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Travelling with a partner? Or going solo?

Travelling with a partner isn’t always a romantic experience. Luckily, this is a known phenomenon, says Helen Coffey. And there is a simple solution: leave your beau at home.

Picture the scene: it’s a beautiful morning in some foreign land. A couple are lying asleep under crisp, white sheets on a queen-sized bed, with nothing to disturb except the sunlight shimmering seductively through the curtains. Until…

“Good morning, beautiful! Rise and shine! Right, if we leave in 10 minutes we can get to the gallery when it opens, which means we’ll have time for the museum at the other end of town before lunch, and we could probably fit in a quick walking tour before – hey! HEY! ARE YOU ASLEEP??”

The man is suddenly striding about the room throwing on clothes in a whirlwind of energy, while the bleary-eyed woman blinks stupidly, wondering why the hell she is awake at 7am in the goddamn morning.

That pretty much sums up the different approaches my partner and I have to a trip away.

I should say that I love my boyfriend very much. He is the eggs to my benedict, the spaghetti to my Bolognese, the gin to my tonic – he is a truly wonderful person.

But when it comes to holidays, quite honestly, I’d rather leave him at home.

I see holidays as a sacred, precious time, consisting largely of doing, well, absolutely nothing. A magical world where you can sleep as long as you like, eat as much as you can stomach, be horizontal as often as you choose (preferably on a range of jaunty hammocks hanging between palm trees). Deciding to take a dip in the pool is a momentous decision. I can spend half an hour weighing up the pros and cons of leaving my lounger, because the five or so metres I’ll have to traverse to go for a swim seem like an awfully big investment of my time and energy.

My partner, meanwhile, does not really do “leisurely”. This is a man who once said to me, “I want to feel like I’ve squeezed every last drop out of a place by the time I leave” – essentially equating a holiday to a wet flannel. He is an early-rising, sight-seeing, guide book-following, can’t-sit-still pain in the arse who cannot fathom the idea of declining to set an alarm.

We may be compatible in matters of the heart but, when it comes to matters of the holiday, we really are from different planets.

Which is why I was amazed to hear that 66% of British people claim to prefer travelling with a partner or spouse, according to new research from travel search engine Momondo. I’m sorry? Who are these people?

I could understand it more if I was the only one in this predicament of having a completely opposing holiday style to my beloved. Almost every woman I know experiences a similar issue though; sometimes the gender roles are reversed, granted, but there’s usually one lie-in lover and one alarm advocate in every pair. One friend often reminisces about that Paris weekend with her now-husband at the beginning of their relationship. He spent two days stomping the length and breadth of the city; she spent two days exhausted and weepy, realising her dream of a romantic mini-break with lots of sitting at street-side cafes staring lovingly into each other’s eyes was never going to happen.

Two years ago I found the perfect antidote to mismatched expectations – going on holiday with somebody else. Two friends and I headed to Mallorca for a three-night break, only to discover we were the perfect travelling companions. We’d soon laid the ground rules for our trip: lie-ins until 11am would be mandatory, no one was to get out of pyjamas until gone 12pm, and, most importantly, there was to be zero chastisement of anyone for sleeping. All of us had experienced too many self-satisfied crows of, “Hello sleepyhead! What time do you call this then?” from passive-aggressive partners when we groggily emerged from bed at any point beyond dawn’s first light. The time had come to take a stand.

The next few days were spent blissfully alternating between napping, lounging, eating and drinking – a highly pleasant schedule of relaxation that meant I returned to work in a fug of chilled-out happiness. Of course, it didn’t last long – it never does – but my holiday felt like just that. A holiday, rather than a never-ending Barry’s Bootcamp session.

Since then we’ve oft repeated this winning formula, and I’ve come to realise that having a different idea of the ideal getaway to your partner isn’t something you should feel ashamed of; it’s perfectly natural. The quicker you stop trying to fight it, the easier it is to actually enjoy the time you do spend together. I know a trip with my beau will consist of early starts, swift lunches and ticking off every attraction listed in the city guide. And that’s OK. As I tramp up the main street for the 47th time to see yet another medieval church, I just look to the future, when I’ll be lying on a beach with my holiday soul mates, wondering whether to bother going for a swim.

©Independent Digital News and Media, and Helen Coffey

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