Traveling with your best friend can be the most fun thing you’ll ever do, or it can be incredibly frustrating- usually, it’s both. It’s kind of like what they say about living with a friend: it’ll make or break the relationship. I’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with a BFF who is also a perfect travel companion- shout out to Hatty! We have been on more than 10 trips together, from quick weekend getaways to month long stays in Asia. And while there have been unforgettable moments and too many hilarious memories to count, we’ve definitely gotten in a spat or two. Here’s my advice on how to find & keep your travel soul mate.
1) Start small
Before you book a 3 month Asia tour, maybe see how 3 days in Miami goes. This doesn’t always translate of course. Some friends are great to party with, but wouldn’t necessarily be your top pick for a 12 hour train ride. It will, however, give you the opportunity to observe some everyday habits and see how they mesh with yours. Is your friend an early-riser or night owl? Is she a slow walker? Is she cranky in the morning or rude at the airport? And most importantly for me- does she have the same taste in food and want to share meals with you? Traveling, even only for a few days, can bring out a side to people you wouldn’t see in everyday life.
2) Look for certain characteristics
Just what qualities should you be looking for in a potential travel partner? The answer to that will vary from person to person, but for me, I need to travel with someone who is independent, doesn’t mind ‘roughing it,’ tries to find humor in a bad situation instead of complaining, is willing & able to read a map, figure out a bus timetable/generally navigate and is always ready for an adventure. The best travel mate will probably share certain values with you but have different natural abilities. Maybe one of you is great at coordinating transportation and finding the best restaurants, and the other has a knack for making new friends and sticking to a timetable. These different skillsets will set you up for a successful trip if you learn to recognize and appreciate them.
3) Discuss expectations BEFORE the trip
You’ve probably already discussed with your buddy a location that you’d both like to go to. But don’t forget to also make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to budget, activities & travel styles before you set off. If you’ve been saving for this dream trip for years, you don’t want to feel like you’re limited by the friend who just decided to tag along last minute. And trust me, it’ s never fun to be the poor one. Just make sure you discuss beforehand what you can and cannot afford. Then when one of you wants to spend $500 dollars on a scuba certification, the other will know this is coming and have a good book for their solo beach hangs. This also applies to what kind of things you enjoy doing when on a trip. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than being in an exotic destination with a travel partner who wants to spend hours shopping for souvenirs. But, hey, to each their own! You’ll also want to decide if you plan to primarily stay in hotels or hostels (and within that shared or private, female only or mixed, etc), and how you want to get around. Will your friend be okay with taking a local train instead of express if it saves some dough? These are the kinds of things you should be communicating before you commit to anything. Once these are out of the way, the fun part of planning can begin with peace of mind.
This also applies to what kind of things you enjoy doing when on a trip. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than being in an exotic destination with a travel partner who wants to spend hours shopping for souvenirs. But, hey, to each their own! You’ll also want to decide if you plan to primarily stay in hotels or hostels (and within that shared or private, female only or mixed, etc), and how you want to get around. Will your friend be okay with taking a local train instead of express if it saves some dough? These are the kinds of things you should be communicating before you commit to anything. Once these are out of the way, the fun part of planning can begin with peace of mind.
4) Use a shared wallet
Each person should put a designated amount of cash into an envelope for shared expenses and top up as needed. Hatty read about this on a blog a couple years ago, and it made our travels so much easier! I used to keep detailed logs of who paid for what on my iPhone notes and then have to do a bunch of math. I promise I’m not a scrooge. It’s one thing to take turns getting rounds of drinks on a night out, but when you’re dealing with tons of different expenses over the course of a few months, you’ll want to keep better track. No point getting into a silly argument about who paid for the accommodation last time. Just pay for it out of the mutual fund’s account!
5) Give each other space
I don’t care how well you get along with your BFF, after spending day after day together nonstop, you’re going to need some alone time. You may not even realize you need it and feel a little hurt that your friend wants some space, but trust me, it’ll be the best thing for both of you. You’ll enjoy each other’s company even more after a few hours apart. I’m an extrovert, but I really enjoy alone time and need it often. That’s why traveling with someone who is as independent as I am is great. It’s no big deal if she wants to go for a run and I want to stay in the room & read. These are cherished moments!
6) Don’t sweat the small stuff
Unless you’re the most chill person on the planet, you’re probably going to be annoyed by your BFF’s behaviors from time to time. Try to avoid impatience though. An eye roll or sigh might feel unavoidable in the moment, but it’ll only build tension and give your friend reason to be equally annoyed. If there’s something she does repeatedly that really bothers you, try calmly and simply communicating at a time when there’s no tension. “Hey, you probably have no idea, but it upsets me when you do this, for this reason.” Just like any relationship, honest & open communication is key. If you approach it with kindness & you are both emotionally mature, it should lead to a stronger friendship, not a fight.
Rebekah graduated with a Magazines degree in 2011 and promptly hit the road, traveling through Europe, Central America & South East Asia. After spending a year living & working in Australia, she moved back to the Atlanta, Georgia with the mission of seeing more of her native land- the good ole U S of A.