Tips for Couples Traveling Together
Traveling with your partner is a pretty fanfreakintastic experience. What better way to grow closer together than through meeting new places, people and pastries? My husband, Josh and I have been all over together and literally traveled 300,000 miles side by side on planes, trains and automobiles.
I did the math. Josh and I have sat beside each other for 200+ hours on international flights to 14 countries. That's not including domestic trips in the United States. Daaaaang. Now that's a lot of quality time in a 2'x2' space.
Josh getting some beauty sleep en route to Vero Beach, Florida.
This may or may not be his first time seeing this photo.
Traveling, of course, provides an incredible gateway to the world. And in doing so together, Josh and I continue to grow and deepen our relationship. If you're curious where we've been in the past 8 years, please check out the interactive Google Map below!
But traveling together is not always rose petals and pastries (yummm). In fact, traveling itself is far from romantic. There's actually quite a lot of hustle happening behind the scenes. No one posts photos on social media of this stuff. You know, the actual traveling. To that end, I've learned a few lessons about traveling together that I'd like to share with you.
This is Josh's luggage for a two-week trip to Japan. What's your packing strategy?
1. Create a Budget
Establish a trip budget together before you arrive at the airport. We once made the mistake of trying to do this at LAX before boarding a 13 hour flight to Tokyo. Um, very stressful. Don't wait to create a budget until after the trip's already started!
Now, we always decide a few weeks in advance how much we want to spend each day of our trip to include accommodations, meals and snacks, entertainment (e.g., museums, concerts, experiences) and transportation. There are always a few unexpected costs, such as international cell phone use ($10/day with Verizon), ATM cash withdraws through your home bank, and daily city taxes you pay to your hotel at the end of your stay (e.g., Rome and Paris). After airfare, we decide on a daily budget and stick to it. After all, everything you do when you’re traveling revolves around a financial decision. I can’t stress enough how important it is to travel WITH a mutually agreed upon budget.
If you only remember one tip from this post, just remember to decide together
how much <gluten-free Italian> bread you want to spend on this trip!
If you like to bring back goodies and treats like me, definitely account for souvenirs in the budget. Without guardrails, I could easily spend hundreds of dollars per trip for souvenirs for friends and family. Now that my girlfriends have adorable babies? Thank God we have a budget or else they'd all have brand new Parisian wardrobes. One of my favorite all-time travel souvenirs is the handcrafted mask below from Alberto Sarria in Venice, Italy.
Souvenirs also take up precious room in your suitcase, which could lead to increased luggage fees, having to check a bag and even lost baggage. It's just good to keep that in mind from a space standpoint. Budgeting from all angles is truly the most important tip I can share as we continue to learn from trial and error.
Waiting <and exhausted> at San Jose's baggage carousel after an 11 hour flight from London. I had purchased several liquidy gifts for friends on this trip (i.e. caramel, lotion), so Czech TSA had me check it
all the way through from Prague.
2. Be Patient
This is key on air travel days, because if you're anything like me you'll be exhausted from dragging luggage, shuffling through crowded terminals, passing through customs and securing safe ground transportation. You will want a nap. And a snack. Or both at the same time.
Here I am in Kyoto, Japan with both of our bags taking the 1 mile walk from the train station to our hotel.
Josh calls this "Luggage Ashley" mode, because I get really intense until we reach our destination.
I am not at my best after a 15 hour flight. In fact, I'm a gremlin. The disorienting fog of jet lag leaves me feeling crumby and not myself, so I try not to overreact or be a menace just because I’m tired. When I’m feeling like a grumpy ol' bridge troll, Josh shows me love instead of irritation.
This is what travel really looks like! If you've ever been curious what jet lag looks like after a 22-hour travel day from Kuala Lumpur to Washington, DC...here it is.
On these days, love is always found in the little things. Knowing how cracked out I'm <definitely> feeling, Josh will just go ahead and order me a double espresso or a bottle of water when we land. And when I know he’s feeling sore from the cramped airplane seats, I’ll give him a little neck rub or offer to carry his luggage. Communicate what you need and communicate how you can help.
Don’t keep score of who’s doing what, just try and lighten your partner’s load whenever you can. When you or your partner are just arriving to a new place after a long day of travel, remember to show a little extra lovingkindness to one another.
Refueling at our second home, Tom Bradley International at LAX.
3. Do Your Own Thang
It’s okay to spend a bit of time apart on your trip! Part of traveling together, is knowing what sorts of activities you both like to do as a duo and what activities you enjoy separately. It’s okay to spend a bit of time apart on your trip! Can I repeat that? You are not one human, so it's totally normal you'll want to do different things sometimes.
For example, I love to explore crafts markets, browse boutiques or book a hair appointment. Josh does not like shopping, so I don't force him to go shopping with me! The ooooonly time he was really, really excited about a market was The Temple Street Night Market near our hotel in Hong Kong. We found a shop that ONLY sold electronic gadgets. He was grinning ear to ear the entire time.
USB ports! Chargers! Cord Splitters! We spent a half hour in here and Josh came home with some new gadgets.
When I'm shopping around, Josh also likes to walk around and listen to an audio book about the area. We'll make an old school plan to meet back in a few hours at a local landmark. It’s fun to then reunite and share what we did in our little solo adventures, infusing fresh energy into our experience.
HA! I got a $5 hair wash and blowdry in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The stylist wet my hair with a ketchup bottle (without a wash bin) and lathered it into a tall spire.
4. Show Grace
Your partner will make a mistake and guess what? So will you. Whether it’s missing a cab, getting lost in translation or misunderstanding the price of something, things will go "wrong" from time to time. Our car got broken into in San Francisco when we were visiting a Cat Cafe for lunch (yes, you read that correctly) and while I was completely hysterical, can you tell how calm Josh was? Instead of blaming me for accidentally leaving valuables in the car, we just filed a police report and moved on with our trip.
I took this photo in the moment to capture just how calm Josh was. And don't worry,
I was laughing again in just a few minutes :)
Josh would like to add here that sometimes you’ll accidentally choose an activity that wasn’t as fun as what you expected and that we both make errors with understanding museum operating hours. For example, two years ago we took a $60 Uber ride to Versailles and guess what...the Palace is closed on Mondays so we could only walk around outside in the cold.
LOL. It happens. Laugh and move on. We ended up having a blast exploring the empty gardens and reading about the Sun King on his trusty Wikipedia page. It’s normal to make errors when you’re in a new environment, especially when there's a language barrier.
5. Help with the Boring Parts
It's a lot of work to plan a trip. Lots of forms. Lots of slow loading web pages. You'll need to book airfare, find lodging, navigate transportation, book experiences and each little thing is essentially a financial decision. Make sure you're on the same page. Make sure the pressure isn’t all on one person. Share in the experience of slugging through the tougher stuff like comparing bus schedules. Because Josh travels so frequently for his job, he's incredible at planning flight itineraries so I'll usually research and book our lodging. We each do a little of this and a little of that.
Keeping up with business at home means we always need wifi at our hotels and a trusted International cell phone plan. Here's Josh on a quick late-night call in Prague.
6. Share the Memories
Josh and I always set up a shared iPhoto photo gallery and invite our close family members to come along for the ride. Instead of posting tons of things on social media that take me away from our trip, it feels much more natural for me to create a private album for just our families to experience. This won't be true for everyone, but it works for us. It's easy, fun and I live for my grandmother's hilarious comments throughout the album.
7. Log Off
Aside from our massive shared family photo albums, I take a little break from social media to be fully present with Josh throughout the trip. Yes, I sign-in to Facebook and Instagram from time to time to look up photos of places we’re going, but mostly I'm offline. It makes me a little sad when I see a couple at a beautiful bistro just blank-faced, mindlessly scrolling on their phones and completing missing the moment. Trust me, all the online nonsense will be waiting right there for you when you get home and I promise...you're not missing a thing. Be where you are.
8. Create a Budget (See #1)
Hey! It's me again! Back to budgeting. In case you’re new to it, here’s how to calculate your daily expenses:
(TOTAL SPENDING LIMIT – AIRFARE) / NUMBER OF DAYS
So for example, let’s say you have $2,000 to spend on your 5-day trip and airfare to that place costs $500 round trip for two people. The formula is $2,000 minus $500 for airfare equals $1,500. Now divide by 5 days and you get $300. That’s how much you can spend each day. If your hotel costs, say, $100 per night, you have $200 left over for everything else (food, entertainment, shopping, etc).
If you’ve never budgeted or have trouble sticking with it, here’s a pro tip: It’s easy to let credit or debit transactions add up without noticing. Instead, visit an ATM and get out your $200 cash each day (or $1,000 for all 5 days). That’s your spending limit.
If you’re traveling internationally, most foreign ATMs charge big fees as do money changers at the airport. The best way to get cash in a foreign country is to go to your local bank before leaving home.
I can't tell you how many stupid tiffs and arguments Josh and I have bypassed, not because we're awesome, but because we already decided how much we were spending. There are a lot less financial surprises that way, which for us, makes the whole trip a helluva lot more fun.
9. Know your ABC’s
Josh’s personal travel motto is jokingly “Always Be Charging” because he never wants to run out of cell phone power. We always pack two USB power outlets that suit the country we’re visiting so neither of us runs out of battery, which makes trip planning that much easier. On that note, definitely know your partner's unique ABCs. You probably know their special quirks inside and out, so figure out what their own silly travel motto is and make sure they know your priorities too.
9. Fall in Love
Connect. Celebrate. Cast aside the little stuff that goes "wrong" and look for what's already going right.
Thank you so much for coming along on the adventure with me! What have you learned from traveling with your lover? I'd love to hear from you, so please share your own travel tips in the comments.