How To Vacation When Your Spouse Likes Different Things Than You

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Chris and I will be celebrating 9 years this fall since we swapped rings and said “I do, forever and ever, Amen.”

After almost 9 years, I’d say we have fair number of vacations under our belts with having been blessed to go on a couple trips per year.  But in the early years, gosh, it was such a struggle because we like totally different things.  You think, ‘ah, vacation, yes, perfect!’ but then you get to a beach and realize one of you hates heat and won’t swim in the ocean, or you get to a mountain and realize one of you likes cities, or you get to Chicago and realize one of you doesn’t eat pizza, or you get to a casino and realize one of you doesn’t like gambling.

I’d say in the last couple years we finally hit our vacationing stride.  We finally figured out what works for us.  Vacation is no longer one person overly excited while the other is like “eh, fine, I didn’t really want to do that but I guess that’s fine” situation.

Here are my top tips for ensuring your vacations are everything you both dreamed them to be . . .

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Joint Custody of the Plans:  Why it took us eight years to figure this out is beyond me!  I think we kind of thought that whoever picked the destination was responsible for figuring out every restaurant, every plan, every activity, navigating the area, etc.  We finally got smart and determined that when we go on a trip, we alternate every-other-day on who picks what we do.  For example, we went to Portland last year and Monday was Chris’ pick and we were 2,000 feet up on a mountain eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on a rock.  Tuesday was my pick, and we were at an art museum and The Moth listening to live speakers share their stories.  I can climb 2,000 feet when I know the next day we get to do my thing.  He can go to a museum when he knows the next day we get to have brunch at the restaurant he has had his eye on.  Disclaimer:  If you do this, you must commit to not complaining when it’s not your day.  The beauty of this plan is that.  The bonus of this plan is you try things you would’ve otherwise never done and you lose the chip on your shoulder because there’s also time for your thing.

Alternate Who Picks the Destination:  You may go on two trips a year, you may go on a trip every anniversary, you may go on a trip every five years.  Whatever pace you’re traveling, alternate who picks the destination.  We have a set up going where I pick the spring vacation, Chris picks the fall vacation.  If I pick NYC and he picks some cabin in the woods, well, we both had our chances.

Pack Medicine:  I have spent a small fortune on stomach medicine, headache medicine, sinus medicine, and every other medicine in between.  I’m one of those ‘my stomach hurts now that I’m traveling and it’s totally inconvenient’ people.  Just pack this stuff ahead of time if you’re like me so your walk to Central Park isn’t spent at every Duane Reade you come across.

Stick With the Plan, Even if it Isn’t Your Plan:  One thing I tend to do on vacation is pick something for us to do, example: going to listen to speakers at The Moth.  And then the plans are later in the evening (I get tired early) and it’s at a place with inconvenient parking and there’s no guarantee we’ll get a ticket, and I know Chris could take it or leave it so I’m inclined to go “eh, we don’t have to go” only to later be sad or bitter about it.  This happened in Portland and even though it wasn’t top of Chris’ list he goes “nope, get up, we’re going” and he dropped me at the door, I got the tickets, he parked 5 billion miles away and I didn’t have to worry about parking, and the night was awesome.  It wasn’t his plan, but his “nope, we’re doing this thing” made it all better.  So if he backs away from his idea because it seems inconvenient, I owe it to him and me to say “nope, here’s the pb&j sandwich and the trail map, let’s hit it.”  Our last vacation had us in the casino one day (my pick) and in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon (Chris’ pick) the next day.

Get a Balcony:  The richest conversations and sweeter moments I’ve had with Chris have been over breakfast room service with a giant pot of overpriced coffee on the balcony of our hotel room.  I’ll pay an extra $100 to sit there and watch him read the town’s local newspaper while we listen to music and talk about nonsense any day of the week.

Know the Difference Between Adventure and Vacation/Relaxation:  Our friends Katie and Elliott coined this idea.  They enjoy a good vacation or two per year and told us they realized early in their marriage that there’s a difference between going on an adventure (hiking, mountain biking) and relaxation or the traditional “vacation” (reading books on the beach).  Once you figure out what your idea of vacation is, even if your spouse likes the opposite thing, it’s much easier to navigate a happy medium.

Take the Day Off Work One Day Before You Leave:  I spent 7 years working my a$$ off to get caught up or ahead or organized or in a perfect place with work, then I’d leave the office late, I’d pack my final things, and then we’d fly out at 5:40 a.m. when coffee doesn’t even sound appealing yet.  And you know what that led to?  The first 2.5 days of a 5 day vacation where I was so exhausted I barely wanted to leave the hotel room and just ended up watching eight straight hours of “Women in Prison” documentaries  instead of venturing out (I mean, hypothetically speaking, that may or may not be true).  Not anymore people, not anymore.  Where possible, I will now take the day off work one day before we fly out.  Or I will cut off one day of a vacation so we have a full Saturday before we leave on Sunday.  I once heard the phrase “work gets the best of me and my family gets the rest of me” and I’m not even tryin’ to be one of those people anymore.  So I work myself like crazy, come home and rest, give myself a day to piddle around the house, get the mail organized, clean out the fridge, pack my clothes, and scroll through my favorite social media channels so that the next day when we go to the airport I don’t have “work hangover.”

Connect Twice a Day:  There’s people out there that can totally disconnect from work on a vacation.  Bravo to them!  I am not one of those people (either is Chris).  The idea of not checking my work email stresses me out more than actually looking at it each day (I’m talking about on my phone, I’m not lugging my laptop around).  But, this can also be very distracting.  So I now check in/glance at my work email twice a day on vacation.  Some people may think I’m nuts, but others may say “yes!  good idea!”  So when I get up I will scan through to make sure all seems well and then in the evening when we have a down moment before dinner, I will scan through to see what happened that day.  This has worked wonders for me.  I know people will have different opinions, but it keeps me sane upon our return because I know where work stands, but keeps me engaged in what we’re doing all day on vacation.

Get the Dessert:  Vacation is not the time to focus on the fact that you feel you should’ve been on a diet for the last two years of your life.  Get the dessert, take a picture of it, be happy.