Planning your first trip with a new significant other, friend, or coworker? Traveling with someone for the first time is exciting, especially if it signals a step forward in your relationship. But being together in close quarters or stressful situations can also reveal hidden sides of your companion.
“[Travel] can expose things about each other that you hadn't previously seen, such as hygiene habits, spending differences, tidiness or messiness, sleep issues like snoring, and eating schedules and habits,” says Tina Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. “Travel often creates stress: when plans go awry, a flight is delayed, luggage gets lost, a hotel room isn't as expected, or the weather doesn't cooperate. All of these experiences will test your ability to solve problems together on the spot.”
Before you jet off, here are a few steps to take to avoid any potential conflict.
1. TALK ABOUT MONEY.
“I recently embarked on an overseas trip with a longtime friend, our first-ever together,” says frequent traveler Kari Cruz. “While we've been friends for five plus years, there are definitely some standard questions you should ask beforehand ... You don't always think to do this when you've gotten to know a person for a long time.”
Specifically, Cruz suggests asking about spending habits. “Are you flexible on where you want to eat and how you want to indulge? This may strain outings if you aren't on similar budgets," she says.
You also want to discuss exactly how each of you will pitch in for expenses like gas, hotels, restaurants, and so on. The answer may seem as simple as “split it down the middle,” but if your friend has some expensive tastes—or, conversely, a tight budget—you might be in for a surprise.
2. PLAN SPECIFIC ACTIVITIES BEFORE YOU GO.
Aside from the money, you may have different ideas about what you want to do and see during the trip. “Don’t make assumptions that your companion will like what you like,” says Tessina. “You may have dreams of lying on a beach, while your companion loves the nightlife. Find out who wants what.”
Start by coming up with a list of activities you each want to fit in and rank them by priority. When you've each written down three to four sites you have to see, schedule them into your itinerary. If there’s extra time, you can squeeze in some low-priority activities from each list.
“Don’t spring surprises on your travel companion,” Tessina adds. “While it might be nice to see someone you know on your travels, or to visit a place you visited with your ex, your companion might see it differently, if not given time to deal with it in advance.”
3. DISCUSS DAILY HABITS.
It helps to understand your travel partner’s day-to-day habits, too. “It could definitely hamper plans and itineraries if you're on different schedules,” Cruz says. You might be a morning person who wants to get a jump on the day, while your travel companion is a night owl who'd prefer to spend her nights clubbing and the mornings sleeping in.
By discussing your habits in advance, you can not only prevent conflicts but also create a realistic itinerary. Don't plan to be at the museum when it opens at 9 a.m. if you know it's a struggle to rise before 10. And if you know you'll get grumpy without an afternoon nap, don't be shy about leaving time for that, too.
4. CREATE TRAVEL GOALS.
“Talk in advance about your hopes, expectations, and fears about the trip," Tessina says. "While you can't anticipate everything, having discussed these issues will help each of you understand the other better.”
Along the same lines, it may help to establish some overall travel goals for the trip. Do you want to learn about a destination’s culture or do you want to come back recharged? Or both? You may have different ideas, but by discussing them before you leave home you can figure out how to best accommodate both your needs.
5. SCHEDULE TIME APART.
If each of you has starkly different budgets or priorities for the trip, you might consider scheduling time apart to do those things on your own. And even if your goals and plans align, taking some time and space for yourself can be crucial for keeping the peace.
"Traveling together is great—but sometimes we need alone time,” Cruz says. She recommends discussing and scheduling this time in advance to make sure your partner is okay with it—and making it clear your need for a break isn't a reaction to something they did. You’ll both get to squeeze in all of your activities, and best of all, you can regroup after and share your experiences.