Tips: Planning travel as a couple
My travels truly began in 2002 when I came to New Zealand, backpacking from the UK. My partner and I travel as frequently as possible.
Here are my tips for travelling as a couple:
It's a topic that intrigues me, especially when it comes to couples or friends planning their next travels. How do you do it? Have you got a system that works?
Unless all parties are completely aligned in their travel expectations and want to get exactly the same from their trip, which seems near on impossible, how do you come to an agreement on all the key points like location, duration, type of travel, cost of travel, itineraries, sights and so on?
Let me explain how the 'system' albeit, not a perfect 'system' between myself and my partner works out. I am interested to know how you make it work too?
The most important decision surely?! This has never been an issue for us. We've always agreed on a destination, whether it's Cambodia, Peru or Fiji. We talk about it, discuss potential options and dwindle them down until we've agreed on one. It just works out.
Sometimes the destination is chosen for us, for example: a wedding in Alaska. Even easier. We can move straight onto the next step.
I imagine for some that the destination must be a hugely debatable area? Do you compromise? How do you work it out?
WHEN AND FOR HOW LONG
1 week, 1 month, 1 year? How do you decide?
The timing and duration of our travels are usually driven by external factors, like work. Yes, unfortunately we both have to work full time.
I am a self employed contractor, which in theory would mean a period between contracts to travel. That was the idea anyway. In reality, contracts roll over or end and something else is on offer and they want you to start ASAP.
My partner is in a similar position, on a fixed contract, working long and hard, coming up for air occasionally.
We tend to take trips between 2 and 6 weeks depending on the location and our current work situation, workload etc.
I assume in most cases, external factors are those that influence how long your trip will be? Unless of course, you are taking a prolonged period of time to travel and quitting, in between jobs, just finished studies etc.
PLANNING AN ITINERARY
This is where it gets interesting!
Do you need an itinerary? Do you plan it down to the hour? Do you book a tour? Are you both happy with this? Do you sit down together or individually and work through possible itineraries, activities etc?
I must admit, I am not fantastic at planning an itinerary. There I have said it! Don't get me wrong, I like to have a plan (I'm a professional project planner!) to fully utilise the time I have available. But figuring out an itinerary takes me time. I need to build towards it slowly.
I know this causes my partner some frustration as it's usually about 4-6 weeks out from the trip that I am in the right head space to slowly start building momentum. By this time, my partner has researched the destination and usually created a couple of potential itineraries and emailed them to me.
My approach usually goes something like this:
I research the basics of the country online (kind of in secret, just to have a little knowledge), slowly but surely I gather information on activities, sights etc. I read through the potential itineraries, I read through sections of the Lonely Planet guide, I research TripAdvisor and then return to the itineraries to confirm that my 'must do' activities, cities, sights are included.
We then debate and/or tweak them over the following weeks. The debates occasionally lead to fairly passionate conversations which are usually resolved, either by fate (the swimming with sharks tour was all booked up), by time, meaning that I come around to the idea (I'm happy to swim with sharks now, they are only reef sharks after all...) or we come to a compromise (I won't swim with sharks but we can do a 'close encounter' with the meerkats instead...).
Somehow it works out.
How do you make it work? Is it easy? Is it challenging? Do you both create an itinerary and consolidate? Or does one of you take charge?
Money, I can imagine this can be quite the contentious topic.
I like to think I travel fairly frugally (is that even a word?), however my partner takes it to a whole new level. Over the years we've become more closely aligned and met roughly in the middle.
For me staying in a private room in a hostel is frugal. I mean, that way we are saving money (over a 3-5 star hotel) and still get the social side of the hostel. For my partner, staying in a 15-person dorm is frugal.
To add a little more context to it, when I met my partner travelling in Australia, she would purchase a capsicum/bell pepper for lunch, that's all. I was living off pasta with cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. I thought I was frugal, she thought I was living like a king (it was a tasty cheese I guess).
Nowadays our go to accommodation is always a hostel and usually a private double. The hostel gives us the social side and it just doesn't feel like travelling if we aren't staying in a hostel. If a double isn't available we will book into a 4-person dorm. This is our standard go-to approach for our trips now.
Food has become a major part of our travels over the years. We no longer eat a capsicum or pasta with cheese for lunch and/or dinner. We both appreciate good food and it makes up a big part of our travels. The money we save on accommodation, we spend on food.
We no longer discuss money. We have similar expectations and rather than discussing costs, now talk about the other factors involved, quality, location and so on. It works for us.
Is this the same for you? Or do you and your partner have drastically different requirements for accommodation? How do you work it out?
There you have it. That's how our travel planning as a couple works out and always results in memorable trips, full to the brim of adventure. That's the thing I guess, it's the actual travel that make's a trip, yes of course, the prep work and planning contributes and make's a huge difference to the outcome, but it's the trip itself and the experiences you take from it that you'll remember.
Let me know your thoughts and how you, as a couple or friends, plan your travels. Do you have any ideas to help? Any tips and/or suggestions? Thanks for reading and happy planning!