Travelling with friends can be extremely fun. It can also be stressful, which causes tension. There's no way to totally eliminate those stressful moments, but I do have a few tips to help lessen them.
This post originally appeared on A Constant Traveller.
Choosing Your Companions
When deciding who you want to go with on a trip, it's important to choose people you get along with. Travel forces you and your friends to be together almost constantly. After spending so much time with someone, you'll learn a lot about them but the ability to have some space from them will be difficult.
You may find they have habits you never knew about — and which annoy you. That's ok, they're probably finding the same out about you! Don't let this deter you from travelling with friends, the shared experience can bring you closer and strengthen your friendship for a lifetime. All it takes is a little planning and some guidelines to make this possible.
Once you've decided on a place, decide on a budget range. Money can be a sensitive topic and by agreeing beforehand on the level of luxury you're willing to pay for, you can avoid much conflict later. What one person considers affordable may not align with what others think, so make sure to be specific.
For example, when I went on a week long trip to the Almafi Coast with three friends, we decided we were willing to spend 30-50 euros a night for a hostel. Not only did this make the search easier by giving us some parameters, it also made it go more smoothly. Another good practice is to create a group fund for joint expenses such as taxi rides. At the start, everyone puts in the same amount and when the fund is empty, everyone pays in the same amount. Repeat until the trip is over, any extra funds can be equally distributed at the end.
Another issue that can arise is everyone not being equally prepared. The easiest stage to address this is when you're packing for the trip. Make sure everyone is on the same page on a few items:
- Are you carrying on or checking baggage? It can be frustrating to wait around for one person's bag when everyone else made sure to pack compactly into a carry on.
- Size and weight of the airline's allowed carry on. If everyone follows these rules, you should have no problem getting through security. Once I had to wait for about 20 minutes while everyone else in my group struggled to fit their bags into the size checker (and one of my friends had to pay extra and check her bag).
- Appropriate clothing for the planned activities. It feels terrible to be the only one without fancy clothes when everyone else wants to go out to a nice dinner. Or, more importantly, some places won't let you in if you aren't dressed correctly (such as some churches and other places of worship).
- Does everyone want to do all the same things? One of the most difficult parts of travelling with other people can be making decisions. Once you've arrived, hopefully the accommodations have already been decided (although winging it can be exciting). Next, activities have to be discussed and agreed upon. I'll just say right off, it's ok if not everyone does everything together, but the group activities should be things everyone will enjoy.
- Everyone knows the country's money situation. The minute you arrive at your destination, you'll need to start paying for things (taxi, food, tips, etc.) so make sure everyone knows beforehand what kind of currency they'll need, and the exchange rate so they won't be shocked later. Also, it can be helpful to know the tipping expectations. Americans tip for pretty much everything, but in many countries tip is not normally expected or given. Lastly, be sure everyone has cash (changed into local currency) because in many countries credit cards are not accepted as frequently as they are in the United States. Bonus Tip: get a small change pouch to carry coins, many currencies have coins for the lower "dollar" amounts.
- Basic safety tips. Being safe is always the number one priority for me. Making sure everyone knows some tips for being safe in the destination can make the trip much more enjoyable. Exploring a street market for some unique gifts is fun; trying to calm down your friend after their passport has been pick pocketed is not.
- Details for departure. Be sure everyone in the group knows the date, time, and which airport to meet at.
This is the key to reducing much of the tension that can result from travelling with others. Whether you're on a trip with your best friend or a new friend, establishing a clear channel of communication will benefit everyone. Something as simple as saying, "If there's ever anything bothering you during the trip, please don't hesitate to tell me. I know we can work it out and have a great time," can really have a big impact on everyone's attitude.
Lastly, knowing your own needs and how to manage them will make the experience more enjoyable for all, especially you! For example, I know I get grumpy when I'm tired or hungry, so when I notice I'm feeling grouchy I check to see if maybe I just need a rest or a snack. Your friends aren't mind readers (probably) so help them out and speak up when you need a break or aren't ok with something.
Travelling together can bond people quickly and those friendships can be strong and last a lifetime. What has been your favourite trip with friends?
How to Travel with Friends [A Constant Traveller]
Heather Yamada-Hosley has visited all seven continents and lived abroad in Japan and Italy. She writes about travel hacks and adventures on her blog AConstantTraveler.com.