“I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” —Mark Twain
If you’ve ever traveled with someone, you know that Twain was 100% right. Traveling with a friend can be a wonderful experience, but if things don’t go well, there are few things worse than being stuck in a foreign land with a person whose travel philosophy is at odds with your own.
So before you find yourself on the 9-hour return flight, wishing you could trade the person next to you for that screaming toddler in row 27, considers these three criteria to help you choose your travel partners wisely.
1. The Buck Stops Here
You’re excited to have found a 3-Euro kebab stand around the corner, while your travel partner is eyeing the Michelin-rated hot spot. You’d like to splurge for a room with a view—I mean, how often do you get to spend a few evenings on the Amalfi Coast?—but your travel buddy already made reservations at the youth hostel down the road.
If you and your friends have differing views on money, everyday choices—from where you’ll stay to how much you’ll pay for train tickets—fall victim to a vicious cycle of financial negotiations. “Ok, I’ll go to the opera with you, but only if we take the standing-room spots.” “Fine, we can stay at the hostel today, but only if I get to pick our next hotel—and I mean, a hotel!”
So before you set off on your getaway, it’s important to ask each other some key budgetary questions:
- What’s your budget for the trip—per day and total?
- What are your expectations for where we stay—for example, are you OK with staying at a hostel and sharing a room with other people?
- What are the kinds of things you splurge on?
- Where do you not feel comfortable spending money?
No, it’s not easy talking about financial matters, but trust me: Having this conversation before you book your trip will save you a lot of grief—and dollars—on your travel adventure.
2. Mountains vs. Museums
Hiking for five hours from Monterosso to Riomaggiore on the Cinque Terre trail, or lounging on a nearby beach? Strolling through Berlin’s best art galleries, or sneaking through the city’s abandoned army camps and hospitals? Sleeping in or watching the sunrise over the Aegean Sea?
When it comes to what you actually do on your trip, not all travelers are on the same page. And actually, that’s OK. It’s absolutely fine to split up from time to time and do your own thing. But you did come on this trip together for a reason—to spend time together. So make sure that there are several types of activities that enable you to do just that. Ask each other:
- What types of activities are at the top of your sightseeing list (e.g., museums, monuments, theaters)?
- What level of physical exertion are you up for (e.g., all-day hike, leisurely stroll through the city center)?
- Are there any activities you will most definitely not engage in?
- What kinds of touristy experiences are you interested in?
By talking about your travel plans before you go, you can definitely find a compromise—and possibly even think of fun things to do together that neither one of you would have done alone!
3. Party On
After a long day of sightseeing under the scorching Italian sun, you’re absolutely drained and can’t wait to turn in for the day. But, your travel buddy has other plans: After a 20-minute power nap, she’s re-energized and ready to hit up all the coolest clubs in town.
You knew this would happen, didn’t you? While your social life consists of quiet evenings at home with a couple of friends and a bottle of red, your friend is a true night-owl, leaving the house after midnight to meet her friends at the most exclusive night spot.
Believe me: None of this will suddenly change because you’re traveling in some far-off land. If your social lifestyle is different from your travel buddy’s, make sure to talk about your expectations before you go. You don’t need to have the exact same preferences for going out, but make sure to understand where the other person is coming from, and to adjust your plans in such a way that you will both get what you want out of the experience.
So, what if you’re leaving tomorrow and realize that you might have some issues with your travel buddy? Breathe. It’s going to be okay—it’s never too late to start a conversation about your travel differences and find a compromise that will suit both of you.
Need an ice-breaker? How about, “You don´t mind if I book us a room at the Ritz-Carlton, do you?” or “Don’t forget to pack your pick-axe for that 2-day glacier hike!” And then keep an open mind. Bon voyage!