Travel has always been a big part of my life. I made my first trip across the country before I was a year old, went on many family vacations as a kid, traveled extensively throughout university and haven’t slowed down since. I’ve done solo travel, trips with friends, family vacations and adventures with my partner. And while I love them all, there is something really special about solo travel. It’s not something I’m willing to give up just because I’m in a partnership.
But solo travel when you have a partner isn’t as straight forward as when you’re single. It’s even more complicated if you and your partner live together, share expenses, share household duties and have other responsibilities like kids, pets or a business. But even with all of those complications, it is possible and beneficial to solo travel while you’re in a relationship.
Want to take a trip solo but worried about how to do that with a partner at home? Here are some tips and things to think about before you book that flight.
Figure out finances
This is especially important if you and your partner have a joint account or otherwise share your finances. Before you travel solo, you need to have an honest talk about money. In fact, I think talking openly with your partner about money regularly is really important. But even more so when you’re planning a solo travel trip without them.
It can feel really uncomfortable to spend joint money on a solo trip. Talk about what kind of spending you’re both comfortable with. Are you both on board with your trip budget? And if the guilt of spending joint money on your own trip is getting to you, think about how you want to deal with that. Maybe you can pick up a side hustle, work a little over time or cut back on your spending in the months leading up to the trip.
Talk with your partner about what boundaries you’ll stick to on your solo trip. This isn’t about your partner allowing you to go or controlling where you go and what you do. Gross. It’s about setting expectations and taking into consideration what you both want.
For example, you might have limits on how long you’ll travel solo. Your partner might be comfortable holding down the fort at home for a week or two but a month-long trip might be pushing it. You might also have certain locations that are off-limits – like maybe you’re saving Bali or Copenhagen for a couple’s trip because you both want to go there together.
Talk before you book – WAY before
I always preach that you need to jump on flight deals as soon as you see them. But that should only apply to solo travel if you’ve talked to your partner first. Solo travel when you have a partner should never be a unilateral decision. You’re partners and you should make the decision together. If you book something without talking to your partner, it will start your trip off on a really shitty foot and feel like you’re going behind their back.
So give your partner as much notice as possible. Let them know what you’re planning, even if it’s something as vague as wanting to go on a one week solo trip sometime in the next year. The more notice you can give them, the better. This way, they have time to ask questions and become comfortable with your solo trip.
Talking to your partner about your solo travel isn’t about asking permission. It’s about making a decision together about what you both want and what works for your partnership.
Work out duties at home ahead of time
Especially if you live together and share household responsibilities, it’s really important to have an honest talk about what those home duties will look like when you’re gone. Discuss things like walking the dog, dropping kids off at daycare, mowing the lawn, etc.
If possible, try to do some things before your solo travel trip so there’s less on your partner’s plate. Or perhaps some chores can wait until you’re back home and you can tackle them together. But some duties, like dog walks and childcare, can’t be put on hold or done ahead of time. If your partner isn’t able to do it all by him or herself, call in reinforcements. Ask friends to babysit, call mom to help with after school pick up or hire a dog walker.
Set expectations around how in touch you’ll be
As best you can, try to come up with a plan for communication while you’ll be away. What kind of communication are you going to have and how often? If you can set these expectations ahead of time, both of you will be on the same page. You don’t want your partner waiting around for a nightly phone call when you were only planning to send an email every few days.
Of course, things can change. You might have tech issues or your itinerary could be altered. But try to have a general communication plan and stick to it as best you can.
Explore different ways to stay connected
On that same token, look into different ways to stay connected. If it’s too expensive or isn’t possible to chat on the phone or send text messages, see what else you can do. Chat over Skype, Facebook Messenger, Facetime or Whatsapp (to name a few). You could also go old school and send postcards or leave some notes behind for your partner to find while you’re away.
Make the most of it
Even if you really miss your partner and wish they were staring up at the Eiffel Tower right next to you, don’t let those feelings take over your solo travel. This is one that I have definitely struggled with. It’s so easy to get caught up in missing your person and imagining what they would be doing if they were on the trip with you. But remember: solo travel is an opportunity that you need to take advantage of. You can’t spend your whole trip stuck in a hotel room wishing your partner was there.
Enjoy this time by yourself! This is your chance to have your own adventure. And it’s a great way to remind yourself that you’re a cool, smart and adventurous person outside of your partnership.
Remember the benefits
Reflect on why you want to travel solo. Are you doing this to push yourself and take on a new challenge? Are you looking for some time to yourself? Do you want to explore a new place or an old haunt on your own terms? Do you want to see how capable you are?
There are so many benefits to solo travel and so many reasons to embark on a trip by yourself. You get to travel with only your own agenda in mind. You don’t have to go to that boring museum or trek across town to see a statue that only your partner cares about. And you’ll get to enjoy your own company. It can be really nice to take yourself out to dinner.
Plus, there’s all the fun of coming home. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. It’s so nice to come home to your partner after solo travel. You appreciate them more because you missed them. You get to come back refreshed and with a million new travel stories to tell.
Make it special
Sometimes it can be a struggle to see the benefits of a solo travel trip when you’re missing your partner terribly. I’ve been there. Break yourself out of that by planning something special for your trip. What’s something you can do that always lifts your spirits? Bonus points if it’s something your partner would never want to do so you can indulge in it solo as a rare treat. Maybe you’re an adrenaline junkie while he’s scared of heights so you add bungee jumping to your trip itinerary. Or maybe she would hate to spend a day at the spa so you book yourself a few spa treatments since you’re traveling without her.
You can also suggest the same thing to your partner who is no doubt missing you and maybe feeling a little left out. What’s something they can do at home to make this time apart special? It might be as simple as having the house to themselves (I know Colin really loves this since I work from home and am always there), inviting friends over, ordering from that one restaurant you can’t stand, seeing a movie you have no interest in, etc.
The most important tip around solo travel when you have a partner is to still go. Even if you feel guilty and miss them so much, push yourself and go on that trip. Solo travel is important to you for a reason. For me, travel is such a huge part of my life. It’s something I have to do. And that means I can’t always wait for my partner to get time off or go on every trip with me. So I go with other people or even by myself – sometimes by choice. It’s important for me to fill that travel vessel within myself and come back from my trips a better and more fulfilled person – rather than sit at home and resent my partner for “forcing” me to say no to travel.
Solo travel doesn’t have to end when you get into a relationship. Just because you are a girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, partner or parent doesn’t mean you aren’t your own person and don’t deserve time to pursue your own interests. There are so many benefits to solo travel and they aren’t reserved just for single people. Plus, it’s the best welcome home ever!
Where have you gone on a solo travel trip without your partner?