Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Travelling with Friends: 7 Do’s and Don’ts

Image thanks to Jane Rahman

I’ve travelled with family, alone, with my boyfriend, and with friends. All have their particular delights, downsides and things to keep in mind. Whether you’ve experienced travelling with friends or are cautiously considering it, here are my tips for keeping things sweet:

1. Do choose your travelling friends wisely. Just because you took a class together once or love going out for cocktails, doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily make great travel buddies. Someone can be the nicest person you’ve ever met, but that doesn’t inherently mean you can spend day and night with them for two weeks or more. Opt for well-travelled, mature friends with whom you share an equal passion for the place/places you’re visiting. That said, travel can often really enhance a friendship so don’t be too picky – just go with your gut.

2. Don’t forget: less is more. It may seem the biggest cliché going, but two truly is company whilst three is very often a crowd. Similarly, when you start stretching beyond four you’ve got a veritable melting pot of conflicting interests and potential fallouts. I’d recommend doing a Noah’s Ark and travelling in twos unless you are very familiar with spending time together as a larger group, otherwise you might experience some nasty surprises.

3. Do be aware that you will have different priorities. Even if you’re the best of friends there are bound to be some conflicts of interest, and you may even be unfortunate enough to face this at every turn, after all it can be hard to really know someone until you start spending solid lots of 24 hours together. If you find this happening then why not take it in turns to plan each day. When it’s not your day try to be as laidback as possible and allow yourself to be open to new experiences. Discuss at the offset what you’d each like to do and split your time as required. If necessary, it’s no big deal to spend an afternoon apart each doing your own thing and meet for dinner, and in fact this can often really refresh your enthusiasm for doing things together.

4. Don’t expect plain sailing. Travelling is tough but often doesn’t get thought of as such, instead there is a constant pressure to be enjoying yourself. However, walking miles upon miles everyday in not the best shoes, in weather conditions you are perhaps not used to, on what is often very little sleep, tackling another language, facing dreaded public transport, and all the while trying to fit someone else’s agenda, well, it’s pretty tough at times! The trick is take the pressure off; be realistic about what you have the time and funds to do and be sure they are things you’re both excited about. If you find you are getting on each others nerves at any point just be honest, make a joke about it, take a deep breath, realise travel is stressful, sit down for a coffee, keep calm and carry on!

5. Do be considerate. Sounds obvious, but make the effort to treat your friend as you would like to be treated: keep your stuff neat in hotel rooms, offer to buy the odd bus ticket or ice cream, happily take photos of them beside the sites etc. These little things can make the trip all the more enjoyable for both of you.

6. Don’t have different budgets. Where you stay, where you eat, which tourist attractions you venture out to… all of these depend on your budget, and are all things you’ll be doing together. Money can be difficult to talk about even with good friends, but if you both start out with the same budget you will each have the same expectations and it will also help to keep things fair. It might help to have a joint ‘kitty’, a shared purse/wallet where you each put in the same amount and spend on entry fees etc.

7. Do share responsibilities. From booking accommodation to mustering up your limited French to ask for a café au lait – each of you should take a leading role in your trip. If not, there could potentially be resentful feelings because one of you is taking the lion’s share. You’ll each have your strengths and weaknesses, so tailor your roles to these. On my trip I was happy to hunt down great budget hotels and ask questions, whilst Virgo Cai was important document organiser and chief map reader.

What do you think of my tips for travelling with friends? What have you learned from travelling with your gal or even guy pals? Do you prefer to travel in a large or small group? What have been your memorable ups and downs?


Leia said...

Great trips! I like travelling in smaller groups. And with people I know very, very well, because I'm quite fussy when it comes to things like hygiene!

Leia's Delights

isabeltheconquistador said...

Thanks for these tips! I'm planning on traveling with two friends next year, but we feel comfortable enough around each other.

Aury said...

I like traveling in smaller groups too. I also prefer traveling with people that have similar interests and are closer to me in age because then there will be more equality and sharing of leadership roles, etc.

Great post!

Vanessa said...

Wonderful advice! I hate doing anything in large groups for the reasons you cited-- it gets too stressful.

CW said...

Great advice here!
I love traveling with a friend or two, but I have had to learn to speak up and not underestimate myself (especially when it comes to foreign language skills). There are a couple of times that misunderstandings could have been avoided if I had trusted my language knowledge and spoken up. Instead, I hung in the background because I trusted the language skills of the people I was with more than my own. Even though I tend to be a little shy, I have learned to speak up.

The Glamourous Grad Student said...

Really great advice, Megan!

Shopgirl said...

Fab idea and tips! I've travelled in big and small groups. One memorable trip included 10 of us for two days and just 4 for the last 2 - the last two were far less stressful! :)

Jem said...

Great tips for traveling with friends! I just got back from a trip with four of my friends, we went away for five days. We ended up having a good time and got along great even though that was originally one thing which was worrying me. I really think its important to make sure that everyone has the same goals which they want to achieve on the trip or else it won't be any fun if you are all going in different directions! :)

SanchitaC said...

i agree - one should choose the company carefully but keeping an open mind for new and surprising experiences. travelling in two is ideal. i don't mind a big group either. i just dislike travelling in groups of 3 or 4.

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