Why You’re Fighting on Vacation (and What To Do About It)

Was your last romantic trip not so romantic? Let's discuss, divide, and conquer common vacay conflicts with all future getaways in mind.

Nobody wants to fight with their significant other on vacation. But it happens. Luckily, there are some ways to guarantee it happens less, and maybe even not at all. The first step (and perhaps most important) is being mutually aware of why the conflict is happening in the first place.  

Conflict on vacay is fairly common, and even the happiest of couples fight. Sometimes, couples are just out of sync, and finding common ground seems impossible. But no matter your differences, you’re both on vacation with a common goal in mind: fully enjoying yourselves. So work together to get there.

The easiest way to make sure you have a conflict-free couple’s trip is to recognize the travel fight-causing catalysts and what to do about them. Here’s what to know.


happy couple taking selfie together at cliff top with water and mountain in background

None of us get an unlimited amount of travel time. For most people with day jobs, time off has to be scheduled months in advance. While it’s nice to have something to look forward to, there’s a lot of pressure put on the limited, allotted vacation time someone knows they’ll be getting.

We all want to get the absolute most out of vacations. The desire to make the most of one’s time and return rejuvenated is a normal, natural want and need. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t articulate it to your partner. You should talk about what you want before you go. Make sure you’re on the same page about what you expect. However, you shouldn’t let your trip expectations cast a heavy shadow over the trip itself. Prepare for the unexpected.

You can’t expect every little thing to go perfectly. Together, find acceptance for inevitable mishaps, minor arguments, or delayed flights before they even happen. The true adventure is going together, no matter what you do. With too much pressure on a perfectly plotted itinerary, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment and conflict.

With that said, you should be clear about what really matters to you. If you are looking forward to a full day of rest, say so. Your partner can’t be expected to read your mind.

Your Routine Has Been Thrown Out of Whack

couple having trouble sleeping with clock standing in foreground

Speaking of rest, just because you’re on an adventure together, don’t throw self-care out the window. In fact, you’ll probably need more of it than you might when you’re getting your full eight hours of sleep at home. If your vacation destination is located in a different time zone, you’re both likely suffering from jet lag or travel fatigue. Sleep deprivation in a foreign situation is a recipe for bickering.

Your immune system is easily depleted by changes in your routine, especially lack of sleep. In turn, you’re more emotionally vulnerable than usual and likely more irritable. Not to mention, people often take things out on those they’re closest to or feel most comfortable with, especially if they’re the only person around. So look out for this common couple pitfall on vacation and aim to avoid it.

To cope with the off-routine struggle healthily, make an active effort to maintain as much of your daily self-care as possible. If you usually take a walk in the morning, stick to that routine. It’ll help you acclimate to your new surroundings, maintain inner balance, and be a source of strength for each other more often than not. You both want to get the most out of this trip, so you need energy. Don’t deprive yourselves of the kind of self-care that allows you to be your best selves. You’ll also have more fun with more pep in your step.

Concentrated Quality Time

couple in car arguing over directions during road trip

There is such a thing as “too much togetherness,” especially if you’re suddenly spending way more time as a duo than you ever have before. In most relationships, time apart is a given. But on vacation, it may not always be a realistic option. In turn, arguments may arise more easily.

We all cherish at least a moment of solitude. That’s a given. The beauty of traveling is that you’re increasing quality time together, but that doesn’t mean you should never take time to yourselves. Perhaps in your daily lives, you may not get enough time together and see every moment as precious. Still, the solution may not be to spend every waking moment together. After all, you’re still the same person you were before the trip with the same basic needs.

No matter how minimal, time alone is a part of your regular routine. A little space is always beneficial for couples, even couples on vacation. Remember, aspects of your routine should be incorporated into the trip in productive ways. So pencil some alone time in to keep things balanced.

Making time for yourself on vacation can be done in simple, little ways. Take turns bringing coffee back to your hotel room in the morning. If you exercise alone usually, go for a jog by yourself. Book a massage in the afternoon. Go for a stroll by yourself. Little moments of decompression and solitude are not attempts to “escape” each other and shouldn’t be seen as such. In the end, it’s a healthy act of self-care that only enhances the time you share.

What’s Not Being Said Did Not Take a Vacation

couple in conflict with man asking what's wrong while woman looks off into distance

Maybe you’ve been sweeping problems under the rug. Maybe that pile of things left unsaid is starting to look more like a mountain. Don’t take them on vacation.

If you have unaddressed relationship issues, they’re ever-present. On top of that, they’re likely to surface on vacation. Unresolved tension can quickly ruin a romantic getaway. So no matter how difficult, clear the air before your trip. Otherwise, all your small problems will feel bigger. At some point, you may start projecting as the tension looks for an outlet. You may find yourself bothered by things you wouldn’t typically be bothered by. Or, things that bother you about your partner in everyday life will become magnified when they happen on a trip.

If you’re not being honest about what’s on your mind, don’t expect to escape those thoughts and feelings by going to Tahiti. They’ll find their way to the surface eventually. Because no matter how high your hopes are for the trip, your relationship baggage comes with you. And if you really want a drama-free trip, the best way to get there is to unpack it in advance.

Your Traveling Styles Differ

camping couple arguing while setting up tent

You and your partner may have very different traveling styles. Your tendency to go with the flow may unnerve them if they need more of a structured plan to have fun. Perhaps they prefer to mostly relax on vacations while you want to stay on the move for most of it. Whatever the case, you should discuss what you hope to gain out of the vacation beforehand.

With that said, no one travel style is “better” than the other. There’s beauty in structure just as much as spontaneity. And there’s nothing more beautiful than learning from each other’s differences while traveling as a team. You shouldn’t have to compromise your needs to come to an agreement, but you should be able to compromise for the sake of each other.

To avoid conflict, you should both be willing and ready to see the world through each other’s eyes, viewing your shared trip as a well-rounded, eye-opening adventure. Neither person should dictate every single activity, especially if your ideas of fun differ. Also, be sure to talk about travel expenditures long before you go. Sometimes the biggest point of contention in differing traveling styles is the amount of money deemed okay to spend or not to spend.

Travel-Induced Clarity

feet of couple resting in boat on mountain lake

Maybe this vacation is exactly what you needed in ways you never imagined. Now that you’re away from work stress and day-to-day burdens, you’re feeling lighter and clearer about where you’re at and where you want to be. You have time to reflect.

As you mix things up and get out of your typical element, you may also be thinking about your relationship in ways you usually don’t. You may realize that some areas of your life just don’t work for you. Or maybe you find quite the opposite.

The point is, people often have powerful breakthroughs on vacation. They’re pulled out of autopilot and shaken awake. If you’re traveling with your significant other, that moment of realization may lead to a flood of emotions, both good and bad. Sometimes, spouses take things out on their partner on their path to clarity before they know they’re doing it. That’s why clear communication is always critical with your travel partner, especially if they’re your partner in life.

Be honest about where you’re at so they have a better understanding of what you’re going through, what’s about them, and what isn’t. It’ll only bring you closer. And on any couple’s vacation, that’s exactly where you want to be.

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