Traveling with your significant other—just the two of you, no tita chaperones or rowdy barkada members—is a huge relationship milestone. Of course it’s going to be romantic. Of course it’s going to be sexy. And of course you’re going to have a lot of enviable couple photos against fantastic scenic backdrops to prove it. But as it is with most relationship milestones, traveling together is a make or break experience. A trip is bound to reveal some harsh truths, whether you like it or not. It will either tell you that: a) yes, you make a good team; you know how to have fun together; you welcome new experiences; or b) unfamiliar places and stressful situations basically render your relationship pointless, i.e., tama na, umuwi na lang kayo, literally and figuratively.
So how do you make sure your couple vacation yields more QT, less LQs?
1) Don’t let your guard down
It sounds contradictory, we know: aren’t you supposed to be relaxed on vacation? You are, but that doesn’t mean you can go back to square one and unlearn everything you’ve learned in the past few months or years. If a certain sensitivity and mindfulness has gotten you this far in your relationship (congrats, dude), then make sure to pack them in your carry-on along with your power bank and heavy-duty deodorant. Translation: a vacation does not give you the license to go back to your caveman ways circa B.B. (Before Bae). Don’t leave your crusty briefs on the Airbnb couch. Don’t flirt with the hot bartender. Don’t get shitfaced after flirting with the hot bartender, forcing your girlfriend to hail an overpriced cab back to the hotel. Don’t forget the proper response to, “Does this bikini make me look fat?” If anything, a vacation, devoid of real-world nuisances, should motivate you to be on your best behavior and to exert extra effort in making each other happy—in being more affectionate, more respectful, more patient. Because that’s what you both deserve.
2) Be on the same page
This applies to a couple of things:
a. Money. Don’t scold her for blowing three months’ worth of her salary on a designer bag at an outlet store. But don’t bully her into coughing up five figures for a sunset dinner cruise either, especially when all she would rather do is get Chinese takeout and watch a Zac Efron comedy on pay-per-view. To begin with, when she tells you she can’t afford a Euro trip, don’t push it. Unless the whole thing’s on you. (We hate you.)
b. Responsibilities. Think of your vacation as a collaborative project—you need to divide and conquer. Delegate your tasks: Who’s going to do all the navigating? Who’s good at research; who has a talent for sniffing out the best deals, the best restaurants, the best tour packages? Who’s booking the shuttle service? Who’s buying Express Pass tickets to Universal Studios so you don’t have to spend three hours in the rain lining up for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey? You both have to be in charge of something, and if she thinks you’re such a child that she insists on taking care of everything (even packing your maleta), that can’t be good.
3) Pay attention
If you’re lucky, your trip will be all rainbows and roses, all holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes in a balcony with the city sprawled at your feet. But even without the serene boat rides and the candlelit bistros and the adrenaline rush of jumping out of a plane and hurtling toward the ground, a vacation still has so much potential for some intense romance rekindling. All you have to do is observe. Check out the unfazed, assured way she walks through crowded alleys. Look at how she smiles at strangers, how she makes funny faces at babies on the subway. Listen to the measured firmness in her voice when she tells the hotel concierge that, no, it is not acceptable that the heater isn’t working. See how she takes a deep breath and trudges on, her brows furrowed in determination, when she realizes you’re lost in a sketchy neighborhood. Notice how, in the middle of an unfamiliar place, she suddenly seems so much braver, more adventurous, more adaptable, more outgoing, and more confident than she is back home. Happier. Sexier. Pay attention—it’s likely she’s doing the same.