My husband, Kevin, and I are lucky to have friends with whom we can travel well. Although we love going places with just the two of us it is sometimes a fun change of pace to see the world with other people by our side. We have been fortunate enough to travel with friends a variety of places including Mississippi, Alaska, and as far as to Italy!
Traveling with friends might sound like a dream, but if you discover that you aren’t a good fit the dream can quickly become a nightmare!
Years ago when we were newly married we took a road trip with some of our closest friends. It was a disaster! We discovered that enjoying the company of another person in your everyday life does NOT mean you can travel together.
We blissfully set off on a long drive with this other couple without a thought or a plan or a qualm. Our first indication that it might not go well was when we were told by our friend (who had insisted on being the driver) “Don’t drink much water because I don’t believe in stopping.” Yeah, he was serious. Then he informed us that, “The rule is that the driver gets to pick the music.” Then we found out that he expected the girls to sit in the backseat and boys in the front – the whole way. THEN I discovered that car rides were basically Ambien for my backseat companion. No joke. I was stuck for hours in the back seat, needing to pee, unable to hear conversation from the front because music that I hated was blaring through the speakers, and the only person with whom I could have shared the experience was snoring beside me…
Sadly, this was just the beginning of an entire weekend of discovering how bad travel can be when you aren’t with compatible companions.
We are now much older and hopefully wiser and have done a lot of traveling with friends so I have compiled a list of:
Tips On How to Travel With Friends and NOT Become Enemies
Personality characteristics to consider:
If my husband and I had given even one moments thought to the personality traits of our friends before we left on our ill-fated road trip we might have seen some red flags. But we didn’t. We should have. It is still engraved in our memories as one of our worst trips ever.
I blame our youth for our lack of forethought.
Nobody is perfect and we should embrace differences, but there is something about traveling together that can change those little quirks that you find so endearing at home into something suddenly irritating, kind of like, I don’t know…heat rash?
With heat rash in mind here are a few things to consider before embarking on a vacation with friends.
- Do you have similar energy levels?
- Do you have the same levels of physical fitness?
- How do they handle life when situations go awry?
- How dogmatic or easy-going are your potential traveling companions?
- Are they adaptable or inflexible?
- How curious are your potential travel buddies about the world as compared to you?
- Are they positive or negative?
- Do they regularly run late?
- How aligned are your body clocks?
- How spontaneous or regimented are they as compared to you?
- Do they consider others or are they self-centered?
- Do you already enjoy their company in a wide variety of situations?
- Do your potontial travel buddies complain a lot?
- Are they enthusiastic or indifferent?
You do not have to be exactly alike! However, I would suggest that you honestly consider these items and notice if any of them cause you to pause. Do they raise any yellow flags?
At the very least this should give you a list of things of possible areas of conflict to consider when thinking about travel with friends.
If, after reflecting on these basic personality traits you still feel like you want to pursue the idea of traveling with your friends then it is time to ask yourself:
Do You and Your Potential Travel Buddies Have Similar Interests?
You definitely do not have to have the same exact interests!
In fact, one of the best things that could happen is for everyone involved to share their interests so that the experience is enriched for all.
But let’s face it, there might be some situations where your passions are just too far apart to meld. If you are a foodie and it simply wouldn’t be a vacation for you without trying a bunch of new restaurants you probably don’t want to travel with a picky eater who doesn’t like anything but the salsa at Chilis. (although that salsa is pretty good.)
If your dream trip is exploring ALL the museums and ALL the ruins but your friend likes to party until the wee hours and sleep the day away then y’all might have some compromises to discuss.
If you decide that your interests are similar enough to continue to pursue the possibility of becoming travel friends then ask yourself:
Do you each have a similar budget for the trip?
This is one of the most important things to consider and might be a deal breaker right from the get go.
If you know your friends will want to travel in a manner that is way outside your budget or vice-versa the whole thing might be a non-starter. It will definitely need to be something that you discuss before finalizing…well, anything else.
SO, you’ve thought it through! You believe that you and your friends have compatible personalities, similar interests, and approximately the same amount to spend on the trip.
Hurray! You’ve decided to travel with friends…now what?
Consider starting small
You might want to start with a short road trip or an easy weekend. We recently took a trip to Greenwood Mississippi with friends to take a class at the Viking Cooking School. Something like this might be a great way to give your buddies a “trial run” as traveling buddies.
Not only is it simpler and less stressful to plan, but best of all you can make sure that everyone meshes before you attempt something longer, more complicated, and more expensive. You will be able to see where there might be issues in the future and work through them before you the next time.
Or perhaps you will realize that there shouldn’t be a “next time.”
Decide where to go
Pick a place that can give each individual the best chance to experience something that they are really interested in doing. You might want to choose somewhere that no one in the group has ever gone. We are planning a catmaran trip with friends in the British Virgin Islands for next year. This will be something none of us have ever done.
Perhaps you want to share an old favorite with good friends. We loved Italy so much that we wanted to share our adoration of the food and wine and beauty and art there with our friends Derrick and Patsy who had never been.
Maybe one of you has a strong desire to see a particular thing. We took a February trip to Fairbanks, Alaska with our friends Bo and Kathy because Bo really wanted to see the northern lights. They were on his bucket list. I didn’t even know that I wanted to see the northern lights until I saw them and then I realized that they should have been on my bucket list all along.
I would suggest getting everyone together over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and dream and discuss and deliberate. You might be surprised at what you come up with!
You’ve decided where to go! Now it’s time to really get into the nitty gritty of planning.
How will you get there?
Sometimes the answer to this question will be easy-peasy like, “We will all ride together, duh.” Sometimes it is more complicated when flights are involved or friends live in different cities. For our Italy trip we were coming from a different city with harder connections than our friends so we basically said, “Figure out how to get yourselves to Rome on this certain date. See ya there!” For our trip to Fairbanks, Alaska each couple made their own airline reservations but we traveled on the same flights.
Talking about money
Now we are really getting into the sticky stuff. Money is the thing that can really tear friendships apart. Talk about it before you go! Communicate and communicate some more. Although you might have agreed on a budget be aware that different people might want the budget to be allocated different ways.
Here are some things to figure out!
- How much do you want to spend on this trip?
- What are you comfortable spending on accommodations and what types of accommodations interest you?
- Are you envisioning eating out or staying in a place with a kitchen so that we can make our own food?
- Will you be willing to spend money on extras such as tours.
- Very important: Decide in advance how you will handle paying for meals in restaurants. Will you split the check right down the middle? Will you each pay for your bill? Particularly consider alcohol consumption. If one of you is a much heavier drinker than the others perhaps it wouldn’t be fair to split the checks evenly.
- Keep up with expenses. There are some apps that can help you keep up with this. Another option is to have money set aside on a credit gift card or use a shared wallet where each person contributes the same amount of cash. This is then used for combined expenses such as taxi rides, or rental car fees, or other agreed up on items.
- On the other hand – don’t allow yourself to worry about a few dollars here and there. A good friendship isn’t worth squabbling over pennies.
OK, You are ready to travel with friends. You know where you are going, how you will get there, what your budget is and how you plan to handle money…now it’s time to work on an itinerary!
It’s time to find out what everyone really wants to see and do in the places you are going. Perhaps everyone has already agreed that this is more of a “relax on the beach with margarita in hand” kind of trip. Great! That’s an easy one to organize!
But maybe this is a trip with adventures, excursions, or sightseeing. Start discussing! Let everyone have input into what they want to see and/or do. I know I keep repeating myself, but once again communicate! Keep everyone in the loop.
- It works best if only one or two people do the planning, make the calls, schedule tours, reserve accommodations, etc. . You will probably discover that some of you are way better suited to planning than others and if you’ve been friends for a while you probably already know who should be put in charge.
- All participants should be allowed to give their input. For our Italy trip I asked everyone to give me their top things that they wanted to do. We were pretty much able to hit everyone’s highlights.
- You won’t be able to do everything! Another important reason to get input ahead of time is that if compromises need to be made it is better for them to be made before you go so that everyone is aware of what they WON’T get to do as well as what they will!
- It is not a compromise if only one person is giving in. Make sure that everyone gets to see or do some of what is important to them.
- You will want to have a basic itinerary. It works for us to have one planned activity per day and then go with the flow after that but your group might want to do more or less.
- Although one person should book accommodations get input as to whether your crowd will want to stay in apartments, hostels, hotels or bed and breakfasts?
- How will you get around? Trains, planes, rental cars?
- If it is a road trip or if there is a driving portion of the trip decide who will do the driving.
- Very important: Make sure you leave free time. Plan for time apart. The longer the trip the more you will need some separation.
- It is ok to split up for activities! If some really want to do a cooking class and others don’t – that’s ok!
- If you are not the planner…let the planner do their job.
- Agree that the planners will not be blamed or held responsible for things that go wrong, especially things that they couldn’t have known or that are out of their control such as a bad tour guide, or a transportation strike, etc.
Our traveling rule:
Listen, things will go wrong when you travel travel with friends, with a spouse, or even alone. My husband and I have a rule specifically for when we travel (although it’s a pretty good life rule as well): when things go wrong we are allowed to be upset – but not with each other! We are not allowed to blame or to allow whatever is happening to cause tension or spoil the rest of the day.
We literally say before each trip, “it won’t be perfect, things will go wrong, and that’s ok.”
There is something about just saying the words. Most of us work hard and might not get much vacation time so we tend to put high expectations on the time we have free to travel.
Expecting perfection is the enemy of experiencing wonderful.
Perhaps you can discuss this and come up with your own “rules” with your travel friends before you take off on an adventure together.
I hope that you have a wonderful trip with your friends and I hope that I have given you some food for thought regarding how to travel with friends and not become enemies!
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