My husband and I are fortunate to have a couple that we are very close friends with. Amy and I have been friends since the 9th grade, our husbands' got to know each other through us. When our kids were little (and we were pretty poor) we would go away for the weekend together, sharing a hotel room and building a lot of memories (or in my case completely blocking out one of the trips - don't know how I managed that!). As our kids got older we've periodically gone away as families to a water park for a couple of days but nothing major.
Our friends have been asking us to vacation with them for the last few years but I've been a little apprehensive about taking them up on the invitation. While I absolutely love this couple like they were family, I also realize that we have very different expectations for travel and I didn't want a trip to ruin our friendship (I've had some experience with that). We finally agreed to go to Vegas with them and to my delight we really had a good time. I chalk the success of the trip up to the open dialogue that we had with them prior to the trip.
In my opinion, traveling with another couple needs to be embarked upon with the same openness that you would embark upon a marriage. How many marriages break up because they don't discuss the important things: money, kids, etc? I think that vacationing with friends without setting the same expectations can have the same effect.
Here is how we approached our trip:
Discuss non-negotiables - I'm a breakfast girl, I need to eat breakfast every morning or I get physically ill and quite crabby. I actually had a friendship change dramatically over my not getting breakfast during a weekend getaway (long story, we were quite young) so this gets to be a big deal for me. The other couple we went with aren't big breakfast people and like to sleep late, unlike Mike and I who typically like to get up early on our vacations. We agreed that breakfast was on your own, whenever you felt like it (unless we had a tour planned). Mike and I would text the other couple to let them know when we were going down, they were free to join us if they wanted to. They came down two out of the four days.
Discuss finances - Everyone has a different financial situation or items they are comfortable spending money on. I think a frank open discussion as to what kind of budget is available is critical. This includes for the full trip and just not the hotel selection. If you are planning on doing all kinds of paid sightseeing while the other couple thought you weren't going to do any of that, you may have a problem. Prior to going we discussed what kinds of things we wanted to do, what kinds of places we wanted to eat as well as what level of hotel we wanted. This way there were no surprises for anyone.
Let everyone choose one activity that is important to them - I think this is pretty important to do beforehand. The other couple we went with typically doesn't like sightseeing tours, Mike and I love them. Mike really wanted to visit Hoover Dam, since that was Mike's pick and we agreed before hand to do it there were no problems. It turned out to be one of the best days of the trip for all of us. Discussing before the trip what you want to do gives you the option of completely ruling an activity out if it's something you absolutely won't do. Trust me, in Vegas there are quite a few things I would have refused to do.
Agree to how much togetherness you want - We spent the majority of the trip together but there were times we decided to do our own things. Mike and I aren't big gamblers, I can think of many other ways to spend my money but our friends love it. We spent two of the afternoons by the pool while they gambled. They stayed up quite a bit later than us gambling while we went to bed. Setting the expectation that it's OK to do your own thing can alleviate some of the hard feelings if you just want some quiet time. This could also include non-couple time. We chose a day for the guys to go off and do 'guy things' while Amy and I went to the Eiffel Tower for lunch and shopping.
Discuss hot buttons (after over 20 years of friendship we know what our hot buttons are) prior to the trip - A hot button for me, once again, is food. If I go to long without eating I get physically ill and crabby. The day we went to Hoover Dam we left our hotel at 9am and I didn't get to eat again until 2pm (note - if you are taking the Hoover Dam bus trip and didn't get the lunch option bring some food. Otherwise there is a small cafe but the line was looooooong). We actually had to get off the bus at one of the other hotels (ours was the last stop) so that I could eat. If any one of us felt the crabbies coming on we would just say "1st warning", "2nd warning", etc. This was our playful way of letting the others know that something needed to be done to correct the situation. I think I was on 4th warning before we got off the bus, I had to work really hard to keep the crabbies at bay.
Relax and enjoy the trip - For those who know me I can be a little bit of a control freak. When vacationing with another couple it's important to temper that trait. By relaxing and letting go of control I was able to go with the flow and enjoy the trip.
What about you? Do you have any suggestions on how to vacation successfully with another couple?