How to Travel With Your Spouse (Without Wanting to Strangle Them)

Running for trains, hauling luggage up stairs, getting hopelessly lost, and haggling with taxi cab drivers, these are all aspects of traveling, that can often cause even the most laid back person to become fatigued, stressed out, and yes…. occasionally irritable.  So who better than take all of your traveling frustrations out on, than your spouse.  After nearly six months of traveling together and spending EVERY waking moment together (good and bad), my husband and I are closer than we have ever been, however, this did not happen without a few missteps (and lots of arguments…particularly over directions) along the way.  So if you are thinking about taking a trip with your spouse, or even a friend, here are some tips to help the journey (and relationship) go a bit smoother.

Everyone has a different traveling style; some like to romantically wander the streets until they are lost and it is dark, and others like to face the day of travel with a map and check-list in hand. Although, you may think that you know everything about your spouse, be aware that travel changes people.  That is the point, right?  In other words,  the avid planner at home might like to let lose on the road, which without any warning can cause anything from a slight hiccup to a downright screaming match in the middle of San Marco Square.  So in an effort to avoid (or at least suppress) this drama, discuss ahead of time, your previous travel experiences with your partner, including your likes and dislikes.  For example, did you like traveling by the seat of your pants, even though you had to sleep on a beach for a night? Did you hate that trip you took with a tour group that had a stringent schedule?  These are all important things to consider when planning a trip.  If it turns out that your partner does have the opposite travel style as you, then GREAT! You will now be introduced to a new way of doing things and maybe even learn a thing or two about the person that you plan to spend the rest of your life with.  Just be sure to take turns leading the day.  Let there be a time to wander and a time to aggressively cover tourist terrain.  Whether it is discussed each morning who will take the lead, or it is inherently assigned by location (i.e. the wanderer can go at much slower pace at the beach, vs. Rome), just be sure to seek a balance.  And for GOD’S SAKE….CARRY A MAP!

To quote the late American Author John Gunther, “All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast,” or at least to some of us. Amazingly, basic things about a person’s personality, like “I must eat a huge breakfast every morning before I do ANYTHING or I feel like I will die”, are not always made obvious to our spouses in the regular working world (especially when you both work over 60 hours a week).  Therefore, be sure to discuss your eating expectations and habits prior to leaving.  As I found out, eating breakfast is optional for some people, regardless of how much time you have in the morning.  And although I cannot wrap my mind around this (who doesn’t want to at least eat some cereal?), it did not take me long to realize that many unnecessary arguments were resulting from one or both of us being hungry.  Since not everyone is hungry at the same time of day, it is important to take your spouse’s eating time frame into consideration when planning the day (can you tell yet that I was often the bratty one?).  It is so easy to get up, get dressed and rush out into a  new city without eating breakfast, and without considering the fact that lunchtime is right around the corner.  Not only will this leave you both susceptible to a ridiculous, hunger-based argument, but you will most likely end up eating bad food at a tourist price.  If you don’t plan anything else all day, plan when and where you will eat your meals.

Traveling is hard work.  To make the trip (or even a day) successful, you and your spouse will both need to offer up your best skills. While traveling, the simplest daily tasks like buying two tickets or ordering a meal in a restaurant can be daunting.  These challenges (or as I like to call them, “travel puzzles”), can cause you to feel overloaded.  As someone who has traveled alone, and traveled as a couple, I would say that sharing the burden of solving the daily “travel puzzles” is a huge relief.  Although you may know up front which one of you is more analytical and which one of you is more conceptual, deciding who is better at asking for directions or bargaining for a better deal may occur over time.  Just be sure to acknowledge the strengths of your spouse and own up to your own shortcomings.  For example, while visiting Poland it became apparent that not only was my husband able to translate a few menus using his food knowledge, but he was able to pick up many Polish sayings and words in a matter of a day.  Polish! The most foreign sounding language in the world to an American, and he was able to ask a waiter if a dish was spicy.  On the other hand, he continually approaches reading a map based on where we have been, not necessarily where we actually are.  To say the least, this lead to more than a few wrong turns.  It did not take us long to realize that I should carry the map, and he should handle most of the communicating (unless my embarrassing point-and-nod method would do).  Once these roles were filled, we were both provided with small interims of relaxation time, which in the world of travel (and relationships), can shape the day.

As my final plea, I advise you to avoid playing the “Blame Game.”  You will get lost, you will miss trains, you will pay too much, you will buy the wrong tickets, and you will waste time.  These things (and probably a million more), I can guarantee will happen.  However, it will be how you handle it that will make or break your trip.  In addition to the inevitable travel pitfalls, the landscape of your trip may not be what you pictured.  When planning the trip, you will inevitably develop expectations, possibly even grand ones.  Maybe you imagine that you will be wining and dining in all the chicest restaurants, or daringly paragliding in the Alps.  Regardless of your hopes and dreams, things will most likely look different in reality.  So if and when this happens, accept it, be happy (at least you are traveling and not sitting in a cubicle, right?), and whatever you do, don’t blame your spouse.  After all, is it really his fault that what you thought would be a beautiful mountain resort actually more closely resembles the “It’s a small world” ride at Disneyland?  Blaming one another for the travel pitfalls along the way will do nothing more than make you feel even more alienated in a foreign country.  The sooner that you both realize that neither of you really have a clue of what you are doing, or what could happen next, the happier you will be, both on the trip and together.

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About Danielle Benoit Leahy

Danielle and her husband Nick Leahy live in London and continue to live and learn about life and food through their blog Caperz. They created Caperz to express Nick's love of food, and Danielle's love of travel. The word "caper" is a salty delicious little food, as well as, an adventure, such as a world tour or a bank robbery (only one of the two planned so far).

One Response

  1. Uma Simon says:

    Really interesting read. Thanks