Guest Blog Post: Incompatible Travel Styles? 5 Tips from a Couples Therapist for a Great Trip!

We are proud to feature a post from Diane Spear, LCSW, a Huffington Post quoted relationship expert who owns a private practice in the Union Square/East Village area of Manhattan, New York City. She specializes in anxiety, depression, couples, and parenting treatment, and has been helping people find the joy in everyday life since 1995. She is accepting new patients.

You’ve hired Fifth Meridian Travel to plan an unforgettable travel experience for you, but what do you do if you and your travel partner have incompatible travel styles and ideas for vacations? Does that mean a tension-filled travel experience is in your future? Or that you can’t possibly travel together? Or, if you’re a couple, that your relationship is doomed?
No!!! If you and your travel partner have compatible travel styles and ideas for vacations, you’re lucky! If not, keep reading. Union Square/East Village (NYC) couples therapist Diane Spear has five great tips that can improve your travel experience, whether you’re friends who travel together or a couple.

Dealing with Incompatible Travel Styles
Discuss your trip preferences and expectations ahead of time.
Is your goal to pack in as much activity as possible? Or the ultimate in relaxation? Would you rather go broad, or go deep (many cities for a day or two per, or one or two places in depth)?
Do you prefer organized tours, or seeing things on your own with a guidebook or app? Or wandering and discovering things by chance? Do you like to set an alarm and start the day early, with a quick shower and coffee and out the door? Or do you like to sleep in, followed by a leisurely start?
Do you like to drive places, take public transportation, or walk? Are you fit and looking for a physical challenge? Do you have physical limitations to consider in setting your activity level?
Do you like to go to museums? Or spend your time outside?
Do you like to splurge? Or do you value frugality? Or do you have certain things you’re willing to splurge on, and others where frugality reigns?
Do you like warm-weather getaways in winter, or do you love snow skiing vacations? Do you live for the beach or sailing vacations? Or do you want to explore the world’s great golf courses?
So many questions! But these and other differences, preferences, and expectations are all things to discuss long before you begin planning your trip, and perhaps even before deciding to travel together.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong, best or worst, just differences.
Your preference is not better than your partner’s, any more than your partner’s is better than yours. Assigning a different value to yours and your partner’s is a recipe for dissatisfaction. They are just differences.
This can be difficult for some people to remember. Of course, any reasonable person would see it my way, would want what I want, you may think. Problem is, your partner probably feels the same way about his or her preferences. They are just your preferences, nothing more.

Communicate directly and logically. Take breaks to “cool off” if the discussion becomes heated, and come back to it when you’re both calm.
There’s no point in continuing to discuss things once things become heated, because when someone is angry, you can think of that person (including yourself) as being temporarily insane.Nothing productive will come from trying to reason with someone who’s temporarily unable, by virtue of anger, to be reasonable.
Decide to come back to it later, when you’ve both returned to a logical, rational frame of mind. That may be in an hour or a couple of days.
Two friends who travel together frequently have made a deal when they get on each other’s nerves during a trip: when they have a disagreement, they look for a bar, have a drink and some laughs, and remind themselves of the importance of their friendship, which is much more valuable to them than whatever silly disagreement they’re having.

Compromise, compromise, compromise. Then compromise some more!
There are many ways to compromise. We’ll do things your way this time, and my way the next. If this is really important to you, and I really don’t care, we’ll do what you want, and you’ll do the same when something’s really important to me.
Let’s try to do some of what we both enjoy. We'll put things in rank order, and maybe the thing that we do together is a 4 for you and a 5 for me. And if the higher-ranked choices for each of us are things the other person really doesn’t want to do, we do those things separately, whether that’s separate trips or separate activities on a trip we take together.
One man is a talented skier who learned in the Alps starting at age two, and his wife didn’t ski till age 35 and doesn’t really enjoy it and the apres ski scene. They have learned over the years that when he wants to ski, he should do that vacation with skiing friends, and their vacations together are things that they both enjoy. This decision came after several trips together in which she went along with his wishes without stating that she didn’t enjoy the trip, but resented him. When they discussed it, they found the more enjoyable alternative, which involves the following point.

Keep in mind that, whatever your relationship, you aren’t joined at the hip.
That means that if you like to set an alarm and get out early, and your travel partner likes to sleep in and move slowly, you can do that and agree to meet up when your partner is ready for activity. If your partner likes to take cabs and you like to walk, you can each do your preference and meet at the destination, or decide to take turns.
You’re a museum bug, and your partner likes long bike rides? You spend a day touring museums, and your partner rents a bike to ride singly or with a group in the countryside. You meet up afterward and talk about your experiences of the day over drinks and dinner. Win-win!

Accepting your travel partner as he or she is leads to a much more satisfying experience than trying to force him or her to do things your way, to be a clone of you. Thoughtful communication and compromise from the beginning, focusing on the points of agreement, and working through the bumps and disagreements along the way can bypass your incompatible travel styles and lead to the wonderfully memorable travel experiences that define the Fifth Meridian travel experience.