TRAVEL TIPS FOR COUPLES ON A ROLL
Maybe it's built into us, or maybe it's the influence of literature and the movie screen, but few would try to deny the romantic appeal of A HAPPY COUPLE riding off together into the sunset. It's the honeymoon ideal, the inspiration for a thousand song lyrics, the fantasy of untold legions of Cupid-struck lovers. Even if the mode of transportation is a trusty Toyota instead of a red convertible or a black stallion, many lovebirds find the call of the open road irresistible.
For every couple that returns from a maiden road trip in dream-come-true mode, however, there's another that comes home thinking: "Never again!" The gap between fantasy and reality hits many road trip dreamers like four simultaneous blowouts at speed. "This is nothing like we imagined!" blindsided travelers wail as a simple decision like where to eat turns into a full-blown civil war.
I personally know of a divorce that was hastened by a horrible road trip. While that couple probably would have split up eventually anyway, their ill-fated road trip widened the cracks in their relationship quickly and irreparably. Just as they can be a wonderful chance to bond and build a gallery of fondly shared experiences, road trips can also create -- or add to -- intense tension and disharmony.
The reason there's a dark side to road trips is that, while they seem like the ultimate in carefree travel, they are in fact tiring and stressful. Before you actually hit the road, your mental image is likely drawn from car ads filmed on a perfect day in a perfect car on an empty road with endless vistas and no speed limit. You've left your troubles behind, and your biggest worry is that your hair -- because you're in a convertible, of course -- might get tangled. To help ensure that a snarled coiffure really is your biggest problem when you hit the road with your soul mate, here are eight tips to help you plan the romantic getaway of your dreams.
- 1. Plan your trip together. Surprise excursions are usually more fun for the planner than the recipient. Why? Because anticipation is as important to enjoyment as the physical experience, and you'll also learn about your partner's preferences as you make your decisions. Road tripping is a learned skill. If one partner is more experienced, build in some extra consideration for the newbie. Keep first-time trips short and sweet. A weekend cruise to a nearby scenic area is a great way to start out.
- 2. Don't turn a road trip into a chore. It's tempting to plan too much to do and too many miles to cover. Remember that you're not a long-haul truck driver, and you don't have to "get there." Allow plenty of time for moseying and stopping when something unforeseen catches your eye. Smell the roses. Feel the sand between your toes. Watch the sun go down. Romance thrives on time, and nothing wilts it faster than an alarm clock and a packed schedule.
3. While you're on the road, lavish your partner with extra consideration and kindness.
Be proactive -- past acceptable behavior may not be enough. Because a road trip is constantly taking you into new territory -- not only physically but mentally, too - it pays to keep channels of communication open. Listen to your partner, and share your own feelings.
- 4. Assign the responsibilities, and then resist the temptation to interfere with how tasks are accomplished. If one person is acting as navigator, the other needs to trust the directions. Even if the navigator occasionally gets things wrong, it's better to bite your tongue and take a detour. Why? Because you will get things wrong once in a while, too. Patience and consideration are key, and if you've followed Tip 2 above, you've got the time to enjoy the side trip instead of ranting about your soul mate's inability to read a map.
5. Think carefully about the driving, as this is the biggest single task on a road trip.
Will you share this responsibility, or will one of you be the designated chauffeur?
If one person is going to do all the driving, think about a "Plan B" if that person becomes incapacitated.
A friend of mine set off on a trip with his girlfriend in a vintage Volkswagen. "I'll do all the driving," she promised, but when a case of a sudden allergic reaction made her eyes swell shut, the situation changed. The guy was faced with the challenge of driving a stick shift, which he had never done before. To make matters even more exciting, his driver's license had expired. The relationship ended around the time they got home.
- 6. Don't let the grouches get the upper hand. Once bickering begins, it can easily lead to knock-down, drag-out war. Eating meals on a consistent schedule and getting enough sleep are the best defenses.
- 7. Keep a journal, and if you take pictures, take the time to organize them into an easy-to-enjoy format. Recalling shared experiences is not only romantic, it strengthens relationships in the long term. These days, a road trip blog is a great way to preserve and share memories.
- 8. Remember that the journey's the thing. Make it a priority to enjoy every moment, even the unplanned ones. Attitude can make all the difference when something unexpected happens. Believe it or not, even a case of an allergic reaction and an expired driver's license don't have to ruin a trip. Some of my own favorite road trip memories are of getting stuck in a snowdrift in Austria and running out of gas in Scotland.