How to Choose Travel Companions
Opinion,  Travel Planning,  Travel Tips

How To Choose Travel Companions 

Other people, even those that you love, can make difficult travel companions. Have you ever taken an excursion with a bestie, only to find that you can barely stand them by the end of the trip? We have all been there. Sometimes, even the people closest to us are hard to live with. Take residing with someone new, and then throw in a foreign language, a broken air conditioner, a delayed flight, and long touring days. It can be a recipe for disaster! While travel is extremely fun, you are in an  unfamiliar environment, that inevitably presents external stresses. Combine these factors with cohabitation and interesting dynamics can unfold. Here are tips on how to choose travel companions, so that not only does everyone enjoy their travel, but you all return as good of friends (or even better) than when you departed.

Steps on How To Choose Travel Companions

Keep in mind that all places are unique and that each friend, couple or family member is not necessarily the right travel companion for every destination. Consider these key factors on how to choose travel companions:

  • Destination
  • Climate
  • Total Trip Length
  • Distance to Destination
  • Budget
  • Your Reason for a Companion
  • Personality
  • Ability
  • Type/Theme of Trip; fast-paced, leisure, art museums, beaches, hiking, sight seeing, foodie, etc.
  • Activities

Step 1: How To Choose Travel Companions – Choose a Destination

  • So, Step 1 is to figure out where you want to go. This may rule out many people, right from the start. You already know that some people cannot afford, or do not have time to travel far. Or that some possible companions do not like to fly. Consider climate and friends who hate the cold, for example.
  • Right when you think of a destination, you can probably immediately think of someone you’d like to go there with. Your mind immediately connects that person to a journey. Your gut instinct is often right. Because you can just picture in your head the fun scenarios and how it will all play out.
  • Of course travel is unpredictable and you never really know how it will end up; that is the fun of it. This said, it is especially important to choose companions that can roll with the punches to some extent. And it can be nice to be with people you feel competent to make decisions if something does go awry. And on that note, are you looking for a friend who will help plan the trip and make suggestions or someone who is just willing to be along for the ride.
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Step 2: Consider the Budget

Unless you are open to paying for the person that you ask to join you, do not invite someone on travel that they clearly cannot afford. What I mean by this, is that if you want to go with your bestie to Thailand, but planning on staying at five star luxury resorts the entire time, when you know that your friend generally stays in hostels, you may be setting yourself up to fail.

Even though you may get along with someone perfectly, money can cause issues. Even if you both agree on hotels to split the cost, will it be a problem every time you want to take a premium tour, a first class train versus coach, or sit down in a high end restaurant? Be realistic on your budget and the person you are asking to join you and be sure that it will not be the root of issues.

Step 3: What Do You Want from Your Travel Companions?

Overall, choose people that you generally get along with and feel relaxed hanging out with. If you cannot get along with someone at home, or if they annoy you regularly, these negative qualities will likely be amplified while traveling.

Which of the following scenarios best applies?

  • Friend, couple, or family for company. A friend who will regularly be there with whom to talk, to dine, and to essentially spend all of your time. This person wants to do everything you do, without any true independent time.
  • A companion who will meet up for most dinners and partake in some activities with you, but is also comfortable doing things separately, without issue.
  • People that make you feel more situationally safe. Examples are walking at night, sleeping in remote locations, taking ride shares, or traveling as a woman in a male dominated locale. Maybe you don’t care to spend every waking minute with them, or perhaps you do.
  • Someone with expertise, for example, someone who speaks the language of the destination. Or a friend who is as good of a hiker as you are. When in the forest, two heads are better than one. Or an excellent skier, someone who can keep up and you can watch out for each other. Perhaps you are looking to travel with a person more experienced than yourself that can show you the ropes.
  • Maybe you just want someone to split expenses with and you don’t really care if you spend time with them. It could even be a stranger.

Know why you are inviting a specific person to join you. Be clear, in your own head, on what you want from that person. This is an important step on how to choose travel companions.

Step 4: Consider the Travel Companion

  • Think about abilities. Someone with a back problem, for example, may not be the best ask on a trip that involves a great deal of hiking on uneven surfaces to reach most attractions. 
  • Consider people’s personalities. I don’t necessarily mean their interests, but more their temperament. I have a friend who cannot stand being hot. When she gets even a little warm, the complaining begins, and goes on and on. I love her, but I would not want to be in Egypt in summer with her. 
  • Also, does this person get cranky when tired or when things do not go smoothly?
  • Does the person have many fears that prohibit them from enjoying or participating? And will this hold you back?
  • Is the person generally positive and fun to be around?
  • Peoples’ personalities and habits generally do not change. Therefore if you find someone annoying at home, remember that you may need to be with this person in tight quarters while traveling.
  • Think about the situations that you could/will be in and who would best enjoy them.

Step 5: What is the Theme/Type of Travel and What Activities are Planned?

You may have friends that you absolutely love chilling on the beach with and having drinks, but they may not be the perfect match for a week long in depth art history tour of the Italian Renaissance. So you need to think about the intention or theme of your travel.

  • Is this primarily a beach vacation or an all inclusive?
  • Is this an outdoor camping type trip?
  • Does this travel focus on a particular interest heavily such as art and history or skiing?
  • Is this a wine or food tour?
  • Consider your friend’s interests and think about whether the itinerary is something that would actually be appealing to them.
  • On the flip side, a person who is really into hiking and nature, but not very social may be the wrong invite for your bar hopping tour of Dublin.

Try to choose travel buddies that either have a particular interest in the place you are going, or in the activities you plan on doing. If someone you invite has little interest in the activities offered, this could be a difficult match no matter how well you travel with the person.

JENNY’S TIP: When possible, choose travel companions that you feel contribute something special or unique to the experience, like interesting conversation, someone with a great deal of historic knowledge, or a person that excels at an activity such as hiking or skiing.

How To Get Along With Your Travel Companions 

Of course you can incorporate all the steps above, and preparation, and still run into issues with your travel partners. However, there are things you can do in the planning process, once you have decided on a travel companion to invite, to reduce the chances of issues during travel.

Considerations Before You Travel 

  • Set boundaries ahead of time – You can say things like, “I like to be asleep by 9PM” or “Each day I start my day with a 30 minute silent meditation. Comments like these help others to understand what it will be like if they accept your offer. Of course flexibility is key, but it still more or less demonstrates the picture.
  • Be clear on expectations of the trip itself – You could offer, “I foresee us being primarily outdoors and it is going to be hot and muggy, but very serene and beautiful.” Or for example, “Most of the hotels are high end on this trip and will come in around $400 per person per night. Will this budget be okay for you?” This discloses price range and indicates that you expect your friend to be able to pay their way.
  • Be clear on expectations of your travel companions and ask them to do the same – In addition to budget or style of trip, let them know what you expect in terms of time spent together, versus apart. Be specific with them on why you chose them as a travel buddy and how you envision it. If you are going to want to go off on your own some days, be sure they understand and are comfortable with that.
  • Plan well in order to avoid any unnecessary trip delays or catastrophes – Travel planning always helps to avoid unnecessary stresses and disappointments which keeps everyone less frustrated, more calm, and jovial..
  • Choose the right people for the right travel – for example if your friend hates the heat, don’t invite them on a beach vacation at the height of summer. Set yourself and them up to win.
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Daily Maintenance During Travel to Keep Things Comfortable 

  • Check in each evening with your companions to see if they enjoyed the day.
  • Ask if they encountered any issues, if anything is bothering them, if there are any changes they’d like to make.
  • Create an open space to discuss the day at an appropriate time after your day. That way, you start each day fresh and clear and no issues unexpectedly explode into your fun.

What Can You Do to Defuse a Situation? 

If someone is unhappy or annoying, take immediate steps to rectify the situation and salvage your travel. Be flexible to changes that could result in positive outcomes. It may not end up exactly the way you planned, but everyone deserves to be happy (including you).

Hopefully your travel companion has basic manners, hygiene, and recognizes social cues, but sometimes gently pointing these things out, helps to diffuse potential problems. For example, if you need a few moments to enjoy a book, and your friend is just rambling on incessantly, you could say nicely, “Hey, this is a very interesting conversation that deserves my full attention. However, I just need a few moments to finish my chapter; I’m a bit drained of energy. Would you mind if we continue this chat a bit later?” Or, “I have been doing all the dirty dishes before bed each night as I’m terrified of ants. Would you mind helping me out with that?”

Don’t let any annoyances or negative energy play out. Nip them in the bud right away, clear the air, and offer a resolution. As an experienced traveler, this could look many ways. Possibilities may include: changing hotels, getting a separate room, altering your activities, wearing a sweatshirt so your friend can turn the AC down, separating for a day or more, doing more together, etc. Obviously the resolution is situation dependent.

Conclusion of How to Choose Travel Companions

These tips on how to choose travel companions apply to many situations, from 2 couples going on a weekend getaway and sharing a 2 bedroom condo, to a friend that you are exploring a foreign country with, to a family or group ski trip.

Always try to select travel partners based on mutual expectations and a clear understanding. Choose someone that you know you get along with, that you know fairly well, and that you enjoy spending time with. If you are just desperate for a roommate, just be very direct so that everything is upfront. If you find yourself with a friend, group, or a couple that are not pleasing to travel with, still look for solutions so that everyone can make the absolute most of their trip. There is no point in ruining perfectly good travel over a mismatch. Create memories, maintain your friendship, but if it is not a perfect fit, perhaps do not try to travel with that person or group again.

See Also Jenny in Wanderland Blog Post, How to Use AI to Plan a Trip

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