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6 Tips for Traveling With Friends or Couples — and Why You Should

Have the tough conversations before you book the trip

Vacations are meant to be an escape from your everyday stressors. Traveling with people outside your family may seem like an easy way to up the fun-factor. Since you get along with your friends when you’re at dinner, you might think they would be fun travel companions. But dinner is only for a few hours, not an entire week. These tips will help ensure that your vacation is an entertaining experience for everyone.

Get on the same vacation page

Everyone’s definition of a vacation may be different, so it’s important to discuss how each person defines a vacation. “What’s the goal of the trip?” asks Avigail Lev, a clinical psychologist in California.

You also can ask your travel buddies other questions, like:

  • Do you want to relax?
  • Do you want to sightsee?
  • Do you want to meet new people?
  • What does a vacation mean to you?

While you are talking about your vacation goals, you should discuss budget and possible destinations along with types of accommodations. “You need to think through the kind of trip you want to take and make sure that everybody’s comfortable with that,” says Irene S. Levine, a travel friendship expert and clinical psychologist in New York.

Figure out your travel personalities

People have different travel personalities that might not mesh well in close quarters. “If you have a person who’s spontaneous with a person who needs to have everything planned out, then that’s very hard to negotiate,” says Lev. If that’s the case, you might want to reconsider traveling together. If you still want to go on vacation together, have a conversation about these differences ahead of time and figure out how you can compromise.

Darley Newman, age 44, the host and executive producer of Travels With Darley, suggests having everyone in the group take a travel quiz before their trip. You can search online for “travel personality quizzes” that can help you figure out what your “travel traits” are and how you tend to interact with other people. After you and your travel companions all take the quiz, share your results. This will help generate discussions about possible issues so you can resolve them before your trip. A quiz can cover areas such as energy level, cultural exploration and structure (planning and organization preferences).

Confer about alcohol and gambling

If your friends normally don’t engage in drinking, drugs or gambling, you might wrongly assume that they won’t on vacation either. Sometimes people view a vacation as a time to let loose, which may involve partaking in heavy drinking, drug use or gambling.

“We’ve been around people where vacations were an excuse to drink,” says Tami Zak, 54, a marriage and family therapist in Tucson, Arizona. They also might expect you to party with them. It’s important to have a conversation about their plans during vacation related to alcohol, drug use and gambling before you travel.

Appoint a group leader

Usually there is someone in the group who considers themselves a planner. It’s helpful to have one person who is the group leader. This go-to person is usually the one who communicates with the travel agent and the group about important issues. For example, Jacquie Whitt, 67, cofounder of Adios Adventure Travel in Virginia Beach, Virginia, says that she tells the group leader to ask every single person in the group to double-check their passport expiration.

Avoid being hangry

When you travel you might forget to eat or be so busy touring you don’t have time to eat, but it’s important to plan meal breaks into your vacation. “It sounds so basic, but it’s a huge thing when people get hangry,” says Newman. “Hangry” is when you become irritable or angry from not eating. “I’ve been on trips when people get hangry and then they get upset and it’s a downward spiral,” says Newman. If you become hangry, you won’t enjoy your vacation and you’ll bring the mood down for the rest of your travel companions. It’s also important to stay hydrated, so bring your water bottle.

Schedule daily check-ins

During your vacation it’s helpful to schedule a daily meeting with the group at breakfast or dinner. “Have a little bit of a moment for a check-in,” says Zak. During this time, you can make sure that everyone is feeling included and participating in the activities they want to do. You also could discuss plans for the following day or any possible changes.

Zak offers an example of how one person might feel tired and not be able to go on a planned tour. “Be open to things changing,” she says. Newman also stresses the importance of being flexible during check-ins and when traveling. “Travel is all about rolling with it and just being ready for situations that come up and things you didn’t expect,” she says.

Benefits to traveling with friends or couples

Besides fun, there are some benefits to traveling with those outside your immediate family.

Sharing the cost

If you are traveling with your family (kids and partner), typically you are paying for everyone in your family, which can be expensive. But if you are traveling with friends, you are paying for yourself and maybe your spouse. Renting a house with your friends might be less expensive than booking a hotel room.

Less responsibility

When you travel with your kids (even if they are grown) or if you travel with your parents, then you are going to feel some sense of responsibility for their safety and well-being. But when you travel with your friends, there isn’t that same caretaking role you have with your children or your parents. “You’re not trying to be an example,” says Zak. “When you’re with your peers, you’re all doing your own thing and can be fairly independent.”

Bonding

When you travel with friends who are around the same age, you all share similar lived experiences. “These are people that you have common interests with,” says Zak. Newman explains that traveling with friends also helps you learn about them in a new way. “You’re going to create awesome memories. And then it’s fun when you’re back at home [because] you can meet up with them and talk about it.”

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