4 Fights Couples Always Have On Vacation (And How To Avoid Them)

"When people have hopeful expectations that don’t get met, it can quickly turn to intense anger or sadness," says relationship coach Aaron Steinberg.

When you go on vacation with your partner, you’re looking to make the most of your time together. But the pressure to enjoy yourselves mixed with travel stressors and deviations from your normal routine can also make it a ripe time for fights.

“We love vacations, but they take us away from the comforts of home and the routines that keep us balanced,” therapist Nicole Saunders, owner of Therapy Charlotte in North Carolina, told HuffPost. “This dysregulation feels stressful and can build over several days. Many couples tend to consume more alcohol on vacation, and alcohol mixed with stress can easily lead to an argument.”

We asked relationship experts to share the disagreements that most often pop up on vacations and some helpful tips on how best to avoid them. Here’s what they told us:

We Need To Relax vs. We Need Some Adventure

It’s quite common for couples to clash over their preferred travel itineraries, said Los Angeles marriage and family therapist Abigail Makepeace. There might be one partner who wants to spend their trip sipping a frozen drink by the pool, while the other is craving adventure and wants to fill the days with excitement and different activities.

“Balancing these differences can be challenging, especially given the financial investment and coordination required to plan a vacation,” Makepeace told HuffPost. “The pressure to ensure both partners enjoy their time away can intensify the need for effective communication.”

Her advice? Before you leave for the trip, have a conversation with your partner about what your ideal vacation experiences look like. Knowing each other’s expectations for the trip ahead of time can stave off arguments about differing preferences once you get there.

“Agree in advance on activities you’ll enjoy together and consider allowing space for pursuing individual interests,” Makepeace said. “For example, if one partner wants to relax and read a book by the pool, the other might take that opportunity to explore. Compromise and flexibility are key; perhaps plan certain days for relaxation and others for adventures to ensure both partners feel fulfilled.”

We Need A Plan vs. Let’s Just Be Spontaneous

When traveling, one partner may prefer to do a bunch of research in advance to create an itinerary that includes all the best sights to see and places to eat and shop. The other might prefer a more spontaneous approach that allows them to play things by ear and see where the days take them.

“Sometimes people want a break from their busy schedules on vacation. However, leaving things too open could mean not having the required reservations, wasting time and money or other unexpected ‘adventures,’” said Brianne Billups Hughes, a Santa Barbara, California, marriage and family therapist. “This clash often stems from differing expectations and travel styles, leading to frustration and resentment on both sides.”

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“When people have hopeful expectations that don’t get met, it can quickly turn to intense anger or sadness,” says relationship coach Aaron Steinberg.

This conflict may be rooted in how each partner deals with feelings of uncertainty and obligation, she said.

“Some people feel anxious when they don’t know what to expect, and others feel a lot of pressure when they’ve committed to be at a certain place at a certain time,” Hughes said.

To avoid this, couples should discuss their priorities for the trip before departure, including any must-do activities, she advised.

“Then, find a compromise on a balance of planned activities and free time. Make sure each person gets to choose a few activities that are important to them or come up with a win-win strategy that allows for both people to get what they had hoped for out of the trip,” said Hughes.

Let’s Make Time For Romance vs. I’m Just Not In The Mood

Many couples these days lead such busy lives that they end up feeling like two ships passing in the night, relationship coach Aaron Steinberg, founder of Grow Together, told HuffPost. When a vacation finally rolls around, partners may “fantasize about how all the romance and sex they can’t usually prioritize is finally going to happen,” he said.

But sometimes the expectation and reality don’t match up.

“Then they go on the trip, and the focus may be relaxing and rejuvenating independently, or lots of activities, or there may still be a tether to work, and the hope they felt turns into disappointment,” he said. “When people have hopeful expectations that don’t get met, it can quickly turn to intense anger or sadness, so those feelings will come bursting out and cause a fight.”

“Desire discrepancy is a common issue that occurs frequently in many relationships,” says marriage and family therapist Brianne Billups Hughes. “Usually, there is an existing dynamic that vacation can highlight."

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“Desire discrepancy is a common issue that occurs frequently in many relationships,” says marriage and family therapist Brianne Billups Hughes. “Usually, there is an existing dynamic that vacation can highlight.”

Conflict might arise because one partner has been looking forward to enjoying some vacation sex in a romantic setting, while the other is too stressed or tired to truly unwind.

Desire discrepancy is a common issue that occurs frequently in many relationships,” Hughes said. “Usually, there is an existing dynamic that vacation can highlight, and this can lead to hurt feelings.”

To get ahead of potential disagreements, have a sit-down a few days before the trip to talk about “what you’re imagining or fantasizing about for the trip,” said Steinberg, noting it doesn’t necessarily have to be sex-related. “What would make the experience a 10 out of 10 for each of you?”

“Notice how you overlap and differ, and make sure you have opportunities to meet both peoples’ needs,” Steinberg continued.

Hughes recommends prioritizing quality time to connect that isn’t solely focused on sex. This will improve intimacy “and reduce pressure if things don’t go as you had wished,” she added.

You’re Spending Too Much vs. You’re Being Too Frugal

Budgeting is an all-too-common source of tension in relationships in general, and specifically when it comes to vacations. Most of us have complicated relationships with money, and travel has a way of bringing some of those pain points to the surface.

“As travel can be costly, disputes can arise over how much to spend on meals, accommodations, souvenirs and activities,” Hughes said. “One partner might be more budget-conscious, while the other wants to splurge.”

How the couple divvies up their expenses — i.e. who pays for what — can add another layer to money conflict. If one partner is consistently covering more costs, the situation can become “even more complex,” Makepeace said.

“This dynamic can lead to feelings of exploitation by the higher spender and resentment by the more frugal partner who may feel marginalized in decision-making,” she said. “If couples cannot agree on where to indulge and where to economize, it can build resentment, with the thrifty partner feeling taken advantage of and the spender feeling under-appreciated.”

If you and your partner have different spending philosophies, it can be useful to establish a clear budget prior to the trip, Makepeace advised.

“Outline expenses for food, activities, and other costs. This proactive approach can help prevent major disagreements during your travels,” she said. “Additionally, discuss and agree on a fair method to share expenses, such as alternating payments or dividing costs based on each person’s financial capability.”

You may want to track your expenses while you’re there, but try to leave some room for fun treats, too.

“Be flexible with how you choose to indulge to keep both partners happy,” Hughes said.

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