How to Travel With Your Friends Without Wanting to Punch Each Other in the Face
I have been really lucky to travel often in my life. When I was younger, it was all with my family, and now I usually travel with friends. But how do you know which of your friends you can stand to be around for days at a time? Let’s find out…
When you’re thinking about planning a trip, whether it’s with one person or a group, you need to determine if you’re even compatible to travel together. Just because you’ve been friends for 5, 10, even 20 years, does not mean you’ll get along outside the comfort of your separate homes, cars, and routines. Traveling with someone means you can see the best – and the worst – of someone all in one day… or in one hour, even!
If you’ve got a friend you might want to do some travel with, I suggest starting off with a short trip. Take a long weekend, rent an AirBnb a few hours away, and hit the road. From just a short trip, you’ll be able to answer the following questions:
- Can you handle being with this person if you’re stuck together in a car, on a bus, train, or plane, for hours at a time?
- Do they like to go to sleep earlier or stay up later than you do? Thus, do they expect to start off each morning really early or prefer to mosey out of bed late? If they’re the opposite of you, is this a big problem?
- Do they have any annoying habits that are deal breakers for you? Like, do they slip outside every hour for a cigarette? Are they extremely picky eaters who don’t want to try out new restaurants? Do they run through museums like they’ve got a plane to catch? Or do they stop and take fifteen minutes to read every sign on the gallery wall?
- Do they have hygiene habits that gross you out? (I’m serious about this one. Once I stayed in a hostel and witnessed this girl clipping her toenails on someone else’s bed and watched the clippings fall into someone else’s suitcase. If you are that person, you need to stop. It’s gross.)
Okay, now that you’ve answered those questions and any others that come to your mind, now is the time to think about your hobbies and interests. If you want to spend your days at local art galleries, but your friend would rather hike the local trails, you may need to evaluate. You also want to consider your respective travel philosophies: do you want to jam pack every day full of activities or do you prefer to just do two or three things and spend time relaxing in between?
So each of you need to do your research on the locations you’re thinking about visiting. I always suggest making a shared Google document of things you each find interesting. This is a great way to see what you’re all interested in seeing and how you want to spend time. I went to London and Dublin at the end of March with three long-time friends. I made the doc, and over a few weeks we kept adding things we’d found in our research of things to do and places to see. By each item we put our initials to indicate the things we wanted to do. Because there were four of us, a few times we split up into pairs to do different things, but mostly we stuck together because we were all interested in the same things.
Creating a shared list of things you want to do is really helpful in determining that compatibility factor I talked about before. If you wind up not having any of the same things, you’re pretty much looking at doing a solo trip with someone there you may meet up for dinner with. If you’re both independent people, this can work well. But some people want to travel and stay with their companions the entire time, so you just need to have honest conversations about what you both are interested in doing and the type of trip you want..
Part of having that honest conversation is being up front about what your budget is. You may be down to spend $50 on dinner every night, but your friend may be on a strict budget! Figure out what your expectations are for quality of housing (AirBnB, hostel, hotel, etc.), transportation (public or car rental), and dining (buying all meals out or preparing some at your place.)
By asking all these questions to myself and my potential travel partners, I’ve been able to have some excellent trips, and even cancel some because our expectations were not the same. I would also rather cancel a trip and save a friendship than have it be ruined because we fought the whole time!
I asked some of you guys on Facebook, and here’s what you said about traveling with friends:
“Interests are huge. If we don’t share any then we’re not going to get to see the most important things we each want to see. And pace/routine is big too. I want to do and see as much as possible so when I was traveling with my aunt who walks slow and wants to take her time I felt like I was being held back.”
“(Pace/routine) are definitely on the top of my traveling criteria. Also, the level of drama that friend is. Like I have a friend that I love dearly, but literally anytime we did anything or went anywhere he always had some sort of issue, so I could not be around him for more then a day or two (that’s when you have been kicked to the curb on anything other than local travel). And someone who is CONSTANTLY on their phone. Texting, phone calls, whatever. Like aren’t we on a trip together? Can’t you enjoy the present company??” [Editor’s note: I will second the phone call thing. I once traveled with someone who, about five minutes before we were going to leave for the day answered her phone and then disappeared into a bedroom and had a 90 minute phone call. This same person also walked outside after ordering food at dinner, and I had time to eat mine, get hers to-go, and then the check arrived when she walked back in. Needless to say, I don’t travel with her anymore.]
“One word. Dependence. I completely understand that I am more well-traveled than the average Joe. I get that. However, I HATE when people try and take advantage of that fact when they are traveling with me. I am most certainly not hired as your tour guide. I will help you learn, absolutely. But I was not born with a superb knowledge of the unknown. I had to learn as well. We are on this trip together, therefore, we are going to split everything down the middle when it comes to planning and preparing. One more word. Unadaptable. People who are whining: “This isn’t how they do it at home…why can’t they do this like they do at home…I’ve never done/tried that so I’ll pass…” things like that, along with any other stubbornness to try new things. What also falls under this category are people who are not willing to suck it up and do something that someone else wants to do every once in a while. The perfect travel buddy for me is someone who is the opposite of these two words.
“I have numerous people reach out to me all the time seeking travel advice, and through those conversations, I end up discovering how people whom I had no clue loved to travel so much, have the same passion as me. And with some people, I wish I would have known that sooner so I could expand my network of travel companions (because that number is kinda small when you only count those who are reliable and dependable). For example, last summer I had a friend come over to Europe to visit me because the year before that, we met up in the states to swap advice when it came to traveling to Iceland. That spun into me having a fantastic European road trip with her the following summer and now we are actually much closer friends than we ever were in high school. So yay us!”
“I took a trip recently with a friend from college who really blew me away at how independent and self-sufficient she has become since the last time we traveled together about three years ago. I was incredibly proud of her after this most recent trip and not that we ever had a terrible relationship, but this was just the icing on the cake because it has now opened up more doors for us to be able to go to greater lengths to see each other in the future, hopefully more often.”