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Tips for Traveling with Friends… and Still Remaining Friends

How to prepare for traveling with friends: our best tips!

Traveling alone means you can do what you want, when you want. Even if solo travel is your jam, there will be times when you find yourself traveling with others – whether that’s with family, with one friend, or with a group of friends for the first time.

If your friends are willing to travel with you, there are a few things you should do before purchasing tickets and setting off on your great adventure to keep everything running smoothly. The last thing you want is to have a fight with a friend while overseas and be stuck with them (or worse, stop being friends).

We suggest setting an actual meeting with the following points as the agenda. 

You can keep it casual, of course. This works over a coffee date, during lunch, or while sharing a bottle of wine on a Saturday afternoon.

1 – Plan ahead, taking your personalities into consideration

Things that may not bother you back home can be exacerbated while traveling constantly. Discuss the details and plan in advance to save your friendship.

We’re serious about that last bit.

Plan your planning

Is one of you very type A and organized while the other prefers to “go with the flow?” Finding a middle ground is vital to the success of your travel partnership. Don’t expect one person to do all the logistical planning while the other does the daydreaming.

You may even consider using a travel agent or third-party planning service to help create an itinerary that is inclusive of all parties’ needs and wants while on a trip. 

In the process of planning the itinerary, you’ll also want to leave room for spontaneity. The more people on the trip calls for more free space since each person may come across ideas and wants that draw the group in different directions.

Share your trip goals

Be very clear here about what you envision your trip to look and feel like. When the trip is over, what will each of you hope to have achieved?

If one person wants to use every free minute to hit every top attraction while the other is after a relaxing go-where-it-goes type of trip, then that can be a huge point of contention.

Talk about your habits

When your days overseas are tied to another person (or persons), small issues like different sleeping and waking times could end up being big stressors in the scheme of things. You’ll want to identify and discuss your sleeping, eating, and socializing habits and what each of you can do in order to accommodate the differences.

Discussion Points:

  • How will you each be accommodated if you’re a morning lark and your friend is a night owl?
  • What are the expectations around meal schedules? Do you graze while your friend only eats one meal a day?
  • Are you happy with any food you can get and your friend is more particular?
  • If you’re sharing a room, how will you accommodate different sleep styles (e.g. One of you sleeps with the TV on and the other prefers complete silence and darkness.)
  • Is one of you shy, liking to observe and understand before participating, and the other jumps into new situations without taking time to evaluate? How will you handle the different comfort levels with new experiences?
  • Is the goal to wander without a plan or to check off a list of sites and activities?
  • Are you fully embracing the tourist lifestyle or hoping to experience some of a local’s life?
  • Do you want to do as much as possible or have only one thing planned each day?
  • Do you prefer cities, crowds, and tourist hot spots or the countryside, remote areas, and skipping what’s popular?
  • What is the expectation when you want to do different things? Will there be hurt feelings if you decide to each do what you want for an afternoon? 
  • Be honest about social media preferences. Does your friend post everything as soon as it happens and you prefer to curate what you put online?

2 – Get on the same packing page

This is often overlooked, but hey, we’re a packing site! We understand that packing styles matter on group trips. If you spend weeks (or months, even) planning the perfect carry-on-only packing list, but your friend comes with oversized luggage… well…

It’s no fun to have to wait, and wait, and be sucked into helping to haul said luggage while on your trip.

In addition, can you discuss ways you can help to make each other’s packing experience better? Can you share packing communal items, or even share some wardrobe items, so you can both pack light?

You might impress your friend with your packing skills, and they could easily follow suit.

Discussion Points:

  • Is this a carry-on-only trip?
  • Will you each pack something in each other’s bag in case one is lost or damaged?
  • How far and in what conditions are you willing to walk with your intended luggage?
  • What items can you pack to share with you travel friends?

3 – Set the budget

Money is a big source of conflict for travel buddies because it can make or break a trip depending on how much you have. You might even find yourself coming home early if you run out! 

Talk about money well beforehand so you both have time to save enough travel funds and have a workable travel budget. If you’ll be driving, throw in equal amounts of gas money before leaving. If one of you is interested in more expensive activities, make sure you discuss it in advance so there isn’t any resentment.

Discussion Points:

  • How much, precisely, are you willing to spend on this trip?
  • How much will you spend on airfare?
  • How much is too much to spend on accommodation?
  • What is a prohibitively-expensive meal?
  • How will you divide costs?
  • Will one person pay for everything and you’ll cash-app them your share at the end of the day? What will you do when someone doesn’t reimburse you?
  • Is time or money most valuable to you when planning your trip activities?

4 – Give each other alone time

Set aside an hour or so every day for quiet alone time, whether it be spending time in a cafe or just sitting in the hostel common room reading a book and responding to emails. You don’t have to spend every waking minute together, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. 

As long as you’re both okay with it, you can go your separate ways for the afternoon. You’ll feel rejuvenated after some alone time, and you’ll probably come back with more stories to talk about.

Discussion Points:

  • How often do you need some private/alone time?
  • Are there activities where you might be able to separate for an afternoon/day/weekend to each pursue alone?
  • Will you want private accommodation occasionally during the trip?

5 – Have a system for meeting back up

But with that said, never leave a buddy behind, especially while traveling. If split up for some alone time, set a specific time and place to meet again and a contingency plan for if you don’t meet up within a certain time frame.

This plan is especially useful if you’re not traveling with a good mobile phone connection. Having a plan to meet up can keep you safe.

Discussion Points:

  • Will each of you have an operational phone while traveling?
  • If separated or lost for some reason, do you have a go-to meeting place?
  • How often should you check in with each other while having alone time?

6 – Open up your group

It doesn’t just have to be the two (or more) of you. From my experience, the thing that seems to happen when traveling in pairs or groups is that you close yourself off from making new friends.

Make yourself approachable to meeting new people, which is one of the best aspects of travel. Hanging out with fellow travelers can take some of the strain off of traveling with one person or group for days on end and can liven up the conversations.

Plus, you can get some great travel recommendations that way.

Discussion Points:

  • Under what circumstances would each of you feel comfortable bringing others into your group?

7 – Commit to a collaborative mindset

Be flexible. Sometimes you’ll have to do things you don’t want and sometimes your friend will do things they don’t want.

As stated before, compromise is vital for group trip success. Speak up and share your opinion, and accept that your travel partner or partners will also do the same. Then, work on a compromise together.

Discussion Points:

  • How can you each ensure that you get the most out of your trip while not causing the other to feel at a loss?
  • What will you do if you have very different or conflicting ideas of what to do?

8 – Adapt when necessary

Your plans don’t have to be set in stone. If you’re not having fun in Paris, even after planning the perfect Paris trip, move on to Nice. Talk it out and change accordingly. This is your trip, so do what you’re going to enjoy.

Discussion Points:

  • At what point will you be open to abandoning your plans for something else?

9 – Schedule in a debrief

This step is especially important if you want to travel with the same friend or friends in the future. Schedule some time after your trip to reflect on what worked and what could be improved on when traveling together. 

There are always going to be rough patches when you’re traveling with friends, but committing to learning from those experiences will make you stronger on the next trip, and every trip after.

Discussion Points:

  • What went well? What was hard?
  • What was the highlight? What was the worst?
  • Allow for differences of opinions about experiences.
  • If you feel resentment towards your friend, compassionately and honestly talk about what happened and seek to restore the relationship.

And lastly, remember to have fun!

Problems You Can Avoid by Planning Ahead

Travel doesn’t happen every day, so we understand how important it is to make your experiences worthwhile.

We also understand how important friendships are, and that’s a big reason why planning ahead and working through the above points is vital.

By planning ahead you can save both your trips and your friendships.

Additionally, you can each come away from a trip feeling like you had equal experiences that mattered to you, you didn’t blow the budget, and you hopefully will want to do it again.

You’ll have less travel stress, fewer issues with communication since you’ve already set the bar, and less drama surrounding the luggage since you’re on the same packing page.

But sometimes you may not have done this in advance… Read on for what to do while on your trip.

How to survive a trip with friends… when you’re already on the trip!

Hindsight is 20-20 as they say. If you haven’t gone on a trip with friends before, you may not have thought about any of the above issues until it’s too late.

If you’re finding this because you’re struggling to survive on a trip while already out with your friend, these tips can help you in a pinch:

Take a breather:  Take a break from the situation that is causing you stress. Traveling with just one friend can be just as difficult, if not more, than traveling with an entire group.

So take a step away if you can. Create that alone time so you can reflect and recharge.

Call home:  Hearing the voice of a loved one can be soothing in itself. It can also help you gain an outside perspective on the situation. Don’t be afraid to vent. Sometimes that’s all we need to restore our happiness.

Know when to splurge:  Travel can be uncomfortable and unpredictable at times. If you’re trying to do everything on the cheap on top of traveling with others, it can add to the stress.

Maybe splurging on nicer accommodation (or solo accommodation) for a night or two can do the trick to alleviating some of the stress.

Get a good night’s rest: Sleep is everything. If you find yourself in a disagreement with your travel partners, agree to pick up the conversation in the morning after a rest and with a clearer head.

Know when to part ways: If the situation is extremely bad, choosing to part ways might be the best option – for you, for the trip, and for your friendship. 

We’ve mentioned alone time quite a lot, so…

Benefits of Alone Time When Traveling With Friends

Someone can be your favorite person, but being with them 24/7 where they impact every facet of your life can still cause you to feel annoyed by them. Having some time alone will help each of you decompress, rejuvenate, and come back together remembering why you’re friends.

Even if you’re getting along great, having some alone time lets you gather your thoughts. You can reflect on your trip without the pressure of understanding someone else’s experiences. You may discover that you really enjoyed something your friend was ambivalent about.

Alone time can help you pinpoint friction points and decide how to talk about them.

Maybe you feel like your ideas are always overruled. Or perhaps your friends aren’t adhering to the agreements you decided on before the trip.

In either case, alone time is the best option for being able to step back and make a plan for calmly voicing your concerns.

Alone time also lets you do things that you want even when others want to do something else. When you meet back up, there will be lots to talk about as you share your different activities. This can be a lot of fun and make the trip more meaningful.

Traveling with friends advantages: Is it worth it?

Should I go on a trip with friends?

That’s a great question! Only you can make that decision based on your specific situation. Here are some of the advantages of traveling with friends:

Mutual support/reduced stress

  • When one of you is sick or frustrated, the other one can take care of the travel logistics or find solutions to the problems.
  • Traveling can be overwhelming. Knowing that you’re not alone in this embarrassing, confusing, or uncomfortable situation can help make it more bearable. 
  • Trying to get from Point A to Point B in another culture and language can be hard. With a companion, you’ll have different skills and perspectives that will help you get where you want to go.

Shared experiences/strengthened friendship

  • Traveling together is an intense shared experience. You’ll each see and do the same things, but have different feelings about them and remember different aspects. These different interpretations of a shared experience can lead to conversations that bond your friendship during the trip and for years afterwards.
  • Traveling can bring out the best and worst in people. You’ll likely learn things about each other that you didn’t know before. This added insight into each other’s personalities can strengthen the friendship.

Safety in numbers

  • If you have to walk after dark or anywhere that feels less safe, you’ll likely feel safer with a companion. 
  • In crowded places, you can look out for each other. Two sets of eyes are better than one at spotting pickpockets and other possible dangers.

You can take each others’ photos

  • You won’t have to trust a stranger with your phone or camera when you have a friend to take your photo.
  • A friend can also snap a photo when you’re not posing. These natural photos can be some of the most evocative of your trip.
  • A friend can see a photo opportunity that you overlooked. A different perspective can lend interest to your travel photos.

If you want to travel with friends, communicate honestly before and during the trip, plan well, commit to a collaborative mindset, and enjoy your adventure!

Written by Brooke

I run the show at Her Packing List and love packing ultralight. In fact, I once traveled for 3 entire weeks with just the contents of a well-packed 12L handbag. When I'm not obsessing over luggage weight, I'm planning adventures or just snuggling with my pet rabbit, Sherlock Bunz.

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Comments

  1. Michelle says

    I wish I didn’t have to learn this the hard way! Great tips, Caroline! I will be sure to keep them in mind!

  2. Charli | Wanderlusters says

    The alone time tip is sooooo important. Whoever you’re traveling with personal space can be a life saver when it comes to petty arguments. Love the meeting back up plan, never leave a gal alone in the field!

  3. Roxanne says

    Having a break from friend that you traveling with can help if there is tension of being together constantly if that not normal for your friendship. If you have limited amount of time, planning the “not to be missed” attractions can be helpful, rather than throwing out ideas of places you rather not see. It will allow you to focus on what’s important to you.

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