We recently did a series of blogs on traveling alone–how to have fun, how to stay safe, and how to make memories that’ll last a lifetime. Solo travel is fantastic, and most of us have had life-changing experiences when we take the plunge and do some exploring on our own.

For now, let’s forget the importance of traveling alone and talk about another crucial travel experience everyone should have, especially if you’re the kind of person interested in getting hitched. Here are three important questions that you’ll find the answer to when you travel with your partner, and knowing those answers will help you figure out if this is the right person for you.

How sick of each other do you get?

Traveling with your partner - getting annoyed

This is one question that will be answered pretty quickly. Most people have a three or four day tolerance for each other, sometimes less. If you’ve traveled a lot with others, then you’ve experienced that feeling.

You know, that one. It starts out innocuous. Maybe it’s the way their jaw clicks when they eat. You find it a little bit annoying, but it’s definitely tolerable. Then, without warning, everything they do is like that annoying clicking jaw: the way they say thank you in French, the nagging stress they express while waiting for a taxi, their indecisiveness on whether they want a bagel or the hotel buffet for breakfast, the fact that they forgot their subway pass in the top-floor apartment of a five-story walk-up. THEY ARE MAKING YOU CRAZY.

And, like I said, this can be kind of normal. Most of us don’t spend twenty-four hours a day with anyone, even if they’re the love of our lives. We go to work, the gym, our friends’ houses–we make plans that do not involve our significant other. As we should. It’s healthy.

So instead of picking someone you’ll never ever get sick of (which is possible, but unlikely), then the important part is how you deal with it. Do you snap every time he or she does something you find annoying. “Would you stop eating, already?! You’re making me insane!” Or, do you take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that your partner is only human too.

Do you try to cram in even more time together, hoping that you’ll get over it and suddenly feel 100% in love again? Or, do you take some time to yourself–spend a day alone wandering the city, read a book on the beach, take a stroll through the vineyard?

The lesson for your long-term relationship: You will get sick of each other. Learn how to deal with those pesky things about your partner that are as excruciating as fingernails on a chalkboard. And identify the feeling you get when it’s time to take a break and do something on your own.

How do you handle stressful situations together?

Traveling with your partner - stressful situations

Rare is the trip that goes entirely as planned. You might have two perfect days bicycling around Portland, Oregon, then a sudden unexpected ice storm sweeps in and the entire city shuts down. You’re stuck in your hotel, and even the housekeeping staff can’t make it in to work. The only things open are a liquor store next to the hotel and a restaurant that’s four blocks away–four blocks on sidewalks covered in a thick sheet of ice.

What happens next?

Do you:
a) Blame your partner for bringing you to Portland in the first place?
b) Collectively freak out and argue over which of you is going to storm down to the front desk and demand that they make the weather stop / go find you a Big Mac?
c) Bicker over who gets to control the TV remote?
d) Calmly discuss your options and make a decision that you both feel good about?

The correct answer is obviously b.

More likely than not, you’ll find yourselves in a situation much less extreme than a Portland ice storm that shuts the whole city down, though don’t count on it. Your flight might be delayed for two hours, which means you’ll miss the next leg. Maybe you’ll be standing at the intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and Vermont for two hours at 11pm, waiting for a taxi. Or you realize that it’s nearly impossible to find a restaurant for you and your vegetarian partner to eat at in Chernivtsi, Ukraine (well, what did you expect?).

You learn a lot about someone when you’re thrust into an unfamiliar situation, with unpredictable outcomes.

The lesson for your long-term relationship: How you and your partner handle these situations while traveling will be a great experiment in how you handle stress together in everyday life. If it’s impossible to get along when things get hard, if you find yourself wanting to dig in and fight or turn and walk away, then maybe you’re not compatible.

How do you budget?

Traveling with your partner - budgeting

Ah, money. Couples’ different approaches to how it’s managed is one of the top ten reasons people get divorced.

When you and your significant other are planning a trip, how do you do it? Do you want to go extravagant and book a $500 room at the Hotel Raphael in Paris, but your partner imagines staying in a tiny AirBnb room that you’ll share with an Australian foreign exchange student?

You want to spend. She wants to save. This could be a problem.

Unless one of you is uber-rich and committed to being the Sugar Daddy / Mama, then you’ll need to agree on finances. Heck, even if one of you is loaded and willing to provide for the other, you’ll still need to agree to limits.

If you feel a constant strain about how you two are spending money on your trip, pay attention to that. There are so many amazing ways to do budget travel, and do it well. You might also decide that you won’t do anything but luxury travel–the most lush hotels, the richest foods, and the most expensive private tours. But many of us swing between the two. Sometimes we get sick of the grungy motel and decide to splurge on a room at the Hotel Monaco.

But if it makes you uneasy when she maxes out her credit card in Miami because “life is short; you might as well do whatever you can to take advantage of the moment!”, how will you react? Will you reluctantly go along with it, spending more than you have as well, indulging in her expensive whims? Or will you tell her it makes you uncomfortable? If you do confront her about it, how does she react? “Okay, we can compromise,” or “Why? Live a litte!”

As a budget traveler, I survived for six weeks on $1 bocadillos in Spain and stayed in a crowded hostel dorm in Costa Rica. While I longed for a steaming plate of paella and an infinity pool overlooking the Pacific, my friends and I accepted our lot. If I had been with someone who refused to travel this way, I would’ve walked away. Traveling is a privilege–most people never get to see the world at all, let alone drink expensive champagne in a Las Vegas penthouse.

I’m not saying that being a budget traveler is somehow superior. If you have the means or simply the desire, then go all out. As long as you agree about how you’ll spend your money, and you both understand what those consequences may be, then by all means rent out an entire Italian villa.

The lesson for your long-term relationship: Money is a big deal. If you have very different ideas about budgeting, which will become apparent when you travel, then you need to seriously reflect on whether or not that will become an even bigger issue once you’re married.

trip30 end imageUnderstanding how you deal with being together too much, confronting stressful situations you find yourself in, and budgeting collaboratively are critical aspects of a healthy long-term relationship. I will add that if you decide to have children, these issues will become amplified. Her annoying habits become even more annoying when you’re sleep-deprived and trying to soothe a colicky baby.

You think an icy day in Portland is bad? Wait until your child pukes all over her preschool teacher and both of you have important client meetings at work.

His bad budgeting might annoy you now, but when you add a child into the mix it becomes entirely unsustainable.

So the lessons you learn from your travels must be extrapolated–not just to understand conflicts in your marriage, but to predict untenable situations if you have children.

We’re not marriage counselors, but we know a little bit about what it means to travel with our significant others. These experiences have made our relationships stronger or helped us realize that our partner may not be the person we want to (try to) spend a lifetime with.

Have you had any travel experiences that ended up being deal-breakers for you and your significant other? Share with us below, or join the conversation on Facebook!

Posted by Natalie Winslow
  • Sarah G Grant

    Celebratory road trip from Madison, WI to the Smoky Mountains. Problem #1 = inequality of driving time. Problem #2 = (similar to your anecdotes above) I paid for the nice B&B and SO paid for the…KOA just outside of Memphis. Problem #3 = my desire to “do things” and explore and SO’s desire to…not do anything. It was a deal breaker and we subsequently drifted apart.