A friend of mine was engaged to be married. She was well traveled; he, not so much. They decided to take their honeymoon before saying their vows.
She was glad she did. After she returned, I received a message from her: "The wedding is off."
She had concluded that, because they had proved so incompatible as travelers, they were unlikely to travel well through life together.
Travel compatibility is not something all couples think about before getting hitched, but a pre-wedding trip might prove to be a good litmus test for long-term happiness. To try to measure the impact of travel on a couple's relationship, the jewelry company Shane & Co.'s wedding planning website, the Loupe, surveyed 1,000 Americans. The sample included all adult generations and couples who had been with their significant others for varying lengths of time.
For an activity typically described glowingly as relaxing, stimulating, enlightening and educational -- not to mention transformational -- it turns out that there's another descriptor that may not make its way into travel marketing but might be more consistently accurate: stressful.
About 41% of the survey respondents acknowledged that traveling with a partner puts a strain on a relationship. Interestingly, there's a 15% gender gap on that issue, with women more likely than men to say their stress levels rise on vacation. ("Perhaps add a couples massage to the itinerary," is the suggestion offered by the writer summarizing the research.)
About 18% of the respondents said they fight more with their partners than usual when they travel, and there's a correlation between the likelihood of arguing and the length of time people have been together. Giving credence to the belief that familiarity breeds contempt, married couples are 19% more likely to argue on vacation than those who are just dating or engaged.
And when asked their opinion about how long couples should date before traveling together, Gen Zers, millennials and Gen Xers all recommend waiting until after about six months of dating before taking a trip. Boomers, perhaps with more years of arguing to reminisce about, advise caution, almost fully doubling down and recommending 11 months.
The primary cause of vacation disputes identified among couples taking the survey is navigating through unfamiliar locales. A full 58% of respondents cited this. (Perhaps a suggestion is in order here: Please, people, download Google Maps or Waze.)
Travel planning is not ignored in the survey, though the responses may indicate that many couples could benefit from a bit more self-knowledge. Eighty percent of women said they do the majority of travel planning, while 56% of men say that they do the majority of travel planning. In other words, an incredible 136% of all trips are primarily planned by either men or women.
I'm going to side with women on this one. Sorry, guys, but results like that provide some insight into why married couples are more likely to argue than those just starting out together, and why women are 15% more likely to find traveling with their companion more stressful than men do.
Despite the rise in likelihood of arguing when traveling with a partner, only 13% of respondents expressed a preference for solo travel. Of those, men are 44% more likely to be the ones to go off on their own, where, I suppose, they find solace in the knowledge that, yes, they were, for sure, the primary planner of that trip.
Should a couple decide to travel together, 62% said that a week is the ideal length of time; the maximum length they'd venture out together would be two weeks.
Given the stresses involved when just two people travel together, perhaps it's not surprising that, to reduce the possibility of even more stress, 88% said they'd rather travel only together, and not with another couple.
On one hand, I was surprised that the ultimate vacation stressor -- children -- weren't explored in the survey. Then again, this research was fielded by a company hoping to sell engagement rings. Perhaps children are not a subject to introduce at that point in the sales cycle.
The most surprising revelation to me was this: 34% said they would still go on a nonrefundable trip with a partner if they broke up with them between the booking and departure date. Hopefully, this cohort doesn't significantly overlap with the 37% who said they'd wear coordinated outfits with their traveling partner (it's a bad sign if you're packing matching "I'm with stupid" T-shirts.)
It would have been very interesting to see one more demographic split explored: Couples who use travel advisors versus those who book direct. Experienced travel advisors often double as therapists, trying to find the one destination that will satisfy both a person whose first stated preference is a cruise on the Amazon and also their partner who states that hiking in the Canadian Rockies would be an ideal vacation.
Travel advisor fees are a bargain compared to marriage counseling.