How To Travel With A Friend And Not Kill Them

 Getting ready to travel with a friend? Planning a big roadtrip with your BFF? This post is filled with tips to keep things fun and fight free - there are even 'scripts' you can use when you're about to lose your cool! >>
And about half of that travel I do on my own.  When I met up with three friends in Iceland I was genuinely concerned that I wouldn’t remember how to travel nicely with others and would get all “Y U GET UP SO LATE? MUST GO TO MUSEUM AT 9!!!!!”

Thankfully for all involved, I did not, in fact, turn into Travel Hulk.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I road tripped to Nashville with my BFF of twenty years.  Of course, we know each other so well, we’re verging on family (and are frequently mistaken for a couple?) but every trip and relationship can use a bit of fine tuning.

How to Travel with Friends

Be open about the fact that you will both need independent time

Spending 24 hours a day with someone (anyone!) isn’t easy. Even the most charming, lovely person can wear on you after three weeks (or three days) and you will probably begin to wear on them.
Make sure that you have a bit of time to yourself every day. Peruse the market, go check your email, read a book in a cafe. Having time alone will keep you sane and make you appreciate your travel buddy all the more.

Be super honest from the beginning

Just say it. Just say “What are we going to do when we start to get sick of each other?” Most things are less terrifying once you say them out loud. You should both acknowledge that getting annoyed with each other is a possibility and that you should both think about how you want to deal with it. Besides, they might have some great ideas that you’ve never thought of!

Deal with issues when they start to arise. Don’t let them fester!

I occasionally try to deal with things by ignoring them into submission. Surprisingly, this does not actually work. But it has resulted in one expired visa, one scooter accident and a few overdue fees. Be ye not so stupid as me!
When your travel buddy’s drinking habits, snide comments or refusal to try new things starts to wear on you – for the love of Pete, say something! Allowing things to build up will only make them worse and you’re much more likely to blow up and say things you don’t mean. Talk about it now, before you get all wound up and yucky about it.
Suggested script: 
“Travel buddy, lately I’ve been having a tough time with your __________. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather address it now than sitting and sulking about it. Can we talk about this?”

Hang out with other people

If you’re staying in hostels or backpacker guest houses it will be nearly impossible not to make friends. It would literally require an act of committed grouchery to avoid befriending new people.
Eating dinner, going on day trips and navigating border crossings is much less stressful (and more fun) with groups. Making other friends also takes the pressure of each of you to constantly entertain each other and keep up the conversation.

Learn how to be quiet around each other

If you’re someone who enjoys her peace and quiet, it can be tough to travel with a Chatty Cathy and if you don’t know your travel partner super well, extended silences can also be awkward. Learn how to cultivate the comfortable silence.
If your partner isn’t good at silence, make sure you take some time for yourself each day to be (quietly) by yourself. If all else fails – put in your headphones! It’s up to you whether you actually turn on your Ipod or not.

Take day-trips without your travel buddy

If you’re traveling with a friend for months at a time, there will inevitably be activities that interest you and bore your buddy. Not everybody is into touring underground catacombs stacked full of skeletons!
At least every few weeks, take a break from your buddy and go on a day trip by yourself. It’s easy to sign up for an eight-hour stint with a travel agency who will coordinate all your transportation and entrance fees. You’ll meet other travelers, see something that interests you and give both you and your travel partner a bit of much needed space.

Work with your strengths

Before you commit to seeing the world with someone, you should have a pretty good idea of their travel strengths. Maybe they’re great at haggling or they can read maps like a master or they’re Captain Charmy McFriendlypants. You should both have a good idea of where you excel and use your powers for good! (Not evil!)
If your buddy’s great at haggling – she’s officially in charge of all price negotiations. If you’re a type-A Virgo, maybe you can do all the ticket/permit/transportation coordination.

Don’t depend too heavily on each other

Now, I know I just told you embrace your travel buddy’s strengths but it’s important not to lean too heavily on any one person you’re traveling with. I once traveled with a super-organized, Spanish-speaking boyfriend through South America and about a month into the trip I realized that my contributions to the trip had been a) looking cute in sundresses b) guarding the bags while he bought tickets. Poor form, me!
Nobody likes to feel unappreciated or taken advantage of, so make sure you’re pulling your weight and make sure your buddy is pulling theirs. When in doubt, delegate! Like this:
“Okay, I’m going to go organize our tickets to La Paz. Will you be in charge of checking out of the hotel and making sure we didn’t leave anything in the room?”
“I’ll see if I can find us a taxi and get them down to 200 rupees. Will you go get some takeaway from that street vendor we like? I want two aloo tikis.”

Because teamwork = awesome.

Do you travel with friends?  Your partner?  How do you keep things fun and non-fighty?

P.S. 7 travel tools I will not shut up about till you buy them.

photo credit: ian schnieder // cc 

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  1. Jennifer

    Oh man… I think I may be the Travel Hulk from time to time. 🙂 These are such great tips and I hereby promise to put them to good use! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing.

  2. Jess P

    Here's a tale of two trips:
    Trip #1: Me and the husband with my BFF and her husband= success. We were honest, had alone time, even stayed in seperate places. We all got to see what we wanted to see and didn't get all in a tiff.
    Trip #2: Me and the husband with another couple: What's the opposite of success? Disaster? That's what it was. I wanted to kill her after she made us take a 3 hour detour in a foreign country to find Birkentstocks (which, may I say, when you rent a car and can't read the langauge in an ancient city, finding the freeway you need deserves way more than a high-five and ice cream).

  3. Rachelia

    SUCH great tips! I'm pretty new to travelling but while studying abroad I did do some travelling with another Canadian study abroad student. When we went to Ireland for a weekend trip we had great times doing different tours we had planned. However we had completely different personalities: I'm pretty quiet and reserved, and she is outgoing and talkative. At night she wanted to go out to the bars, and being social awkward and anxious I didn't want to but felt that since I had picked quite a few of the tours/day stuff it was only fair. I had some ground rules (i.e.: please don't leave me alone in a strange bar and foreign country!, try and push me to interact with guys, and hey, let's get more than 3 hrs sleep before we have to get up for our next tour) to try and make me more comfortable and she totally agreed. Until we got to the bars each night. I was totally uncomfortable for a lot of the time but felt that I couldn't just leave her because she was drunk and in a foreign country. At one point on the way back to the hotel we had a bit of a fight but she didn't see that she had done anything wrong. Looking back the uncomfortableness makes for funny memories, but I think it's a good idea to really match your personality to the person you are travelling with as much as possible. You may THINK you can be outgoing and comfortable in a social setting just for a weekend but 22 years of experience are against you, haha!!

  4. rachelannpierce

    My bestie and I are perfect travel buddies. We've meandered through Europe together, done wilderness trips, and visited each other in our respective cities. We've even talked about how we keep waiting to hate each other and it hasn't happened yet. Bliss.
    I don't really know how this works honestly. We tend to have downtime together, but both working on our own things. We come up with plans for the day in the morning, but if something goes wrong we're both cool with changing the plan. We're always super honest with each other in the planning stages too. How long in a city? What are the main sights to be seen/souvenirs to be purchased?

  5. Anonymous

    Boy howdy – this is tricky, isn't it? The worst is when your negative buddy won't let you break off from them for a day… or for ever. Somehow the experimental first trip turned into 3 (all miserable) even though I said I was done after the first time. She still thinks we're travel buddies for life. WTF?! I haven't been on a vacation with the spouse alone in 8 years, but this one won't hear "no"!

    • Sal

      Just say No! Life is too short and your trip is an investment. I have learned that you owe no explanation if your interests are different.

  6. Shannon

    Great tips Lady Von! I like to take short "tester" trips with people before I decide to long term travel with them. I'm positive that my 6 week camper van trip in New Zealand went smoother because my friend and I took a 4 day road trip across the state together. Not always possible to do, but helps! I spent a weekend in Vegas with another friend, and with her I have a 3 day max….the more you know!

  7. Kaisa

    Couldn't agree more, great tips! I have traveled with different friends and well, I have been lucky, more or less. No-one has gotten killed. I think the biggest problems arise when the other person tries to be nice and silently suffers or sth. Insane. Intense. So I always try lay down the rules etc.

  8. Alex

    I agree with all of this except that first "suggested script." People generally don't like to hear "you [verb]" or "your [noun]" when there's a disagreement. There's a reason that phrase "It's not you, it's me" came about. Using "I"-statements and explaining how you feel is way more productive that saying, "Let's work on YOUR problem that bothers ME."

  9. Angela

    I've been traveling with my boyfriend for the last 9 months and now his sister has joined us for a month or two. This post couldn't have come at a better time, I was just sharpening my knives.

  10. Amanda

    Why wouldn't someone be into touring catacombs stacked with bones?!? That is unthinkable.

  11. TravelnLass

    Indeed. Precisely why I've been a s.o.l.o. traveler for 30+ years. Can count on one hand the times I've traveled w/ a partner. The point is – if/when I want/need a bit of company, there's always other stray travelers I can hook up with a for a day or three. But a steady travel chum longer than that? Sorry, they'd have to be a veritable SAINT! Just far too many compromises for me, and personally I've never been able to figure out the upside.

  12. Rachael

    I traveled overseas twice with another girl friend. Oh, man. I am so inspired to make a blog response…I learned a lot. 🙂

  13. nakul

    Thanks for the tips. Usually, I don't care if anyone is late, but while travelling, a switch flips in me. I realized that now, thanks to this blog.

  14. Emy Farley

    This is also good marriage/relationship advice. You little genius, you.

  15. Ana

    I travelled with others when I was younger and seen all kind of blow-ups, so I decided to travel alone when I get the chance to control that part of the journey.

    The best decision ever.

    I was pressured into travelling with a boyfriend (a great, caring person, I must stress) for my last trip.
    Explained everything to him, did everything from this article, he agreed that sounds good… but no.
    No matter what he said before the trip, once there he wanted to be together 24/7, to go with me to places that didn't interest him and for me to go with him to places that didn't interest me… Awful.

    What I'm trying to say is: people are messy, no matter how great they are and no matter how great the advice is 😛 .

  16. Anonymous

    I traveled with a friend and we are normally two people that like to do our own things. Unfortunately I did not read this before going on a week long trip with her. From the time we got in the car I began noticing things about her that annoyed me, but like you mentioned I tried to ignore i into submissiont. Then at times I felt as if she was being rude, which caused me to be even more frustrated, and start to dish out was I felt like I was receiving. Throughout the trip i started distancing myself even when we were together, especially as she spent more and more time on her cellphone, which I surmisecwas about me.Long story short I blew up on her about one of her nasty habits, and she got upset. We talked about a few of the issues we had, but I don't think I will want to travel with her anytime soon, nor do I feel as confident about the longevity of our friendship like before. Any advice?

  17. Anonymous

    I just got back from a trip with someone who I had only known about 6 months. At the time of planning the trip it seemed like a good idea. Once arriving to our destination things looked a bit different. Definitely know the person you are going on the trip with. Know them as a friend, party buddy, between the good times and the bad, this person should be someone your trust without any doubt. This may seem obvious but going on a trip with someone you've just known for a long time but have rarely if ever, have been in a stressful situation with is not telling enough. Not really knowing the person I went on a trip with led to a huge argument halfway through the trip that cleared the air but overall left us both feeling puzzled in a different country. We ended up going the teamwork route and things started looking up. For a lot of the beginning of the trip my traveling partner carried on as if they were traveling alone. Not utilizing team strategies to get anything done. If you see yourself as very independent person and rarely partake in team efforts then I would suggest foregoing a traveling partner. A trips livelyhood depends on this teamwork as well as knowing when to have alone time. Let's just say that I learned a lot on my trip and I am very cautious to ever travel with others from now on.

  18. Melinda Barker

    I think the best way to spend your time with your friends is to travel to places that offer lots of fun. I did a trip with 4 of my friends to city that never sleeps and we had such an amazing time there. We booked a hotel in Las Vegas and we have spend lots of time partying, going to casinos and overall having a good time . That is the best solution for everything.

  19. J.H. Moncrieff

    This is such good advice! I wish I’d had it before I went on a vacation with a friend I knew mostly from online interactions. The “alone time” rule would have been great for us. We spent every moment of that week together, and she became irritated with my over-the-top enthusiasm, while I didn’t care for her rudeness or the fact she fell asleep with the TV on and wanted it blaring first thing in the morning. (I never turn on the TV when I travel.)

    Our friendship survived, but I needed a break after the trip. One thing I’d suggest is to be really comfortable with whomever you choose as a travel buddy. I always feel like I have to walk on eggshells with this friend, which doesn’t exactly make for a dream vacation.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Ooof! I’ve been there, too! I promise, all these things were very much learned ‘the hard way’ 😉

  20. Jamie

    Oh no, I’m.. i’m travel hulk.

    KIDDING! Mostly.. I have actually gotten a lot better at this over the years. I’m a type A planner and my husband is much more go-with-the-flow. We’re both in love with travel, and over the years we’ve moved closer together and found a travel style that works for us both. He is now on board with making a few plans and a list of things we’d like to do/see at a given destination, and I’ve stopped over-planning everything and stressing out if we don’t hit everything on the list.

  21. Ilona

    Thanks for this great article! Having travelled with a friend for nine months straight, I cannot agree more with most of what you’ve said. There were moments when we wanted to kill each other and I think our biggest issue was that we never really talked about it. We had two big fights and afterwards, things went a lot better. Talking about what annoys you really helps a lot and I can only recommend it. Especially when it comes to people who you have never travelled with before, so you don’t go into the trip with completely different expectations.

    But anyway. Despite some arguments, my friends and I had a great time. I think two of the main things we were good at was splitting tasks (like researching our next destinations etc) and being quiet around each other. We rarely spent time seperately, but we could sit in the same room for hours without speaking a word. It was always that comfortable silence that you get with someone you know very well. There was no need to constantly speak and entertain each other and we were very happy doing our own stuff.

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