Planning on travelling with friends in the near future? Choosing friends to travel with can be trickier than you think, so here are some tips on how to travel with friends (and stay friends afterwards!).
Here’s a hot take: Not all friendships can withstand travelling together.
Best friends forever (BFFs) and best travel friends forever (BTFFs) are not the same thing. Sometimes you’ll find an absolute gem of a human who you can spend 24/7 with both in daily life and while on the road, but in my experience, this is pretty rare (and needs to be cherished if you’re lucky enough to find one!).
It’s not uncommon to have friends who you love to bits when hanging out after work or on the weekends, but who miiiiight not be so chill to be around when feeling the financial, logistical and emotional pressure of travel. And the opposite might not be true too, maybe you’ve got friends who you wouldn’t often see when at home but who are brilliant to be with when exploring a new and exciting destination.
Travel compatibility (or incompatibility) definitely doesn’t need to make or break a friendship, but if you do try to travel with a good friend without taking these tips into account, you run the risk of falling out while on the trip and having it affect your friendship in the long run.
If you choose your travel buddy wisely, you’ll have the best chance of having an epic trip and strengthening your friendship while you’re at it.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have travelled internationally with more than 25 different friends, so I’m somewhat of an expert in choosing great travel buddies and have plenty of tips to share to show you how to travel with friends. My own BTFF and I have even been to 19 countries together, and I’m writing this blog post from her room in Vancouver where I’ve been staying this month!
So to avoid any awkward moments and difficult situations while travelling with friends, here are some things you should take into account to help you find your very own best travel friend forever.
Choosing a friend to travel with
What type of trip are we talking about?
Your capacity to travel with friends will totally depend on the type of trip you’re planning. One week at an all-inclusive resort could be a very different experience to a month-long adventure road tripping through New Zealand in a campervan!
Different friendships thrive in different situations, and it’s important to choose the right friend for the right type of trip, or vice versa.
For a vacation or holiday rather than an intrepid journey, you can probably have a good time with any friend you enjoy chilling out with for extended periods of time at home, provided you’re both on the same page about the destination and travel style.
On the other hand, for any sort of intense adventure, backpacking trip, active journey or long-term travel, you’ll need to choose very wisely to make sure you and your travel buddy will be a dream duo for this type of travel.
Do a trial trip first
If there’s a friend who wants to travel with you (or who you want to travel with) but you’re not sure how well you’ll travel together, consider planning a low maintenance getaway first to test the waters before diving into an extended trip as travel buddies.
A long weekend away at a nice hotel is a good start, this way you’ll get an insight into their travel style and any potential issues before signing up to anything too intense or costly.
If it goes well then great, you might have found your next BTFF! And if it’s not so great then at least you know early on and know that a bigger trip probably isn’t in the works for you two down the line.
How do you both deal with pressure?
Understanding how the other person acts when under pressure is key when travelling with friends, because travel almost always comes with at least a few issues!
Whether it’s tight budgets, logistical nightmares, lack of sleep, homesickness or a dangerous mix of the above, travel (especially longer trips) can be pretty damn stressful and can sometimes, unfortunately, bring out the worst in people. It’s best to understand your travel buddy’s coping mechanisms before you go, so you a) know what to expect and b) know how to handle them, and it’s important that they understand how you deal with pressure too.
For example, if someone gets quiet and totally shuts down when they’re stressed, being aware of this before it happens could be what saves your friendship because you’ll be able to recognise it when it’s happening. This gives you the chance to talk about it openly when the signs first start to show, which is much better than wondering if you’ve done something wrong that’s resulted in you getting the silent treatment.
And if you know that your potential travel buddy has anger issues and snaps big time when things go wrong, perhaps they aren’t someone you want to travel with anyway. Just saying!
Communication is key
That brings me to a really important part of travelling with friends: communication is everything.
The worst friendship issues generally happen when there’s a lack of communication, and travelling with friends is no different. If you and your travel friend can communicate honestly and openly while planning the trip as well as if any issues arise while you’re on the road, you’re much more likely to have a positive travel experience.
Get on the same page
Even if your communication is on point, nothing is going to save you if one person wants a splurge-worthy fancy vacation and the other wants a low key, cheap and cheerful getaway. When you’re travelling with a friend you’ve got to be on the same page about what you want from this particularly trip!
Ideally you’ll both want a lot of the same things but in some situations you might need to compromise, and you need to make sure you’re truly okay with the compromise and won’t hold a grudge.
Some things that you need to agree on are:
- What budget you’re happy to stick to
- Who is planning what parts of the trip (you don’t want to double up or accidentally miss something)
- Do either of you have non-negotiable must-dos during the trip
- Who is driving if you’re getting a car (or will you split this)
- Who is able to put deposits down on their credit card (or will you split this too)
Once you have those things figured out, you’re well on your way to becoming best travel friends forever.
Are you compatible?
As well as being on the same page with travel preferences, there are some general habits and routines that you need to be aware of too. These aren’t the be all and end all of choosing a travel partner, but they’re certainly helpful to know about in advance.
Travel compatibility includes things like:
- What time do you like to go to sleep and wake up? Are you a morning person or a night owl?
- Can you handle little sleep and still function, or do you require a full eight hours and three coffees before you can think straight?
- Are you a light sleeper, and if so, is sharing a bed or a room with a friend going to be tricky? Bring an eye mask and ear plugs if this is the case so your friend doesn’t have to be so worried about waking you up
- Do you have any dietary requirements and preferences that might impact the trip? I am yet to find a dream travel duo where one is a vegan and the other is a heavy meat-eater haha
- What level of activity do you aim for while travelling? Do you love hitting 30,000 steps on your Apple Watch or are you more of an Uber/public transport kind of person to conserve your energy?
- Do you enjoy a drink or two, are you a teetotaler or do you go all out on the cocktails every night?
- Do you or your travel buddy have any work to do on this trip and if so will it affect your itinerary in any way?
- Where does your comfort zone end, and are you willing to get outside of it?
Respect and honour your differences
As I said, don’t freak out if you and your potential travel friend aren’t aligned with every single one of these, because there are ways around them if you’re respectful and able to compromise. My BTFF Bex and I are on the opposite ends of the spectrum on a few of the things I just mentioned, but we absolutely make it work.
I’m a real night owl, I work a lotttt while we’re travelling and I LOVE food, gimme pizza, pasta and sweet treats all day everyday. Bex on the other hand prefers to both sleep and wake a few hours before me, she loves getting off the grid into the mountains and her diet is significantly healthier than mine.
But because we’re fully aware of the other’s preferences and needs, we know how to build out our trips to ensure both of us are getting what we want out of our travel experience. Sometimes that means Bex going on a solo hike while I make the most of free WiFi at a visitor centre or sometimes she might choose an early low key night at the hotel while I’ll take myself out for a fancy dinner. We also know that early mornings are her time to make executive decisions but after 9pm all important decision-making is up to me!
Most compatibility issues can actually be fixed by just respecting the fact that you are both different travellers, and allowing the other person to get the sleep/activity/rest/food that they need in order to be their best self.
Choose your group wisely
Travelling with friends in a group brings a whole new layer of compatibility issues, like sleeping arrangements, multiple interpersonal relationships to navigate and many, many more preferences and requirements to take into account.
Once again you’ll need to look at the type of trip, ensure your communication is on point and have some serious discussions to ensure everyone is on the same page and respects everyone else’s needs.
But here are a few specific tips on how to travel with friends in a group situation:
- Keep the trip as simple as possible, especially for a big group. No one wants to be organising a two month campervan road trip to six different countries with eight couples!
- Designate specific roles within the group, having one booker, one direction-giver, one restaurant researcher etc. will save time and stress
- Do not travel with anyone who you already have issues with, it’s extremely likely that the pressures of travel will cause existing problems to boil over and you might end up doing or saying something you regret
- If you foresee problems stemming from different group members
- And most of all, just relax! Trips with big groups of friends are inherently stressful because there’s so many personalities involved in high pressure situations, so if you’re able to just go with the flow, you’re far more likely to enjoy yourself.
How to travel with friends (and stay friends!)
Alright, so you’ve used my tips above to find your best travel friend, and now it’s crunch time…
Here are some top tips on how to travel with friends without ruining your relationship.
Give each other space
Travelling with someone doesn’t mean needing to be with them 24/7, in fact it’s probably healthier for both of you and your relationship to enjoy some solo time while you’re on the road.
You could go for a walk by yourself, take yourself out for a meal or even just pop your headphones on and watch a movie, just removing the need to be constantly switched on or in ‘entertainment’ mode can do wonders for your energy levels.
Make it clear to your travel buddy that there’s nothing wrong* and that you just need a bit of quiet time to decompress. Just be safe when you’re out on your own, as always.
Communicate without judgement
*Unless, of course, there is something wrong… In which case you’ve got to talk about it!
If there’s something that’s really bugging you while travelling with a friend then it’s best to deal with it as soon as it crops up. This will stop it from snowballing into a major issue which can cause a mega blow up and ruin your trip.
If it’s little things and you’re just being easily irritable due to tiredness, perhaps it’s a matter of having a good chat with yourself to increase your tolerance for the sake of your friendship. But if it’s something major that is really impacting your enjoyment of the trip, like constantly going over budget or feeling too rushed to enjoy yourself, then bring it up with your friend casually over dinner and try figure it out together.
Pre-empt any issues
Travel is often a high stress situation, and high stress situations tend to exaggerate all your emotions, which means that if your friend does anything that bothers you in normal life, I guarantee it will annoy you more while on the road.
Get ahead of this by either nipping it in the bud right at the beginning, or by giving yourself ways to avoid the annoyance in the first place.
For example, if you’re travelling with a friend who seems to take multiple long phone calls each day to check in with their partner back home, you could use this time to catch up on a podcast or watch an episode of your current series. Or if your travel buddy is terrible at making decisions, either make decisions yourself or give them only two options to choose from, rather than letting them mull it over for hours on end as you get more and more annoyed.
Take good photos of each other
This one probably seems stupid but I promise you it will have an impact on your friendship, because if you both come home from holiday and one of you has amazing Instagrammable photos of yourself and the other has terrible angles, landmarks chopped off halfway and wonky horizons, someone is going to be pissed.
No need to spend hours on YouTube learning camera settings, but here are a few super easy travel photography tips to get the best shots while travelling with friends:
- Make sure the horizon is straight
- Get their full body in unless they’ve asked for a close up
- NEVER zoom, if you need to get closer then move closer physically, because zooming in on phones generally decreases image quality
- Tap on the person’s face to focus before shooting
- Always take a couple of shots rather than just one, and take some in portrait orientation as well as some in landscape orientation
- Make sure the background is what they want, e.g. if they’re standing in the Redwoods Forest aim to get the whole trees in, or if they’re in front of a landmark you’ll want to get the whole landmark from top to bottom rather than cutting it off halfway
- If in doubt, ask them to take a photo of you in the way they want the shot, then you can just copy it exactly!
Solve problems together
If things go wrong, and they probably will, remember that the two of you are in this together and you need to work together to find a solution. This is the beauty of travelling with friends rather than solo travel, a problem shared is a problem halved!
If a flight’s been cancelled then one person can follow up with the airline while the other can check insurance details and look for alternatives. If one of you is sick, the other can do a medicine run. If someone loses something or your bag gets stolen, having another person there can do wonders for stress relief and help you think straight, or they can just think straight for you instead!
Some of the best travel stories actually come from things going wrong, because you can laugh about it later. Some of my hilarious misadventures while travelling with friends are:
- Being locked out of our Airbnb in the literal Arctic Circle when it was -10°C because my friend lost our Airbnb key on a snowmobiling day trip across the border in Sweden
- Having three campervan issues within three months while road tripping New Zealand, with one hit-and-run crash the day we picked it up (not our fault), one skylight smashed (my fault), and one diesel top up of a petrol van (not my fault)
- Getting to our rental car pick up after hours with the wrong access code and having to sit on the ground for three hours to wait for someone to get back to us while grown men in a pink VW Beetle convertible kept driving past us asking if we wanted a ride 😂
Use Splitwise for money stuff
From a logistical perspective, Splitwise is an absolute game changer for when you’re travelling with friends. It’s a free app where you can put in purchases and split them with friends, with loads of helpful functions like being able to add a photo of a receipt, splitting the bill by specific amount or by percentage, and being able to settle the bill easily and quickly at the end of a trip.
If you have even the slightest inkling that either of you are precious about money (no judgement here, I am too!) then Splitwise is the way to go, because “oh it’s fine, I’ll get this one and you get the next one” can get reeeally messy when you’re on a trip for more than a couple of days.
And there you have it, some top tips on how to travel with friends and stay friends at the end! Hopefully this post has helped you figure out how to find your best travel friend forever as well as how to keep the peace when travelling with friends.