What makes a good travel buddy?
9 tips to safeguard your trip & friendships
Learning how to choose or be a travel companion can make a good trip great. Checking expectations along with your luggage is a nice concept but not a tactic likely to last the trip. Our default personalities and habits will eventually surface.
You want to return from the trip with souvenirs, not resentment. To this end, I asked Facebook friends to share thoughts on what makes a good travel buddy, and then I mixed those responses in with my nine tips on travel companions.
Keep calm & plan
Chances are, one of you on this trip is a planner. For Type A’s, don’t bother to renounce planning in favor of going with the flow. I tried. No one was the better for it. But, what you can do is include your travel companion by talking over potential issues, including these:
Are you a morning person? How many hours of sleep do you require? What time do you go to bed? How do you go to sleep (light, TV, etc)? Even if you aren’t sharing rooms, these questions matter in terms of your trip schedule. Why schedule the sunrise stroll at the botanical garden if no one wants to get up for it? I find it difficult to fall to sleep without reading and/or having the TV for background noise. E-devices and earbuds have made it much easier on my travel buddies.
Consider the purpose of the trip — make sure it’s clear. Are you a sightseer, adventurer or pool lounger? Is the purpose to relax and clear your mind or is the purpose to explore, see the sights, and go on adventures? Maybe it’s a mix. Remember, you don’t have to be joined at the hip at all times. I’ll never enjoy a museum to the same exhausting level as my son, who can spend hours in just one wing of an art museum! Give yourselves a break from one another and schedule independent activities.
Money. Do you share a common view on expenses? Although potentially awkward, talking about money before travel makes sense. Discuss everything from how much cash to carry to average daily spending expectations. If you are a budget traveler, don’t expect a luxury travel companion to sacrifice for your sake. Vice versa. All-inclusive vacations and cruises can eliminate this concern.
Packing. Pack appropriately — don’t borrow. If you need something, purchase it when you arrive. Another note on luggage: If you pack it, you haul it. Your buddies are not your porters. Exceptions can be made, as in intergenerational travel. I’ve played the role of porter on many a trip and didn’t mind at all. But I knew in advance my services would be needed.
Navigation. Not only am I often a porter, but I’m also a navigator. If I could, I’d fly the planes too. No control issues here. Even so, my three best travel buddies couldn’t be happier with me as captain. I usually drive and leave other things up to them. We stick to roles and responsibilities that we like best. One of my friends just flew for the first time — all the way to Denmark. But her travel buddy was an experienced traveler who was willing to help with airport do’s and don’ts.
During the trip
Speak the universal language. When things go awry — with travel, always — you want someone who not only rolls with the punches but also keeps a good sense of humor. If flights are delayed or autos break down, you want to help each other laugh it off, not escalate a stressful scene. Case in point, my Aruba horror show in which I somehow got an infection in my face! Not only did my travel companions have to leave me behind on several activities (which is why “independence” is a good quality), they also had to be seen with me. It was not pretty. People stared. My buddies kept me distracted and used humor to alleviate an already painful situation.
Don’t go full on GAGA. Go Along to Get Along. You may think everything is hunky-dory only to find out that your companion doesn’t. Unvented anger is likely to erupt during the trip completely out of proportion to the situation at hand. Resolve to talk through issues as they arise. Friendly, direct communication will help keep relations on an even keel. Just remember to be receptive if you are on the receiving end.
Avoid shutterbug shenanigans. I love to see friends’ travel photos on my social media feed. But I’m not a shutterbug. I take photos because it’s the thing to do. However, if there’s a horse around, chances are I’ll get the pic. It’s my squirrel moment. A horse will divert me from just about anything. In general, I’m thrilled when others are taking the photos, but I understand that excessive photography can get annoying. Just be mindful of personal boundaries, and don’t let the shutterbug follies delay sightseeing.
Chart a course for growth. Embrace travel, with all of its joys and challenges, as an opportunity to learn. Set your mind to look at the world in a playful, curious and respectful way. You should inspire one another to enjoy the little things but also encourage each other to venture outside a comfort zone.
For more tips, enjoy the collection of comments below from some Facebook friends:
“A good travel buddy shares your enthusiasm for discovery, while allowing you to see new things and places through a second set of eyes.” ~ Bruce
“You and your travel buddy should always check greeting customs. Some things we do here are considered very inappropriate in other countries.” ~ Susie
“Willing to share trip without limiting each other’s individuality.” ~ Randa
“Sharing the scenery with each other. And just being able to enjoy being away and seeing things and enjoying things that you might not have seen before.” ~ Carol
“Go with the flow. Enjoy and explore … we will not pass this way again.” ~ LeeAnn
“Someone you trust and enjoy their company but doesn’t have to do everthing together. AND if you don’t know the flying ropes of getting through airports, travel with someone who does!” ~ LuAnn
“Someone who goes with the flow of the adventure. Something will inevitably go wrong, and a good travel buddy will shrug along with you and make the best of it!” ~ Jaime
” I think one person has to be more flexible!” ~ Andrea
“I traveled to Jamaica with people I barely knew. It is a bonding experience. Even if you don’t have much in common, you have the trip/place itself to talk about and learn about.” ~ Teresa