When Your Partner Does Not Want to Travel

Feb 11, 2016

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Rewind 10 years ago and I was a single 25-year-old freshly off finishing grad school at NYU who was moving to start a new chapter and a new job in Austin. I loved snowboarding, my friends, my dogs, and of course, travel. I shortly thereafter met Josh (he was actually my roommate!) and we started dating. Well, it didn’t take long before I had another trip coming up, and that presented a challenge.


We were in that stage of “dating” where we wanted to do everything together, only he didn’t fly and didn’t really enjoy travel. He had experienced previous panic attacks on flights, hated the “cattle type” travel experience, and at 6’2+ was uncomfortable in the tiny airplane seats. Since we both wanted to go on the trip together, he did his best to be brave, and I did my best to make the trip, and especially the flight, bearable for him.

We had a great time on that trip and that slowly led to more trips. However, once we got a little past the we.have.to.do.everything.together stage, travel became a bit more of a negotiation. He was not, and will not, ever be a natural-born nomad. He would usually prefer to be at home, or out on some land cutting things down, or on a lake fishing, or several other activities, rather than standing in line to board a flight.

However, we usually had fun on trips once we got there, so there was incentive to find a way to make it all work for both of us – which got even more challenging as kids started to be added to the crew. I know this difference in travel patterns/habits/desires is something that other traveling couples face, so I was more than happy to recently chat about how we overcame (or, really found a way to manage) this difference for an article by Scott McCartney in The Middle Seat column of The Wall Street Journal.

I encourage you to read the article if you can since there are some fun stories and tips from some of my other favorite traveling couples including Pizza in Motion, but here are my three top tips I share to those who want to get a travel reluctant spouse on board. Pardon the pun…

Go Where They Want to Go

Chiefs game

One way I really got Josh on #teamtravel was to design many of the trips, especially at first, around what he wanted to do, even if it wasn’t my first choice. I wanted him to have ample motivation to get beyond the parts of the travel process he really dreaded so he would see those parts really don’t have to be that bad, and that the payoff is worth it.

This meant trips to see his beloved Kansas City Chiefs, a factory in Tennessee where they make boats, and planning our first major international trip to the place he had always wanted to go, Ireland. Okay, one that wasn’t much of a sacrifice! 

Spoil Them

I wanted to make the entire travel process as comfortable as possible so he would keep wanting more, and that meant upgraded seats when possible, nicer rooms and suites, fancier rental cars, etc. Sometimes this required more miles or money, but since the alternative was a partner who didn’t really want to leave our home zip code, it was well worth it.

The only downside to this approach is that they may come to expect “five star” treatment on every trip, even when it isn’t really feasible or possible.

Europe Trip

Know When to Divide and Conquer

While traveling with those you love is often better than hopping around the world alone, this doesn’t mean your partner who has different travel desires has to come with you on every trip. In fact, it is probably better if they don’t. We eventually developed a pretty good pattern of when to travel together, and when to give him a few days of fishing, making bonfires, etc. at home while I logged some miles in the sky solo, with friends, or with my Little C.

This did get a little trickier with young kids in the house, but once Little C was about 3.5 she was old enough to travel just with me and have it actually still be fun, or stay behind without being too much work for just one parent at home. We aren’t there again yet with Baby S, but within a few years we will again more easily be able to divide the trips with the kiddos sometimes heading on an adventure with mom or staying at home to chill with dad.

Until then I’m thankful we have found a way to make travel work even though we will always have somewhat different travel styles and preferences!

Family Travel




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