5 Tips For Traveling With Your S.O.

Photo: Getty Images.
Vacations are supposed to be fun, but sometimes traveling with a significant other can be difficult. Case in point: the three-month camping trip I took with my long-term boyfriend (now ex) through Alberta and British Columbia, Canada, last summer.

We’d been together for more than a decade, so it wasn’t like we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. Maybe our relationship wasn’t rock-solid at the time, but we enjoyed each other’s company well enough, and the prospect of an extended period of time in the great outdoors seemed exciting. I could not have been more wrong. I walked away from the trip (a) never wanting to travel with him again, ever, period, and (b) never wanting to travel with anyone for that long, ever, period. And this is coming from a person who once traveled half the year for work. I’m not afraid of distance, but I’m an independent woman who likes a big, wide berth of uninterrupted alone time and space. The Great Canadian Road Trip was our death knell.

Heed the tips ahead (and learn from my mistakes), so you and your S.O. can survive (and thrive) during your summer getaway.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
It can’t be all "we" all of the time. Sure, I want to explore the joys of discovery with my S.O.; I’m an adult woman who still gets downright giddy about firsts. But I also want to get out and about to experience life on the streets by myself — even if it’s just for a few hours at a café, perusing a bookstore, or planting my butt on a park bench.

If you’re committed and coupled, you’ll get a much different experience if you fly solo for a little while. And I don’t mean that in a creepy way. When I’m exploring with an S.O., I’m much more closed off to spontaneous interactions, often because I’m too caught up in him to care about the outside world. Do yourself a favor and take a time-out to explore solo.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
“Though it might seem like good common sense to discuss budget with your partner before embarking on a trip, it's easy to overlook this (sometimes uncomfortable) step when you're reveling in pre-trip euphoria,” says travel writer and expert Valerie Conners. Nobody, she explains, plans on "getting to a destination and realizing that not only can you not afford the romantic dinners for two you'd imagined, but even sipping sunset cocktails is breaking the bank.”

She advises travelers to check their finances against the length of time they'll be traveling and create a per diem budget that's realistic. This means taking into consideration obvious expenses, like your hotel and meals, as well as activities and incidentals, like taxi fare or souvenirs.

“With your budget in mind, book your hotel or apartment rental, and start researching meal and activity costs,” she says. “Make sure both you and your partner are comfortable with the amount of money you're spending, and that it affords you a few simple luxuries, like a couples' spa treatment, or a special activity like scuba diving.”

If you're still concerned about budget, Conners suggests considering what things you're both content to skimp on and which things you don't want to miss; perhaps book accommodation that includes breakfast or allows you to prepare some meals, so that you can spend money on other priorities, like entertainment.

“Unfortunately, dealing with money can be a serious downer and a cause for conflict when you're mid-vacation,” she says. “Avoid undue stress (it's vacation, after all), by clearing the air and getting on the same page before hitting the road.”
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
“When my husband and I started dating, we realized quickly that we had very different traveling styles,” shares Christy Karras, travel writer and author. “He's a planner. Although (or maybe because) I plan travel all the time for my job, when I travel for fun I like to go by the seat of my pants.” Pretty quickly, Karras and her husband decided to look at these differences not as "right" or "wrong," but as complementing each other. “You can either let your differences drive you nuts, or you can compromise — and compromising is a lot easier to do when we see things as styles rather than as good or bad,” she says.

Their first trip together was three weeks traveling in New Zealand by RV. He, the planner, got to drive the RV. After the first couple of days, they didn't make any reservations, which suited Karras’ style. “On our last trip together (to Spain), we planned all of our accommodations and much of the itinerary in advance, but when we had three hours to kill and I wanted to do a whirlwind tour of Gibraltar, he was game.”

“He likes to be early; I'm usually running late. We finally compromised this way: He gives me a time by which I need to be ready to go, and I strive to make that time — as long as he doesn't comment on how I go about it or opine about whether it appears I'll make it or not. I used to be casual about when I got to the airport, and he liked to be two hours before a flight. We compromised at an hour and 15 minutes before flight time. We both give a little, but there's no keeping score.”

If they disagree on something, the couple often takes a step back to mull the situation over for a little bit before they return to the conversation. "We'll drop it for anything from a few minutes to a few days, think about it from our own and each other's perspectives, and then come back together, often with new ideas about how to make it work,” says Karras. “That moment of mulling might also make one of us realize that we don't really feel strongly about the outcome, so we're okay with doing what the other person wants. This moment away isn't always possible when you're in the thick of it, but it's great for planning.”

Basically, it boils down to empathy and an easygoing attitude, she says. “We both believe that the other person's happiness is as important as our own, which makes compromise pretty easy. If you want things your own way all the time, you should probably travel alone. When I do travel alone, I delight a bit in my messy hotel room and weird jaunts off-schedule. But when we're together, priorities are different.”
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
“I prize few things more than the way my partner Doug and I can roll through a crisis, staying calm and cracking jokes,” says journalist and photographer Amanda Castleman. “While on the road, we sometimes fuss about small stuff, but when push comes to shove, we’re on the same team, 100%.”

The couple recently spent a week in Spain and had to drive their friend to the emergency room. Happily, it turned out not to be anything serious. Unhappily, Castleman and Co. discovered the car had been towed to a mystery location, and no one’s phone was working to track it down.

“We divided forces and conquered: getting everyone fed (...less hangry) and finding the impound lot,” says Castleman. “When we arrived, the attendant got very excited about our hometown and shouted, ‘SEATTLE! FIFTY SHADES OF GREY!’ It wound up being one of our most hilarious and cherished memories of the trip.”
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
My sex life was down-and-out before we embarked on the great Canadian adventure, so there weren’t any super-hot makeout sessions by the campfire or fornication in the tent. Instead, I found myself desperately trying to carve out time to masturbate and stream porn from shaky Wi-Fi connections (if available at all). Porn and Parks Canada don’t mix — trust me.

That TMI disclosure aside, I believe it’s important to carve out time for intimacy when traveling. It’s easy to get caught up in the go-go-go pace of wanting to do and see it all, but it’s still vital to connect with your partner.

Even though you may be on the greatest adventure of your whole damn life, you’re still a couple with sexual wants, needs, and desires — so don’t deny ‘em.