A Relationship Expert Tells Us How Couples Can Best Navigate Their First Vacation Together

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Embarking on the first vacation together can be a thrilling yet daunting milestone for couples. It's an opportunity to escape the routine, explore new places, and deepen the connection. However, without proper planning and understanding, what's meant to be a romantic getaway could quickly turn into a stressful experience that could seriously test your relationship — for better or worse. Dr. Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., also known as The Love Doctor®, a renowned relationship expert, Distinguished Professor at Oakland University in Michigan, and author of "Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship," shares some invaluable insights on how couples can navigate their first vacation together successfully.

According to Dr. Orbuch, the decision to take a vacation should be mutual, with both partners having a clear understanding of what it signifies. "Some couples take vacations together to decide whether they can be a couple — or be with each other for several days straight," she explains. Whether you go somewhere comfortable, like an adults-only all-inclusive resort, or somewhere more adventurous, like an Indonesian island destination — a getaway might be a way to test the waters of compatibility. This is especially true if you plan to spend several days together non-stop, while usually, you only see each other on dates once or twice a week. Dr. Orbuch mentions that some couples might choose to wait for their first vacation until they officially consider themselves a couple, while others wait until they can introduce themselves to others as one.

Potential hurdles of vacationing too soon

Differences in opinions about travel expenses can be a significant hurdle if you vacation prematurely. Dr. Orbuch stresses the importance of discussing and agreeing on the budget, accommodations, and trip type before booking anything. Finances are one of the most common issues couples argue about. According to a 2022 survey by Royal London, 62% of couples admit that they argue with their partner about money, while 33% admit they have a financial incompatibility regarding spending and saving. Taking your first vacation together at the right time is an excellent way to test this element. "If you take a vacation together too early, you will not have the time to discuss the financial details ahead of time, and whether you have similar travel personalities," cautions Dr. Orbuch.

Communicating needs is vital for a fulfilling vacation (and a fulfilling relationship), but doing so might be challenging for the couple if the trip happens too early. Transparency about personal habits and preferences is crucial to avoid frustration and disappointment. Dr. Orbuch recommends, "When you are honest with your travel partner about how you're feeling and sharing the small but important details, that may prevent fallouts and result in a more rewarding and rejuvenating vacation for both of you." For example, one person in the relationship may need their coffee first thing in the morning while the other feels anxious around large crowds. If so, planning your first vacation to this hidden gem beach in Florida to avoid large crowds might be a great idea. 

Tips for a successful first couple's vacation

If you believe you're ready for your first couple's trip, setting a budget is imperative. Both partners need to be on the same page regarding how much they are willing to spend and on what. Compromise is essential when deciding on activities or dining options. Dr. Orbuch suggests taking turns in making these decisions to ensure both partners feel valued and respected. Be open and honest with your partner, even about seemingly minor details — this can prevent misunderstandings and contribute to a more pleasant vacation.

Travel plans don't always go smoothly. Dr. Orbuch advises you to "pack your calmness" and schedule some buffer time in your itinerary. Avoid overscheduling to reduce stress and leave room for spontaneity. Most importantly, understand that the "perfect" vacation is not a reality. It's natural for differences to arise, even with meticulous planning — navigating these differences is part of the journey of strengthening your relationship. "The goal is to spend some quality time together," reminds Dr. Orbuch.

A couple's first vacation together is more than just a trip; it's a significant step in their relationship. By following this invaluable exclusive advice from The Love Doctor®, couples can ensure their getaway strengthens their bond rather than strains it. As you move forward in your relationship, Dr. Orbuch's other books, such as "5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great" and "Secrets to Surviving Your Children's Love Relationships," might come in handy.