You’re with that special someone. You’re in love. And, whether you’re a newer couple or older married lovebirds, you’re ready to take the plunge: travelling together full-time. Perhaps you’re taking off across the States in an RV or campervan, or just globetrotting with two well-worn backpacks; no matter your travel style, couples travel isn’t all moonlight and roses. So, how do you make it work?
For us, it wasn’t the easiest of adjustments. After seven years of living together and just over two years of (mainly) blissful married life, we gave up everything we knew to spend all our time on the road. We packed up our lives, sold most of our belongings, shipped off our beloved cats to family members for safekeeping and booked one-way tickets to Bangkok, Thailand.
After nearly a year together of full-time travel we definitely have a few pearls of wisdom to impart. Here are our five key tips for staying starry-eyed and at the same time, sane on the road.
1. Assign clear roles and responsibilities
The idea of travelling full-time as a couple sounds so fancy-free and laidback, right? Wrong.
Even the strongest of couples will find themselves in testing circumstances while travelling. You’ll miss a connection, you’ll lose something important or you’ll just be hungry, tired, lost or all of the above. Remember: arguments happen, and that’s normal.
One of the best things to do to help avoid arguments is to ensure each person knows their purpose and can play to their strengths. In our case, that means that my wife, Lee, is in charge of accommodation as well as activities. She loves to find us good bargains for hotels plus she’s a bit fussier on the types of places we stay – I’d be happy with a ramshackle beach hut but, for her, she needs to know what her bathroom will look like and always checks out the reviews.
I’m definitely in charge of all our important documents and things like the hotel room key. Lee has lost her passport too many times to count and so these critical things are always in my possession. Plus is there anything worse than arriving back to your room only to have a debate around who took the room key and how you’d get back in?
2. Work out your travel styles
Before you embark on that loved-up trip, it’s worth having an honest conversation about how you both like to travel, particularly if you are on a budget.
Do you like to quickly hop from place to place, or move at a slower stride and take it in? Are you willing to stay in hostels or do you need more upmarket options? These are critical chats you need to have to avoid conflict down the line.
For us, we both like to spend a few days in a city and then move along, taking just enough time to see the key sights but not enough to feel bored. However, our quality of travel style differs a lot.
So, we compromise. We stay in a hostel (well, a flashpacker or poshtel to be honest), in one city, to be able to meet people and be social but in the next city, we’ll splash out a little more and get a nicer hotel. Mixing it up like this keeps both of us happy.
We also spent quite a lot of time before we set off, working out the type of countries and experiences we wanted to have. We both like hiking so choose destinations where we can go on a wander but, equally, try to apportion enough time in big cities that we can just walk the streets, looking for things to do.
3. Splurge on the small stuff
We get it. Most of us are on some sort of budget when we’re travelling. But, even when money is tight, it’s worth ensuring that you let the other person have that one thing or ‘splurge’ that makes them happy.
It could be dinner at a nice restaurant, a new dress or even just a Starbucks mocha instead of that cheap coffee from a hawker stall.
These small things make your partner not only feel appreciated and cared for but gives them a chance to get their ‘creature comforts’ of home that they might be missing.
4. Get into routine
While routine might sound like the opposite of what you’re searching for, full-time and long-term travel can burn many people out.
As glamorous and aspirational as it might seem, spending days on the road, long bus journeys, unusual (and sometimes questionable) food and lack of your language, or amenities can take the toll on any traveller, but particularly a couple spending every waking moment together.
For us, that routine includes daily exercise. Even if its 15 minutes of yoga each morning or doing a push-up or squat challenge each day, we find ourselves feeling so much more motivated and balanced when we have this routine in our lives.
When you’re travelling full-time there are a lot of factors you can’t control. We’ve been stuck on islands during typhoons, we’ve spent hours waiting for boats and buses that never arrive and we have had many a meal not meet our expectations. So, try to find some sort of ‘control’ in a daily routine together – it will go a long way to helping your state of mind.
5. Make quality time. But, also, give each other time.
Yes, you’re in each other’s space all the time and you have a lot of time together. But, is that really quality time? Usually not.
It’s worth remembering that you still need to love and appreciate each other. Our suggestion? Make time for ‘date night’. Or do an activity that one of you enjoys and ensure the other one tries their best to make it work. Play cards. Tell jokes. Watch a video together.
And, on the converse of that, give each other their space. Because you’re almost glued to each other’s sides 24/7 it can easily lead to confrontations. We’re not suggesting separate beds or separate holidays but just giving each other time and space.
It’s as simple as one of you relaxing with your favourite Netflix show while the other lies at the pool, working on their cracking tan. Or getting a haircut while the other works out at the hotel gym.
Bonus tip: Don’t get hangry.
If you’re not familiar with the term, it essentially is when you’re hungry and so get a little irritable. Trust us – it’s not great to be hangry if you also have external factors at play, like getting lost in a foreign city or pounding sweaty streets in humid climates.
Our tip? Keep snacks on you at all times! We’ve been very grateful for those slivers of dried mango or even a well-placed Snickers bar when we’re stuck on a grounded ferry without an onboard store or traipsing around some famous attraction without a supermarket in sight.
Try to make them healthy but, if you can’t, don’t beat yourself up about it. A chocolate bar every now and again is far better than a full-on dispute.
I hope you enjoyed our article about travelling together long-term as a couple and the highs (and lows) that it can bring. Have you embarked on full-time travel with your other half, or looking to hit the road soon? Let us know!
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