The Weird Thing We Do on Vacations (I Swear by It)

When Alex and I were first dating, we went on vacation together, and something surprising happened…

We had been dating for six months, and we took a week-long vacation to Berlin. It was a big step for our relationship, and I worried we’d run out of things to talk about. (We didn’t.) Instead, we had an amazing time. We rented a studio apartment, rode bikes around town and ate German dumplings. We went swing-dancing at an old dance hall.

But toward the end of our trip, we decided to do something we had never done before on vacations: Spend a day apart. Alex wanted to visit the Topography of Terror museum (no thanks!), while I wanted to browse shops in Mitte. So we split up for the day and then reunited for dinner. And it was AWESOME.

Since then, we always spend a day apart on vacations. It’s liberating to have time alone to do exactly what you want, and then you can meet for dinner to share stories and photos. Stay at the beach for as long as you want. Eat three scoops of ice cream for lunch. Spend an hour looking at your favorite painting at a museum. Read books in the grass. Rollerblade around town. Having one day completely for yourself is such a treat, and you might even surprise yourself with what you choose to do.

What about you? Do you ever split up on vacations? I’d highly recommend it!

Because sometimes it’s nice to be alone, right?

(Top photo of Alex and me by Karen Mordechai, bottom photo by Chance)

  1. Catherine says...

    I’ve been reading through your posts for a couple of days, and picking this random one to chime in!
    Yes! Doing your own thing for a day while in a new place is so fun! Once when we went to NM, my husband wanted to climb the highest peak in the state, but I was too tired from escaping from this canyon the day before, so I dropped him off at the trailhead and he did that, I drove over to Taos and visited the public library, bought a book from thwor used book sale, went to a cool grocery store and got myself a picnic. Went to a park and ate and read my book, walked around town and took pictures, found a meditative maze to walk around, walked around some more, went back to our hostel for a while, and picked him back up at the trailhead late that afternoon. We both had adventures to share and had a great time! Great advice!

  2. Mimi says...

    This is about as brilliant as sitting apart when flying with children. I plan on doing both when we vacation next month. Thank you for the lovely, simple tips.

  3. Martha Patterson says...

    You bet! I love to browse quirky shops, festivals, street fairs…not my husbands cup of tea. We will go different directions for a few hours and reconnect. Just back from a 2 week road trip..we’ve even passed on the idea to our nearly grown kids. At one stip my husband hit a brew pub and museum, my son did some antiquing, daughter and I did separate wondow shopping and gallery-ing. Perfection!

  4. Ana says...

    I just came across this post, Joanna–LOVE IT!

    I just recently went on a weekend getaway with the guy i’ve been seeing for a few months and was so worried we’d run out of things to talk about on the 4 hour drive to go skiing (We didn’t and it was so great!) We hit the slopes together and also separately (he’s much more advanced than I!), and even after being apart for a few runs we’d have so much to catch up on!

    Love this tip for vacations, your blog truly is the best!

  5. Meredith Whitfield says...

    (Lowkey the topography of terror museum is fascinating; I went this past week)

  6. Vikki H says...

    My husband and I have done this several times. My favorite time was spending the day at Windsor Castle while my husband went the opposite direction to Greenwich and lots of naval history displays. We went to a play that night to do something together. I recommend it highly.

  7. I would love to do this but since we are in a long distance relationship, right now “vacation” is the only time I get to see my boyfriend. Will have to give this a try after we’ve been reunited for a while.

  8. Glenda says...

    This is an old post, but just reading it :) YES! Hubby and I have always done this. We’ll have breakfast together and then he’s off to golf for 4-5 hours. His quiet time. I’ll go get a massage, mani/pedi, shop, read a book by the beach or pool…. yes! then we meet up at dinner time.

  9. Oooh, I don’t know. Vacations are the time where we get to spend a buttload of time together (which we normally don’t do), so being apart would be odd.

    Then again, after spending 24/7 together for two weeks we have on occasion got very annoyed with each other, so maybe if it gets to that point on the next trip, I’ll suggest it.

  10. Me and my partner with on our first trip to Barcelona together. I think planning what you’re going to see is also important. We carried out a lot of online research and found this Optical Express really helpful.

  11. Thank you for this great idea! We tried it for the first time during a recent visit to Tokyo. I loved going on the subway alone, walking around the city… and I even took myself on a lunch date for sushi. It was really fun to catch up about the day over dinner together that evening. Thinking we might give this another try during our honeymoon this winter!!

  12. When my family was in Florence, my husband wanted to go to a fossil museum, my kids and I did not want to, so we told him, we would meet him later. I found some steps with a nice view and we sat and watched people go by. It seemed strange that the people around us were dressed like the 1920’s. As we sat and watched, we realized they were filming a movie.
    No one could tell us the name of the movie, but it was an exciting scene, where a man got stabbed to death.
    A year later, I am watching” A Room With A View”, and I saw that scene. So exciting.

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  14. I’m doing it, and it really works for me. It alright being separated a few hours, it gives you a sense of being one with yourself, not depriving yourself from the things you wanted to do.
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  15. That is really an amazing idea! I remeber me and my fiance first vacation together it was in London…and i did get grumpy because he wasnt enjoying as i wanted some art museums… bah! And he wanted to do an horror something visit, and i hate horror stuff!! Maybe we needed to take that adventures alone and both of us really like the time we just do what we fell like!! In another trip…we will see!

  16. This is awesome! I love having some “me” time in new places! This would suffice my urge to do a full Get Away on my own. Just a day on vacation, is a great idea. Now to get the hubby on board…

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  19. Absolutely! A lot of our couple only trips tend to be extensions of business trips, so I’m often on my own for a day – and love it! We’ll go for a run together in the morning and meet up for dinner after meetings. It’s the best of both for me a mother of 3. hubbie time AND alone time = happy momma!

  20. this is genious! next time my husband and i travel together i’m proposing this idea. it’s a mini vacation within a vacation. xo

  21. What a great idea! I’ve never even thought about it but it IS genius!

  22. You always have the best ideas! We will try this :) I’ve done this before on work trips, but never when my husband and I go on a vacation together. Also, that photo of you and Alex is so sweet. Lovely that you have that.

  23. my husband and I do that too! one of my favorite times was in London…

  24. I am in love with this idea. My husband and I are prime candidates for this as we have quite diverse interests, but always try to compromise while in vacation. I ran this by him and he’s completely on board. Thanks for the idea!

    ox roxy

  25. I can’t even imagine NOT doing this. We do this all the time.

  26. Jennifer says...

    Love this idea! It’s something I always want to do on vacations, but it feels kind of awkward to bring up. I’ll definitely be using this post as an introduction to the idea though. Thank you!

  27. No thanks to the topography of terror museum? It’s a great museum. Cool idea though about spending a day apart!

  28. Anonymous says...

    I wish. My fiancé would think that’s my cue for breaking up,

  29. We do the same thing as well – usually every late afternoon, after running around a city, visiting museums, eating and sightseeing. I will usually take off to do a little shopping and L does whatever he wants to. I agree, it is a nice way to reconnect in the evening. Always have new experiences to share.

  30. Yes! My fiancé and I also took a trip together within the first 6th months of our relationship (London and Paris, we booked the tickets after dating only 3 months – so scary!) Anyways, I wanted to get up early and go to the Flea in Paris, he wanted to sleep in. Even though it was only a couple of hours, it was really great to spend the time alone. And liberating to know I could do exactly what I wanted. That’s a good idea to keep it up though!

  31. This was an especially awesome post to read halfway through a 5 month sabbatical with my husband and 3 year old son. Sometimes you forget you can call ‘time out’ and just run away with the (other) circus for a day. We’re in Mexico right now and I think I’ll be pencilling in a day to myself to wander the markets of Oaxaca or simmer in the jungles of Palenque. Thanks for the refresher. x

  32. I stumbled upon this post by and I couldn’t have read it at a better time. My boyfriend of almost 2 years and I will be traveling to Berlin this coming Tuesday and although we haven’t planned a day a part, this post has inspired me to reconsider.

  33. what a great idea! h and i should try this on our next trip! im sure id take the day to go shopping AND eat some ice cream :0 xo

  34. When my boyfriend and I went to Budapest, we would split up during our vacation enforced siesta time. My favorite experience was when he went to the beer garden outside our hotel for a brew and to read his book while I napped and then when he came back and took a nap, I did the same thing, and we didn’t know until later we spent our time apart at the same place!

  35. Completely agree with that!! I love some alone time, from time to time…. however my husband is a “we” person…… and I slowly have been teaching him to like to be alone sometimes….. In vacation, I never tried it. But it is an awesome idea!!!Kisses Claudia

  36. I’ve done this once with my husband back when we were still dating. We spent a day enjoying our trip separately and when we met again at the end of the day we had a lot of things to share about what we’ve been doing that whole day. Haven’t done this again after being married (never thought of doing so, exactly), but seems like a great idea to do this again on our next trip…an awesome story to share, by the way! :)

  37. This is a great idea. I feel like when we’re on vacation there’s so much compromise that one (or both) of us may not feel like we got to do everything we wanted. I love the man, but I am not all that interested in everything he wants to do!

  38. Anonymous says...

    I can’t believe how may co-dependent, scared people there are out there! Be your own person! Have your own interests! It’s so healthy and makes for interesting conversation at dinner, as Jo says. :)

  39. Lately I’m a solo traveller (I’ve moved away from home and used to travel with my family), but the idea that it’s more than alright to go somewhere by yourself isn’t really there. I’m glad that others see how wonderful it can be to explore by yourself!

  40. My husband and I did this on our honeymoon, of all times! It was perfect – I took a cooking class and browsed art galleries, and he got to play golf!

  41. I love this idea! I think it would spice things up between the couple too. You would feel renewed and invigorated.

  42. M. Loveless says...

    I can so see my hubby proposing a counter offer of spending one day together and the rest of vacation apart! :)))

  43. Lovely idea, but I’m thinking I would need more than 1 day to shake off traveling with my hubby :) two days would be perfection!

  44. YES. It’s awesome. Not only do we get a break for ourselves but we get “me” time.

  45. I am totally going to do this on my vacation coming up. My husband and I like different things, and spending a day doing different things and meet up for dinner is perfect!

  46. Love this idea!

  47. What a great idea! I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. :)

  48. We always spend time apart on vacay.

    However, our big tradition is a silly one that began accidentally: my husband always gets a haircut and shave at a wonderful barbershop where ever we vacation. Off the top of my head that has included, barbering at Aidan Gil in New Orleans, a sweet old timey shop in Palm Springs, Rudy’s in Portland, some older gentlemen’s shop in Los Angeles– there are others that I’m forgetting. We love it!

  49. fabulous idea! we are going to india this dec. where my family lives. so not sure my partner (who has never been to india) would try a day where we do different things. but, who knows maybe i might dare him!:)

  50. That is a great idea! I’ll have to run it by my husband and hopefully he’ll agree to do this on our next vacation together!

  51. I think it is a great piece of advice, maybe not just for holidays, but it can work for a weekend afternoon as well.

  52. I love this idea and am very surprised that I’ve never thought of it before.

    I love exploring new cities on my own whenever I go away for work and I think my boyfriend would appreciate a day to do his own thing without feeling bad for dragging me around.

    I love trips spent exploring together but for one day I think it would be liberating and fun.

    Thanks for suggesting this.

  53. great idea!! will definitely suggest this next trip!

  54. My husband and I do the same thing, I love me-time and so does he and although we like doing the same things a lot we have different interests and I am not one to drag him aorund doing things I know he’s not up for. Such a good thing!

  55. What a great idea!!

  56. Elizabeth Ann says...

    I desperately needed this tip a few weeks ago. My boyfriend came to visit me for three solid weeks of traveling togetherness after nine months of being apart. The shift from not seeing each other apart from Skype chats to 24 hours a day together was more than I could handle. I freaked out and tried to break up with my super sweet boyfriend. Thankfully he figured out what was going on faster than I did and left for a walk around the city alone. He had fun, I had some time alone, and by the time he got back I was feeling sorry for my outburst and ready to make up. If we had just planned in advance to take some time apart the whole episode could have been avoided, and we both could have just enjoyed doing things alone. Excellent advice!

  57. Sounds like a great idea! I’m just glad you got to go to Clarchens: I live in Berlin, and I recommend that dance hall to everyone. Such a fun place to visit. :)

  58. This actually crossed my mind on our last trip when I wanted to do something my husband didn’t (probably browse in shops!), but I don’t know why I didn’t even consider it. Our next trip, I’m definitely going to give this a try. Thanks for the suggestion!

  59. Rashmi says...

    That’s a pretty neat idea. But I guess it would only work when the couple is already living together. My BF and I live separately and a holiday is the only time we get to see each other.
    Once we are married though, I would love to do this. :)

  60. Anonymous says...

    I do this too :)

  61. That is a truly excellent suggestion! Thank you. I am going to take your advice.

  62. I didn’t really realize that this is a thing we do until I read this post! It started with an afternoon in Paris, me at Musee d’Orsay and him at a cafe with bottle of wine and a tiny black & white TV showing the next to last stage of the Tour de France. Such a great tradition for allowing yourselves to grow as individuals and a couple!

  63. We often split but not much longer than 1 hour… I must try longer ;-)

  64. wow, i was so not expecting this! (not in a bad way, i just never thought of spending time apart while on vacation) it does seem exciting and it does make sense, however i dont know if i would split up for the day or even for a few hours from my hubby on vacation. but thats just me…


  65. I like being alone on citytrips but in the mountains I’m bored without someone else.

    We call the topography “Mahnmal” and it’s a wonderful place. Next time you visit Berlin you should spend some time there. And take your husband with you. It’s the perfect place to play hide and seek.

  66. This comment has been removed by the author.

  67. My mom and I just went on vacation together and we did the same thing. One of the days, I spent the day writing in a coffee shop and she went off to do her own thing. It was really nice because I was able to spend time with my mom on vacation, but also have time to myself. I’m such an introvert it’s essential for me.

  68. this is an amazing idea and my husband and I do it too. we’ve never tried it while on a trip in a city (maybe next time) but all of our beach vacations have included an alone day or just time away day. I usually just nap or spend it at the spa and it’s just fine by me.

  69. K. says...

    I’ve discovered this is mandatory when traveling with friends (especially more stressful trips like those abroad). Even just spending the day at the same site but going on your own. It’s saved more than one of my adventures.

  70. This is a truly fabulous idea, Joanna. I love to travel, either with a companion or alone, and I think that you’ve struck the best of both worlds here. Love it!

  71. Anonymous says...

    When I was a kid and went on vacation with my family my mother and I would always go off and do girly things (usually shopping or to a museum the boys had no interest in) while my dad and brother went for a run, to a war museum or to a sports game. It gave my brother and I a break from each other when we were bickering like crazy and gave my parents some one on one time with us in new places. We would usually split off the other way for an evening as well and my dad would take me to a play while my mom took my brother somewhere he wanted to go.

  72. Anonymous says...

    My husband and I have very different interests, so we’re known to spend several days apart while on vacation. We’ve even been in separate towns or even countries, before meeting up again on our travels. It’s partly due to travelling on a tight budget – we couldn’t afford a scuba diving trip for two, for instance. It creates a whole new dimension to our holidays and I must say, to our relationship as well. We’ve had amazing reunions. :D

  73. I don’t have a significant other that I travel with, but I often travel with a friend. I love traveling with since we share enough interests that we can do a few things together, but she’s also independent. It was great to do different things and then share our experiences and varying perspectives of a city over drinks. We’ve conquered Buenos Aires and London. Who knows what is next!

  74. Carol says...

    Yes I agree, I love to do this! I once went on a 4 month trip around Europe with a boyfriend, and time apart occasionally was essential when you travel for so long. And it’s great to be able to do what interests you without having to compromise, just once!

    To those women who say they’d be afraid to be alone in a foreign city – don’t be! Unless you’re in some war torn country (or certain middle eastern or african countries that might be a bit unsafe for women) you have nothing to worry about! Pretty much everywhere in Europe is safer than the streets of New York.

  75. LOVE this idea!

  76. Whenever my husband and I go on a trip longer than three days, we always make sure to spend some alone time. While we have a lot of common interests, there is always something we want to do that the other doesn’t. Plus, it gives us something new to talk about when we’re together again. It’s a great way to make sure we don’t get on each others nerves when we’re together 24/7!

  77. I usually do this when I travel with other people. I find that having a set meeting place and time at the end of the day helps even the more travel-timid to go explore because they know that someone will come looking for them if they don’t show up!

  78. that’s a great idea, however, i’m such a scaredy cat! i don’t think i’d like to be on my own in a foreign place…but maybe that would make me more brave??

    My Babykins

  79. We totally do this too! We don’t spend 24/7 together any other time so why do it on vacation?

  80. that is an awesome idea! never would have thought of it! never done it but may try some time!

  81. My husband and I are good at making sure we take naps during vacations – it helps with timezone changes and helps deal with the fact that we usually book way too much into each day away.

    Plus, it refreshes you for dinner!

  82. this is a god idea, specially when your significant other is the polar opposite of you!

  83. Awesome idea, totally trying this out someday when my husband and I can take longer than a two day vacation! (we have a newborn!)

  84. Anonymous says...

    My husband went shopping today. He goes out without me and I think it does him good. I love this post and the reminder that we need out own time and our own individuality. Your blog is the best, Joanna.