjoy the good weather and long hours of daylight. If you’ve been dating awhile but have not taken a trip together, maybe it’s time to explore some new destinations as a couple. Planning and embarking on a vacation together is exciting. Don’t let nerves dissuade you. Good communication is key as you plan your first trip together.
Here are some tips for a successful first time away as a couple:
Duration. This is your first chance to experience one another in this way. Why put a lot of pressure on yourselves right from the start? For your first time away together, I suggest keeping it short. A long weekend—3-4 days to start with. Then plan that longer trip for later on once you know for sure this is going to be great fun!
Planning. Planning your trip together will contribute to the excitement and take the pressure off one person doing all the heavy lifting. Plus a joint exercise means no surprises, and no one can complain about the hotel, flight schedule, car rental…because you’ll both know what’s up.
Destination. When it comes to destinations, even couples with different hobbies and interests can agree on places to go. If each of you makes a list of three vacation “wants” for your destination (e.g. good restaurants, biking, and museums) you can cross reference and plan accordingly.
Finances. Decide how you’re going to pay before you start planning, so there will be no surprises and no hurt feelings. Options: you split everything 50-50; you pay hotel/your date pays meals/air fare dutch; expenses are divvied according to income (if you make twice what your date makes, you pay accordingly). Whatever you end up deciding, you both need to be okay with the plan so money stress does not put a damper on your fun.
Expectations. Get real and be on board. Whatever you and your partner are expecting should be shared with one another. Be honest and ask what your date is dreaming of too. Are you imagining a romantic weekend with candlelit dinners or a sightseeing extravaganza or an adventure-a-minute?
Time management. How are you going to spend every moment of your time? Is being inseparable okay with both of you, or do one or both of you need time alone? Make it clear. If you need alone time to exercise or meditate, say so. Being attached at the hip might be what you both desperately need after months of juggling work schedules. Or it might be overwhelming to one of you—and that’s okay. Being honest about your needs will give your partner better insight into you.
The chill factor. In other words—don’t be so invested in your “plan” that you can’t enjoy yourself when changes happen or when unexpected opportunities arise. Exploring new destinations is a complete change of routine….go with it… be spontaneous.
Memories. You’ll make a lot of memories on this first trip. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures. Let yourselves be silly and obnoxious with that iPhone or camera. Ask strangers to snap you. Take selfies in front of cool places. You won’t regret it. Then print them or create a photo book to share with each other and reminisce… until the next great trip.
A trip together is a chance to experience one another in an entirely different way, with less stress, fewer external demands, and waaaay more time to smell the coffee/roses/roasted garlic/salt air… whatever it is you want to be smelling.
A few DOs and DON’Ts:
Don’t be a caretaker. If you obsess about how your partner is enjoying the trip you might forget to enjoy it yourself.
Do check in with yourself and your date. How do you feel? Safe? Compatible? Frustrated? Anxious?
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Case in point: get enough sleep, eat well, and hydrate. Nothing can derail a vacation quicker than sleep deprivation, dehydration, or an unhappy tummy. Put your foot down. If your partner needs fewer hours of sleep than you do, fine. But get what you need. If you feel good, you’ll have fun.
Do take this opportunity to get to know your partner better. Observe how he or she reacts in certain situations—when things don’t go as planned, like flight delays or poor service, and when things go better than planned—those magical moments of bliss.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, your date, the trip itself. Let it be what it is. Enjoy the time, enjoy your date, enjoy yourself. Be careful not to invest every experience with momentous meaning. Sometimes missing the train, getting lost, or losing your keys is just bad luck, not a “sign.”
Do…exactly what you and your date want to do. There are no “shoulds” and there is no “right way” to enjoy a vacation. You can see every museum within a 60 mile radius or you can sit at cafés all day sipping café con leche and chatting about baseball and Orange is the New Black. Being in the moment and being together—that’s the point, right?
Remember: this is time for you both, together and individually. You will take care of each other and yourselves, and get to know more about one another. You’ll see different sides of your partner and get to know his or her hopes and dreams, see his or her consideration, ability to compromise, resilience—or lack thereof. There is no “perfect” and we all know travel can be stressful as well as fun, so just roll with it, be kind, be flexible, live in the moment, and… have fun! Happy travels!