It seemed like such a good idea. A tandem bike. A bicycle built for two. Cycling in perfect harmony in beautiful New Mexico.
And we started off so strong for the first…quarter mile.
It was hard. It was uncomfortable. It was un-fun and un-romantic. We were ready to call it a day after 30 minutes, but we were too proud. Then we got a flat (Praise the Lord), and turned in the tandem for two bikes. And we had a blast.
This short tale illustrates just one of many lessons we’ve learned (expectations! flexibility!) in our travels as a married couple. In the almost-four years we’ve been married, we’ve made travel a priority—you know, before we have kids and really settle down.
Our current situation (one school teacher + one grad student) has allowed us the freedom to take a couple of great American road trips over the last few summers. But even if you don’t have weeks to travel the country, we’ve learned a few things that might be helpful if you’re planning a vacation in the coming months.
1. Make it a priority
The simple fact is (with very few exceptions) you’re probably never going to have enough time or money to travel. You have to save, plan and prioritize. If traveling is a shared dream, then it is worth it to find a way. (Also keep reading and maybe you’ll find some helpful tips on the financial front.)
Go with your personalities. Do what seems natural. Don’t strike out on a three-week road trip if you suffer from car sickness. If you’re like us, you and your spouse have lots of different interests, so compromise (but don’t be afraid to go a little out of your comfort zone). I was never fond of road trips before Michael came into my life, but it seems like the most obvious choice now (especially since our Prius gets exceptional gas mileage).
3. Find what works
If you don’t have summers off, you may not be able to swing a long trip. Just use the time and resources available. There is such a thing as an affordable vacation. Just think outside (or maybe inside) the box. We live an hour from New Orleans and have barely scratched the surface of things to see there. You can play tourist in your hometown or one close by. The important thing is that you buy in. You are setting aside time to do something new and fun with your spouse—enjoy it! Leave work at the office, and enjoy your time together!
Tips for stretching your dollar:
4. Be smart
One of our favorite things about traveling is trying new food, but this is where you can get into trouble quickly. We travel with a cooler in the car with bottled water. You can spend $3 on one bottle of Smart water at a convenience store or on a 24-pack of Great Value at Walmart. We opt for the latter. We also keep a plethora of snacks and sandwich fixins’. This allows us to save on all the little snack-stops and drive-through runs so that we can splurge a little more on the good stuff (like trying three different deep-dish pizza joints in the 48 hours we spent in Chicago).
5. Make like a cow and mooooooooch
You’d be surprised how much people genuinely enjoy introducing visitors to their spaces. We have stayed with wonderfully close friends and family on our trips, but we also lucked into meeting up with our parents’ college friends (to whom we had never even spoken). Shout out to Kevin and Mary! And it was probably one of our favorite parts of that trip. Find connections in different places and don’t be afraid to ask for favors!
6. Sleep Cheap
Lodging can break the bank faster than any other aspect of travel, so mix it up! Utilize state parks (they are incredibly cheap and surprisingly clean). KOA is also another great organization to use (if the woods creep you out). We did a combo of tent camping and hotels and friend-staying and even looked up Airbnb. But even in our hotel stays, we shopped around, used Expedia, and got reward cards to get better deals. Don’t be afraid to ask for a better price.
7. See what’s free
(I’ve accidentally started rhyming…I guess I missed my calling as a revival preacher.)
As far as entertainment, we try to be selective. We prioritize free things first! If we have time, we hit a museum, but we always ask for a student/teacher discount. We have definitely splurged—my favorite was our Segway tour in D.C. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
8. Don’t budge on your budget
(Too cute? I just couldn’t help myself.)
We actually carried ours in cash (which was, oh, so scary), but it was easier to make those hard choices when we could look at our funds. On our first trip, we actually cut out our last couple of planned stops because we ran out of funds. It’s okay to change plans!
The bottom line is: Traveling together can enrich your marriage. It allows you to refocus on one another and leave all the daily worries and stress behind for a short time. You have to be flexible and willing, but there’s something about being trapped in a car/tent for 21 days that really shows who you are. You learn what you can and can’t handle and where you should serve your spouse (Examples: Altitude sickness is real, and a milkshake really can cure a bad day).
We have had so much fun and laughed so hard while traveling. It’s good to be reminded how much we really do like each other! Traveling can let you get to know one another in new ways, and let you get to know yourself. It helps us dream together. And all of those are important as we grow together.
Do you and your spouse have any road trip tips for other couples? Start a conversation by sharing one of these photos: