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Top tips from married retirees who have been on the road together for more than 30 years.

Sarah Z. Wexler

Even retired couples that have been together for decades can find that without the distractions and routine of the work week, their time with each other can go up in quantity while going down in quality. This is never more true than while traveling, when a couple might spend 24 hours a day together, every day, for several weeks, in a new place.

For all of traveling's wonderful bonding moments, it can also bring up annoyances and stressful conversations that make even the happiest couples bicker. Before you book your next trip together, check out this advice from Bill and Ina Mahoney, authors of Vagabonding through Retirement: Unusual Travels Far from Our Paris Houseboat. They're 87 and 84 respectively, and somehow never pushed one another into the Seine, even though they've spent the last 30 years post-retirement traveling to destinations around the world, including Asia, Europe, South America, and Australia. The intrepid married retirees talked to T+L about how they would handle several issues common to couples.

Problem: You don't want to travel to the same place.

Look for a shared reason to go somewhere. A joint mission provides not only an idea for a destination, but also how you'll spend your time there. “We often think of something we want to accomplish and let that guide us: finding a Yiddish New Testament, visiting the Ukraine to check out how they’re faring since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, or to China to learn what life was like after the Tiananmen Square incident,” says Ina. Or you can switch off new destinations with return trips to places you know you both like. “We agreed we both wanted to keep returning to Thailand and Bali because the people were friendly and they have wonderful food,” she says.

Problem: Your "travel styles" conflict.

If you're a planner, yet your partner prefers to wander, both parties can feel constricted when they have to travel by the other one's itinerary (or lack thereof). “Ina likes to plan, but I don't,” says Bill. “When she's planning too much, I tease her about it, or on occasion I just tell her I need to do the rest of the afternoon or the next day my own way.” Adopting each other’s approach on alternate days can work if you're good at compromising, but if not, it might be better to split up for the day and reunite in the evening rather than drag each other around at a pace that only works for one of you.

Problem: You have different interests you want to explore when you travel.

Staying put in a location for a longer stay will give each of you the time to dive into your separate interests. “Bill likes to study languages, whereas I prefer checking out scenery and learning the local customs,” says Ina. “When exploring our different interests, we each gain a wider understanding of places we visit from what the other one brings back to discuss at dinner. Bill’s language exchange lessons enable him to meet people who invite us to share meals, which are experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise.”

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