Remember, you can take a relationship on the road but you won't leave your challenges at home.
In a classic Modern Family moment, super-mom Claire Dunphy is preparing for a dream vacation to Hawaii when she says, "I'm a mom traveling with her kids. It's not a vacation, it's a business trip."
For too many couples, with or without children, each partner has a very different expectation of what should be a retreat to relax and revive.
Keep in mind that a vacation doesn't mean you leave yourselves, or the challenges in your relationship behind. That's why it's so important to prepare for your vacation in a way that sets appropriate expectations, boundaries, and standards for communication. Here are six tips for preparing for a vacation you can truly enjoy, together!
1. Start by Sharing Your Goals
Is your goal to relax? Maybe see a lot of new sights? Go on adventures? Read a book (or seven)? If you and your partner have different goals for vacation, it's something that's important discuss when you start planning. Not halfway through your trip!
When your goals are different, so are your expectations. But compromise can solve this problem...as long as it's acknowledged.
2. Be Realistic About Your Budget
There are few easier ways to tank a vacation than arguing over money in the middle of a meal or activity. Much like wedding planning, vacations can go from $0 to "ouch" fast if you're not intentional about your budgeting. You don't want to ruin the rest of your year, financially in less than two weeks. During your planning period, think about how much you can comfortably afford and be sure to budget for unexpected costs.
That way, when you're in a store (or the spa) and ready to splurge, you'll know if you've got the money set aside or if you need to step back and rethink the spend.
While managing a spreadsheet before and during vacation sounds pretty unsexy, tracking expenses can be a positive way for couples to make a game out of coming in under budget (although we recognize that tool isn't for everyone!)
3. Be Open to Planning "Me Time"
Say you want some serious downtime and your partner wants to get some golfing in. You can easily set aside a day or half a day to go your separate ways. If you're traveling with kids, it's important to ensure both parents are able to take time for themselves.
Another great way to take the burden off of parents is to plan in advance for places you can entertain the kids. For example, many malls have free play areas where kids can run around inside if the day is rainy or too hot for an outdoor playground.
4. Share the Burdens (& the Joys)
Have a lot of driving to do on your vacation? It might be a good idea to put both of you on the rental car. Sure it's an extra expense, but the stress of one partner doing all the driving--especially in unfamiliar territory--can quickly dampen the fun of vacation.
No vacation is all glamour, all the time (unless you're spending 5-figures or more and your trip comes with a LOT of support). Taking turns managing luggage, dealing with travel or lodging issues, and more helps both of you stay level so you can both enjoy the great things a vacation has to offer.
5. Don't Set Unrealistic Expectations
As we've already mentioned, you might be taking your relationship on the road, but your baggage is coming with you. That means your actual luggage AND your relationship challenges. Expecting that a new setting will remove your daily problems is a surefire way to set yourself (and your partner) up for disappointment.
On the other hand, being in new settings is a great opportunity to be reflective and reconnect over the things that you both love--in life and about each other.
6. Remember: You're There to Have FUN!
In the end, a vacation is about having a great time. Before you get bogged down in frustrations or disappointments, remember that gratitude is a powerful tool. Taking a moment to be grateful: for this trip you can afford to take, for the beautiful sights, for time to work on your relationship, for time away from work...those moments of gratitude can turn your day around. So when it all gets to be too stressful, take a deep breath and think of just 3 things you're happy about today.