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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips This post was updated July 20, 2020..

You’ve been cooped up with your significant other or besty roommate for months, and now you want to travel with that person? Okay, but just promise us you’ll read this first. Because we get it: Traveling with a close friend or a romantic companion is a fantastic way to unplug from day-to-day life and grow your relationship. But remember, it’s also a fantastic way to become so fed up with that person that you never want to see them again. You’re out of your routine, you constantly have decisions to make, you’re under pressure to pack a certain level of enjoyment into a finite amount of time, and you’re with each other CONSTANTLY. That said, it’s possible to finish the trip just as fond of your companion as you were when you began—or more—especially if you take these 11 rules to heart.

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1. Build in some activities where there’s no pressure to talk to each other

No matter how much you and your traveling partner delight each other, the pressure to keep breezy and whimsical conversation going can start to wear thin after a couple of days. Make sure you’re including some time where neither of you has to be “on.” Couples massages are fantastic if that’s in your budget. If not, knocking out a podcast while you stare into the ocean is equally fantastic. Also, it’s certainly not mandatory to have a time where you’re doing completely separate activities, but depending on how closely your interests align it might not be a bad idea to plan for an afternoon where you each fly solo.

2. Compromise is more important than completing your itinerary

There will be a time, probably around day five or six of your trip, where there’s an item on your daily agenda that your traveling partner simply isn’t up for. “But the art museum?!” you say to yourself. “We must go to the art museum for it is written in my plan!” Take a deep breath. Ponder how much you REALLY want to visit said art museum. If it is truly something you’ve been pining to see for years, maybe refer to rule number one and make this a day you go your separate ways. But if it’s just an item you’re checking off the list, consider letting your partner take the reins for the day, even if “taking the reins” means sleeping in and having a really big lunch.

3. Be sure at least one of you is always in possession of a snack

Speaking of lunch, hunger is the spark that lights the fire of many a vacation argument. Keep some kind of substantive, satisfying snack on hand to ward off such developments. Snickers built a whole ad campaign around this, though melted chocolate can be hazardous in travel scenarios. Roasted nuts are a solid choice. Gogurt is … less solid, but hey, whatever it takes to keep the hangry monster at bay. You do you.

4. Working out together is a surprisingly effective tension reliever

Maybe your hotel has a fitness center. Maybe there’s some boutique studio nearby that offers a free first trial class. Maybe you don’t need an organized physical activity because you’re staying near incredibly picturesque mountains and you’re going to climb one of them. The point is, committing to a couple of workouts (and this means REAL workouts, not half-heartedly splashing around in the pool) during your trip has a way of boosting moods, knocking out jet lag, and making you feel slightly less guilty about the various local delicacies you’re about to devour with reckless abandon.* It’s truly a win-win for everyone.

*Note: If traveling to New Orleans, double or maybe triple your intended workout regimen.

5. Make sure you’re in agreement on who drives better before renting a car

Renting a car can be stressful, especially when traveling abroad, especially if said country has incredibly narrow roads and drives on the side of the road opposite what you’re used to. Don’t add stress to an already fraught situation by having lingering bitterness over who should be behind the wheel. Now, in some relationships one person’s already firmly entrenched as the driver, but if there’s any ambiguity, this is a conversation that needs to take place beforehand. And if you’re both eager to take the wheel, there’s nothing wrong with splitting duties so long as you can both avoid backseat (or rather, passenger seat) driving when you aren’t the one in charge.

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6. Address your respective spending habits before you get there

If one party feels coerced into spending more than they’re comfortable with, it’s a surefire ticket to conflict at some point during your trip. This doesn’t mean you need to plan out every expense down to the penny, but you had better make sure your general budgetary expectations align, especially if you’re traveling together for the first time. If one of you has Michelin-star taste and the other is more McDonald’s, meet in the middle and figure out a splurge or two that’ll keep everyone happy without necessitating any mounting credit card debt or black market kidney sales.

7. Assume you’re going to get a little bit lost

We live in the age of GPS, and you should absolutely embrace it and use it as much as possible. That said, GPS isn’t a complete failsafe. Sometimes service gets spotty. Sometimes you miss a turn anyway. Sometimes the restaurant isn’t where Google says it is and … wait just how many Peachtree Streets ARE there in Atlanta? The point is, build in a little extra time for unexpected hiccups whenever you’re going somewhere, especially in situations like restaurant reservations or ticketed events where there’s a specific arrival time. Honestly that’s just a good habit to abide by in everyday life, but it’s even more critical in an unfamiliar environment.

8. If your plans don’t involve some down time, they’re bad plans

Yes, you’re trying to maximize your vacation, but some chill time absolutely has to be part of that. It’s fine to have some days that are more packed than others, but a lazy morning can do wonders as far as recharging the batteries after a couple of full-go days. Planning a pre-dinner lull after daytime activities to gear up for the evening can also be valuable. Yes, you came here to enjoy the local culture, but sometimes you need that episode of Property Brothers while laying in the hotel bed eating Pringles in order to summon the energy to continue enjoying said culture, and that’s completely fine. No judgments.

9. Mix it up with the locals

If it’s linguistically possible, do your best to engage some willing locals in meaningful conversation if the setting is appropriate (Pub, yes! Cathedral, no!). Again, you’re having an abnormal amount of focused one-on-one time and just having some new voices in the mix can do a lot to freshen up the dynamic and give the trip a change of pace. It also “broadens your horizons” and all that good stuff.

10. Remember that conversation about money? Have the same one about phones.

If you both enjoy Instagramming your every waking moment of vacation, knock yourselves out. If one party is constantly feeding their smartphone while the other prefers to create some meaningful memories that aren’t documented for the Internet at large, it may cause some friction. Or maybe the less technologically inclined person doesn’t mind a bit! It’s worth taking the temperature on phone and social media usage before there’s an epic meltdown over an innocuous photo of a cheeseburger.

11. If you must fight, fight in the right way

Nobody (well, hopefully nobody) makes travel plans with the intention of fighting with their companion, but sometimes they happen anyway. If they do, try to remember that you care about this person, that you chose to travel together for a reason, and that you both want to enjoy your vacation. A fight doesn’t have to ruin an entire trip. The right attitude or temperament, and a little bit of empathy and compromise (and forgiveness) can go a long way towards righting the ship. Focus on solving the issue at hand rather than dredging up old resentments or incidents from back home. If there’s an actual breakup fight looming, better to have it in the comfort of your own home rather than when you’re about to be stuck on a plane together for six hours. Of course, if you followed rules one through 10, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find yourself in that predicament anyway.

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Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch

Matt Lynch

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