Travel, Love and Money: 3 Ways Couples Can Find Financial Satisfaction on the Road
A candle-lit lobster dinner with your toes in the sand. Après ski in a hot tub under the stars. Snorkeling in a tropical lagoon. Vacationing together as a couple can seem storybook -- until budget concerns threaten to throw a wrench into the romance.On vacation, as at home, having different ideas about what's worth paying for is a common issue couples face.
"Every relationship problem happens because people have different sets of expectations," says Wendy Walsh, author of The 30-Day Love Detox and a columnist for a dating advice website. "So the more you can lay out and explain your expectations [of a trip] ahead of time, the better."
Communication is the magic word. And addressing the intersection of love and money during your trip planning can make for far smoother travels.
MAKE A GAME OF BUDGETING
The first thing to talk about before you set off is how you'll divide costs.
"Really look at your relationship and figure out what system has been set up," Walsh says. "Are you doing it 50-50 or has he been taking care of everything?" Just because you've handled paying for common costs a certain way during your homebound dating life doesn't mean the same rules apply when you hit the road together. And just because money's a serious topic doesn't mean you can't have some fun.
"We try to make a bit of a game out of budgeting by having an agreed daily amount to spend and choosing to eat out only once a day if food is not cheap," says Sandy Mills from Muriwai, New Zealand, who travels with her American partner, Jake, several times a year. "If we overspend one day, we have to make it up the next. We don't stick to this all the time, but we try to come up with guidelines that can be a game." When there's money left over in the common kitty, the couple usually celebrates by splurging on something they enjoy doing together.
DEFINE EXPECTATIONS AND SPLURGES
Speaking openly about your individual priorities is important.
"Is he a golfer with expensive greens fees, and does that cut into her budget? If she is a shopper, how does that impact the budget?" says Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology. "Being clear on who is responsible for what ahead of time can save a lot of grief on the road."
For Mills and her partner, it's important to have their own stashes of money independent from each other that they can feel okay with spending on their personal interests. "I can buy anything I want with mine, usually jewelry or clothes, and Jake can do whatever he wants with his money -- usually surf-related things," she says. "This is a different budget than our day-to-day one back home, and I think important to have so there aren't any arguments about wasting money during a trip."
Spelling out what you're both willing to spend on meals, excursions and transportation is critical to get out of the way before taking off, "so you don't spend your vacation discussing money issues or missing an experience because you're worried about cash," says Jennifer Raezer, cofounder of Approach Guides, who travels internationally throughout the year with her husband.
ALLOW FOR THE UNEXPECTED
The unexpected and variable costs -- how much to tip in foreign countries, whether to give money to beggars and how far to push negotiations with taxi drivers and other locals -- can lead to unforeseen financial stress. "Most often, one of us deals with the situation immediately," says Raezer of her and her husband. "Then later we discuss the situation, address any concerns and make any behavior modifications the next time the situation arises."
In travel as in all things, being open to your partner's point of view will go a long way in avoiding fights. "You shouldn't expect your partner to be the same type of traveler you are," says Walsh. "But you do have to make compromises. Otherwise you're just two roommates who answered a Craigslist ad to save money on a hotel room."
[Top photo: jupiterimages]