Couples holidays: Bickering after being stuck at home? Plan a life-changing trip, from Japan to Bali


Travel plays a big part in sustaining any relationship. You create new shared experiences. You cope with challenges together and enjoy wonderful new things 

Here’s the good news. There is not, according to a report, going to be a second epidemic — an epidemic of relationship break-ups, that is. 

The report, from The Marriage Foundation, says that far fewer couples than expected are planning to divorce once this crisis is over.

The Marriage Foundation is pro-marriage (there’s a clue in the name). Family lawyers — not pro-divorce, exactly, but certainly not opposed to the fees they earn when that unfortunate event occurs — are not convinced by the results. One told the Mail she had seen an ‘explosion’ in divorce cases up to and including Christmas.

Either way, most couples will admit that the past year has been a strain. And a big part of the strain is that there is no immediate prospect of escape. Travel plays a big part in sustaining any relationship. You create new shared experiences. You cope with challenges together and enjoy wonderful new things. 

On holiday, ‘you are on a romantic adventure and you’re lifted from the day-to-day grind. So you almost become a different couple,’ says life coach Carole Ann Rice. So that first post-lockdown trip had better be a good one for all concerned. No pressure, then. 

Here are some ideas. First, a warning. After almost a year of lockdown, the last thing you need is a week spent lying around doing nothing or drinking daily cocktails and staring at each other over a bottle of wine or two… 

HAND IN HAND 

There's nowhere like Japan if you are yearning for something different on holiday. Pictured is the Ginkaku-ji Silver Pavilion in Kyoto

There’s nowhere like Japan if you are yearning for something different on holiday. Pictured is the Ginkaku-ji Silver Pavilion in Kyoto

If you’re yearning for something different, there is nowhere like Japan. Nothing is like anything you are used to: food, language, scenery. From subtropical Okinawa to frozen Hokkaido, there is a continental variety to this ancient, modern and very long land.

The Japanese Path to Wellness is an interesting and high-end new tour from Art of Travel. It’s a thorough immersion in Japanese culture, from metropolis to islands, temples to gardens. And after all the fuss and friction of the past year, a spell in the world’s most courteous country may be just what a fractious relationship needs.

Good to know: For a more down-to earth option, try Walk Japan, a company offering guided walks between temples and traditional Japanese inns (walkjapan.com).

How to do it: A Japanese Path to Wellness holiday is priced from around £10,875 pp for 11 days including ANA Premium Economy return flights (theartoftravel.net/ jic-wellness).

SAFETY IN NUMBERS

One thing couples have been missing is the company of other couples (and singles). So here we go — to Arcadia, the region in Greece that became synonymous in ancient times with rural bliss. The modern Arcadia, only two hours from Athens, is still blissful. Villa Vager is at the top of a hilltop village. 

As for activities, forget boring beaches: you have mountains, lakes, monuments, pine forests, walks, winery tours and cooking classes. You will be too tired to argue about anything, even the price.

Good to know: Make sure you get the Secret Suite.

How to do it: Seven nights at Villa Vager (hotelvager.gr) with Original Travel from £2,025 pp based on two sharing. Includes flights, car hire, plus rafting, hiking and excursions (originaltravel.co.uk).

HORSEPLAY

Northern Ireland's magical Antrim coast, which has beautiful sweeping bays and a craggy shoreline

Northern Ireland’s magical Antrim coast, which has beautiful sweeping bays and a craggy shoreline

Northern Ireland’s magical Antrim coast is often overlooked. Walking along the sweeping bays and craggy shoreline is exciting enough. 

How much better, though, to trot or gallop through the waves on an Irish Cob or, as Danny McKinley of Sheans Horse Farm says, ‘something with a bit more zip’.

Good to know: You can compare stories and empathise about sore thighs and bottoms over a fine whiskey at The Bushmills Inn.

How to do it: The aptly-named Rediscover the World offers a four-night trip. Flights to Belfast, one night in the city, three nights at The Bushmills Inn (including an arrival dinner) and a day with the horses at Whitepark Bay, £785pp (rediscover.co.uk).

EMBRACE SWEDEN 

Sweden's west coast has delightful islands, fishing villages, sweet harbourside hotels and endless daylight. Pictured is a couple on a cycling holiday in the western Swedish city of Gothenburg

Sweden’s west coast has delightful islands, fishing villages, sweet harbourside hotels and endless daylight. Pictured is a couple on a cycling holiday in the western Swedish city of Gothenburg

If you and your partner enjoy Nordic noir, visit Fjällbacka, pictured, the Swedish town featured in author Camilla Läckberg's thrillers

If you and your partner enjoy Nordic noir, visit Fjällbacka, pictured, the Swedish town featured in author Camilla Läckberg’s thrillers

California may be the classic road trip but the traffic is bad and the towns too flashy these days. Instead, try Sweden’s west coast with its delightful islands, fishing villages, sweet harbourside hotels and endless daylight.

The Nordic countries endure their own kind of lockdown every year during the dark winter months, so they really know how to enjoy the summer. Expect barbecues, bathing, beaches and just the sheer joy of being outside all day. If this doesn’t cure the couple lockdown blues, nothing will.

Good to know: If you have a shared taste for Nordic noir, make sure you get to Fjällbacka, the town featured in author Camilla Läckberg’s thrillers.

How to do it: A six-day fly-drive package including a night in floating eco-hotel Salt & Sill from £1,325 pp (regent-holidays.co.uk). 

WALK AND TALK 

Walking is a proven way to get the brain and muscles working after too long in hibernation. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is ideal — just demanding enough but leaving you with enough breath to talk about it. A few happy, sunny days going from cliff to bay to pub to b&b along the glorious west Wales coast is a great pressure-reliever.

Good to know: You can add in extra rest days for a little extra money.

How to do it: The Celtic Trails walk is based in historic St Davids. Three nights from £320 pp (celtictrailswalkingholidays.co.uk).

SPICE THINGS UP 

The spectacular rice fields in Ubud, Bali. The island is a great place for working out the aches and pains of a relationship

The spectacular rice fields in Ubud, Bali. The island is a great place for working out the aches and pains of a relationship

PASSION KILLERS  

Couples’ massages: Who decided that your relationship would be deepened by lying face down next to your loved one for an hour listening to grunting and squelching noises to the accompaniment of whale song? Forget it.

Rooms with hot tubs: Sounds great until you start to think about all the other people who have shared intimate moments in these glorified washing machines.

Party places: Ibiza, Ayia Napa and Mykonos are great at a certain point in your romantic evolution — i.e. the beginning bit. Going back will just make you feel headachy and old.

The Maldives: Sure, your resort island is gorgeous. But do you really want to stare at the same view and sit in the same room and eat at the same table for two weeks? It’s just lockdown with snorkels.

Honeymoon suites: Often fussy, invariably overpriced — and if you are really unlucky they will make a heart out of your bath towel.

Bali is a great place for healing, including working out the aches and pains of a relationship. Avoid the party beaches of Kuta and head inland to bohemian Ubud.

Why not learn a new skill together, such as cooking Asian food? There’s a good choice of cooking schools in and around Ubud, including the Paon Bali cooking class. You shop, learn, wander around the paddy fields, cook and eat.

Good to know: Combine a day or two at the beach with an inland expedition north via Ubud. Allow time — roads are congested.

How to do it: Hayes & Jarvis offers ten days in Bali from £2,960 pp. That includes return flights , four nights in Ubud and six in Sanur. In addition to the cooking class, they offer a hot-air balloon trip and a discovery tour of ancient Ubud (hayesandjarvis.co.uk).

GET BACK ON TRACK 

‘We’re going Interrailing!’ Hearing these words might immediately conjure images of bulging backpacks and sleepless nights on hard banquettes somewhere in the middle of Belgium. But think again. As grown-ups, you can afford the little (and bigger) luxuries your younger selves couldn’t. And sharing the logistical challenge of plotting your way across the continent will be a great bonding experience — won’t it?

Good to know: You have a choice of 33 countries with one ticket.

How to do it: A single ticket costs £587 and gives you seven days’ travel, which you can stretch out over a month (interrail.eu).

CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN 

Maybe you have used lockdown to acquire a new hobby or interest. If not, there’s plenty of time to choose one. How about yodelling? You can learn how in the Austrian Tyrol.

Once you’ve stood on a mountain top and cried out ‘Tri-dul jo-i jod-i ri-dul jo-i jo!’ to the cows in a distant valley, all those cares and niggles will magically disappear. And the carpets of wild flowers will persuade you to make a new start.

Good to know: The Königsleitner yodelling trail is free. You just need to get yourself to the mountain station of the village railway in time for one of the regular tours.

How to do it: Inghams offers seven nights half board at the adults-only Elisabeth Hotel, Austrian Tyrol, Mayrhofen, from £1129 pp (inghams.co.uk/destinations/austria/austrian-tyrol).

YOU NEED SOME SPACE 

On a trip to Mongolia, stock up on cashmere jumpers in Ulaanbaatar and then head out to a wilderness camp and stay in a Mongolian ger, pictured

On a trip to Mongolia, stock up on cashmere jumpers in Ulaanbaatar and then head out to a wilderness camp and stay in a Mongolian ger, pictured 

There may have been times when you’ve wished your dearly beloved would be somewhere else. Outer Mongolia, for example. But it’s far nicer to go together. Nowhere is the great outdoors greater.

Take a day or two in Ulaanbaatar, stock up on cashmere jumpers, then head out to one of the wilderness camps dotted with gers — the Mongolian version of yurts. You’ll appreciate the garden lawn at home all the more after a few days in the Gobi.

Good to know: Get there before October when the steppes start to get a bit nippy.

How to do it: Regent Holidays (regent-holidays.co.uk) offers a ten-day Mongolia 4WD Gobi Adventure from £3,444 per person, including flights to Ulaanbaatar. The price includes nine nights’ accommodation in traditional Ger camps and hotels, most meals, 4WD transport, private driver, guide and sightseeing tours.

LOVEBIRDS IN A NEST 

Head to the unspoiled forests and beaches of the Caribbean’s Dominica. At the Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski you can do all the usual spa and lounging around stuff. But far better to have a mission.

Head into the forest on a guided tour in search of Dominica’s national bird, the elusive and colourful sisserou parrot? It will certainly give you more to talk about than how many rum cocktails you consumed before dinner.

Good to know: Birding can be enjoyed throughout the year but the peak in breeding for most species is between March and August.

How to do it: Carib Tours have a seven-night stay at the Kempinski that costs from £1,499 pp including flights, transfers and room-only accommodation (caribtours.co.uk).

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