This complete couples travel planning guide is intended to provide you with lots of advice and inspiration for planning a trip together.
You’ll learn how to:
- Decide on a destination you’ll both love
- Make the most of your time off work
- Book flights and hotels (and when to book)
- Plan an itinerary together
- Travel together as a couple without killing each other
We hope it proves useful!
The Complete Travel Planning Guide for Couples
Where are you going?
Unless you both have the exact same destinations at the top of your bucket lists, deciding where you’re going to travel to as a couple can be one of the hardest (and longest) decisions to make.
These quick tips below should help make this part of the process easier…
Step #1: Read travel blogs, magazines and books
Whether you want to take a look at pretty photography, read travel stories about a top destination you’re considering, or read in-depth tips and advice about a location, reading travel blogs, books and magazines is a great first step.
Here are some couples travel blogs we swear by:
- Getting Stamped
- Practical Wanderlust
- Adventure In You
- Two Drifters
- Two Scots Abroad
- … and, of course, shameless plug… Our blog: Wanderers of the World
We also recommend buying the latest Lonely Planet magazine (or even taking out a subscription) for the latest travel inspiration and advice.
And here are some books we love reading when deciding on where to visit next:
- You Only Live Once by Lonely Planet
- The Best Place To Be Today by Lonely Planet
- Atlas Obscura by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton
- Great Escapes by Lonely Planet
- The Ultimate Travelist by Lonely Planet
Step #2: Use Pinterest
As an electronic vision board, Pinterest is chock-full of travel inspiration and advice.
From amazing photos, to useful blogs and online articles, you can use Pinterest to help narrow down your choices, save ideas to a shortlist and research destinations once a decision has been made.
Step #3: Look at a good old fashioned map
Whether you choose to close your eyes and point (for the more adventurous), or use a map to help you get your bearings of the world, we’ve made some of our best travel decisions by simply scouting out destinations near places we are already travelling to, or in areas of the world we have yet to explore.
Step #4: Visit travel agents and tour operators to get some ideas
Even if you don’t quite have the budget for booking your trip via a travel agent or tour operator, they are a wealth of free information!
Whether you choose to take home one of their free booklets or guides, or setup an appointment with an advisor, you’ll gain heaps of advice for where to go, what to do when you get there, when to visit and even where to stay.
From there, you can then choose to book through them or do it yourself.
Step #5: Still struggling? Here are 50 of the best travel destinations for couples!
Best Travel Destinations For Couples Who Love Nature
Read More: 50 Best Travel Destinations For Couples
Best Travel Destinations For Couples Who Love Culture
Read More: 50 Best Travel Destinations For Couples
Best Travel Destinations For Couples Who Love City Breaks
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- New York City
- Hong Kong
- Saint Petersburg
Read More: 50 Best Travel Destinations For Couples
Best Travel Destinations For Couples Who Love Food
Read More: 50 Best Travel Destinations For Couples
Step #6: Make a shortlist
When you both have a better idea of where you might like to go, you should each make a shortlist of 5 or 10 destinations, ideally prioritised by what you’re most desperate to see.
It might be that some of the same destinations appear on both your lists, or you might inspire each other to consider destinations you’d never thought of before.
This worked really well for Scott and I when we were planning our LA, Hawaii and San Francisco trip in 2016.
We’d both selected Hawaii for our shortlist, while I was keen to see LA and Scott was keen to see San Francisco during the same trip… so we travelled around all three in 2 weeks!
When are you going?
Check the local weather and season
Remember that not all destinations have the same seasons, climate or weather year-round.
As an example, while the Northern Hemisphere is plunged into autumn and winter, the Southern Hemisphere is just starting its spring and summer months.
Some regions, such as Indonesia, Thailand and India have monsoon seasons as well, which can really put a downer on your holiday if you’re not prepared for it or able to work around it.
Before you book your trip, look at the Met Office website, as well as trustworthy travel blogs and guides to find out when it’s best to visit your preferred destination.
Use Google Flights to find cheaper travel dates
We’ve used the Google Flights website and app a lot during our travel planning.
As Google is a neutral third party, it’s able to show you the lowest fares across a number of different airlines. You can even plan one-way and multi-city trips with it… always with the assurance that you’ll be seeing the cheapest airline prices.
And if you have flexibility over where you can travel to, you can also search for cheap fares in any month, which can be a great way to find locations you may not have thought of.
That’s how we ended up in Cyprus a couple of years ago!
Remember to use weekends and bank holidays to your advantage!
If you work full-time like us, then you’ll know your annual leave days are not only limited but very precious.
This is when having a strategy to effectively make the most of your weekends and bank holidays alongside your paid holiday days is really important.
We’ll frequently look at bank holiday dates across the year to help us plan when to travel, and we’ll often fly out on a Saturday and come back on a Saturday.
This allows us to save our paid holiday days for the actual sightseeing part of the trip, while also giving us time after the trip to get back into gear ahead of the working week.
Are you ready to book?
Aim to have your hotels and flights booked no later than 3 months before for short-haul trips and 5 months before for long-haul trips.
Buy travel insurance
Make sure you’ve bought travel insurance before booking anything related to your holiday. This will ensure that – should anything untoward happen – you’ll be covered.
Don’t even bother asking whether you need to buy travel insurance!
Take it from a couple that had the following happen during just one trip we took to Iceland and New York early last year:
- 1 flight cancelled
- 1 flight rescheduled
- 2 flights delayed
- 2 suitcases lost
- 1 destination skipped
You can bet we tried to get back as much money as we possibly could from both the airline and our insurance provider to help cover the costs of a partially ruined trip!
So seriously… buy that travel insurance! You’ll never know when you might need it.
Book flights and hotels
We’d always recommend booking your flights first.
With flights, you’ll often only get a couple of options for your destination and the day you want to travel on, whereas there will often be a large number of hotels available in your destination… if you’re booking your trip far enough in advance, of course!
Quick Tip #1: Remember to check where your hotel is located in relation to both the airport and any activities and sightseeing you want to do. The last thing you want to be doing is travelling large distances to and from your hotel, as this eats into your “fun” travel time.
Quick Tip #2: Use Google Flights to find cheap flights around the world. Often, changing your travel dates by just 1 or 2 days can drastically alter the prices you’ll pay. Why do we recommend Google Flights above all others? They’re neutral, which means you’re more able to trust the information that it’s giving you.
Book car hire, airport transfers and other transport options
Once your flights and hotel are booked, you’ll want to book your car hire, airport transfer and other transport options (e.g. coach and train travel) in advance too.
This not only saves you stress and time during the trip itself, but also helps you to plan ahead on how you’ll get around.
When booking car hire in Europe, remember to get your DVLA check code and keep a note of it with you during your trip. Although we haven’t needed to show this yet ourselves, you never know when you might be asked for it.
Book activities and excursions
Although there are plenty of activities and excursions you can book during the trip itself, some may need advance planning and booking.
For example, large bucket list items like skydives, helicopter rides and hot air balloon rides generally need advance preparation, as well as cash deposits in some cases.
Try to keep your itinerary relatively loose though (more on this later) so that you don’t burn out or schedule in too much during your trip.
Order your EHIC card (if travelling to Europe)
Currently, if you’re living in the UK and travelling throughout Europe, then you’ll be able to access free healthcare when travelling with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
If you don’t yet have one, order one each now as they last a few years and are free to renew.
Apply for visas
Some countries, particularly popular destinations outside of Europe, expect you to have a visa in order to enter and move around in their country.
While others, like the US, have a visa waiver program but it still requires a registration and approval in advance.
Check local Government websites to find out what paperwork you’ll need.
Make appointments for vaccinations
Many popular destinations around the world require you to have vaccinations before your trip.
Whether these prevent you from getting malaria, typhoid, cholera or a number of other diseases, they often involve pre-planning in order to get them done at the right time. While some countries, like Saudi Arabia, also expect you to present proof of vaccination upon arrival in their country.
The websites below are great for showing you what vaccinations you’ll need for your particular destination:
What will you do during your trip?
Plan a loose itinerary
Our general rule of thumb is to plan out each day so we know we can see everything we want to in the time we have, while leaving enough time in the day to fill in with random walks, restaurant meals and other activities that we think of while travelling.
Remember to look back over your Pinterest boards and earlier reading in order to plan out what sights and activities you’ll want to do during your time there.
Just don’t cram too much in! At most, you want to plan for 2 or 3 sights or activities per day, with a bonus list in case you finish things quickly and want to see more.
Useful travel planning apps
Here are 25 travel planning apps that ourselves and other travellers swear by:
- The Weather Channel
- Google Maps
- Google My Maps
- Google Flights
- Google Trips
- HERE WeGo
- Google Translate
- XE Currency App
- Travel Money
Top Travel Tips for Couples
Scott and I have been travelling together for nearly 5 years, and in that time, we’ve visited over a dozen countries together and almost every corner of the UK.
There’s no way we could have done all of that without murdering each other in our sleep without taking note of these couples travel tips:
There’s a reason you work as a couple — you harmonise one another. While one of you might be more daring than the other, or one of you more of a foodie than the other, either way, you’ll both push each other to try new things. Hold on to that and take each other’s suggestions on board… you’ll never know what type of new experiences you’ll end up loving!
2. Be okay with having personal time.
Just because you’re madly in love with each other doesn’t mean you have to be in each other’s pockets all the time. Yes, even when travelling. Take some time out from each other to do your own thing, or just get some air. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and feeling more in love than ever.
3. Plan your itinerary together.
By working together to build your itinerary, you’ll ensure you’re both making time for what you each want to do. This is what will transform it from a good trip into a great trip!
4. Be flexible.
Not everything goes according to plan. Sometimes, you might just have to tear your itinerary up and just go with the flow. Just as long as you work together on your new plans, you’ll still have a great trip; it just might not be exactly what you expected.
5. Don’t expect perfection!
Plans often get thwarted, fights still happen… even on holiday. You shouldn’t expect that by travelling to a new country or city that your relationship will instantly change. Just as long as you know that before your trip, nothing will get ruined. And on that note, don’t expect your sex lives to go into overdrive either. Travelling is tiring so you may find that you’re not in the mood as often as at home. That’s okay. Just as long as you’re both happy, there’s nothing to worry about!
6. Share responsibilities.
There’s nothing worse than giving one of you the sole job of navigating directions for the entire trip, or some other major responsibility. If something were to go wrong, then one of you might see it as ammo to blame the other person for things not going according to plan. Instead, share responsibilities, so if something does go wrong, you can only laugh about it rather than blaming each other.
7. Avoid tiredness – or worse – hanger!
Although fights and bickering are bound to happen even when travelling, you can help to reduce the likelihood of this happening by avoiding tiredness and hanger. Eat meals at sensible times throughout the day, always have snacks to hand and when you’re tired… rest! Who cares if you haven’t finished your sightseeing for the day? Come back and do it tomorrow; you’ll enjoy it way more after some sleep.
8. Don’t worry if you argue or bicker.
Just like we said don’t expect perfection; don’t expect fights and arguments to be kept at bay for your entire trip either. If you have disagreements at home, you can bet you’ll have them when on holiday together too. Remember that it’s okay if you fight and bicker… just as long as it’s not happening too frequently to cause damage to your relationship.
9. Be honest with each other.
Don’t feel like you can’t be honest with each other if you’re upset or hurt about something just because you’re on holiday. If you let an issue fester, you can bet you’ll be more angry about it later. Instead, open up and be honest with each other as then, you can work on the problem together to improve things.
One sure fire way to resolve any disagreements between the two of you is to apologise. Who cares whose fault it is! You’ll be surprised how one quick apology can help you forget what made you angry in the first place and will enable you to forgive each other and move on with enjoying your trip.
And if it’s your first time travelling with your boyfriend or girlfriend…
11. Take shorter trips together first.
Start with overnight trips, followed by city breaks before you finally graduate to long-haul adventures. Travelling often brings out people’s true colours and is a great way to get to know each other. But if you find that things aren’t working out, you’ll both be highly miserable if you’re a long way away from home at the time.
We hope this couples travel planning guide proves useful! Did we miss anything out? Still have questions? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll be happy to provide even more advice…
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