They say if you really want to get to know a person, take a trip together. Traveling with anyone can reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly about them (and you). It makes sense: You’re spending a condensed chunk of time together, while standing in lines, splitting bills, and deciding what time to leave the beach. You’re both living outside your normal routines and comfort zones.
You might learn that you make a great team an return home closer than ever, says associate professor of psychology at James Madison University, Dr. Jaime Kurtz. “But, traveling with someone might reveal things that you simply don’t like and never knew before: a fear of new cultural experiences and a general sense of closed-mindedness; excessive rigidity and an inability to compromise or deviate from routines,” she writes in Psychology Today.
So, here are 8 tips to make sure you depart as a couple and return as lovers, not fighters.
Manage Both Your Expectations
Agreeing on what to see and do should be part of the planning process. “For couples taking their first trip together, figuring out the budget, itinerary, what sites you plan on seeing, and how much time you’re going to spend together early on, can alleviate any conflicts that might arise while on the trip,” says travel expert Lee Abbamonte.
Get Real About Your Travel Personality
There are some important personality traits that predict how well people might travel together, says Kurtz. “If someone is really open to trying exotic foods, using a local homestay or taking surfing lessons, this person might not mesh with someone low on openness, who’d be more into the McDonald’s, the Marriot, and lying on the beach,” she says.
Talk About Alone Time Before You Go
“The difference between when you’re home and when you’re on vacation together is that you’re with the other person all the time,” says Abbamonte. Being together 24/7 might be too much for some couples. Make sure to discuss habits, preferences, and set boundaries. If you know you need some alone time every day, let them know and bake it into the itinerary.
For some couples, taking one big trip every two years might be all they can allow for, time- and money-wise. So try a few shorter trips first, since they let couples get used to extended periods of time together. “Something smaller can help two people identify and work through potential challenges they might face on a bigger trip,” says Kurtz.
Don’t Let Fights Fester
Small irritations can become huge if they aren’t voiced. Who wants to be mad while trying to enjoy a vacation? “If you do find yourself in conflict while traveling, it’s best to address it as soon as possible,” says Kurtz. “After you’ve identified a specific problem, approach your partner with a calm, level-headed mindset—and that means doing it when you’re not triggered.”
Discuss Spending Before You Go
It’s important that vacation spending meets each person’s expectations and that neither person feels taken advantage of or like they’re totally blowing through their budget, says Kurtz. “While working this out isn’t terribly fun, there is an up side: Navigating this potentially awkward topic can actually give you important information on how the two of you might handle other money matters in the future,” she says.
Pack Your Patience
If you start to feel irritated by your partner—and, realistically, you probably will—stop and check in with yourself. You don’t want to take your exhaustion, jet-lag, or need for Starbucks out on your sweetheart. That irritation may resolve itself once you take care of your needs, says Kurtz.
You can’t have everything your way when traveling together. That’s where flexibility comes in. “Be willing to compromise if you have very different interests and travel styles,” says Kurtz. “Make a game of it, where one person plans one day of activities, and the other person plans the next.” Ask yourself what is more important: getting to see and do everything you want, in the exact way that you want, or the health and happiness of your relationship?