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Travels for Two

The right trip can reboot your relationship


by Dr. Pepper Schwartz

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There are all sorts of compelling reasons to hit the road, but here's my favorite: Taking time out together from life's hurly-burly can refresh and renew a relationship.

Indeed, I think it's so crucial for couples to deepen their intimacy by traveling together that I recently cowrote a book about it.Places for Passion: The 75 Most Romantic Destinations in the World will be published by Frommer's/AARP in December.

Travel isn't all hearts and flowers, of course — I get that. Force a couple in a troubled relationship to navigate the medieval streets of an Italian city, for example, and you risk putting them into a terminal tailspin.

And even for the happiest couples, merely planning to get away can be stressful: Spouses typically have differing tastes and schedules, so choosing the type of experience to have — as well as the time of year to have it — can become unexpected thorns in the side of a great escape.

See also: Accomplished Something Special? Celebrate with a Trip

Still, there's no denying these three great reasons to grab your honey and get out of town:

1. New experiences replenish a relationship

Every week I read an in-box full of journal articles and case studies about marriage counseling. One thing this "literature review" has taught me is that human beings crave novelty, and that sampling new things together can reinvigorate just about any union. When the two of you travel to an unfamiliar place, you inevitably discover new things to talk about, but you also acquire new memories — and even new skills (rudimentary French, anyone?). Best of all, the exhilaration of shared discovery often spills over into warmer feelings for each other.

Stunning Pictures! Best Vacation Moments from the Online Community

2. Time to talk means time to dream

Coupled life can become too mechanical. You evolve into a well-oiled household machine — she shops, he cooks — but that routine can be an intimacy killer. By contrast, there's something sweet and hopeful about the travel planning process: It's an ideal time for the two of you to articulate your dreams together and plan something concrete that you can look forward to as a couple.

3. 'Getaway' rhymes with 'play'

Everyday life has this annoying tendency to put sensual pleasures on the back burner — or knock them off the stove altogether. With couples pouring so much energy into work, family and caregiving commitments these days, most duos need sleep more than they want sex. A vacation where bills and phone calls can't reach you, by contrast, is an excellent chance to simply have fun together again. That spirit of playfulness, in turn, makes lovemaking more frequent — and more enjoyable.

See also: Seven Ways to Reconnect with Your Partner

OK, so much for why you should get away. Now what about where? 

Catch a cruise

Let me save you some guesswork of the "What's most romantic?" variety: Head for a Greek isle! Steaming into Santorini at night, for example, is romance incarnate; most people are blown away by the villages standing in illuminated silhouette. (Think Mamma Mia!)

Can't swing a Greek getaway? Take off from New York or Florida for a short cruise to Bermuda, one of my favorite places. Off-season deals abound in fall or early spring, when these 300 coral islands 650 miles south of Cape Hatteras offer generally good weather, often-deserted beaches and views galore. You can't drive while you're there — that means no accusations of "You missed the turn!" — and the local ferries are cheap and fun.

Find a beach — and find each other

A beach makes the perfect choice if all you're looking for is a spot to decompress. If one of you gets antsy while the other likes to loll, pick a beach near a place — Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is one — that provides forays into town. For domestic options, consider the wild and windswept coast of Oregon or Washington, both of which feature B&Bs, broad beaches and stunning landscapes. If you insist on basking in the sun, the less-famous Keys of Florida offer fine sand and reasonable prices; they include (traveling north to south) beaches in Islamorada, Marathon and Big Pine Key.

Have an adventure — outdoors and in

There's nothing like exercise-generated endorphins to stir up a dormant hormone or two. If you have even the slightest inclination to hike, bike, ski or board, head for Canyonlands National Park, Yellowstone or Grand Teton. Not only will you get purple mountain majesties for a small amount of green, but who knows where that post exertion afterglow will lead?

Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., is AARP's Sex and Relationships Ambassador.