Fighting on vacation? How to have a happy (& hotter) trip

Want to have hotter sex on your summer vacation? It starts with a harmonious relationship. This week, we share tips and strategies to help you enjoy a smooth ride — whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile. From the 80/20 rule to love letters at 30,000 feet, we’ve got you covered.

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Rough Transcript:

This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.

Fighting on vacation? How to have a happy (& hotter) trip

Participant #1:
You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and relationship advice you can use tonight. Welcome to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. I’m your co host, Brandon Ware, here with my lovely other half, Dr. Jess. Hello. Hey, how are you? Excellent. I’m excellent. It’s the start of summer. It’s warm. There are hibiscus growing on my back deck. They’re blooming. I am so happy about this. My plan for the summer was to take a break from the podcast, which is why we are not I thought you were going to say why you’re doing quickie episodes. We’ll be doing quickie episodes throughout the summer, so hopefully there’s still going to be some really good content here for you. But it will be a little bit shorter. Not as short as I would like it to be. Probably not as short as you would like it to be. Hey, listen, I can do quick. Yeah, I can do quick. Whatever you need. I have this idea for seven minutes of sex, but I talk too much. Danny, think done in seven minutes. But lots of people going on holiday these days, and today we’re going to be talking about just that, because I received a question on Instagram that I love from a listener who writes in, we are going on holiday for the first time in two and a half years. Every time we travel together, we have blowouts. I love to travel. My wife doesn’t mind it, but she’s not as comfortable in hotels and planes and foreign countries. Once we almost got kicked out of our hotel resort, but that’s a story for another day. I like those kind of blowouts, that’s passion. You two are always traveling together, and you look so happy. But maybe not just Instagram question mark. We do look happy. I mean, I feel pretty happy. Doesn’t mean we don’t have the occasional debate. I’m happy if I’m fed. Yes, you are. I don’t post pictures until I’ve eaten, and most of my pictures are food.

Okay, so back to the question. Any advice for traveling together and keeping things calm? We leave for Europe for the very first time in July. Well, that’s awesome. I’m super excited that you’re going to visit Europe for the first time. Yeah. That’s exciting. I want to ask, where are you going? But there’s no one to answer. I don’t know. I’m sure we talked about our first trip to Europe together and the fight that we had on the sidewalk in Barcelona. I remember level headed. Yeah. It was pre smartphones, or we probably had smartphones, but we didn’t have the money to activate the data plan. $100 a day, so we didn’t have maps. And we were fighting I’m sorry for the repeat, for folks who have heard the story already, but I’m pretty sure we were fighting about who got to hold the map. What year would this have been? Maybe twelve years ago. Yeah, maybe longer now. 1213 years ago, 14 years ago. Anyhow we got in this fight, we kind of walked away from each other. I don’t really remember what happened, but I think we had to find our way back because we didn’t have phones. You couldn’t really walk away because you wouldn’t be able to find one another. And we were in Barcelona too. There are some windy streets in those gothic quarters. But what I remember was that we were just really tired, right. We’d flown, it was not comfortable. I’m sure we didn’t sleep a wink. We’d change time zone 6 hours. And you were just cranky. Yes, admittedly I was likely very cranky. Even though I don’t need a lot of sleep, I think I need some sleep. I’m sure your crankiness also rubbed onto me. No, I’m sure I was cranky too. Right. I was probably hungry and tired. And so when you ask if we look happy or if it’s just for the gram no, I mean we’re happy. We’re also used to traveling. Right. It’s different now. I mean, I think like you said, we traveled differently than we did then, that’s for sure. Yeah, it’s a little bit more comfortable. But I want to talk about this because hopefully people are lucky enough to go on vacation. We’re very lucky if we get to travel. And we know that couples and families tend to fight in airports and in car rides because of stress and exhaustion and hunger. And we know that cortisol and blood pressure are believed to spike in noisy hectic environments like airports and train stations and even on highways. And I was looking into the data. One quarter report that airports are as stressful as moving. So 25% in airports today. So folks, if you don’t know, our home airport is Toronto Pearson. It is a disaster. I just keep seeing nightmare. The pictures of suitcases is everywhere, unclaimed luggage that have been shipped to the wrong city, misconnections. You can’t even walk from the looks of these photos. So a quarter find airports as stressful as moving. And I bet you that number is higher right now because of the pandemic. One third find airports as stressful as work. And I think it really boils down a big part of it to the fact that you have no control at the airport. You don’t have control of the lines, of the flight times, of the delays, of the connections. And we are wired to take comfort in control. And when we lack control, it can make us feel very stressed out. That doesn’t mean we should be in control of everything. But the airport is just a space where you have no control, right? Like you’re randomly selected for a search on me right now. I’m always pulled over into secondary for the extra interview and I know it’s coming and it stresses me out because there’s nothing I can do about it. And we have to think about patience and self control as muscles, they eventually burn out. So if you tire these, I guess, muscles out dealing with staff and lines and delays, you don’t necessarily have any of that muscle strength left to be patient with your partner. And I see this all the time. I spend a lot of time in airports going through security. You see couple fighting all the time. I don’t notice it maybe because I’m just focused on trying to get through as quickly as possible because some people’s partners will leave them behind if they’re not fast getting through security, even though they might be carrying all of their sex toys or electronics or everything else in their carry on. So just saying. Oh my gosh. Listen, the short answer to this question is how do you have a harmonious trip? Learn to go through the security line faster. Don’t piss me off. I think it’s one of those annoying things about frequent travelers where we’ve got our methodology and we expect everyone else to have the same. But I do know from, again, being in airports a lot, people are lost, people are stressed. It’s very confusing. I’ve played Airport Mama, like a gazillion times where I’m helping random strangers get to their planes. I’ve had to be the person pushing the wheelchairs because apparently there are no staff at the airport right now taking people to their gates. So the airport is very stressful. Train station and highways, of course, can be very stressful for folks who are going on road trips. And we also know that aside from the journey being potentially stressful, couples also tend to fight when they’re on vacation for multiple reasons. And one of those reasons is overexposure. You’re together all day and there’s this pressure to be like fun and interactive and charming. And maybe there’s also pressure to perform, right? There’s this pressure that you have to make time for intimacy or get it out of the way or have sex or have it be romantic if it’s just the two of you and you’re traveling without kids. And that overexposure. And pressure to perform can do exactly the opposite of what you’re aiming for, right? It can lead to stress. So I do think it’s important to plan separate activities so that you don’t do everything together. It might be as simple as one of you likes to go to the gym and the other one likes to sleep in, or one of you likes to go for a run in the morning, the other one likes to golf. I don’t know whatever it is people are into. Or for example, let’s say you’re an art history buff and you want to go to every single museum. Sure, your partner can accompany you to some of them, but you can go alone and they can go, I don’t know, check out a music venue or just sit on a cafe patio and watch people go by. A lot of these things also they sound very much repetitive in terms of what you’re saying, even at home, like, I think about what we have, and it’s this encouragement where, go do your own thing, spend a bit of time with your friends or on your own, go play with yourself. But it’s just the idea that you can have separate interests and separate activities that you do. And for me, I really want you to go and do those things. I want you to go and play Frisbee with your frisbee friends. You’re rolling your eyes as you say that. I’m not rolling my eyes.

Listen, me and Adam, we’re going to get together. Who’s Adam? Adam Hour. Oh, Adam. Okay. Adam Hour is a sex therapist out of Austin who likes to make fun of sports. No, he doesn’t. Me. And I’m going to go grab a couple of discs, throw some discs. I do like my ultimate Frisbee, even if I don’t love the culture of it. But it’s just the idea that I’m happy when you’re doing your own thing and you’re enjoying the same principle would apply if we’re away and you want to go to a museum that I don’t want to go to. So that’s the first piece is thinking about, okay, so if the problem is overexposure, what can you do to plan separate activities? If the problem is the pressure to perform or have romance or intimacy, what can you do to maybe even get it out of the way? Like, to make sure that if you know you’re going to have a long day of walking, for example, this person is going to Europe. So you tend to walk in cities in Europe. Not everybody, but many people. You might be exhausted and hot and tired and full at the end of the day, so maybe you just set the alarm a few minutes early and have sex in the morning or be intimate in the morning. Another piece, and you mentioned that your partner isn’t as comfortable in hotels and in foreign countries. We know that unfamiliar surroundings cause both excitement and stress, and when you’re exploring new territory, you benefit from the novelty. But you may also be faced with these cortisol level spikes, which are anticipatory. Right? Your body doesn’t know what to expect, so sometimes it will prepare for the worst. And so a little bit of planning can go a long way. So I don’t suggest that you plan everything, but if you are somebody who’s a little bit uncomfortable with unfamiliar territory or a culture that’s different than the one you had at home, or maybe you don’t speak the language, planning what stops you’re going to make reading reviews and kind of reading tips before you go can also be helpful. Oh, and I’ll just say here, if you’re traveling in Europe and you’re new to a city, a great place to start that’s totally free is the Rick Steve’s Free Podcast tour. So you just download them to your phone. And he in his most annoying possible way, but in a useful way. Light hearted. Oh, my God, he’s so annoying, though. Don’t necessarily agree with everything that said, but the premise is helpful. Yeah. No, honestly, he’ll walk you through a city and really give you your bearings of all of the key landmarks and give you a little bit of history. It’s very surface level, but it’s a great place to start. I might have talked about this because we were just in Lisbon and we used his tour. Yeah. We’ve done them a number of times. When you only have a short period of time or however long you have in the city, it’s great to just go on the walking tour because you’ve got everything pre planned in terms of the stops and what you’re going to watch. And also you can go at your own pace. Yes, absolutely. You don’t have to go with other people. You can start any time. You can even start out of order because I think the way it downloads on your phone is split up by different landmark. Right. Yeah. You can just start wherever you want and then follow because each landmark has a little track to play. So if you just Google Rick Steve and the city and walking tour, you can see if he has one. Like, it’s in the major centers. Like, he has multiple in Florence, many in Rome. Sometimes even if you’re going to go see a specific landmark like the Colosseum or the Pantheon or something, he has a specific podcast just for that. And they’re really well done in terms of, like now take four steps to your right toward the green sign. I don’t know if it’s that slow, but yes, it’s very slow for you. Definitely. I need everything double time. Okay. So overexposure pressure to perform unfamiliar surroundings. Just prepare for those things. Right. And then I have some general tips. And again, Brendan and I don’t pretend to be the perfect couple, or we definitely fight. We definitely argue. One of us definitely gets very cranky. And it’s not Brandon. I thought you were going to say something. It’s me, for sure. It’s definitely me. Well, if we had to pick one of us being the cranky one, though, it would be me. It’s usually food related. Yeah. Okay. Okay.

Speaking of okay, so here are my tips. I have twelve. I think there’s twelve tips for you that I want to go through. So, number one, when you’re traveling, pack snacks for your partner to surprise them. So we tend to pack snacks for kids, do the same for a partner so that it just shows that you’ve been thinking about them, especially if you’re not getting meals on the flight or if you’re in the car. And even if you’re packing, like, your regular food to eat, pack something special. So for Brandon, it would be an RX bar. Bars, yeah. For me? What would you pack for me? I don’t know. Can I pack dim sum? Is that possible? Of course you can pack dim sum. Frozen dim sum. No, you have to steam at first. Jeez. Okay. Brandon has never packed food for me. I would pack fruit pastels for you. Okay, we’ll see. I mean, he’s only had, like, 100 opportunities left yes. In the last year. Okay. Pack some food, because being hungry is one of the big complaints that we see in terms of causing stress. Number two, bring music. So bring music actually ranked number one way to relax when you’re traveling, when you’re in the car, when you’re on a plane, when you’re on a train. So think about making a playlist that you know will help your partner or you to relax. Number three, get some movement in before you leave. So most people, before they pack up the car to go on a trip or rush to the airport, are not doing anything physical other than brushing their teeth and rushing to the car. If you can just schedule six minutes of exercise before you leave for the airport. We have this wealth of data showing what exercise does to your brain and body, to your relationships, to your mood, to your patients. And if you don’t get your six minutes in before you get to the airport or wherever you’re going, do it there. We’ve done it at the airport. I remember being in was it Berlin that we were in Munich, and people probably thought we were bonkers, but we were just walking around doing lunges, doing all what else are we doing anyway? And you know what I got on the plane? Feeling a lot better. Yeah, I was doing my walking lunges monkey squats. Yeah, froggers. Yeah. A little bit of exercise. And again, it doesn’t have to be a workout, like a long workout. Just six minutes or seven minutes or even just do some stretches. Yeah, I think anything helps get the movement in. Absolutely. Okay, next, surprise your partner. Write them a love note or a card that they can read en route or kind of hide sticky notes in their bag where you just tell them you love them or you’re thinking of them or you’re excited for this trip. I think it would be really nice to get on. I mean, I’ve done this before where you’ve left me some sort of a note, and I’ve read it on the plane, and it’s very calming now for me, honestly, planes are already calming. So this would be, I think, especially useful for somebody who’s more tense on a plane. Yeah, I’m definitely the tense one on the plane. But I go back to your music pointer. That one’s really helpful. All right. And then for the vacation, don’t overplan. So what? People tend to over plan and want to do everything, I think, especially when we’re traveling overseas, like you’re going to Europe for the first time, you probably want to see everything, right? You’ve got to get everything in, but it will all be there for another time. And if you don’t see it, you’re not missing out. So I always suggest that people cut out like 20% to 30% of their plans so that you have time for relaxation and exploration and you don’t have to hit everything on the mark. Because this is something I hear from couples all the time who fight on vacation. One of them is a planner, and they have like 815 here, 942 here, 1300 hours here. And it can feel like a lot of pressure because we’re setting ourselves up for let down because there are bound to be delays. So if you can delete or reduce your planning by 20% or 30%, I think that’s a good way to reduce stress. And speaking of planning, I also find that couples fight less if they share in the planning. So, yes, one partner is definitely going to be more inclined toward planning, either because they love to do it or because they like to be in control. But I hear a lot of couples fighting because all the pressure falls on that person, and if anything goes wrong, they feel responsible, right. It’s that feeling of blame or even rejection. So if you tend to not do any planning or upcoming vacation, see if there’s something you can take on on your own to take the pressure off your partner. And if you tend to do all the planning, ask yourself if you can relinquish some of that control. Next, if you are traveling by train or plane, arrive early. So we know that a lot of the stress comes from this fear of missing a flight or missing a train, or the stress of super long lines, which are the norm right now. And so this is something I’m not good at. I don’t love going to the airport super early, but I do think that going to the airport early is probably going to reduce the friction between partners if you can afford it, too. And if you’re going to an airport, if they have a lounge, that could be something that you splurge on, go to a lounge if you don’t have access, and then at least there’s a place to relax if you are able to breeze through that line quickly. Yeah, that can be a good thing to splurge on, especially like, with a connection. One thing I like when I land is if I have a connection to be able to have a shower or something like that. And even if you don’t want to pay for it, which I totally understand, a lot of credit cards actually do offer lounge access. And I’m following this woman on Instagram. I need to go look up her name. I think her name is Erica. Her name is Erica, but I don’t know what her brand is. And she’s a lawyer. Oh, Erica Kolberg. K-U-L-L-B-E. Jar. Sorry, B-E-R-G-I don’t know what I was saying there. She’s a corporate lawyer, and she reads the fine print of all the different contracts from, like, airfares to rental cars to shoes and clothing. And so she tells you how to make sure you’re, A, getting your money’s worth, b, getting refunds and compensation when you’re entitled to it, and C, getting all of the perks that come with it. Because I’ve been following, and I’m like, I didn’t know my credit card came with that perk. And it’s like she has these I don’t want to call them cheesy. They’re very well branded TikTok style mother TikToks, but I see them as reels on Instagram. And she plays two characters, one of which is herself, and she’s the lawyer who reads the fine prints so that you don’t have to. So Erica Cullberg with a K, and she’ll tell you how to get lounge access better than I can. Another piece is, if you’re driving, use an app. So use an app rather than playing navigator, because I hear this all the time. It’s so weird, the stuff couples come back with, but they’ll get in the fight because one person is bad at navigating. Like, we know me, I’m so bad at navigating. Just tells me when to turn about 300 meters after I’ve missed the turn. Always. I’m a terrible navigator. Get Google Maps. Another piece is to underpack, if you can a little bit.

So don’t load yourself down with suitcases. That’s another thing I see couples fighting about as they travel. And then a really important piece is unplugging. So can you set time aside to take a tech break every day? One option if you’re traveling overseas is to turn your data off so that you’re only using your data or you’re only accessing certain apps when you’re on WiFi. It’s saving you money, and also it forces you to not always be checking your email. And then a piece that you brought up, Brendan, for not fighting is really just landing and organizing so that you have the things that you need, so you have the documents on hand. So this list of things I see couples fight about at the airport, like they can’t find their passports or they can’t find their vaccines or some other documentation visas that are required to travel. I mean, at all these locations, you’re constantly forced to take it out of your bag, put it back in your bag. It’s easy to put those things down. So I think being organized and having those documents in a set location, because nothing worse than you saying to me, Where’s my passport? And I’m like, I had it, and now I don’t. I burned it. I burned it for heat. So I know that sounds kind of too practical, but I do think planning and organizing, making lists of things you need to bring to reduce your stress can be really helpful. But then also being flexible, like if things get forgotten, you’re just going to have to do without it. If you don’t have your favorite shawl, you’ll survive. I do think that that’s a big piece is that we have to learn to be flexible when we’re traveling. And then the last piece is don’t worry if you bicker a bit. Like put. I always think about fighting and how when we disagree, we tend to want our partner to understand our perspective, and in doing so, we want to convince them. But I often think and I’m not as good at this as I should be, but I think about putting an imaginary truce card in my pocket and just playing it when you’re feeling annoyed or when we’re fighting, rather than trying to win or trying to be right or trying to convince just giving in and kind of giving it to you. And I think not all the time, obviously, but I think this is especially helpful if you are dealing with a partner who is a more uncomfortable or nervous traveler. If you can just, I guess, be the bigger person or sacrifice being right even when you know you’re right. Can you just play that truce card? And not in a condescending way, like, I’m playing my choice card, but just to be like, hey, babe, I get it, or Let me just give you a hug. Physical affection is a big one. Can you stop on that hectic airport walk and hold each other? When you’re talking about the truce card, I actually think about creating the Monopoly cards, the Get Out of Jail cards, because if you each have one in your pocket during the trip, and then when that happens, you’re able to pull it out and just be like, Truce. You know what I mean? Like, it might sound cheesy and stuff, but at least it cuts the tension. Yes. And the capacity to kind of laugh at yourselves in a moment of tension is, I think, a sign of a really good relationship. I see that in couples who are able to be like, oh, man, this is stupid. Let’s not bother, or this isn’t worth it, and just kind of give yourself some grace. So I hope that helps. Again, I always feel bad. Like, I’m like I don’t have all the answers. It’s not like we never I definitely get irritated when we travel. I have my way of doing things. So do I. Absolutely. And then I think we also try and accommodate each other. Like, for example, I like my hotel room in I basically like my hotel room to look like nobody’s staying, which is a ridiculous standard. I know. The first thing we do when we get into the hotel, unpack everything, put it away so that you don’t see it looks exactly like the first time you walk into the hotel. Every time you return. So I like this. I don’t know if you really care about it or if you do it for me. I like it now. I do. I like things to be organized and put away. Yes, I have a rule. Like, if it’s two nights, I don’t have to do it, but if I’m only staying in place one night, obviously I don’t have a rule. It’s a rule for myself. You know what it is? When you’re on the road, you never feel like you’re at home. And so the more I put away my stuff and it’s not like in a suitcase, the more it feels like it’s sort of my home. Sometimes I’ll even go get flowers or something to go in the room so that it feels a little bit more homey. All right. I hope you have the best trip to Europe. I hope that it’s fairly harmonious. But also, when you do fight, I hope you’re able to let things go. And I hope you’ll use some of these tips for packing a snack in a playlist, six minutes of exercise, surprising them with a love note, cutting 20% of your plans, sharing in the planning, arriving early wherever you’re going, using an app to navigate underpacking. And again, these aren’t like hard and fast rules. These are just my thoughts unplugging, taking a tech break every single day, planning and organizing, but also being flexible when things go awry, and then giving yourselves grace to bicker a little and using that truce card. So I hope you have a fabulous vacation in Europe. If you are traveling somewhere, I hope it’s amazing for you, too, whether you’re single or partnered. And I think a lot of this applies if you’re traveling with family and friends as well. Yeah, absolutely. And before we finish up, I want to make sure that we give a shout out to Adam and for sponsoring the show. Right? Pack your dildos, pack your butt plugs. Pack your vibratingpenny Adam and code. Doctor Jess to save. I shouldn’t be the only one going through security with a bag full of sex toys. I’d like to hear other people’s stories. Let me assure you, if you do not want to spend a lot of time with the security person inspecting your bag, just put a bag full of sex toys. They don’t want to search you. Yeah, anytime they’re like, what is that? I’m like, It’s a butt plug. They’re like, Okay, go. Get out of here, lady. I don’t want to ever see you again. Folks, wherever you’re at, happy summer. I guess that’s only part of the half of the globe, but many of you I know. And we’ll be back next week with another quickie episode. You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex Life. Improve your life.

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