Dividing Up Travel Responsibilities

By Nomadic Matt | Published June 30th, 2011

Elise from positive world travel dividing up the shopping in a fabric store overseasThis is a guest post by Elise, one half of Positive World Travel.

In a previous post, Anthony wrote about how compromise and communication are key factors in maintaining a successful travel relationship. I also wrote about how “me time” can do wonders for avoiding arguments and keeping the relationship fresh.

But there’s another important tip to keep in mind: making sure each partner has certain responsibilities on the road.

There are many tasks to perform when you travel. Questions constantly need to be answered. Where are you going to stay? What visas do you need? What currency is accepted? Who’s going to make transport inquiries? Who’s going to book flights?

Splitting up these tasks early on can make traveling with your partner far easier and much less stressful than a disorganised approach, giving you time to focus on the thrills and experiences rather than the mundane and nitty-gritty aspects of long-term travel.

Anthony and I learned from the get-go that it pays to know who’s doing what on the road. We both now have our own little roles we take on every day.

For example, I now am the official key bearer to our room, which means I’m responsible for making sure our room is locked and that I have the key safely tucked away and on me at all times. We spent far too many nights early on our trip having the same conversation:

“Do you have the key?”

“No, I thought you took it.”

“Well, I didn’t take it. It was on your side of the table.”

“Where is it then? I don’t have it.”

It’s a small role, but it’s an important one nonetheless, and we save ourselves from getting into fights.

Splitting up the responsibilities of travel has other benefits. You can save a lot of time and frustration if you assign planning jobs when organizing your onward travel.

For example, instead of both looking for accommodation, one person can be finding accommodation while the other can be figuring out transport. This in turn can save time and reduce conflict and stress. By splitting up the “workload,” you each have a single focus rather than trying to cope with everything at once.

For instance, Anthony is in charge of booking and organizing all onward travel, whether overland or by plane, and I’m in charge or researching and finding accommodation at our next destination. We both decided on these roles fairly early on. A month or so into our trip we were finding ourselves being disorganized in terms of transport and accommodation. I remember specifically, in Borneo, we were traveling late at night into the town of Semporna. Ant had told me that he already had accommodation in mind. However, when we finally got off the bus, Ant didn’t have a clue where any of the hostels were or how to get to them (and, of course, there were no tuk-tuk drivers in sight!). The road was deserted except for a few stray dogs. A heated argument ensued, and it wasn’t until much later that we ended up in a hostel room. This only had to happen once for it to be decided that I would be in charge of finding accommodation on our trip.

When deciding who will take on what roles and responsibilities, it all comes down to knowing your partner. You must have an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

I’m in charge of finding and researching accommodation. Why? Because I’m good at it. While we try not to plan too far into our trip, I love to be organized. Anthony can’t stand spending time online looking for places to stay and reading reviews. But me? I love it! Anthony trusts that I will choose a good place to stay, and he’s happy that he doesn’t have to do it himself.

What I’m not good at is directions. Never have been. Getting from A to B has never been a strong suit of mine. In India a few years ago, Anthony bravely handed over the map for the day as I insisted that I was fine in directing us through small towns and villages high in the north. Four hours later (when we should have reached a town by then), we were still walking slowly uphill. Anthony then asked for the map, only to announce that I had been leading us in the total opposite direction! Tired and fed up, we hitchhiked our way back to the starting point, fuming silently in the car.

I also know that Ant is better with money. That is his strength. He sorts out exchange rates and conversions and knows when best to exchange our money.

Of course, when you’re out on the road, there may be times when these responsibilities change as your travels develop or things crop up, but at least having an idea of who will do what is a good start.

The key to making this work is being consistent. Don’t chop and change all the time or become lazy at what you’re both supposed to do. It may sound like being back at an old desk job, but being consistent with tasks—even when traveling—only makes things easier.

But while splitting up jobs and taking on different roles all helps make travel easier, there’s one job that you should still both do together: making decisions.

While compromising will come into play when making decisions, don’t take the idea of splitting up the jobs of travel to the extreme and only have one person make all the important choices during your trip. Remember, traveling as a couple is about working as a team and doing things together.

Balancing the workload, knowing your partner, and staying consistent will make your travels easier, happier, and more rewarding.

Elise is one half of the dynamic duo at Positive World Travel. She and Ant are writing about their experiences and thoughts on what long-term travel is like as a couple. You can also follow them on Facebook for more travel updates.

comments 15 Comments

It is very important to be organized in a way and divide the tasks. I do the same when I travel with my best friends. I always take the map and know where and how to go as my best friend has no orientation at all. But usually I just have to do it all by myself, as I travel solo :D

Good advice. We divide things similarly; I love to handle the logistics while she likes to plan the itinerary. Works well, particularly if you have similar and compatible tastes – especially in hotels.

I definitely agree that travel is a whole lot easier if you and your partner both have similar tastes. Luckily for Ant and I we do!

This was such a great article and hit very close to home, as my husband and I are currently planning for our year-long RTW trip in January. I am with ya Elise, I suck at navigating and I prefer to leave this duty to my husband!

Meg, I am glad you understand where I am coming from! I am one of those people who have to turn the map the same way as I am travelling to know where I am going!
When we rode our motorbike throughout Vietnam I was in charge of the directions while Ant was riding…needless to say…we got lost many times!

I love this post! My boyfriend and I have a pretty simple system. I am in charge of all planning, and he is in charge of bag carrying, security, and spontaneity!

As everything in life, travelling as a couple is a question of balance. And dividing the responsibilities is one of the many ways to achieve such balance, especially when you enjoy doing your assignments.

Great article. I find a great way to divide up these tasks is based on interest. My girlfriend, for example, loves food, so I let her pick all of the restaurants. I like historical sites and museums, so I gather all the information on these items.

Anthony used to be a head chef when we were back in Australia so I often let him choose where and what to eat….like you museums etc are more my thing too.

Heh. This sounds like quite a common scenario. Basically, don’t rely on guys to be the organisers or planners because they’re usually pretty useless. It’s especially stressful when there is an imbalance in what the two parties perceive is a reasonable level of planning — ie the guy wants to just roll up and find accommodation on the spot and the girl wants to know before getting off the bus which hotels are viable options.

That is exactly what we are like! I at least like to have some idea of where we will sleep for the night, but Anthony doesn’t really mind at all! That is why now I have the responsibility of finding us accommodation!

its great that you know one another so well and have that confidence and understanding. I know this must really save a lot of time. I would also guess it took time getting to the point as well.

Thanks Dorian.
I really like to be organised, but because we are travelling slowly and for so long we are able to relax our travel plans a little.
If however, we only went away on a few week vacation, I would organise a lot more!

Ray

Travelling with your other half for the first time is the make a break moment of any relationship. I went to Morocco with my girlfriend and there were times when we disgreed on mundane things like getting a taxi rather than a bus and how many photos to take! Everything was fine in the end though and it was an ace trip, but I think couples will always have those little moments about stuff that doesn’t actually matter!

You are so right! There are always going to be the little things that you might not agree on, but at least dealing out different jobs/responsibilities that you can both focus on makes things a whole lot easier.

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