There are countless articles on tips for traveling with infants, toddlers, children and teens. But what about traveling with a significant other who’s not a seasoned traveler?
Okay, I need to get real here. My boyfriend has grown to like travel. And why wouldn’t he? He’s not exactly a planner. For months prior to trips, I beg him to help by choosing between cities, activities, restaurants, hotels, etc. I get no response, or the basic, whatever you decide, dear. I do get one response consistently – Will we have time to relax? Will you make me run around the entire time?
Don’t get infuriated. Take a deep breath (and perhaps a big gulp of wine). Now, let’s get started.
Here are some tips for traveling with the reluctant traveler:
1. Try to vary between sightseeing/city trips and resort/relaxation trips
This is also known as the “yes honey, of course you can relax . . . . . . when we get home (or but not now, perhaps on the next trip)”
We went to Paris and Brussels in February, and to a resort in Costa Rica in April. Before Costa Rica he repeatedly grilled me and made me promise that the trip would be a relaxation trip, which I was actually fine with. Accordingly, we did not zipline, we did not bungee jump and we did not go hiking through volcanoes. We had a glorious time sitting by the pool for 3 days (although I did use the fitness center and walk on the hotel grounds each morning – – aka ME time).
2. Plan what you must
A big MUST for me is to know how I’m getting from an airport to the city and hotel I’m visiting. The time to figure this out is NOT when we arrive at a foreign airport, tired and having no clue where to go. And the last thing I want to do is stand inside an airport looking like a lost, vulnerable tourist. I research, and figure out what form of transportation we are taking to get from point a to point b. If it’s public transportation, I research the price and the best type of ticket to buy. And then I print out the instructions and the directions and/or download the information.
The same holds true for exchanging money, though these days, I usually have some spare Euros, Pesos, Yen and Pounds saved that I bring along – – so exchanging money at an airport is not as imperative as it once was.
3. Know your traveler’s strengths and weaknesses
Figure out what your partner can and can’t help out with. I’ve learned that my boyfriend is awful at the advance planning part of travel. Consequently, I often have to plan the flights, the trains and the hotels. We’ve had a few disaster dinners (and evenings) because I refused to research restaurants. From that, he became much better at researching restaurants on Yelp and Tripadvisor and he’s found some great restaurants.
4. Food glorious food
Bring Snacks. Well, yeah…. you don’t want to be around a man who’s hungry, do you?
Breakfast. I try to choose a hotel or a hotel rate that includes breakfast. I’d be fine with just a good double espresso, but men like their breakfast. And honestly, breakfast buffets have become a memorable part of our vacations. Having Globalist status at World of Hyatt and Gold with Hilton really helps (OMG, the breakfasts at the Andaz Papagayo Costa Rica and Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris were beyond incredible). This is also why I keep the SPG Business American Express Card – entry to Sheraton Lounges.
Speaking of lounges, going to a hotel that has a lounge, with evening snacks and drinks is great. It saves a lot of money, and again, gives a definition to a day. The only downside is the temptation to make an evening of the lounge experience rather than leaving and going out for the evening. Sometimes that’s okay though.
If we don’t have a lounge at our hotel, we usually go to a local market and pick up some wine or beer and food that can serve as appetizers. We like a hotel room with a refrigerator for that reason.
5. Plan but don’t plan too much
Take a walking tour. When we first started traveling, my boyfriend would want to take either a half day tour or buy tickets for a hop-on-hop-off type of bus. I, on the other hand, prefer to take a map in hand and trek to all the sights. As a compromise, we started going on free walking tours, mainly from Sandeman’s/New Europe tours. When we travel to Europe, we often fly overnight and arrive in the morning. In many European cities there is a 1pm or 2pm walking tour. Although we may be exhausted from traveling all night, these tours have become a valued tradition for us. We have taken these walking tours in Jerusalem, Brussels, Paris, Buenos Aires and Lisbon and been happy each time. The tours are only about 2-3 hours and the tour guide is always very theatrical (enough to keep us awake), likeable and knowledgeable – and it’s a perfect way to get an overview of a new city and meet other travelers. Only once, in Athens, were we not thrilled with a tour guide.
Also, sometimes less is better. For example, if we have a week vacation planned – – plan on going to two cities, not three.
6. Let him sleep.
This is as much for me as it is for him. Men like their sleep. Tired men are grouchy men.
7. Incorporate topics into the trip that he really likes
There are a few things he really loves. He loves music (therefore a trip to Princeton included a trip to a record store, Brussels included the Museum of Music, Buenos Aires and Seattle both included visits to radio stations, and Paris included a visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery to find Jim Morrison’s tomb).
8. But what about me?
I’m flexible. We both like to wander and explore. One activity that’s important to me, is to explore a place by running or jogging on the streets, or next to a river or through a park. Although he often says he wants to join me, when push comes to shove, he almost always has an excuse NOT to go. So, I go out running and he practices his guitar or snoozes some more, and then we meet at the hotel restaurant for breakfast.
9. Tell him what a great traveler he is!
Don’t scold him for the 10 ounce bottle of Coppertone that TSA just confiscated from his carry on bag. Instead, shower him with travel praise and encouragement. Oh honey, its fabulous that you know how to get to the Starbucks from the hotel! You’re such a great traveler!
10. It’s all about the Toto!
After all is said and done, there are always some Men are from Mars, Women from Venus moments. What makes him happiest? Answer: a Toto toilet with all the bells and whistles.
In the end, it’s all worth it. You can’t put a price on the shared travel experiences, memories and fun.