At this point I have traveled a lot. Most of my travel is with my husband but I have also gone on group trips (see this post about India), traveled with family, and have traveled with friends. The dynamics of traveling with friends can completely change any trip you take for the better or for the worse. It can be a bit of a balance when planning, budgeting, and dealing with unpleasant events that can easily arise when traveling. I’ve had friendships deepen and grow during and after travel together but I’ve also had friendships shift apart.
I’ve observed some interesting personality changes when traveling with friends. The anonymity that comes with being somewhere different can be seductive and liberating in a way that alters behavior. Here’s a good example: going to Amsterdam with a straight-laced friend only to have this friend go on a full binge. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s good to explore different sides of yourself. However, it can be an unpleasant experience when not everyone is on the same page. Sometimes it’s impossible to anticipate and prevent this – but there are a couple of lessons I’ve learned that will help when traveling with friends.
Before you plan travel with a friend/friends, here are five things to keep in mind:
- Activities. What do you usually do with this friend? I think this is an important indicator of what you should expect from the trip. If this is a friend you’ve spent a lot of time with and done a variety of things – you’ll be safe. If this is a friend that you only meet for dinner/drinks you may want to think about what you will do during the day – just make sure you want the same thing out of the trip.
- Location, location, location. Think about the location and what it means in terms of activities during the day and evening. Make sure you take a relaxing beach vacation with someone who wants to completely unwind and not with your friend who finds laying on a beach boring. If this is your first trip together, make it to a destination that is easy for you both to get to (think a reasonable drive or a short direct flight). Also, if it is your first trip, think of places that are well within your comfort zone. It’s easier to relax and enjoy yourself and company if you aren’t tense about your surroundings.
- Money. You don’t need to detail your financial situation/plan, but it is good to be honest so that you don’t find yourself stressed by how much things will cost. If your friend wants to stay in a really expensive hotel, suggest you share a room and split the cost. Another option is to find a hotel that you feel more comfortable with and suggest that instead. Work out how you will each pay for your share of the trip beforehand so that you already know what to expect when the hotel bill comes. Don’t let your pride overextend your wallet.
- Length of the trip. Is this your first trip together? Make it a weekend trip. Think of it as a “test trip.” I’ve got suggestions for test trips below. 2-3 days is enough to see if it is easy and enjoyable to travel together.
- Down Time. It’s great to travel with friends, but it is also nice to have some time on your own. This way you can have some distance from those little annoying things that inevitably come up. When you are planning your trip, suggest an afternoon apart. This way everyone can have space and time to do their own thing and no-one feels like it’s personal or affronted because they feel unexpectedly ditched.
Ideas for first time friend trips:
Ease into traveling with friends by choosing the right kind of vacation. Here are some trip ideas that are inherently social or easy to do with others. It’s a good idea to travel around an activity which will take a lot of debate out of what to do all day and will give you a loose schedule to plan around. Here are some suggestions:
Wine Tasting Weekend: This is an inherently social event and fun with a few friends or a group. Wine regions around the world are stunning and very relaxing and often other activities are easy to add into your day: biking through vineyards, taking walks/hikes, great food, and spa treatments.
Spa Weekend: Relax and unwind with your friends. Mornings are spent hiking or biking followed by a lovely lunch and an afternoon of spa treatments – with a nap in there somewhere. Easy to do alone, better to do with a friend.
Hiking: If you both love to hike, why not spend a weekend walking? It’s great exercise and more fun (and safer) to do with a buddy or a few buddies. Make sure you are around the same level and then plan your destination appropriately.
Yoga Retreat: This is a great idea for the yogis in your life. Once again, it’s a good idea to make sure you are around the same level of practice so that the yoga retreat is enjoyable for you both. Generally, a led yoga retreat has scheduled the days for you and provides healthy food. Usually you pay up front and everything is covered (with some exceptions) so the budget is taken care of. You’ll leave feeling refreshed and blissed from your shared experience.
All-inclusive: This could be a cruise or a resort. This is another trip option for easy budgeting. All-inclusive are no longer just for those wanting multiple trips to the buffet. They are scattered around the world and range from low budget to very high end. Pick the one that’s right for you and never leave the property!
Any led tour: Yes, being with a tour group changes the dynamic of the trip substantially – but all the work is done for you so there is value there. Especially if you are going somewhere foreign for the first time. The key is to just surrender to being a tourist and go with the flow (or the herd). No shame!
Volunteer Trip: Another trip that is planned for you and, usually, the food is also taken care of. This is a great way to tap into another community and to give back. Expect being in a group a lot and having your day fully scheduled.
Do you travel with friends often? What are some of your tips for traveling with friends?