Travel with friends can be an incredible experience you’ll remember happily for years. Or it can be a challenging experience that makes you wish you’d traveled solo. As Mark Twain put it, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.”
Avoid the negative side effects that can stem from travel with friends – misunderstandings, disappointments and frustration – with these nine tips.
Travel with Friends: Before the Trip
Pick your travel companion (or companions) wisely
It’s not enough to travel with your college roommate. Or your best friend at work. Or your favorite cousin.
Consider the following when evaluating if this person has the right stuff to be your travel companion:
- Do you know your friend well?
- Has your friend traveled as much as you have? Experienced travelers may need to mentor novice voyagers, and that can add strain to the trip.
- Do you enjoy being with this friend in a variety of situations?
- Do you have similar interests and tastes?
- How close are your body clocks? If one of you is an early-morning person and the other a night owl, think twice.
- Do you both desire a similar level of activity? If one person enjoys short, leisurely walks and the other wants to hike long, rugged trails, that may not work.
- Will your dietary preferences mesh well? A committed vegan will want to eat in a very different way from a confirmed carnivore, for example.
- Is one of you a planner and the other spontaneous? While opposites might attract for romance, they might not work for a solid travel partnership.
Once you’re ready to book, everyone needs to be committed to the trip. Some bookings can’t be changed without a fee – if at all. If you’re traveling with a group and one or more people cancel, the committed travelers may have to chip in extra for the dropouts’ share.
Consider everyone’s wants
First, agree on the basics: where you’re going and how much time you’re spending there. Then agree on what you’ll do during the trip. It might even be helpful to have people write down their goals for the trip to set clear expectations.
For example, everyone might agree on three days in London and three days in Paris. But one person may want to wander around parks and gardens, while another wants to pass the time at art museums. This is especially critical if one person wants to be more physically active than their travel companions. Make sure everyone is on the same page with at least a rough schedule before you leave.
One shortcut: book travel with a set itinerary. An escorted tour or cruise will eliminate some of the decisions about how to spend your precious travel time.
Agree on budgets
The ideal situation: everyone on the trip has similar financial situations and preferences. If one person wants to enjoy all five-star properties, while the other prefers to travel more modestly, have that conversation during the planning phase. This might be a deal-breaker.
Also ensure you’re on the same wavelength when it comes to getting around and dining out. One member of your group might want to walk, while another might want a car service. Someone may want to eat at casual establishments while another has their heart set on Michelin-star dining.
For some groups, a trip fund has worked well. Everyone contributes equally to it for shared expenses such as lodging and transportation. When it runs low, everyone chips in an equal amount again.
Work with a travel advisor
If one person takes on the large task of planning the trip, they may resent the burden. As well, coordinating a trip for two or more people with different preferences can be complex.
Working with a travel advisor resolves those issues, as well as a host of others you may not have anticipated. Advisors will keep the planning ball rolling so you make decisions efficiently. They excel at handling challenging trips with multiple people involved. If something goes wrong, they’ll resolve the issue quickly. They can also secure you extra value and perks – and score you VIP treatment. If you don’t have a travel advisor, you can select one who will be a great fit for your needs at Virtuoso.com.
One tip for working with an advisor: It’s important for everyone traveling together to sign off on plans. Don’t put one member of the group in the uncomfortable position of having to approve everything.
Travel with Friends: During the Trip
Take a break from each other
The easiest way to travel with friends harmoniously is to part company for a while. Too much togetherness can put a strain on your trip. Plus different people want to indulge different interests.
For one or more days of your trip, you may want to split up for part of or the entire day, then reunite for dinner. You’ll get to explore on your own and have the benefit of great stories to swap over a nice meal.
This works as long as people are comfortable venturing on their own. If someone isn’t completely at ease with this, they have options. They could use the time apart to relax in the hotel room, take a guided tour or enjoy a beverage (and people-watching) at a café.
Travel with friends is a great gift. A wonderful trip can bring you closer with shared experiences and memories. Make the most of being together by limiting your time on social media, emails or texts.
Go with the flow
When you travel with friends, bring along your patience and flexibility. You won’t get to see or do everything on your list (for that matter, neither will your friends). Some days you may chip in more than your share for dinner, or be kept waiting a few extra minutes. Know that you’ll have to compromise and make your peace with it.
Nip any issues in the bud as soon as they arise. Bring them up respectfully and openly. Otherwise they may fester and erupt, making matters worse. Being together so intensely also makes tempers more likely to flare.
One way to prevent issues is consideration. Be a good roommate. Show interest in something that makes them come alive, even if it’s not your thing. Think about their needs as well as your own. Pay attention to your friend’s mood, and ask how they are if they seem unhappy.
The bottom line: advance planning, clear communication and flexibility will mean a much better experience as you travel with friends.