Regardless of how long a couple have been together, spending some quality time alone together is a key factor in maintaining a healthy relationship. Pressures on our time from work, kids and keeping the house from falling down all too often keep couples so busy that romantic nights out or even simple hand-in-hand strolls in the park become rare events -- if they happen at all.
Like many other things in life, what we get out of a relationship depends on what we put into it. For many busy couples, setting aside time every week to relax without any outside distractions just isn't possible. The only way to get away from it all is to do just that -- get away from it all and take a vacation for two.
When it comes to romantic vacations, the most popular destinations feature beaches, sunshine and seclusion. Hawaii has those and more, but couples looking to get stamps on their passports should consider Indonesia. Located in Southeast Asia and made up of thousands of islands, it boasts warm weather year-round, with the dry season falling from April through October. The resorts that dot the islands have affordable packages that include airfare and meals, which makes them attractive to American travelers, according to Diane Darcy, a travel agent in North Richland Hills, Texas.
Two resorts that have all-inclusive packages are Kima Bajo and Kungkungan Bay, both located on the island of Sulawesi, just south of the Philippines.
"Those are affordable places to go. You can do them for about $3,000 per person, with air from Los Angeles. That would include diving and food -- everything except for drinks," Darcy says. "The island is very secluded, very romantic, a soft-adventure kind of place."
An exotic international destination a little closer to the U.S. is Costa Rica. This Central American country has not only secluded beaches but also rain forests and mountains, making it a destination for couples with a little more sense of adventure.
"There are just so many things to do. There are exotic animals; there's rafting; there are zip line tours; you have the rain forest and volcanoes, as well as the beach," says Wayne Johnson, a travel agent in Marietta, Ga. "A lot of people go for a couple of days up in the mountains or in the rain forest and then a couple of days on the beach."
Johnson also recommends St. Lucia and Aruba in the Caribbean, but be aware that hurricane season is at its peak from August to October. Mexico's western coast usually stays storm-free during those months.
"Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos are the most popular during hurricane season," Johnson says.
Regardless of your destination, both Johnson and Darcy say that all-inclusive resorts are the best way to have fun and save money. Each resort has different policies and restrictions, but most include all food and drinks, as well as non-motorized water sports. Scuba diving trips and off-resort excursions are routinely available at fair rates.
"People want to pay one price and be done with it. They don't want to have their wallets forking out all the time," Darcy says. "It's not a vacation when you're worried about what your next drink or meal is going to cost."
Mexico and the Caribbean have the biggest selection of adults-only all-inclusive resorts, with El Dorado Spa Resorts & Hotels, Palace Resorts, Sandals and SuperClubs among the most popular. El Dorado and SuperClubs also have resorts that welcome children. Resorts that are less than a year old often have not only sparkling-clean facilities but also bargain rates to lure in new customers.
"The first year that a property opens, they always have half of the price that it normally would be to get people in and spread the word," Darcy says.
Tips for the staff usually are included, but Darcy recommends tipping the bartender during your first visit to the bar.
"First thing I do is hand the bartender a $5 bill," she says. "You really get served faster. They love it when you do that."