How to travel with friends and stay friends

Edisana Stephen 18 May 2022

Here are our top tips for travelling the world with a friend and still staying friends by the end of your trip.

Incompatibility puts a trip at risk and travelling with friends can put even the most solid of relationships to a test.

People might be pushed out of their comfort zones by unfamiliar surroundings, a foreign language, less conveniences, different food, and unanticipated challenges. These can provoke different reactions and behaviors than at home, negatively impacting a trip experience.

Just because your friends are cool back home doesn't mean they'll be the same abroad!

two women sit in the back of a car during their travels together, laughing
Photo by Richard Jaimes

Anyone who has travelled with others can understand that selecting a compatible travel companion is one of the most critical considerations for an enjoyable holiday. The right person can make a vacation more enjoyable; the wrong person can ruin a trip, end a friendship, or split a relationship.

We’ve all heard horror stories of friendship holidays gone wrong. When one person wants to get up early in the morning while the other prefers to sleep in until noon every day, when one person wants to separate but the other refuses. These differences might cause regret and conflict.

Common difficulties 

travel companions
Photo by Elizeu Dias

One of the most difficult aspects of travelling with friends is organising and splitting expenses. With so many things to buy and activities to indulge in, it's easy to lose track of who's paying for what. If you wait till the end of the trip to organise expenses, there might be a lot of confusion and dispute which can sour your entire trip experience.

Capture your expenses and organise them properly noting your debts and loans while on the trip. Apps like Splitwise and Settle Up offer less stress in keeping track of shared expenses, balances and who owes who. 

"Just because your friends are cool back home doesn't mean they'll be the same abroad"

Checking for travel compatibility among friends is important because travelling with the wrong person isn't just a vibe killer but can have a great impact on your safety and security in a foreign environment. For instance, a friend could be interacting disrespectfully with strangers or start a fight with the locals while in public. Chances are you may run into trouble with the law and risk being arrested and detained abroad.

One of the most effective ways to determine compatibility is asking the right questions.

How to travel with friends and stay friends

travel buddies on a beach
Photo by Thought Catalog

According to travel blogger Anne Betts, before identifying who might be compatible with you, you have to first unpack who you are as a traveller. Identifying your needs, hobbies, dislikes, spending priorities, and travel style will help you in determining which areas require compatibility. It reveals where your wants and interests might fit with those of a potential travel companion and where they might clash. Make a list of questions that get to the heart of your identity as a traveller. Here are some examples:

  • What are your priorities, needs and interests as a traveller?

  • What aspects of your travel style might irritate others? 

  • What is the point at which a certain quality or behavior in a travel companion irritates you?

  • Do you enjoy doing some things on your own? 

  • What are your spending priorities? Are you frugal with your spending or do you splurge?

  • Do you prefer to take the lead or do you prefer to follow?

  • What is your preferred pace of travel?

  • What types of activities do you value the most?

Ask the right questions

plans for travel laid out on a table
Photo by Dariusz Sankowski

Next, you have to ask your potential companion the right questions. The primary purpose of these questions is to determine if you'll be compatible as travel companions. If you think a compatibility test may be awkward to navigate, select a couple of these topics that are important to you and start a conversation with your potential travel companion. It's crucial that you enjoy doing comparable activities, work similar hours, and have a similar budget. Examples are;

  • Do you prefer cities or the countryside?

  • Do you like to drink or go clubbing?

  • When and how do you prefer your meals? Sitting down, or on the go?

  • How long does it take to get ready in the morning?

  • Do you like to sleep in on vacation? What time do you typically wake up?

  • Are you willing to split up for a day if we want to do different things?

  • What type of accommodations do you prefer?

  • What budget are you on? What is your target cost per day?

  • Do you like to chat with the locals?

  • How long can you stay in one place?

  • Do you prefer to have everything planned out ahead of time or do you prefer to be spontaneous?

  • Do you prefer to take the lead or do you prefer to follow?

For a more extensive travel partner compatibility questionnaire, check out this list put together by Anne Betts 

Knowledge is power

two friends plan a holiday at a laptop
Photo by Brooke Cagle

Finally, it pays to get as much information as possible before you both decide to travel together. Schedule a time to talk. Set up a video call. Go out to lunch or spend the day exploring together if you live in the same area. Make it clear that the goal is for you to determine whether or not to travel together. 

"Get as much information as possible before you decide to travel together"

After that, look for compromises and solutions. In situations where your travel styles differ, find alternatives. Schedule another meeting if necessary to go over the possibilities and how to fit them into your vacation. Staying in separate accommodations, splitting up for short periods when your interests deviate or deciding on “ground rules” to steer the relationship are all possibilities.

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