Though my husband, Greg, and I both love to travel, we have very different ideas of what kind of vacation is worth the money. Before we met, he’d go glacier hiking and scuba diving, while I enjoyed sightseeing and staying in chic hotels.
So when we planned our first vacation together a decade ago, we quickly learned that we needed to compromise to make our vacations fun, affordable and worth it for both of us. Here are some tips for how to make your travel budget work as a couple.
AGREE ON A FIGURE BEFORE YOU GET INTO THE DETAILS
Greg and I used to butt heads with each other over where we’d stay. He sees hotels as simply a place to sleep; I see them as part of the relaxing experience of getting away. Now, we discuss the length of our trip first and how much we want to spend, getting that settled before we start looking at lodging or anything else.
Having a budget takes the guesswork out of what is in range for us. "A budget gives you a game plan so you know exactly where your dollars are going," says relationship expert Lynda Smith. "Even if you don’t have exact figures for accommodations, food and transportation, you can research ballpark estimates or determine how much you’re budgeting per day of the trip."
Smith suggests using BudgetYourTrip to plan your vacation. Or, if you're splitting expenses and want to keep things even, Splitwise can help you easily record what each person pays for so you can figure out who owes what later.
Looking at a wide variety of options helps us compromise, too, which is what entrepreneur Chris Holder suggests for stretching your travel budget overall.
“Instead of shelling out money on an expensive hotel suite, check Airbnb or resort shares,” he says. “Look for places with a kitchen so you can cook some of your own meals, as those can add up. The money you save there is the money you can put toward fun things that really count, such as tours, snorkeling, wine tastings and shopping.”
GIVE EACH OTHER ‘WINS’
Sometimes finding middle ground isn’t an option, so we’ve found a way to give and take in our family travel. On a recent trip to Tahoe, his win was to ski a few mornings while I watched the kids. My win was that we stayed in a pricey Airbnb with lots of amenities so I could relax.
These compromises feel like we are giving something to each other rather than giving something up.
Therapist and travel advisor Brie Shelly says that it's important for couples to come together when planning vacations to make sure each other's needs are met.
"Once both people articulate how they feel and what their needs are, then you can discuss how to ensure each person feels comfortable," she says. "Focus on collaborating so that you can each feel heard. Then, everyone wins."
LOOK FOR DEALS
By taking the time to plan, we’ve had unique, guilt-free travel experiences that fit within our budget. For our Bora Bora trip in 2011, we scoured Hotels.com until we found an overwater bungalow for the unheard-of price of $360 per night. In 2015, we capped off a three-week trip to Australia with a free stay at the Park Hyatt Sydney, courtesy of a Hyatt credit card deal.
"My wife and I always look to find reward cards that give us points toward flights, hotels and other gifts," Holder says. "These cards have many benefits including exclusive offers for trips with each level you reach. I believe most couples should consider them, as their purchases during the year will be more than enough to get an almost-free trip that meets both their needs."
All-inclusive resorts, Holder adds, are another great luxury-for-less option, as are deals through Travelzoo and AAA.
TAKE SOME SOLO TRIPS
Every now and then, Greg and I want to do our own thing. He’ll head to the mountains and stay in a budget hotel so he can just ski and sleep. I’ll do a yoga retreat, get a massage and spend a few days reading. We each return rejuvenated and excited to be back home.
Shelly says that trips together, as a family and on your own are all important for everyone's well-being.
“Solo trips enable you to focus on yourself and hopefully have the ability to turn inward,” she says. “It sounds cliché, but you can also get perspective on so many levels and see where the heart grows fonder, too.”