Although I’m a big proponent of solo travel and encourage everyone to embrace it (if you’re skeptical, read my thoughts on it here), I know that traveling with other people is often more fun. And yet, whenever you travel with friends – whether you’re on a group tour or traveling independently – there can be … challenges. Travel can be stressful and tiring (more so for some people than others), and as a result, tempers can flare and hotel rooms can start to feel claustrophobic. So, how do you travel with friends – particularly on long trips – without wrecking your friendships in the process?
Mockingbird’s Etiquette Tips for Group Trips are a good starting point; I encourage you to peruse them here. But since traveling with people you know is a bit different than traveling with strangers, I give you the following additional tips, to help ensure that your travels don’t end in “unfriendings”:
1. Set Expectations. Before you depart, lay the groundwork for a good trip. Make sure everybody is on the same page regarding the itinerary, and how costs are being split, and who is responsible for doing what. Talk about the need for “alone time” (see tip #4) and what is most important to each person.
2. Don’t take anything personally. If your friend doesn’t want to see the same museum as you, it’s not personal. If your buddy isn’t enthusiastic about your skydiving plans, it’s not personal. For as long as you’re traveling together, Nothing. Is. Personal. Everybody has different tastes, preferences, travel styles, and sightseeing goals. If you and your friends are compatible travelers, these things will align more often than not. But when they don’t, it’s okay. It’s not an attempt to offend you or deny you your joy. Don’t get huffy about it. And refer to tips #3 and #4.
3. Be flexible. Being flexible is an important rule for travel in general, since (1) the world is unpredictable and (2) some of our best experiences are those we don’t plan for. Traveling with others requires a little more flexibility than usual. If you absolutely, positively, must always and only do want you want, what you want is to travel solo. With travel companions, you can still do what you want (see tip #4), but maybe you could go after lunch instead of before, or maybe you could try something you hadn’t planned on doing so that you can have a fun experience together. Go with the flow. A little bit of compromise goes a long way.
4. Give each other space. The flexibility required to travel with others doesn’t have to mean sacrifice. Agree upfront that each traveler is free to split off on their own from time to time (again, see tip #2). Use that time to see and do the things that are really important to you, or just to recharge your batteries with some quiet time (introverts, take note). Just remember to be considerate and respectful of the others; i.e., don’t leave your friends waiting for you back at the hotel when it’s time for dinner. Smart phones make it easier than ever for us to keep in touch when we travel, and that includes keeping in touch with your travel buddies; use your tech to keep each other posted on your whereabouts and ETAs.
5. Be forgiving. It’s important to recognize that some people get stressed out by travel and may not be their best selves. Maybe you won’t want to travel together again, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your friendship. (And if, heaven forbid, a really bad travel experience does precipitate the end of a relationship, consider waiting until you get home to have it out…or sitting next to each other for 8 hours on the return flight is going to be awwwwkward.) If a companion is trying your patience, try focusing on gratitude: gratitude that you have the opportunity to travel, that you have someone to travel with, that you’re having this amazing experience together. And let the rest go.
With some proper preparation and the right state of mind, you’ll be primed for a positive travel experience and more likely to spend the return flight planning your next adventure together.