Getaway Ground Rules

by Kimberly Dawn Neumann
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Summer is coming, and you and your honey are getting on so well, you’ve decided to take a trip together. Here, tips for acing it.

Ahhh…that first escape as a duo. It’s definitely a relationship marker, but along with their bags, many people also pack a hefty dose of expectation, uncertainty and what-does-this-mean worry. “A first trip together is a real milestone,” says Dan Neuharth, Ph.D, a relationship therapist in private practice in California and author of Secrets We Keep From Ourselves. “Keep in mind though that while handling the first trip well can enhance both of your lives, bungling it can torpedo an otherwise good relationship.” So how can you make sure you end up in the former category (i.e. awesome memories)? Keep these getaway guidelines in mind and you’ll be on your way to a successful relation-trip.

Rule #1: Choose your destination wisely
You’ve heard it before, but location, location, location! When it comes to that first trip together, you really need to put some thought into the where of it. Don’t
The key to vacation success? Learn to roll with changes…
acquiesce or pretend you’d enjoy a destination you’d hate just to please your partner. Your collective goals should determine not only where you end up but also what kind of place you stay. Fail to discuss this ahead of time and you may both be disappointed before you even board the plane! “Do you want an active go-do-see trip or a kickback sit-by-the-pool vacation?” says Neuharth. “If you’re not on the same page, compromise.” Susan Knorrenborg, 30, of New York, NY, definitely found partnered-up vacation success this way. “My new boyfriend just loved skiing, which terrifies me. We solved the problem by finding a resort that had a spa. I spent all day enjoying the treatments. He spent all day enjoying the slopes. And we had dinnertime onward to enjoy each other’s company.”

Rule #2: Consider the financial
Call this the “funds factor.” Who is paying for the trip? Are you treating? Is your new amour paying? Are you splitting the bill? These questions should be discussed before booking a vacay. If there is a big disparity between your incomes, you don’t want the person making less to feel pressured to go beyond his or her fiscal means. At the same time, neither party should feel like they “owe” the other person something. “If one person is paying for the trip or paying a greater share, discuss how both of you feel about that and why you are doing it that way,” suggests Neuharth. “Make sure there is no hidden agenda or price-tag attached for either party.”

Rule #3: Establish a good getaway length
Longer may not be better when it comes to a first vacation together. In fact, when planning that premiere trip, it’s wise to set a reasonable time limit. After all, do you really know this person well enough to want to spend seven uninterrupted days and nights alone together with no break? Better to think moderate than to get caught up in the excitement and use all your vacation days. “Four days or a long weekend is good for a first trip together,” suggests Mathias Kramer, 38, New York, NY. “That way you can spend time getting to know each other but if it’s not going well, you can get out!” In other words, give yourselves an opportunity to relax, but leave while still wanting more!

Rule #4: Don’t pack the kitchen sink
You may feel the urge to want to look fashionable at every turn or tote along every creature comfort, but seriously, do you need 14 pairs of shoes or your entire electronics arsenal (laptop, personal organizer, cell phone, iPod, portable DVD player, etc…)? No! Pack comfy, pack casual, pack something that can be dressed up, pack the bare minimum of “modern toys” (you’re supposed to actually talk to each other on this trip, not e-mail, IM or text each other). If you have extra room… throw in a game of travel Scrabble or Yahtzee. You’ll get more mileage and bonding time out of that than another sweater you end up not wearing.

Rule #5: Identify your travel styles
The actual event of traveling to and from your destination of choice can be a stressful relationship test all by itself, so it’s good to discuss how you react to the actual transit part in advance. Do you like to get to the airport two hours early but your amour
Figure out who pays for what before you leave.
prefers to whiz in at the last minute? Is either of you afraid of flying or prone to air sickness? Is the prospect of a road trip appealing or appalling? Find these things out before your bags are packed to minimize the angst in getting from point A to point B. “Some people relax the moment the cab leaves the curb at their house on the way to the airport, while others can’t relax until they’re fully unpacked at the hotel,” says Neuharth. “No one way is right, but talking with your partner about how each of you handles travel can help avoid surprises and get things off to a good start.” It’s also smart to minimize the actual time spent in transit that first trip; save the vacation to Bali — and the 15 hour flight — for your honeymoon!

Rule #6: Acquaint yourself with the attractions
Maybe you two will get to your vacation spot and want to do nothing but stay in bed/order room service, but if the gotta-get-out-and-do-something vibe hits, it’s good to end up in a city with several interesting things to explore together. “My first trip with Andy was to Cleveland for a couple of days to see the U2 exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” says Sarene Leeds, 29, Brooklyn, NY. “We just assumed we’d hop a plane for the weekend, relax in a hotel room and have a blast, right? Wrong! We were so bored because after we didn’t know where to go in downtown Cleveland. Andy and I may be getting married now, but we sure had our doubts about each other that first trip because we were in each other’s faces every minute with nothing to do.” Learn about the attractions and events unique to your destination so you don’t fall into a boredom trap and mistake ennui for a lack of relationship chemistry.

Rule #7: Try not to micromanage every minute
On the flip side of Rule #6, resist the urge to over-plan! Part of the goal of this first trip is to spend time getting to know each other better. If you’re running from tourist site to lunch to historic overview to dinner to symphonic concert and so on, you’re just repeating your hurried daily agenda in a different setting instead of relaxing and enjoying the change of scene. This is a chance to slow down a little bit and see how you relate outside of your usual Blackberry-dictated world. Remember that spontaneity can sometimes be magical.

Rule #8: Don’t be afraid to separate
Yes, this is your first trip as a duo, but that doesn’t mean you absolutely have to spend every single second together. “If you have a routine that is important to you, like working out or meditating or going for a walk alone, incorporate that into your vacation—maintaining the habits that take care of you at home will help take care of you when you’re away,” suggests Neuharth. “You don’t have to spend every minute together and in fact, even a few minutes apart may make you feel closer overall.” Have your own adventures on occasion and reconvene to share them later!

Rule #9: Learn to be flexible
Even with the best-laid plans, you may hit a bump while on the road. The key to vacation success lies in learning to roll with it! “You may have both pleasant and unpleasant surprises but if you are going to have a lasting relationship, you want to know sooner, not later, who you are with and whether you are a good match,” says Neuharth. “Thinking of your vacation as a learning experience means that no matter what happens, the vacation will be a success as long as you learn from it.” In other words, if something goes wrong, take it in and see how you handle the “crisis” together. You may discover a new side of your partner in an unexpected place.

Rule #10: Process the vacation after you return home
You’re going to learn a great deal about each other on this trip, it’s inevitable. But before you decide if the overall vacation was a bust or strengthened your bond, give yourself a couple days back in the “real” world to sort through your thoughts. “On vacation, you are in an emotionally altered state but once back home you may have reactions or insights to how the vacation went—be open to these, and to hearing your partner’s,” says Neuharth. “Dealing with any challenges arising from the vacation as a team can help you build a stronger foundation for the future—and that’s more important than how any single vacation goes.”

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Women’s Health, Maxim and frequently for She and her boyfriend are in process of planning their first vacation together…and they plan to follow these rules!!
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