Are You “Travel Compatible” With Your Significant Other?

Ah, the romance of it all.  You’re young and in love, and you plan a trip with your significant other.  Great memories, right?

Now, put yourself in my shoes, someone who travels a ton and has a very specific way that you travel.  And, my wife-to-be Michelle shows up to that first trip with a lot of luggage.  Mind you, this was before 9/11 and all the security changes, so it didn’t matter as much.

Fast forward to the new world of security and more travel for me, and my wife’s packing habit started to get in the way.  She’s a lovely person and very tolerant of my idiosynchracies.  But, it took a long time to convince her of certain things.

That’s what Scott McCartney from the Wall Street Journal called to ask me about for an article recently.  He’s a good-natured guy and he chuckled as I shared stories about how my wife and I differ when we travel, but I couldn’t be 100% sure whether he was laughing at me, with me or near me (for the record, I think it was a bit of them all).  As Scott says:

Travel is full of stresses. But for couples with different flying predilections, the knives can really come out, especially when only one is an experienced traveler with deep-rooted habits. Air travel, especially during a crowded period like the coming spring break season, can lead to frustrations, embarrassments and arguments.

No question my knives came out.  And, my wife dealt with them just fine.  The hair dryer was one of my big concerns, along with multiple pairs of boots and big bottles of shampoo.  All contributed at various times to what I’ll politely refer to as a really bad idea.  Trusting the airline with your luggage.  Checking a bag.

I tell people I checked a bag once back in the 90s and really felt like it wasn’t for me.  I can honestly say I don’t recall more than 3 or 4 times where I’ve been forced to let an agent pry my suitcase out of my death grip and check it.

Michelle, on the other hand, was quick to check a bag, mostly so she had her hands free.  As she likes to say, “One hand for Starbucks, the other hand free for whatever.”  All I could think of was, “Oh, you poor, lost soul.  You don’t know the risk you’re taking.”

It started to set in for my wife on our honeymoon.  I bought her a brand new set of Samsonite bags back when I thought they were a great suitcase.  I’m a devout Briggs & Riley guy now.  One of the principle reasons I bought their toiletry kit is so that I didn’t have to pull out my liquids separately when going through security without TSA PreCheck.  It might save me less than 10 minutes a year, but every minute adds up when you’re constantly on the road!

Travel With Spouse

Anyway, she checked her bags on the way back from the honeymoon and they weren’t on the belt at baggage claim.  No biggie, it didn’t take long to find them on a separate platform.  Soaking wet.  And torn.  Yikes.

Travel With Spouse

That certainly helped my wife start to get on board with the carry-on situation.  That, and as Scott comments, my promise on hair dryers:

Their compromise: “She’s convinced me over many years never to put her in a hotel that doesn’t have hair dryers in the room. And if the hotel doesn’t have one, I have to go find one or buy one,” he says.

My wife really is a great packer now.  I’m proud of her and would stack her up against many “non-frequent traveler” spouses.  But, we have developed a new issue.  I call it “Southwest Guilt”.

Michelle is one of the most honest people I’ve ever met.  I grew up in New York.  I don’t consider myself dishonest, but I’ve learned over time that offering too much information can be as bad as not enough.  So, I answer truthfully, but I don’t give people the “magna carta” answer.  It’s not as sever as a scene in West Wing where White House Counsel Oliver Babbish tells CJ Cregg that her answer when someone asks, “Do you know what time it is?” should be, “Yes.”  Nothing more.

Scott describes my concerns about “Southwest Guilt” quite well:

Mr. Pizzarello also says his wife is a much nicer traveler, and that frustrates him. When they fly with their children, ages 5 and 9, on Southwest Airlines, the foursome tries to leave an empty middle seat so they have more room if the flight isn’t full. But to her husband’s chagrin, Ms. Pizzarello makes eye contact with boarding passengers, and with Southwest’s open seating policy, someone invariably senses a welcoming to take the middle seat.

Rather than have a stranger between parent and child, one child moves over to Mr. Pizzarello’s side of the aisle. He serves as a barrier in the middle seat between his two children in case they get fidgety. His wife still gets the aisle seat on the other side. “Every time we end up losing the empty seat,” he says.
My wife feels like she needs to advertise that the seat is open in case someone needs it, even when it’s been announced that our flight isn’t full.  Now, I’m not that guy who parks a bag on the empty seat to make it look full.  But, I’ll be honest, I’m not standing up waving my hands saying, “Empty seat here.”  I’m hoping we end up with the empty middle seat, like everyone else on the plane.
My wife and I had a lot of fun talking to Scott for the article.  But, I had even more fun reading it, recognizing how silly some of my quirks sound.  I’m not giving them up, though.  Not after years of finely honing my strategy!  It was fun to read about Anne-Marie and Summer in the article as well and realize I’m not the only spouse who has “Travel Compatibility” issues.
What about you?  I can’t wait to hear your funniest story about traveling with your significant other.

The Are You “Travel Compatible” With Your Significant Other was published first on Pizza in Motion.


  1. I have to admit, I haven’t read the article, but just your post was a fun read! I totally remember checking a bag on Rose and my honeymoon coming back from Bermuda, we checked it because we had souvenirs (calendars), and ample helpings of Gosling’s Gold and Black Seal rum. Turns out, the Gosling’s Gold made it, the Black Seal rum didn’t, barely recognizeable (the only glass that wasn’t completely shattered was the thick base of the bottle), also barely recognizeable were the souvenir calendars we had bought for our parents. Since that time, we’ve checked bags 2 times (again for liquor, hard to find an itinerary from Thailand not requiring it), and involuntarily checked bags another 3-5 times. In that time, only 2 suitcases have been destroyed, ironically, the ones my folks got us for our honeymoon. Luckily they’ve been replaced by Briggs and Riley (we are too fans!), and although they’ve only been checked a couple of times involuntarily, they’ve survived just fine. I’m blessed with a wife that feels the same way I do about checked bags.

    All that to say – Great and entertaining post!

    1. Trevor, you’re a lucky man! It took quite a number of years for me to get my wife to the point she is on packing. That being said, she’s quite efficient at it now. Which Briggs & Riley bags do you guys have? Sorry to hear about the rum!

  2. Funny thing is that I travel more than my wife but she is the one that shows up with the tiny tiny roll a board and I’m the one checking a medium sized checked bag. I hate to lug around all my stuff at the airport and fight for overhead space, etc. On the other hand I do get free check bags most of the time. I’m starting to come around as I find that I’m losing hours each year waiting for bags (mostly at MCI which has the slowest bags in the world considering they are only going like 50 feet from the plane to the carousel).

    1. Dan, that’s the equation I use to pitch to people not to check a bag. We need to make it an official stat. TNHLWFCB. Total Number of Hours Lost Waiting For Checked Bags. Need to go work on that abbreviation. Do that the next time you’re hanging at MCI waiting for a bag. 😛

  3. Awww, this is really sweet! We have learned to compromise over the years, but the biggest thing is time. I have a system, and am happy leaving the house an hour before the flight, he likes to be through security and sitting at the gate or a VERY nearby lounge two hours prior to departure!

    1. Tiffany, I’m not as severe as your husband. But, if I left the house an hour before a flight (I live 19 minutes from my home airport), I think my eye would be nervously twitching. Not sure I could watch the clock count down calmly!

Leave a Reply