Traveling with friends can be amazing, as long as you do a few important things! Writer, photographer, and world traveler Wendy E. Simmons offers some great tips for your next trip.
Traveling with a friend may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to bright ideas, but even your best friend can get on your last nerve by the end of your first day if you have conflicting travel styles and preferences.
But it doesn't have to be so. When you travel with a friend, you are essentially engaging in a vacation relationship, and like all relationships, communication, consideration, and compromise are key to its success.
When I travel (and if I'm being honest, in life), I like to do what I want, when I want, how I want, which does not make me a particularly awesome travel companion, by nature. But, if I follow my own most excellent advice, I am not at all bad. In fact, I'm downright fun. Thus I share my best advice with you:
1. Discuss . . . before you go.
What premarital counseling is to marriage (e.g. ensuring you both want children, or you both want to live in a log cabin in Alaska before you say, "I do"), a frank, honest discussion about how to travel together is to your trip. Before you pack your bags, make sure you discuss your expectations, how you like to travel, how you envision your daily routine, what you want to accomplish, what is and isn't acceptable to you, what you're willing to compromise on, and so forth. It may sound pedantic, but differences in travel styles and priorities are what create the misunderstandings, disagreements, and resentment that can quickly ruin your trip, and your friendship.
2. Money money money.
Before you start planning anything, openly discuss budgets – how much, and on what, are you willing and/or able to spend? Establishing and agreeing to monetary parameters in advance can be a trip saver. After all, one traveler's bargain may be another's bank breaker.
3. Here kitty kitty.
I invited 11 of my friends and family to spend a week with me in a villa I rented in Positano. The prospect of trying to split bills 12 ways (especially after a few cocktails) was untenable, so instead I instituted a "kitty" system and asked everyone to make an equal-cash contribution to fund agreed-upon group activities and meals. To keep things really fair, if one of us consistently drank more, or ordered more expensive items, he or she simply contributed a little extra to the kitty. We enlisted our most mathematically inclined friend, Kelly, who we quickly nicknamed Kitty Kelly, to be in charge, and she alone paid bills and kept tabs on the kitty. If the kitty ran low, we all contributed an equal amount of cash again. Whether you're traveling with one friend or ten, a call for the kitty means less stress and no time wasted hassling over who owes money to whom, or who paid for what.
4. Compromise on compromising.
Whoever said, "When we compromise, everyone wins" was an idiot. When traveling, compromising means no one gets to do exactly what he or she really wants, unless . . . you take turns compromising. In other words, I may not have any interest in going to that museum, but my traveling companion may not want to go on that boat ride through the swamp either. So, I'll go to the museum with zero complaint, a completely open mind, and the intention to enjoy myself, in exchange for which my travel companion will do the same on Das Boat. Now we both get exactly what we want, and nine times out of 10, you end up enjoying an experience you would likely have never tried otherwise. So much better than abandoning both first choices for a second or third choice you can both agree on.
5. Go your own way (you can go your own way).
On the other hand, splitting up for a few hours or days to tackle activities that are important to you, but not to your traveling companion, is perfectly okay. You get to have your cake and eat too – the benefit of traveling with a friend, but the freedom to explore certain aspects of the itinerary independently. Besides, a little alone time is the perfect remedy for too much together time.
6. Ready, set, go . . . get ready first.
Whoever takes longer to get ready has to start getting ready first. That's the rule, unless the person who gets ready faster doesn't mind being ready and then having to wait for the person who takes longer. Who has to wake up first to shower so you aren't late? The one who takes longer to get ready. Who has to leave the beach first to make sure you make your reservation? The one who takes longer to get ready. Follow this formula and peace will reign.
7. Remember, it's temporary.
You've both spent valuable time, and most likely, limited disposable income, to be wherever you are, and all either of you want is to be happy and have fun. You aren't moving in together forever. You're on holiday for a few weeks, or months (worst case), so suck it up. If she wants to sleep in, but you want to get up and going early, who cares? You get up and going and let her sleep in and agree to meet someplace in a few hours. She wants the lights off early? Bring an eBook with back lighting. Surely you can survive a week this way? If he doesn't stop chewing his food so loudly you're going to lose it? Knock it off. Have a piña colada, be grateful you have a friend who is willing to travel with you, and enjoy your vacation.