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Two drifters, off to see the world...
March 25, 2014 6:35 AM   Subscribe

How to have fun with your travel buddy

I've noticed lately that some trips are more fun than others depending on who you travel with. What are some tips for maximising fun and minimising FRICTION on trips with small groups? (Or big groups, for that matter)? Is it an attitude thing? Is it about being kind? Thanks hive mind! :)
posted by dinosaurprincess to Human Relations (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I went on a five-day "sampler" trip to Utah with my dad. Politics was explicitly verboten. (on trips with certain friends, politics was implicitly verboten.)

Also not this comment of mine regarding paying for stuff. It may or may not be obvious, but it has worked for me over twenty years of road tripping.
posted by notsnot at 6:53 AM on March 25


If you can afford to stay in separate rooms, that helps A LOT. Unless you're all hardcore extrovert types, personal space to decompress and relax in quiet privacy makes all the other little problems and frictions of group travel much easier to deal with.

Agree ahead of time on your schedule, and how strictly you want to adhere to it. If people are spending lots of time standing around waiting for other people to show up/finish breakfast/get out of the shower/etc, then it can amp up the tension quite a bit on both sides.

Make sure everyone feels included, but make it easy for people to opt out of activities if they aren't feeling up to it or have something else they want to do. Never try to talk someone into an activity they don't want to come along for, you will all regret it.

Make sure that everyone has a bottle of water and bring some healthy, protein-dense snacks like nuts. Crankiness due to being hungry or thirsty is a drag, and so easily avoided!

Make sure everyone has agreed on how much walking will be involved, and that they have all brought along comfortable shoes. If the group organically splits into "Wants to walk a ton" and a "Wants to take it easy" factions, don't fight it -- just agree on where and when you'll meet back up with each other.

Don't force yourself to stay in a group at a museum. Again, agree ahead of time on where and when you'll meet up after looking around for a while.

If you have a large group, and it's possible to make reservations at restaurants for meals, do so.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:54 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Last year my best friend and I went on our first real trip - a roadtrip that involved driving about 12 hours straight each way and spending pretty much every waking minute of the whole trip together. Before we went I was really nervous; it seemed like the type of trip that can make or break a friendship, and I was really afraid we'd come back with no desire to see each other again.

But, I was wrong! What worked for us:

-We both get grouchy when tired and hungry. So we decided to make a pitstop w/o complaint whenever one of us needed a snack or a cup of coffee.

-We also tried to warn each other when we were feeling cranky, so that the other one wouldn't take it personally.

-Finally, whenever I wanted to say "omg I'm so tiiired waahhh" during the drive, I made myself say, "Wow! I'm so excited for this trip!" instead. It actually worked.

The trip was an absolute blast and we're doing it again this year. But it was a big help to own up to our personal flaws from the beginning so we could make proper accommodations.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:55 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I think successfully traveling in groups is approximately 90% having a super laid-back personality by nature. Don't know that there is much people can do, effort or intent-wise, to change this.
posted by Punctual at 6:55 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


For me, it depends a lot on the respective traveller's temperament. And a certain amount of self-awareness of how one's behaviour is. To start with, figure out what kind of an introvert or extrovert you are and have a frank and mature discussion beforehand about everyone's respective expectations. Even extroverts travelling together would have varying levels of comfort about what they're willing to do, what more introverts, and what more a mixed group.

Definitely don't expect everyone to do everything together. Don't even leave this unsaid, have it stated upfront as a rule. If going to crowded areas and the group members have different paces of exploring then always have a check-in point or a check-in time, or even agree to meet up later at the hotel. Checking in with each other is definitely a must, but regularity can be negotiated. Definitely slot in alone time, if that's important to you. Rooming together shouldn't be a problem, esp if everyone's on the same page about quiet time.

Money is also another thing that must be discussed. Even though I would assume accommodation and travelling has been sorted together, people would have different spending habits and priority. Some would like to always have sit-in dining, others would prefer to save for breakfast and dinner and have a big lunch. Always discuss, and never begrudge.

Be aware who's in the group who is more careful and thorough and who is not. Again, discuss, but don't begrudge. And then look out for each other - have copies of each other's travel document or at least important numbers. Everyone should have a copy of the itinerary and travel details. Make a point to check after one another in locking after doors, or bags/luggages as you're travelling point-to-point or even leaving the cafe after tea.

Discuss, but don't begrudge! Any steam can be let out afterwards.
posted by cendawanita at 6:59 AM on March 25 [4 favorites]


It's about travelling with people who like to do the same things you do.

If you like museums and sitting in sidewalk cafes, and your traveling companions like sunning themselves and drinking in bars, you may have friction.

If your plan was to hang out with your bestie and roll each other's hair every night, but her plan was to meet guys and bring them back to the room, you may have friction.

If you have plenty of money and want to live it up and you're travelling with someone who is poor and wants to eat in places listed in Lonely Plantet, you may have friction.

I find it really helps to discuss expectations and to have planning sessions where you discuss a loose itinerary. No one likes a tight ass who has to stick to the schedule, but no one likes to forfeit a night's lodging expenses because someone was late to the train for Vienna.

Don't get your heart set on anything, and be flexible.

I enjoyed sharing rooms with my friends, but my cousins have a thing where the last few days of the trip, they get separate rooms.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:18 AM on March 25


Pick your travel buddies to suit the kind of trip you want to have and/or adjust your expectations accordingly. Or what Ruthless Bunny said.

Be flexible, but at the same time, if there are things you definitely want to see or do, make them a priority for you. Work them into the agreed itinerary if your group doesn't object. If the group doesn't want to do it, separate from the group and do it anyway! Alternatively, have a rule that everyone gets to drag the rest of the group along to 1 thing per trip. It makes it so that no-one will miss out on what they really wanted to do just because the rest of the group wasn't so keen.
posted by pianissimo at 7:43 AM on March 25


I've done a week long cross country road trip with a girl that I was, maybe, seven months into dating, and looking back on it in retrospect, it could've been a totally fraught\high-stakes thing but was awesome and fun and we wound up being together for seven years after that (and it cemented the way we both liked to travel together). More recently, I've done a two week trip through China with one of my best friends -- we are both fairly hardcore independent travelers, and she's done a ton of solo trips, so it was an open question if we would have fun or wind up with a bunch of friction; but that was also awesome, and we're now currently planning out another trip with hopefully more friends.

This is what tends to work for me:

1. Always share the planning and agree on guidelines for budget.

What do you want to save money on and what's worth splurging on? How do you compromise? This is a good exercise in uncovering what your thresholds are, and if there are any irreconcilable differences that make the trip sound like a bad idea. Usually we'll do something like: one person does the research for hotels and passes candidates back to the other(s) for final approval before booking, while someone else handles internal flights/bus scheduling, maybe someone else does restaurant or attraction research or this is shared between the two. It's the primary person's job to filter the vast field of options to three or four reasonable candidates, and then allow the others to reduce the choices to two, and then have a good discussion about whether A or B is better.

2. Leave flexibility in your schedule.

Always treat every day where you're traveling between two cities as just "a travel day" and don't make ambitious plans to do anything at your destination on the day that you're going. This gives you permission to be delayed or miss a connection, and keeps the stakes low if one of you is having a tough day (ie. ill, theft, distraction at home, etc.)

3. Give everyone permission to do their own thing, use meals as a point to regroup and check in on each other.

This is actually something I picked up while traveling with my family as a kid. We always started the morning with breakfast together and would lay out our plans for what we wanted to see in the morning, and discuss where we would like to have lunch and what we would want to do for dinner that day. If plans coincided, then great, if not then you can do your own thing for the morning, and then meet each other for lunch to discuss plans for the afternoon. If your plans were still divergent you could still meet everyone for dinner and share some stories about how your day went.

Also, sometimes, it's good to know about bookstores, groceries or music shops in the neighborhoods that you'll be visiting, as these are great places to linger and have as impromptu meeting spots if the space between meals is too big for you. That way you can say, "I'm going to this museum for maybe an hour, and if you're not keen on coming with, maybe we can meet at this cool bookshop afterward and then go off and rent bikes?"

4. With introverts, embrace companionable silence.

With both of my recent travel partners, we were all very much in sync about our plans and pretty much spent every trip joined at the hip without getting on each other's nerves. Even though we're a bunch of introverts, we also have a great ability to be alone together. During road trips, it's being able to listen to audiobooks or music, and watch the scenery without feeling compelled to comment on every single thing. When wandering around Asia, it's splitting cultural visits with an hour sitting in a teahouse, quietly writing postcards to our friends back home and just watching people go by.
posted by bl1nk at 7:49 AM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I agree with Ruthless Bunny and pianissimo that having traveling companions who have the same kind of plans/expectations as you do is probably the easiest way to make this happen.

That said, I have a very dear friend who I sometimes vacation with who has a somewhat different traveling style to mine. I don't like to sleep as late as she does, I am more comfortable walking/hiking long distances than she is, and I don't like to spend a lot of time hanging around the hotel/apartment (she does). Some of our trips have allowed us to accommodate these differences and some have not.
  • Paris city break: good! She could relax at the AirBnB apartment while I went for a walk or visited some museum she wasn't interested in, we met for lunch.
  • Great American Roadtrip through the Southwest: not so great! I felt like we were wasting the whole day when she slept until 10 (at which point the temperature was 90-100F), and because we were car-dependent it was much harder for us to do things on our own (one exception was when we stayed very close to a national park and I was able to go for a sunrise hike while she slept in).
  • Beach vacation: mixed bag! I got a little bored, but I could always go for a run on the beach or something if I needed to mix it up a bit.
So, if you have similar traveling styles/goals, that's best, but if you don't, think about what kind of trip can accommodate everyone's styles. Also, have realistic expectations. Why did I think this friend and I could get to Versailles before 9AM when I have never seen her awake before 8:45 on a non-work day? We could have just gone late in the afternoon. Plan your vacation for the friends you have, not the friends you wish you had!

(I hope I don't sound judgey about my friend - I think her approach to vacation is absolutely fine, it just doesn't mesh with my own.)
posted by mskyle at 7:59 AM on March 25


To me it's all about communication. I went on a two week trip with one of my best friends. I am definitely more of a planner and can be a bit of a stressball, whereas she is so completely the opposite that it drives me crazy. So anytime my anxious type A behavior got out of hand, she would say, "You're being Bonnie right now." (Bonnie was an extremely overstressed coworker of ours at the time.) And I would take a deep breath and step back. And then we would go do something fun and spontaneous that she came up with. And it was great!

Couching it in shared humor and being casual about it is a huge help, in my opinion. The freedom to just say what you need, whether it's a bathroom break, an afternoon apart, prioritizing getting the best campsite at Yosemite, a snack, or a deep breath, is like 90% of traveling well with someone.
posted by Sara C. at 11:46 AM on March 25


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