Adventure trips can be some of the best travel of your life. Discovering new places, getting your adrenaline up, and meeting new people are experiences that stick with you for a lifetime. At the same time, though, adventure travel has the potential to be stressful because you’re in a new situation or place. And, when you’re traveling as a couple, the stress can be multiplied. Here are some of the best ways that my husband Robert and I have found to quench our desire for adventure travel and limit stress and the potential for unnecessary fighting.
1. Start with expectations.
“Starting with expectations” sounds a bit formal and silly, but it’s actually so important before even booking your trip. People can have vastly different interpretations of what “adventure travel” means, and it’s important that you and your partner at least talk about what you’re wanting to get out of the trip. Some people what hiking, camping, and rock climbing, while others may view adventure travel as getting to know the locals and exploring ancient ruins in a group tour. Know where you and your partner are at from the very get-go.
If you’re both at odds with what the goal of the vacation is, consider how you might compromise so that you get a bit of both during the trip. There are lots of locations that can likely satisfy both of you. Identify what’s most important and figure out a way to make it work.
2. Decide on a budget.
Nobody likes to talk about finances, especially on vacation, so it’s important to talk about this before you go. Being on the same page about money can make your trip vastly more enjoyable because one person won’t be stressing about how much the other person is spending! Money issues can create fights quickly and ruin an otherwise enjoyable time, so be sure to talk about this in-depth and agree to a budget.
After agreeing to a budget (or agreeing to a “range” can be helpful, too), I like to set priorities for certain activities and make sure that we at least get to do these top priority options. Other things like food, accommodations, etc., can be flexible, but ensuring that we actually get to do those things that we are most excited about helps us come away from the trip totally satisfied, even if our budget isn’t ideal.
3. Pick out excursions together.
As referenced in point 1, people can have totally different goals for a trip. This is why it’s really helpful to pick out excursions together, as opposed to one person doing all of the planning. This way, each person ensures that they get to do something that they’re excited about.
You don’t have to both love going to ancient ruins or just freak out about a certain campground. Some excursions you might both equally enjoy, while others might be specifically to excite the other person. That’s okay, as getting to see your partner in their element can be just as satisfying as being in your own. Just make sure to make room for both of your passions. You are a couple, after all 🙂
3. Have a flexible plan.
A lot of adventurers love the idea of “just going” and figuring it out as you go along. And, while that can be totally exciting, it can very easily turn into a stressful situation. Traveling already adds on a layer of stress, and when you’re coordinating it with another person, it might be good to have a loose plan of events so that you’re both on the same page. You don’t have to plan everything to a tee, but having some options in mind isn’t the worse thing in the world. You can always change course if desired when you get there.
Personally, I like to find some great places to eat and/or pick up food before heading out on a trip. It keeps us from sitting in the hotel room or hostel or wherever asking each other, “Well, where do you want to go?” Plus, if you both take a look at the options and agree that they look good, it can keep you from bickering about it on the actual vacation.
4. Book all of the important stuff ahead of time.
Again, stress can be easily heightened and exacerbated when you’re in an unfamiliar place or doing something new. To keep it at bay as much as possible, book all of your most important tasks ahead of time. Here’s what I like to make sure that we have booked before going:
- Accommodations (Hotels, Campgrounds, etc.)
- Rentals (Car rental, camping gear rentals (or at least knowing places that will rent them), etc.)
- Top priority excursions
Things are sure to go awry on any trip, and being flexible is key. But having some solid things logged and waiting for you when you arrive is tremendously helpful. Do the hard work before you go, and your trip will be that much more enjoyable.
5. Divide up travel responsibilities according to strengths.
It can be mentally taxing on one person – meaning that stress and/or fights may more easily occur – if they are doing all of the planning and coordinating. It’s a great idea to share travel responsibilities according to each person’s strengths.
If one person is better at directions than the other, let them guide the way from locale to locale. If the other is better at scheduling, make sure they are the one coordinating with hotels and excursion companies. Even simple tasks like who is in charge of remembering to get the room key and lock the door can be divvied out so that needless arguments don’t occur. If everyone knows what they are in charge of ahead of time, it’s likely that things will go smoother than otherwise. Plus, it keeps one person from being “bossy” during the trip and the other from getting annoyed at them. 🙂
The one thing to remember here, though, is that not everything is going to go perfectly. The person in charge of the room key might actually forget it one night, or maybe the hotel accidentally double booked your room. Try not to freak out on the other person if something they are charge of doesn’t go quite right. Travel naturally goes awry, and that’s part of the experience.
6. Bring snacks.
Food is especially important on adventure trips because you’re likely moving more than usual or might be a bit more stressed because you’re in unfamiliar territory. THIS IS WHERE SNACKS COME IN. Robert and I keep a stash of snacks on us during any trip because – believe it or not – being hungry can be the real source of a stupid argument.
Most of the time, you may not even realize you’re hungry because you’re moving so fast. If your partner is being snippier than usual, you might try handing them a filling snack. During many a stupid fight, Robert and I have used handing the other food as a way of saying, “Hey, you’re not being quite yourself,” in a nice way. More often than not, the other person ends up laughing at the gesture because – after seeing the food – they know that’s the problem. (Now, of course, don’t just throw food at them to let them know they’re being a jerk. That won’t do anything but exacerbate the problem. But a slight smile and gesture of food goes a long way to snapping the other back to reality.)
7. Be open, honest, and attentive.
Communication is important in any relationship, but it’s especially important while traveling together. Be sure to listen to your partner, and be open and honest about your own feelings. This will help you solve disagreements more quickly than at home, where a host of things serve to distract you. Being able to resolve conflict is key to a fun, happy travel experience. And its good practice for when at home, too 🙂
8. Allow for downtime and/or alone time.
When you’re traveling, you’re together all the time. That can be great and a blessing, but you’re likely not used to it, either, and that means fights can happen more easily. If you need some downtime, be sure to communicate that to your partner. Maybe you’ll put off the hike until tomorrow morning, or you’ll eat in tonight instead of going out.
Alone time is sometimes necessary, too, especially if it’s a long trip. Know that it’s okay to go off and do something by yourself for a little while, such as reading a book in the tent or taking a walk by yourself. Sometimes people just need a moment by themselves to regain their energy and excitement. Be sure to allow your partner time for that without taking it personally, and communicate when you’re needing that time, as well.
9. Yell “Plot Twist” when necessary.
My favorite advice is “Whenever life throws something unexpected at you, just yell ‘Plot Twist!’ and keep going.” And that’s especially true when traveling! Things are destined to go wrong on any trip; the best way I’ve found to cope with this is to simply expect things to go awry. And then just deal with it. Freaking out doesn’t get you anywhere and only serves to add more stress. Literally yelling “Plot Twist!” or something to that effect can lighten both your mood and your partner’s in a time of stress.
Your perspective is the most important thing you have control of when you’re abroad. Having a good one can make a world of difference for both you and your partner.
What’s your best advice for couples who travel together?
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