Travel Buddies: 6 Tips for Traveling with Friends
I love traveling alone. I love meeting new people spur of the moment. I love the freedom it brings. I love deciding on my schedule: where to go, what to eat, and the fact no one will judge me if I decide to spend a whole day eating cakes and reading in the park. It’s such a decadent way of seeing a new place.
But, of course, I also love my friends. And sometimes, I want to bring some of them along. On paper, this seems like the perfect situation: seeing amazing places with some of the most amazing people you know. What could go wrong?
It turns out… potentially a lot.
You don’t know people properly, in my opinion, until you have lived with them or traveled with them. It’s only in these situations that you see a person all day, every day, in new and often stressful situations. And it’s in these situations that a person’s best or worst traits come out.
I have gone traveling with close friends and ended up not speaking to them for months after, and I have also gone traveling with relative strangers and had an absolutely amazing time. It really has shocked me how differently taking a trip with someone can change your friendship dynamic, and how it can amplify a relationship or bury it for good.
Have no fear, fellow travelers! I don’t mean to sound morbid when I share these words, but to instead let you in on a few little tips that have helped me along the way. Here is how you can plan a trip with your friends and still be best buddies when you go back home.
1. Small Groups
The more people you travel with, the more complicated it gets. One person wants to go to this museum, another wants to stay out clubbing all day, another wants to scrimp and save, whilst another wants to go all out in the casino… you get the idea.
I recently went on a trip as a group of seven people, where great portions of our time were spent with five of them practically killing each other over map domination. Each person tugged at the page and wanted to go somewhere else, and then I and the final member stood listlessly to the side, necking back beer in desperation. I didn’t see half of what I wanted on that trip, and I ended up resenting people at times (generally the times when I wasn’t drinking beer).
I recommend that you travel in a group size maximum of four. That means you can split off into pairs if necessary, and it’s a nice enough size to be able to cater for most of everyone’s interest. Any more than four and it becomes a logistical nightmare.
2. Plan in Advance
Once you’ve got your group, be up front and honest from the start about what kind of trip you want to have. Speak about your budget, about kinds of accommodation, places you’d like to go, whether you want to go museum hopping, and whether you hope to rise and shine at 6 a.m. – or whether that’s when you want to stagger in from the club.
When traveling with other people, you do have to have an element of compromise, and you also have to see if your interests will work well together. People don’t often like to talk about money or potentially awkward situations, but it’s best to boycott these taboos and check up front. Otherwise, you could end up at your dream destination and discover that your friend was planning caviar and champagne on a cruise… when you can only afford pot noodles on the street.
As I had mentioned before, compromise is important when sharing a trip with a friend. Make a list of which places you both want to see – and make sure you do both lists!
I must admit that as a solo traveler I can seem selfish when traveling with others – purely because I am so used to having the freedom to do what I want. With my friends, I have to rein that in a little, and make sure that everyone is happy and gets to do what they love.
4. Spend Time Apart if Necessary
It’s difficult to spend 24/7 with anyone – even in paradise. Annoying traits are amplified, and even the kindest, most endearing person can suddenly seem like a huge pain in the backside after a few straight weeks together. If you need a few hours – or a few days, depending on trip length – apart, then that’s fine.
Don’t let it seem like a problem, when it’s very likely the solution you need! You’ll likely come skipping back to your friend after your break, dying to give her a hug and fill her in on the gossip. All those annoying traits grating on you both will have disappeared.
5. Talk About It
If you have any issues, upsets or concerns during your trip, it’s best to talk about them straight through. Don’t let resentments build up like a pressure cooker. You will explode and end up irrationally arguing. Just calmly and quietly discuss any concerns as and when (and if, fingers crossed) they arrive, whether or not you feel they are minor. Hug them all out ASAP and move on!
6. Let It Go
Above all, the best thing to do is to relax a little and go with the flow. Planning is important – perhaps more so than when traveling alone – but it’s also important to have fun, relax and enjoy your trip. If the day doesn’t go as planned, shrug, smile, have a glass of wine and try again tomorrow. A little laughter goes a long way.
Most importantly: remember why you are taking a trip with these people! We all have moments of angst, annoyance and awkwardness, but your friends are amongst the most fantastic people in your life, and you chose them to travel with them for a reason.
Forget about those bad habits–like the fact she throws her washing on the floor, or flirts with every waiter or doesn’t like spending too much on good food–and remind yourself of all the great times you’ve had together. Sometimes, no matter how fantastic solo travel is, sharing those beautiful travel moments with the ones you love really is priceless. And it’s worth battling through any minor difficulties to have that.