How to Prioritize Individual Activities on a Couple's Trip, According to Experts

Even the most enamored couples need time apart

Split screen image of a woman biking one way and a man in a museum walking the other direction

From left: kiszon pascal / Getty Images; Unsplash

We’re dedicating our February features to romance travel. A destination has the ability to steal our hearts, but many magical and memorable experiences abroad can be closely tied to stories of love. From traveling after a breakup to compromising trip planning with multiple partners and prioritizing individual interests on a couple’s trip, we’ve put together a collection of inspiring stories that display just how closely our romantic relationships relate to our worldwide adventures.

Even the most enamored couples need time apart, and “travel” means different things to different people. Only a cultural expedition or mountain trek will cut it for one person, while for the other, an all-inclusive resort with a pool would do the trick.

Couples might have diverging interests and want to check different things off their lists, which can cause friction or resentment if one person’s travel needs aren’t met. To help you prioritize individual activities while on a couple’s trip, here are eight tips from relationship experts and peripatetic pairs that harmoniously see the world together but apart.

Set expectations before the trip.

Alex Davis and her husband run Ryan and Alex Duo Life, a lifestyle blog for couples. They emphasize the importance of setting expectations for the vacation—especially if it’s your first trip together. “Does your partner want to sleep in without any alarms? Are you lacing up new sneakers to make sure you’re seeing everything there is to see in the city?” she states. “Communication is key.”

Brianna and Kyle, the married couple behind Married with Maps, love traveling together whenever they can find sitters for their cats. To make the most of their trips, they each write a list of must-do activities and a “would like to do” list; after compiling their preferred itineraries, they see where their interests align. The couple will then make slight compromises and find a middle ground. “Kyle was not super interested in going to the Hello Kitty Cafe in Bangkok, so I let him pick out the food we would share,” Brianna notes.

Dedicate a day on the itinerary for solo time.

While RebateKey founder Ian Sells and his wife enjoy traveling together, they also use their trips for introspective "me time" and, therefore, have dedicated solo travel days. "This was initially born out of us wanting to go to different destinations during one of our trips," he says. "Instead of arguing, we decided to take a day from the itinerary to 'DIY' based on our personal preferences and be spontaneous."

Rent a cabin or house with space for all.

Alicia Rozycki, Ph.D., has been a licensed psychologist for 15 years, providing therapeutic support for women. Her sage advice for traveling couples is to find lodging with ample room for both of you. “Let the early bird enjoy coffee and a good book on a deck while the night owl sleeps in. Choose a place with multiple levels or different areas for activities like a woodsy property with a trail or a home with a pool.” Rozycki adds that you can enjoy the various spaces and nooks separately and come together when you crave company.

Do physical activities separately, but at the same time.

Hanna Ashcraft, the blogger behind Moderately Adventurous, has gleefully traveled the world with her romantic partner for nine years. If you're both active travelers but have different interests, she recommends that you each partake in your preferred physical activities simultaneously. For example, you could take a hike while your partner is ticking an intense bike ride off their list. "This is so that you stay more or less on the same page in terms of hunger and tiredness," says Hanna, noting that you won't be bursting with energy when they want a slow morning the next day.

Take turns.

"We found that the most important tip for staying happy on the road is the first thing your parents taught you—take turns," recommend Jenn and Ed Coleman of Coleman Concierge. The couple believes that nobody ever gets to do what they want if you're always compromising on activities. "Instead, taking turns allows everybody's voice to be heard, and unique interests satisfied." Taking turns had an unexpected added benefit for the couple, too: "We learned so much about each other by what activities our partner picked."

Help your partner plan their solo activities.

"If you'll be spending time doing your own activities while your partner has no other plans, offer to help them devise something of their own," said relationship and dating coach Andrew Gung. Helping them get organized or even just reading a book about your other half's intended activity can be an excellent opportunity to show care and support for them.

Tack on extra days to the beginning or end of a trip.

To ensure that nobody goes home feeling unfulfilled, psychotherapist and certified sex therapist Brooke Bralove suggests adding a day or two to the start or end of a trip. “If there are truly activities that your partner won’t do, then you may decide that you want to stay for a few extra days and do that shark cage diving or whatever crazy activity you’re interested in,” she says. “This way, there’s no competing for time.”

Bonny Albo and her partner Max have traveled together full time for the past five years as digital nomads. They try to stay in a location long enough to have sufficient time for the things that each of them enjoys. “We also want to experience a region without having to rush through it,” she says. When deciding what to do together or separately, Albo suggests thinking about how you would feel if your partner had a particular experience without you. “Does this cause you distress, relief, or make you happy?” she asks.

Make post-separation reunions a special event.

"If you are intentionally planning to split up—whether it's for a day, a week, or more—make an event out of your reunion," said Rachel-Jean Firchau, a marketer and travel writer based in Los Angeles. She recommends saving an activity you would love to do together or making a nice restaurant reservation for your reunion. "It'll make reuniting that much sweeter and give you something to look forward to after you pursue your individual interests."