10 Tips for Traveling Together Without Killing Each Other

Tom Kris Camino de Santiago - -10 Tips on How to Travel Together - The Insatiable Traveler
In Camino de Santiago, Spain

How to travel together for years without killing each other? That is the question.

And the answer, well, It’s not coming from me. Why? Because I haven’t a clue. No wisdom to impart. I’m not married, and I’ve traveled solo more times than with friends, lovers, or family. (It’s a rather wonderful indulgence, to be honest.) But my friend Tom at Travel Past 50 does, so I asked him to write The Insatiable Traveler’s very first guest post: 10 Tips on How to Travel Together for Years Without Killing Each Other, for all my readers out there who might need a little advice.  

I first met Tom Bartel and his wife Kristin Henning at a party I was hosting at the Half-King in Manhattan’s Chelsea district.  They were great from the start: laid back, nice, smart. I liked them immediately. We chatted about life, blogging, and adventure, amidst the crowd’s din, enjoying a few beers and a tasty three-cheese quesadilla. They’ve traveled the world together for decades. Seemed like a no-brainer to me to have them weigh in on this question. So without further ado. I give you Tom Bartel…..

I’ve been married to the same woman for 40 years. And we dated for four years before that. And we’ve done a lot of traveling over those years. So far, 65 countries, and a couple of thousand hotel nights. Add to all that proximity that we worked together all those years, and there’s a whole lot of tolerance to be discussed.

Of course, all that tolerance doesn’t come automatically. You have to work at it. So here are 10 of my hacks about how to get along with someone you can’t get away from. I’d love to hear some of yours, in case I left any out.

1. Always carry a handkerchief

My father taught me that a gentleman always carries a handkerchief–not because he may need to blow his nose, but because a lady may need one, probably because you’ve made her cry. This was great advice which has come in handy many times. Of course, it’s a poor second to always carry toilet paper. You have no idea how happy you can make a woman when you peel off a few sheets for her as she’s about to enter a Chinese toilet.

2. Have endearing nicknames for each other

I have two for my wife: Shorty and Stuffy. Although she is five feet one inch tall, I call her Shorty because she was playing shortstop in a pickup softball game with friends the day before we got married and took a bad hop grounder off her forehead. And, although she suffers from persistent allergies, I call her Stuffy because her hair looks like Harpo Marx’s character in A Day at The Races. Her endearing nickname for me is Asshole.

3. Never go to bed angry

That’s not to say you can’t be cognizant of that day’s problems. After all, it’s much better for your revenge for that dumb ass move your partner made today to come completely out of the blue at a later date.

4. Forgive the peccadillos immediately

There will always be bigger problems to fight about. However, if your partner does anything endearingly silly, be sure to tell all her friends about it on Facebook. Hilarity always ensues. It’s particularly funny when your partner confuses the Spanish words for pray and piss or mussel (the seafood) and vagina. Sometimes those posts just write themselves.

5. Offer to carry her bags when you can see she’s struggling

Try not to remark on how heavy it is because she’s carrying 22 pounds of makeup and hair products while you have a toothbrush and a razor. She looks absolutely fabulous. And it doesn’t hurt to tell her that now and then.

6. Pack earplugs

One or both of you may snore on occasion. Or, that Airbnb that you picked that was such a bargain is on a very busy street.

7. Don’t be afraid to hole up

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a day off when you’re traveling. Even when you’re in a great city like Rome or Buenos Aires, you need to have a sense of when you need a break to just sit in your room and do nothing. Or, when one of you wants to go out, the other doesn’t necessarily have to follow.

8. Decide early on who is the driver and who is the navigator

This was pretty easy for us because one of us is a good driver and the other loves maps. We make a good team in that regard, as long as she doesn’t give me too many directions or doesn’t say “slow down” or “watch out” or “look at that donkey” too often. If I wanted to look at donkeys, I would slow down on my own.

9. Break the tension

It’s good to have a little thing that you do that lets the other know that it’s getting a little close in here. I like to say, “I’m sorry,” and put my arms around her. Right after asking her nicely to please put down the hammer.

And the most important, for real?

10. Never forget that you love that other person

Don’t let something trivial screw that up. Finding someone you want to stay with for 44 years ain’t that easy

Tom Bartel is a former publisher of newspapers and magazines in Minneapolis, MN. Since he sold his last business in 2010, he and his wife, Kristin Henning, have been traveling full time. Since then, they’ve been to more than 60 countries and have had zero arguments. Tom and Kristin blog about their travels at TravelPast50.com.

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77 thoughts on “10 Tips for Traveling Together Without Killing Each Other

  1. Barbara says:

    Loved reading this great post! After 55 years of traveling together we can relate to most every word of your advise, thanks for sharing your wisdom with us.

  2. Jared Hager says:

    Great article! I just really love how it is all about loving one another and respecting one another.I have been on a number of road trips with my wife and all of your advice is spot on. I love the advice about the ear plugs!

  3. Travel Tales says:

    Really interesting article. Travel is really a way to get closer to someone especially with all the hardship and anxieties that might happen.

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  5. Donna Lawrence says:

    I enjoyed the article! And I would add, (to myself) remember, you wanted this trip. And you chose this partner. Put down the hammer.

  6. Ruth Rogge. says:

    Well we have been married 43 years and have been traveling a lot since we got married and even more now that we are both retired. I agree with everything he said but would add that you need some time out and away from each other. We are now in week 4 of a European city trip; Paris, Dublin, London, and our last day in Rome is Saturday when we depart home on a repositioning cruise. We plan some time apart every week and more if we get to feel frazzled or “the need”. This is what we do at home, too. Since we have many similar interests, it can be tough at times. Thanks for sharing his informative log.

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      Hi Ruth – great advice! I can imagine with my solitary streak that would be a necessity for me. Makes it so much more special when you do come together. Thank you for the comment and safe travels. Your trip sounds divine!

  7. Susan Gutterman says:

    My husband and I have been married for over 50 years and have had wonderful (and a few not so wonderful) travel experiences together. Tom had us both laughing out loud. Thanks for the great guest post!

  8. Claudia says:

    Nice post. Most of the time I am traveling by my self but I do know what you are talking about. I used to travel with my former boyfriend. A friend of mine is actually starting her 3 month trip to South America with her boyfriend tomorrow. Will send her the link to your post as a precaution 🙂

  9. Marvi says:

    Awww.. This is such a lovely post! Will share this to my husband so that he’ll know.hahaha.. He would actually complain when we travel because I tend to bring too much stuff on my handbag when we are strolling around.. hahaha.. But then again, we’re the best traveling partners for each other! 😉

    • Susan Portnoy says:

      I think it can be even harder than just living with someone. Time off is so precious nowadays. If you’re not in sync. If the trip isn’t going as planned, it can add some serious stress to a trip. Tom’s suggestions I think help to mitigate much of that. 🙂

  10. Sarah says:

    My husband (and travel partner) and I do all of these things and haven’t killed each other yet and are still excited to travel together. The one that has gotten us through is to keep laughing and trying to make the other laugh.

  11. corinnevail says:

    Hi to Tom and Kirs, Great tips, as I knew they would be. I’ve always said, the test before a couple gets married should be to go on a trip together. It will test even the strongest of relationships.

I would love to hear from you! What did you think of the post?