Traveling with friends is so fulfilling. I appreciate my solo travel time, because it’s nice to not have to abide by anyone’s agenda, and I’m instantly reflective of my experiences. But to travel with friends, a close sibling, or a significant other creates memories you can actually enjoy with someone else. Having a friend to share minor disasters, mind-blowing sights, and mega-fun activities with will mean a lot to both of you. Between studying abroad and travels with my sister and one of my closest friends, I have a film reel of moments that plays on a loop (even unconsciously) in my mind, and that I reminisce on at get togethers frequently.
I don’t believe in traveling with more than four friends at a time. To avoid any unnecessary blow ups, don’t join too many cooks in the kitchen. Eliminating a large group will make your trip 300x times better and you don’t even know it. Still, trying to consolidate two or three sets of ideas–and then following through with everything–isn’t always the easiest. Here are some tips for your next trip with a friend that ensure it isn’t the last.
Figure out what you want
Do this before you go. I like to start big, like on Pinterest or an Excel sheet (thanks, Sam). Start a group board, or a joint Google Doc, and hammer out everything about the place you’re going. Let your joint ideas roam, and once you’ve sorted out every possible cupcake shop you can hit, prioritize. Both of you, even if it isn’t written down, should have some things that you can’t leave without doing, and talk about them beforehand. That way, you’re on the same page, and find harmony among your choices.
It’s important that you both are equally receptive to and firm with wants, so that neither one feels gypped on an experience. I’m a planner by nature (thanks, mom), but whittling your list down doesn’t really have to happen until just before the trip, or even until you get there. Have respect for one another’s expectations and be willing to listen the entire way.
During my semester abroad, my close friend, Kayla, and I spent our fall break primarily in Austria. In the weeks leading up to it, Kayla and I would meet, usually Irish chocolate in tow, and scour Pinterest for what we wanted to do. When we arrived in Salzburg, we purchased our 48 hour Salzburg Cards and spent that night notating our attraction pamphlets and conferring on our selections. We made a game plan beginning with the things that we both wanted to do, and prioritized the things that we marked separately. There was plenty of time for random to-dos once all was said and done.
Last summer, my best friend Sam started an Excel sheet that covered EVERYTHING about our trip to Europe. Everything: budgeting, attractions, lodging. She arranged it so that we could drop suggestions into the correct sections, and when we were together, we would chat about our thoughts. It wasn’t until we were there that we solidified our plans, finalizing the things we were both content with.
Assess your budgets
This one I’ve never had trouble with because, financially, I’m surrounded by like-minded pals. And yes, we all have an absurd obsession with dessert and Ireland (I mean it), but that’s besides the point. Still, we’d have some sort of talk about what worked best for our individual budgets. If you can travel with friends with the same monetary beliefs, it saves a whole lot of trouble.
We all know money talk isn’t comfortable. Where my friends and I are all in the same boat–college graduates and students, work forcers and loan payers–we understand what the most we are willing to spend on any given thing. Our conversations happen as we are planning, starting with the cost of flights, and what the best bargain we find will be.
Then, it goes as such: “This looks fun! And affordable!” “Ooooh, we can get a pass!”
If this isn’t the case for you, do not feel weird about bringing up the topic of money. There are one million ways to budget travel–it’s all the rage–so open up the dialogue and dodge a spontaneous five-star restaurant fix if it isn’t in the funds. Know what you are and are not comfortable spending, and discuss your personal limits.
Allow time to relax, and relax separately
No matter how close you and your friend are, you need to allot time to just be, and to be alone(ish). Even if you’re in the same room, some quiet time apart will work wonders. Whether you sit and journal, read a book, flip through Instagram, send messages and photos of your adventures so far to loved ones, do something for yourself. The go-go-go mentality is draining, and unfortunately, so much direct time spent with another person may lead to random resentment.
Any time I’m traveling with friends, when we’re on a break–either in the middle of the day, to restore our minds and sweaty clothes, or after dinner–we gather silence, and all it takes is ten minutes to feel refreshed. I don’t mean refreshed from not interacting in a bad way: only that being with myself for a short while gives me that burst of self-introspection that I need. Traveling wears on us, especially when done in long bursts, and a small mind-seclusion is all you need. It energizes and tranquilizes all at once.
Embrace the unexpected
Like falling asleep on a bus and missing the stop for your next museum, or hiking up a highway to a fortress, or staying out reaaaaally late listening to music. Once in a while, it rains, and you’re left hopping around inside a stall, dumping water out of your shoe and wringing the rest out of your sock. Occasionally, you end up with a tour guide who deviously sidesteps many promised sights and instead offers a weak attempt at a ghost story. AND mistakes C.S. Lewis with J.R.R. Tolkien.
A lot of my fondest travel moments have happened accidentally. You can never predict how a day will turn out, and you know what? It’s the best. Logistically, you might scramble a bit, but emotionally, you’ll be living your best life. If you and your friend are prepared to deviate from the itinerary, and dance in the rain instead, you’ll both be all the happier. And truly, if you let go of high expectations, you’ll find you’ve learned more about your destination than you thought possible.
Traveling with friends sounds like a dream, and it absolutely can be. It requires thought and work, and if you’re willing to put the effort in (highly recommend it!!!), then you are golden, love. Making yourselves compatible is possible, if you aren’t already and are both determined to consider each other when faced with the prospect of a trip together. Prepare for some of the happiest moments of your life!