As much as I admire those who feel the urge to travel solo and love to read about their adventures, it’s not something that I have spent that much time doing. In fact, the only time I’ve not had a good friend alongside me as a travelling partner in crime was during one of my first trips to Bali, way back when in the distant past, where I basically hung out on Kuta Beach for a few weeks and went for dinner at the night market with some of the local guys I befriended. Technically, I still didn’t feel totally on my own.
I’ve always enjoyed having someone around to share my experiences with – whether it’s kicking back at golden hour with a few cocktails on the beach or muddling our way across borders trying to get the cheapest route possible without getting scammed. But being around someone 24/7 on the trip of a lifetime has the ability to test anyone’s friendship. Add more than one friend into the mix and things can get even more crazy.
So, here’s what usually works for me – a few tips on how to travel with friends that might prevent you rolling them up in a carpet and dumping them in the nearest river during your trip.
And if you master it, travelling or holidaying together can be an amazing experience that you’ll all remember forever. Here’s a short clip of our time in Spain where our group of friends bonded over lazy pool days, beach time and an emotional birthday dinner…
How to travel with friends
Talk about what you want to do beforehand
If one of your group wants to party ’til they puke, another wants to bake on the beach and another is into their cultural experiences, you’re going to have a problem if you don’t lay some ground work. Obviously you want to leave room for spontaneity but making a wish-list before you set off about sights you really want to see and activities you really want to do will prevent people getting resentful because they feel their voice hasn’t been heard.
Plan in group time…
Our villa holiday on the Costa Blanca this summer was with quite a large group and when there are so many of you, it’s surprising how out of whack your schedules can become. For example, some people were enjoying their morning mimosas by the pool and then would retire for an afternoon siesta whilst others might sleep in and then be looking to get out and about for lunch. Arrange a few group dinners/activities in advance so that people are on the same page and you get some quality group time in.
…But don’t be afraid to split up
In a group of any size, you don’t have to stick together 24/7. Splitting up into smaller groups or heading off to do your own thing will keep you all feeling balanced, relieve any claustrophobia and make for some interesting conversation when you compare notes at dinner.
Everyone has their little quirks and nobody’s perfect. Some people are morning krakens until they’ve had their first cup of coffee, others get in a mood if they’re too hot, and others are finicky eaters. So, try to be understanding, even if you are getting a little exasperated when you’re trooping around trying to find a backpacker room that meets your friend’s exacting standards under the heat of the midday sun. Going with the flow will make your experience so much smoother, but a little gentle tact if things are going too far (i.e. night is falling and you need somewhere to rest your heads) will go a long way.
Making sure you’re on the same page when it comes to cold hard cash might seem like a pretty dry topic but its definitely worth checking your thinking along similar lines. If one of you has the budget for a 3 star hotel with air-con on your travels whilst another was thinking hostel dorm rooms there’s going to be a disconnect. Same goes when it comes to places to eat or activities. One area this always comes to the fore is splitting the bill at dinner – particularly if you’ve carefully picked a reasonable dish only to watch another friend order a starter and steak every night. Agree on how you’re going to pay your way beforehand to avoid any resentment or awkward moments and help you to all plan accordingly.
Make sure everyone has enough space
Don’t just throw a whole bunch of you into one communal room to save costs unless you are damn sure you’re all going to get along. Putting a bit of forethought into rooms and bathroom arrangements so that you have space to get ready, take a breather or just get away from the group on occasion gives everyone time to unwind and recharge their social batteries.
Save the best ’til last – communication is the one big thing that matters when it comes to travelling with friends. If you’re feeling in a mood for no reason, just explain that so people aren’t left wondering if it’s something they’ve done or struggling to cheer you up. If something has annoyed you, take that person to one side and talk to them – odds are they didn’t even realise they’d made you feel that way. But make sure you listen too. Just talking about things and leaving your ego at the door is so important in any friendship – if you don’t feel you can be frank and are getting honest responses in return, they’re going to piss you off in general, let alone in an intense, travelling situation where everything seems magnified.
My Jerry Springer final thought is that although bickering is likely to happen on holiday, as long as you talk about things and draw a line under issues before they become recurring problems, you shouldn’t worry about it too much. As Jezza himself would say – the best way to travel with friends is to make sure that you take care of yourselves. And each other.