Photo courtesy of Katherine Cortes
Many an experienced traveler would say that traveling is the litmus test for couples – you get to know your partner in a way you wouldn’t in your regular dates and interactions.
Here are some tips from experienced traveling couples you might want to consider before you go on your first trip together.
Consider going with a group.
Going with a group, especially on events where the itinerary is set already, and which may require little to no planning on your part, can make for a relatively easy first trip. The trip can also help you and your partner get to know each other’s travel preferences better.
Travel bloggers and couple Katherine Cortes and Hali Navarro attest to this. “My boyfriend and I used to travel with backpacking groups – these can be friends or travel buddies we met online... We just follow whoever organized the trip,” Katherine relates.
“When we started planning our first trip with just the two of us, we already knew each other's preferences because we already spent time on the road together.”
Consider also going to a place already familiar to you.
For a first trip with just the two of you together, you can pick a place you or both you and your partner have already been to before. This familiarity can help lessen stress should any inconvenience happen during the trip.
Three months into their relationship, Roki Ferrer and Tantan Trinidad went on their first trip together. Their destination was Guimaras, which Roki has already visited twice.
“I think being familiar with some parts of your destination makes for a ‘softer landing’ with some sense of security and comfort,” Roki says.
Photo courtesy of Roki Ferrer
Still, they also went to places Roki has not seen before, making the trip a new adventure for them both.
Plan your trip as a team, ideally with assigned roles.
Ros Flores and My Oliveros, who have been traveling together for over 10 years, have settled into a pattern that works for them.
My, being the quick and “nocturnal” between the two of them, would book the flights on seat sales and hotel accommodations on limited promotions. Ros would plan the activities.
Photo courtesy of Ros Flores
Though they each have roles, they would consult each other and agree on what they both like for the trip. “You should really plan the trip together,” Ros says. “This way, it can be a trip that both of you will enjoy.”
Some trips might require more planning, especially overseas trips which call for more logistics, so team effort is especially important, My adds.
Be considerate of each other’s travel preferences, likes and dislikes, and quirks.
If you and your partner have the same preferences and likes and dislikes, perfect! But if you don’t, make sure you accommodate each other’s travel preferences on your trip.
For example, Roki loves local markets and cosmopolitan places, while Tantan enjoys nature and heritage sites. The couple makes it a point to include both in their itinerary as much as possible so that they are both happy with their trip.
For travel blogger Jerny Destacamento and his girlfriend Jane Abenoja, traveling is also about being patient with each other’s preferences.
During their trip to Taiwan, for example, Jane did not like some of the street food, so while Jerny would try some of the street fare, the couple would also find places where they could get rice meals.
“It's all about understanding and adjusting to one’s needs and preferences so you both would have a good time while traveling together,” Jerny says.
Sometimes, the difference is not just travel preferences, but also personality. Katherine shares how her boyfriend Hali prefers sticking to a plan. “If we suddenly have a change of plan – even if it's a small thing such as where we're going to eat, he'll get very confused (and slightly upset).”
But she adds: “I've learned to cope with it by minimizing changes as much as possible and giving him a heads up as soon as I can, instead of sulking about how he's not a spontaneous travel companion. In the same way, he's learned to adapt to me as well.”
Be alert and look out for each other.
Since you are traveling as a couple, look out for each other. When one is tired or less alert, the other may have to step up.
“Don’t panic together,” Tantan advises. “In occasions when you miss a bus or a stop, lose something important, get lost in navigating the place or anything that would trigger your ‘panic hormones,’ it’s really important to keep your cool at such times. It has worked for us both in that when one of us panics, the other automatically becomes the neutralizer.”
Photo courtesy of Jerny Destacamento
“Look out after each other. Also make sure that no item is left at the chair or at the counter when you travel,” Jerny, who almost lost his GoPro in his trip with Jane to Bangkok and other parts of Southeast Asia, cautions.
Be sensitive to the culture.
In some conservative cultures, holding hands and other shows of affection may be frowned upon. Research on your destination and find out ahead of time if you might need to be discreet not only in clothing but also on how you interact with your partner.
For those in same-sex relationships, a necessary extra step sometimes would be to find out if the country you are visiting is friendly or tolerant to these relationships. “We are discreet especially in places we know are conservative,” Ros says of her relationship with My.
“People usually only find out we are a couple when they ask.”
Bring lots of good humor and understanding.
“Anticipate things will not always go your way (delayed flights, changes in weather, wrong info from research, mood swings) so bring with you tons of patience and understanding,” Roki advises. “Don't stay angry or irritated at each other. Let it out, breathe, and laugh it off! It makes for good stories.”
Katherine tells how their ferry in Langkawi almost left without them when Hali accidentally left their boarding passes behind. “In this case it was very easy to blame him, but it was a mistake and it could happen to anyone, even me. In times like this it's better to let it pass and move on,” Katherine says.
Photo courtesy of Katherine Cortes
A fun back-up plan is also good. While Ros and My were stuck in unexpected heavy traffic on their way to a flight, they realized they may not make it in time. They then decided that if they would not make it to their Bohol flight, they would go on a land trip to Bicol instead. “This is so that we anticipate something good and we do not dwell on the negativity of missing our flight,” Ros says. In the end, they made it to their flight in good spirits.
“Even if there are constraints and bad things happening while you travel, make sure to always be positive and smile,” Jerny says. “It makes traveling enjoyable and better with the person you love next to you.”
Leave room for spontaneity.
Even as you may have your trip planned down to the last detail, especially if you or your partner may like sticking to a plan, make room for some spontaneity. You just might be in for a pleasant surprise.
In Ros’ and My’s trip to Guimaras, they met a local artist who they incidentally helped out when they looked after his stall for a few hours. The good-humored artist in turn taught Ros how to tie knots and other skills which became essential to Ros’ business of handmade accessories in the future.
You might just be in for a pleasant surprise! Photo courtesy of Ros Flores
“Make an itinerary as detailed as possible but as fluid as possible depending on how things go during the trip,” Roki advises.
Have fun! Remember that it’s your trip, not other people’s.
With all the must-do lists and recommended itineraries online, you may be pressured to do what others have done. Remember that it’s your trip, not other people’s. Plan it and experience it the way you would love it.
“You don’t have to do things just because everyone is doing it. I remember our 10-day trip to Tokyo in November 2016. It was one of the best trips ever,” Tantan reminisces.
“However, some friends of ours were like, ‘Oh, why just Tokyo? Why did you not go to Kyoto or Osaka? Why didn’t you go to Disneyland?’ Very annoying actually. It was like they were invalidating the happiness that we had from our trip. People should realize that everyone and every couple is unique."
"Looking back, when we talk about that trip, I realize we did a lot of experiences that you would not usually hear a lot from the others. Not many of our friends have talked about going to the food haven that is Piss Alley in Shinjuku; tasting horse sashimi, chicken sashimi or even whale sashimi; finding serenity at Rikugien Garden; or visiting an actual neighborhood wet market to buy fresh produce, because we wanted to cook our own breakfast at one point.”
Sometimes you might need to do your own thing.
In cases where you have different preferences or pace with your partner, you might need to set off on your own activity during your trip. Having your own time with an activity you enjoy will also refresh you when you meet your partner again.
While Jane prefers starting the day later, Jerny wants to get up early to catch the sunrise and take photos. What Jerny does is he lets Jane sleep in, catch the sunrise on his own, then go back to Jane afterward. Sometimes, when Jane wakes up earlier, she prepares breakfast for him.
Katherine also adds, “Couple travel is fun, but the occasional solo trips and trips with your own group of friends can be refreshing also. Make room for these in your schedule.”
Photo courtesy of Ros Flores