If it’s a leap of faith to meet someone for a first date, your first trip together is a deep dive. Once you get on that train or plane, or pull out of your city onto the highway, you’re pretty much stuck with this new person who you hope you like. If all goes well, you’ll have a blast. If not, well, I’m really sorry.
How soon is too soon?
There’s no question that hitting the road together, whether for a long weekend or a more involved sojourn, means taking the next step in a relationship.
In a survey of 1,000 adults by Hilton Hotels & Resorts, 60 percent said it was a good idea to head on vacay within the first three months of dating someone. And nearly half of people thought it’s never too early to holiday together (these people are way braver than me!). Experts seem to agree that first holidays are best kept simple — think a weekend getaway rather than a multi-city European tour.
“Couples should go on vacation together once they are established as each other’s partners and generally have slept together,” advises Rachel Russo, dating coach and author of “How to Get Over Your Ex.” Otherwise, spending the night together could be awkward. Russo thinks three to 12 months is a good rule of thumb for the first trip, although “it can be sooner or later depending on how connected a couple is, as well as their finances and life circumstances.”
When Tony, the guy I was dating, and I decided to take our first trip together a few years ago, we were in the midst of another new relationship milestone. I had invited Tony to a party I was hosting with my roommate in Harlem, which meant he met a whole bunch of my friends in one night. The friend test is a big one, too, and he was passing with flying colors, charming everyone with his witty banter and his British accent.
“Shhh,” my friend Alex nudged me at one point, as I topped up her bubbly. “We don’t want to listen to you. We want to hear Tony and his lovely accent.” She had a point.
It was mid-party in the crowded kitchen when the topic of Nando’s came up. For the uninitiated, Nando’s is a South African chicken-centric chain restaurant that’s popular in England, where Tony grew up. In fact, it’s popular in much of the world — they have locations from New Zealand to Qatar to Botswana. But there’s no Nando’s in New York City, and I had never been.
“That’s it,” Tony laughed, “We’re going to fix that. I have to take you to Nando’s!” Laughter filled my apartment, and I loved the idea. I was falling for Tony, and I wanted to get to know him more. The peri-peri chicken sounded pretty good, too.
The party ended but our conviction remained. We looked up the various U.S. Nando’s locations. Tony had never been to Baltimore, where I grew up but haven’t lived since I was 14, and the distance from NYC — three hours on a good day — seemed doable but far enough to feel like an adventure. Maybe we’d also spend a day in D.C. We booked a Megabus ticket. It was on.
Hanging out and (hopefully) making memories.
Psychologist and relationship expert Antonia Hall told Bravo that a first trip can be invaluable for a couple. “There’s no better way to really get to know someone than to travel with them,” she said. “It’s actually a very informative way to know how your potential long-term partner deals with flight delays, traffic, and other situations that can arise, and whether or not you’re truly compatible.”
Travel pulls us from our routines and our comfort zones, so you’ll get to know a different side of a person. You’ll see how they react to lost luggage or evil mosquitoes. And they’ll see you when you’re hangry, or when you forgot to pack product, it’s super humid, and your hair is reaching whole new levels of frizz.
Bad hair days and all, a couples’ trip means a whole chunk of time dedicated to just the two of you. Tony and I walked from Charles Village, the neighborhood of my childhood home, to Mt. Vernon, where the original Washington Monument rises from cobblestoned streets. We paused for iced coffee and pints of beer.
By the time we had made it to the Inner Harbor, my toes had grown blisters and I was starting to hobble along. Tony saved the day — buying me a pair of cute but comfy sneakers and carrying the offending shoes that had eaten my feet. There was some kind of cheerleader convention going on, and we paused among swarms of girls with ribbons and caked-on makeup to take a selfie with downtown Baltimore behind us. We were having a great time, and Tony indulged my cheesy urges. At night, we slurped oysters in Fell’s Point and watched the sun set behind the docks.
Travel pulls us from our routines and our comfort zones, so you’ll get to know a different side of a person.
Don’t forget to take a moment to breathe.
So much to do and see! So much nonstop time together! The next day, we were planning to take the MARC train to D.C. It was springtime, and the cherry blossoms were in bloom. But we had been going nonstop since we arrived in Baltimore, and we were both a little exhausted.
“Maybe we can just stay here?” Tony suggested, and I agreed instantly. After all, we still hadn’t made it to Nando’s. We decided to slow down a little. That afternoon, we watched a movie in the hotel, cuddled, and napped in the fluffy white sheets. What is better than that?
At the time, I didn’t realize that we were heeding Russo’s advice. “Make sure there is enough relaxation to reduce stress and allow bonding,” she urges.
When we finally made it to Nando’s, I let Tony order for us. We shared half a hot chicken, macho peas and fries. It was solid chicken after all, but the company was even better.
The Megabus ride home was hell. We seemed to be stuck in endless traffic, and every time the bus seemed to be moving, it screeched to a halt again. Three hours turned into four, then five, then six. I felt carsick, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the person across the aisle from us was eating something truly stinky from a Tupperware. We were both hungry (the Nando’s felt like eons ago) and grumpy. It was our first truly unpleasant experience together.
But it only brought us closer together. By the time we pulled into the Lincoln Tunnel, we had planned our next trip together. We went back to Baltimore for a wedding a few months later. We had an even better time, and not just because we took the train. This month, we’ll be heading to our own wedding.