Different interests, a single itinerary. On the road, where you won't have your own cars, jobs in different offices, other friends to hang out with or a big house to wander around, a little togetherness can cause a lot of trouble. It can ruin a trip, or even a relationship.
It doesn't matter whether you're married, significant others, good friends or merely just headed the same direction -- it's well worth it to put in the time, thought and effort that will let you enjoy each other's company without driving each other crazy. Read on for our ideas and tips.
What's Your Style?
The first step in planning a peaceful trip is to identify your differences. Do you prefer to wake up late and trip the night fantastic, or would you rather be up and at 'em at dawn? Do you like to plan each step of your itinerary or leave it all to chance? Would you rather linger over meals or scarf them down and get moving again? Travel styles can differ greatly, even between spouses or close friends.
Understand that these differences will be an issue, and be sure to talk about how to handle them before your trip begins. Compatible travel styles are probably more important than identical interests in predicting a successful travel partnership. Respect each other's style and be prepared to meet in the middle. There is no way but negotiation to settle such fundamental differences.
Choosing Your Destination
If there's anything on which you need a solid consensus, this is it. No matter what plans you make, precautions you take or tolerance you fake, if your trip takes you to the beach and your companion hates the ocean, you're probably doomed.
Make sure that both parties are involved in the decision-making process.Try to pick a destination that you'll both love or that has enough activities that no one gets bored. Former IndependentTraveler.com editor Carrie Calzaretta emphatically endorses this advice:
"Although [my husband and I] were more than apprehensive about the idea of spending a week on a cruise ship for our honeymoon (crammed into a tiny cabin, dining with talkative strangers), we both knew there was no better way to see French Polynesia," Calzaretta says. "So on day one, armed with our shore excursion sheets, we proceeded to pick out three activities a day, every day, for the duration of the trip. Horseback riding, scuba diving, safaris, you name it. For the most part we went together, but there were days when one went to the woods, the other to the shore.
"That time spent away from each other actually brought us closer together; back at the ship we sat on the deck for hours and caught each other up on the events of the day."
Check Each Other's Energy Levels
Just because you are gung-ho to take a walking tour of every pub mentioned in James Joyce's "Ulysses" doesn't mean your traveling partner is up for the same. An important time to check each other's energy levels is right at the beginning of your trip; did one of you just come off a particularly tough stretch at work? Is one of you looking forward to a leisurely pace, the other ready to see all of Europe on $25 in 24 hours?
Your saturation point and stamina may differ greatly as well; hitting your stride together might be even more important than hitting the sights together.
Equal Time or Just Equal Fun
When planning your trip or even your day, it's usually a little like dance class; someone has to lead, and someone has to follow. If your relationship is based on equal time, it's best to know when it's your turn to lead and when to follow.
If you and your companion have different interests, try to divide the itinerary so that each of you has a roughly equal number of activities to look forward to -- and be sure you lead the way on the parts of the trip you care most about. Which leads us to our next tip...
Do Your Own Legwork
Want to go to a museum? Find out for yourself what tickets cost, how to get there and when it's open. Then when you drag your companion along, he or she doesn't have to worry about all the logistical hassles and might actually enjoy the experience. Sweeten the pot by paying the admission fee or treating your companion to lunch as well.
When choosing your destination, be careful to consider cultural and language factors. Does one of you know a language well, while the other can only garble a few basic phrases? Is one of you an expert skier, the other strictly a kiddie-sloper? One of you might feel left out in these cases.
Consider One Another's Routines
What about routine activities, like a cherished daily run or leisurely breakfast? Not everyone accounts for these types of activities when planning a trip, but forcing your partner to go without can cause considerable friction.
If you are addicted to your 7 a.m. jog or to sipping coffee and reading the newspaper all morning, get up 30 minutes early to make your routine fit.
Break Out So You Don't Break Up
Don't be afraid to launch out alone. This may not be advisable late at night or in dangerous neighborhoods, so you should consider these issues carefully. But as Calzaretta notes above, it doesn't hurt to take a walk on your own or to head your separate ways for a day or an afternoon.
Taking Your Work With You
These days, it's the rare person who can leave his or her work behind completely while traveling. If you absolutely must stay in touch with the office, do it on your own time. Wake up early to answer email or make calls while your companion naps. Plan in advance when you are going to work and give your companion enough notice to make other plans. (Get more tips in How to Escape While Staying Connected.)
Pack Separate Bags
Especially for short trips, it may seem more efficient to pack a single checked bag and then take separate carry-ons. Think twice before you do this.
First off, one person ends up carrying it -- which can lead to resentment if one of you has to lug a heavy bag bulging with the other's souvenirs.
Second, packing style is a very personal trait. Some people are neat, compartmentalizing clean and dirty clothes, shirts and pants, etc. Others stuff dirty clothes into corners, pile everything else in and sit on the bag to get it to shut. There'll be enough differences to deal with; skip this one.
When traveling solo, if you get tired you simply skip an event or two. When traveling together, one person's optional event is another's dream day. If you schedule in some down time, you'll be able to kick back without forcing anyone to give up cherished activities.
Agree on a General Budget
Keep Your Head in a Crisis
In the event of airport delays, lost luggage and other minor disasters, stay cool and consider carefully whether to open your mouth. Angry words said in a stressful moment can have lasting effects throughout the rest of your trip. (Prepare for the worst with our tips for coping with travel trouble.)
Share the Load for Decisions
I've found that traveling with someone who always agrees, always defers and always does whatever I want to do is harder than traveling with an itinerary tyrant. I'd rather someone speak his or her mind than go along miserably.
On the other hand, there's nothing like travel to bring out the control freak in some folks. If one of you particularly savors or has a talent for dealing with logistics, let that person have at it!
Talk About It
Especially on a leisure trip or vacation, everything is flexible. Changing plans can be as simple as saying something like, "I'm tired; want to sleep in tomorrow?" Your companion might just agree. Alternatively, if he or she has done the legwork as I advise above, your companion might reply that the ferry to the mountain hike doesn't run again until the afternoon, and that if you miss it, you're not going hiking that day.
Often the best and most memorable travel is unexpected and unscripted; it can be trickier to find these happy accidents when traveling with another person, but it can be done.
Special Concerns: Visiting Family
Many of us like to take our partners back to the place we grew up, to give them the grand tour. And as often as not, they find themselves sitting in living rooms reminiscing over times and events that they never experienced.
For you, sitting around with old friends and family is perfectly amusing; for your traveling partner, it gets old -- fast. Be sure to plan enough time so that the trip actually feels like a vacation, rather than a never-ending meet-and-greet.
A Simple "Thank You" Never Hurts
If your companion has spent the day tagging along on your idea of a good time, a sincere "thank you for coming with me; it was better with you along" goes a long way.
Don't Forget to Smell the Roses