Going on a vacation with someone you have never traveled with before can be a big test for your relationship. For many, this vacation is a “make it or break it” event. When couples have an enjoyable first vacation together, they usually feel more comfortable to take their relationship to the next level, like moving-in together or getting engaged, or just a deeper level of commitment, emotionally or otherwise. Vacations can also be a time when some couples face the fact that they are not a good fit. In this interview, travel concierge Julie Flahiff shares some important information that will help you to prepare for your first vacation as a couple, and turn it to a more enjoyable and bonding experience.
Julie Flahiff is a Seattle-based travel concierge and memory maker. Her passion of travel was first kindled at the age of 11 when her family took a month-long car trip tracing the outline of the United States. She still remembers watching the scenery slip by from the back seat of the car and how exciting it was to roll into a new town each afternoon. These are some of her most cherished memories. Today, Julie has the best job in the world. She helps people discover new experiences, reconnect with friends and family and create their own cherished memories. Connect with Julie on Facebook for more travel ideas and inspiration.
When a couple plans to go on a vacation together for the first time, what should they take into consideration?
As each partner might have different interests, the vacation should incorporate both of their needs and desires. When I work with couples on planning their vacation, my work as a travel agent is like matchmaking; I need to pair the couple with the right experiences and destination. There is a series of questions that I ask to find out their travel style, such as: are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you want to hit all the top spots, go off-the-beaten-path or a bit of both? What’s your ideal pace for this vacation – relaxed or on the go? Do you envision warm and tropical or the lights of the city, trekking through the mountains or sailing the rivers of Europe? Are you interested in exploring the local culture or more interested in a resort getaway? Would you describe your ideal accommodations as 5-star, anywhere clean or somewhere in between?
There are no right or wrong answers, but it’s important to determine how different people like to spend their vacation time, to learn about their expectations, and match it with the right type of destination and plan. This is especially helpful if a couple is new to traveling together and trying to figure out their must-have experiences. I recommend talking to a travel professional. Their knowledge, insights and industry relationships will help guide you into some terrific options and save you literally hours of time.
How can the choice of vacation affect the relationship of a couple?
I think people may have in their mind a preconception of what their partner is going to be like – or what they want to do – during their vacation together. Instead I recommend using their vacation-time to be curious about their partner and learn more about them.
My suggestion would be to pick a location that is new to both. A vacation is a fantastic opportunity to create new memories, ones they don’t share with anyone else. Don’t underestimate the power of the little phrase “Remember that time…”
A vacation is also a great opportunity to learn more about someone: what makes them happy, how they react when things don’t go according to plan, how they engage with strangers, are they curious to learn about the local culture and art or rather stay in a resort hideaway. Taking us out of our everyday life is certainly a good way to learn more about ourselves. Returning to the matchmaking analogy: while it’s nice to know about the other before you travel together, going on a vacation is a great opportunity to learn more about each other.
What would you advise a couple to do to get the most out of their first vacation together?
First – although it’s not very sexy – make sure you do some logistical planning (valid passport, travel insurance coverage, let your credit card company know you’re traveling, international cell phone plan, chargers and adapters, etc.)
I would suggest you start to immerse yourself in the destination even before you leave by watching a video or movie, reading a book, listening to music, eating at a restaurant specializing in your destination’s cuisine and maybe even picking up some of the local language through an app like Duolingo.
Once you’re on vacation, slow down and unplug. Enjoy hanging out together without social media distractions, or at least have some media-free time during the day.
Make sure that you include some down time in your agenda every day. For example, if you’re taking a two-week trip to Italy, make room for a “do-nothing” day. This will give you the chance to take a breath and feel like you’ve truly experienced a location. It’s great to have a few activities already planned, but make sure to leave room for a spontaneous adventure.
Finally, be open to trying something that you wouldn’t normally do but your partner is interested in. Is she really into local crafts? Does he love adrenaline-filled adventure? Why not take a stroll through a morning market then some afternoon zip lining? Use your time together to build new memories as a couple.