Traveling with people you know and like can be a great experience. You enjoy each other’s personalities and know each person’s likes and dislikes. What could go wrong? Well, a lot, really. As author and humorist Mark Twain famously said, “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.”
Just because you are friends doesn’t mean you will travel well together. Spending 24 hours a day together for a week or more is a very different experience from having someone over for dinner. So, in the interest of friendship preservation, consider these tips before embarking on a journey with friends.
Have a pre-trip meeting to go over expectations
Most time spent on group trip planning focuses on the destination and choosing the country and cities you want to see. Poring over pictures and websites and planning the travel itinerary is the fun part. But each of us has personal habits and preferences we may not think to voice. Do your travel mates like to sleep in and get going at noon or are they early risers? Are they expecting ample, lazy beach time or are they eager to tour the markets and spend time shopping? The important thing is to exchange desires so you can see where they match up and where they don’t, and then to plan accordingly.
Share the prep work
Finding and reserving lodging, arranging transportation, buying train or museum tickets ahead of time – it may be fun, but it’s still work, and it takes time. Make a list of everything that needs doing and divide up the tasks. That way, nobody winds up shouldering too much of the burden unfairly and everyone has an equal say in setting the details.
Discuss money specifically
Money can be a touchy subject. It’s rare that everyone in a group of friends has exactly the same amount of money. And different people have different approaches to money. What one person would call “economical,” another might call “stingy,” which is a very emotionally charged word. Work out with your group how you want to handle lodging expenses, transit costs and restaurant bills. You may think it’s great to split evenly between all parties, but others may disagree. And strongly. Money misunderstandings can lead to resentment and silent stewing.
Plan some time apart
No matter how much you like each other, it’s good to arrange for some time apart and to talk about that before you go. Couples traveling together will usually need some “couple time” to discuss fiscal, health or mood concerns, or just to re-connect. Singletons may need time away from the group to decompress or take in an attraction nobody else wants to see. Don’t feel guilty about stating “and, of course, we know we will all want to spend some time doing individual things.”
Keep track of each other
In busy marketplaces or museums, it’s easy to get separated from the rest of your party. Choose a pre-determined meeting place before you enter so you can find each other if needed. In crowded, tourist-rich cities, it’s a good idea to choose a landmark everyone can find and is visible from a distance. Make sure everyone knows how to find their way back to the hotel, hostel or rental unit in case the worst happens.
Be flexible – and eat
Just because you’ve made plans to see this or that doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible if the need arises. If somebody’s feet are blistered, maybe plans need to change. If you are the one who is exhausted and just can’t face the day’s touring regimen, say so and give the rest of the group permission to go on without you. And, if somebody is crabby, look for the nearest restaurant or café. Nine times out of ten, travel crankiness is the result of hunger or thirst. After a quick beverage or snack, most sour moods can turn around quickly.
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