They say that you never really know someone until you travel with them – and I couldn’t agree more! While solo travel is amazing and very introspective, more often than not we are traveling with other people. When it comes to family members or life partners, we are used to their habits and antics. But, you don’t really know your friends until you’re stuck in a foreign country, have lost your luggage, and can’t speak the language! That’s when your true colors come out. Okay, that might be a bit excessive, but you get the point. Before their next trip, everyone can benefit rom reading this advice for traveling with friends.
Nonetheless, traveling with your friends can also be one of the best experiences you can have. Who else knows you better and can appreciate the same wonders of the world with you? You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get red in the face. Fellow travel bloggers and I share our stories – the good, the bad, the ugly – of traveling with friends. Plus I’ll give you some inside tips about how to plan a trip with your friends.
Planning a Trip with your Friends
There are a few things that come to mind when I think about planning a trip with your friends. And along with that, lots of tips that I’ve learned through experience:
You NEED to Have a Budget
The biggest thing to cause trouble in any relationship – whether with family, friends, or partners, is money. With that said, it is super important to keep a budget of all spending for your trip. There will be certain expenses like food and souvenirs that are individual, but several will be split. When I travel with friends, we usually all take turns paying for various portions of the trip so no one is ever out a big chunk of money. Then we compare how much each of us has spent and sort out the change at the end.
The easiest way to do this? Create a Google Sheet and share it between everyone. Then you can create columns for each person and what they’re purchasing.
Compromise is Key
Unlike on solo trips, traveling with friends is all about compromise. It’s important to realize that you are not in charge nor the sole decision maker. That means if you’re a budget traveler (like me!) you might be spending a little more than usual to meet the needs and standards of your travel companions. This also means you’ll have to work together to determine what pieces of your trip are must-dos and which are optional. When I travel, I use a second tab in our shared spreadsheet to put the list of all possible activities, then have each person mark them as “must-do”, “maybe”, or “not interested”. That way it makes it easy to come up with an itinerary that works for everyone.
You Don’t Need to Do Everything Together
Believe it or not, it’s okay if you don’t spend every single minute together with your friends. In fact, it’s healthy to have some alone time! If you’re traveling with couples, save an evening to have a date night alone with your partner. Or find a morning to go get breakfast or coffee by yourself. Being surrounded by your friends is comforting and expected, but you’ll get to experience the destination in a different light by yourself – and you’re less likely to get on each other’s nerves!
Most Importantly, Have Fun!
Planning a trip with your friends requires a little extra research ahead of time, but doesn’t have to be all work and compromise. Traveling with friends is one of the BEST things you can do. You’ll get to share in some amazing and unique experiences together, and bond over your memories for years to come.
Some of my most favorite memories are from traveling with my friends. Go-karting in Tokyo, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, seeing the northern lights in Iceland… Incredible moments that I’ll cherish forever!
Fellow Bloggers Share their Stories & Advice for Traveling with Friends
Last December I traveled with one of my best friends to Venice for the weekend, it was a last minute trip that we planned less than a month before.
During that weekend we decided to explore the city by foot, with a focus on outdoor activities so not a lot of museums and plenty of canals, parks, and nice coffee places with tables on the sidewalk.
To make the most of your trip with friends you should think alike regarding the budget and the things you want to do in the place you visit. For us it was quite easy because we decided before traveling that we wanted to keep expenses low, take a free walking tour, wake up early and seize every minute of the day.
One other thing I strongly recommend before going away with your pal is to plan your day-to-day in advance. That way you can also plan to do things by yourself or how to take advantage of some free time if your friend, for example, wants to take a nap.
For me, traveling with this friend was an amazing experience, we enjoy almost the same things so all the trip was easygoing and fun.
I was lucky enough to study abroad for an entire semester with one of my best friends last year in Dublin, Ireland. It was the best decision of my life. Throughout the entire semester, we managed to visit 30+ cities together in 13 countries. We didn’t once get in a fight – we really got into a groove when it came to traveling together, and since we traveled so well together, I know that we will be close friends for life.
Our longest time traveling together was over spring break, when we had two entire weeks off. We knew we wanted to leave Ireland for a little bit to explore more of Europe, so we planned a two-week long train trip around Europe. We started in Vienna, then visited Munich, Luxembourg, Brussels, Paris, and finished the two weeks off in Barcelona. Despite things not always going our way sometimes, like the few cancelled buses and late trains, we worked extremely well together and kept each other calm and collected.
Ultimately, traveling with my friend was one of the best experiences of my life.
We have so many crazy fun memories together, that many people our age don’t even have yet. How many people get to say that they spent 2 weeks travelling around Europe with their best friend for a casual spring break? These are memories that I will forever cherish. I honestly can’t wait to go out and travel with her again!
My advice for traveling with friends is simple. You have to give each other space. You will be with each other a lot, so know that when you’re in the hotel, it’s okay to have downtime where you’re both in the same room but not doing anything together. You’re going to want your space – trust me.
You also need to learn to brush things off. Traveling can be extremely stressful. There are times when you’re going to want to freak out and get angry because of how unpredictable travel can be at times. However, you have to learn to not let it get to you and just let it go. I promise, everything will work out!
Lastly, find both of your strengths. My friend and I got into such a good groove with one another while traveling. She was great at planning out the transportation – such as the flights and trains that we would have to use to get somewhere. She was an absolute expert at directions. So, I’d let her handle that all on her own for the both of us, while I instead focused on the day to day itineraries, which I was great at puzzling together.
Having a good travel experience with a friend is 100% possible – it can even bring you guys so much closer!
I usually travel solo or with my boyfriend and only traveled with friends a couple of times. Traveling with friends is rewarding, but not everyone travels well together no matter how close you are. I mean what happens when a meticulous planner and a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants traveler set off on a month-long European adventure? I found out when I went traveling with a friend almost a decade ago.
As the planner I got to work figuring out all our travel arrangements. Except the job I gave to my friend: booking our Paris hotel. Fast forward to our 10pm arrival into Paris. Turns out she hadn’t actually confirmed the hotel. Everywhere was either booked or cost a fortune. Why? Well we just happened to arrive the week the Rugby World Cup was there. We walked the streets until after midnight looking for a room. We eventually managed to find a small hotel with space, but our friendship was briefly on thin ice.
That trip taught us both some things.
I need to relinquish control a bit more, and my friend needed to check confirmations! We laugh about it now, and we’re still great friends. But we learned what worked well was spending some time apart. Doing our own thing and giving each other some space. Being with someone 24/7 on a trip is hard work so make sure to take time for yourself.
This year I took a trip with another friend to Vietnam and I did keep this past experience in mind. We planned some activities but left other days free to book as we traveled. We both took responsibility for booking things, so I learned to share the planning. And we gave each other space when we needed it, spending time relaxing by the pool, reading our books and not scheduling everything down to the minute.
If you are traveling with friends, the night before you leave you should call your friends and do a packing check. The group of friends I travel with consistently implemented this policy after a vacation to Jamaica that started out with a couple of slight hiccups. I went to Jamaica with 3 other ladies and we stayed at a beautiful resort, The Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton between Montego Bay and Negril in Lucea, Jamaica. Upon arriving in Montego Bay we discovered one of our friends left her wallet at home. Luckily she had her passport, but she did not have money or a secondary form of identification. Thanks to technology, she was able to electronically transfer money to us and we took it out of an ATM for her. So we solved the money issue, and we felt like her not having a secondary form of identification would be okay since she had her passport.
After clearing customs, we boarded the bus that was taking us to our resort. Once we got to the resort we had to use our passports to check-in. Unfortunately, my friend without any other form of identification could not find hers. The hotel stay was nice enough to let us all check-in anyways. When we got to our rooms it was all hands on deck to help her find her passport. Without a secondary ID it would have been much more challenging to get her to the US embassy and back to the United States after our trip. Luckily after about 45 minutes of searching, she found her passport in a small pocket in one of her bags. The rest of the trip went well; however, we always call ahead of the trip to ensure everyone has packed critical items like passport, chargers, ID, money, etc.
I like traveling with friends… with whom I’m compatible. However, there have been a couple occasions I traveled with people who were great friends and great people in my home city, but we were so different when on the road. I tend to be an active traveler – I like to get up fairly early and do lots of stuff. I love the countryside and don’t care for cities, museums, shopping, or fancy restaurants. I’m also independent, so I’m happy to venture out on my own if there’s something my friend doesn’t want to do. On one occasion, I traveled with a friend not realizing her daily routine involved sleeping in late, taking a long shower, doing her hair and make-up, then a long sit down breakfast. We were lucky if we were ready to go by 1 in the afternoon!
Another time I traveled with a different friend on a 2-week guided tour, thinking that since the tour was so busy, we wouldn’t fight over what to do. That friend absolutely hated the tour… didn’t feel like she was seeing the real country, was exhausted all the time… and made my trip absolutely miserable. On both of these occasions, I suggested separating for a day so we could both do what we preferred, but both times was shamed that I was being such a bad friend for even suggesting it. As a result, I decided (1) life is too short to travel with people who ruin your trip and (2) friends are hard to come by and I don’t want to lose any just because we don’t travel together well. As a result, I created a travel compatibility quiz. I’ve found some really good and compatible travel partners since.
Thinking of travelling with friends? My advice is this: avoid the number three. It is not the magic number. In fact, quite the opposite. Even trios that work well at home seem to unravel on the road. There are so many decisions to be made whilst travelling that the 2-against-1 dynamic is inevitable.
One memorable summer I managed to fall out with four friends on two different trips.
A month in Thailand with two friends ended in stony silence after four weeks of budget disagreements and a screaming row at the full moon party (I’ll spare you the story about the toilet paper…). On this occasion, I was the third wheel and often ended up spending beyond what was comfortable in order to keep the harmony.
Several weeks later, I flew out to France to join a road trip with my two oldest friends. Surely this would be a peaceful and uneventful trip, right? After all, we’d known each other since we were knee height and none of us is prone to drama. Wrong! By the time I arrived, these two friends were no longer talking to each other.
It turned out their travel styles were very different. One liked early nights and solid plans, the other preferred spontaneous fun. I’m in the freestyle camp, and so naturally the early-nighter felt left out and miserable. She ended up leaving early – the car breaking down was the final straw for her.
Thankfully my friendships recovered with time and space, but I have travelled solo or in large groups ever since!
See more from Steph:
Side note from blog owner Dani – I’ve been on both sides of this and have been lucky enough to find a solid trio with my friends who regularly travel together now. It’s rare, but it can happen!
Traveling with friends – Are you ready?
Throughout my travels around the world, I’ve learned a lot about the friends I’ve traveled with – and I’ve even lost some because of it. But it’s also brought me closer to the ones I love, and I wouldn’t change that for a moment. For example, I’ve learned who is the pickiest eater, who is terrible with directions, and who is the most spontaneous. Planning a trip with friends isn’t always easy, but it’s always an incredible experience. Hopefully this advice for traveling with friends will help you to make the most of your next trip!