Many of us are venturing into the world of solo travel, where you’re on your own schedule and in complete control over where you go and what you do.
As empowering and fulfilling as solo travel can be, there’s something to be said about sharing a life-changing adventure with a friend – or sibling, parent, or significant other. Here are some tips to keep you both sane while you’re seeing the world together:
1. Get Clear on Expectations Before Traveling With a Friend
Even two people with an endless list of things in common will inevitably want some different things from their trip. While you’re planning your itinerary, establish the types of travelers you are and what you’re looking to get out of this trip.
Here are some questions to ask yourselves to start:
- Are you both morning people?
- Do you want to experience relaxation, active adventure/sports, or cultural and historical enrichment? A mix of everything?
- Do you like to have everything planned, or are you more go-with-the-flow?
- Would you rather see a different city every day, or get settled in?
- What are the must-sees and experiences while you’re there?
Be completely transparent when communicating what you’re looking for on your trip together. You can even take it a step further and explore what you’re not looking for: “I get really motion sick, so I would prefer to not take too many buses for transportation.” Or, “I like going out drinking, but I personally only want to do that a couple of times.”
It’s so crucial to be open and communicative, not only while you’re traveling, but also before you even leave. This will make the experience so much more peaceful, and there won’t be any surprises once you get to your location.
2. Download a Money-Sharing App
If you are going on a trip that you’ve both saved up for and plan to split the costs, it’s a good idea to download a money-sharing app such as Venmo. Often, it’s easier and cost-efficient to buy things like plane tickets and hostel rooms together. Plus, it will ensure that you keep your seats or rooms/bunks next to each other.
If you don’t have Venmo, try Splitwise, which records everything you all pay for and easily sums up who owes who in the end. Everyone in the group needs to download it, just remember to do so before you find yourself without service or Wifi.
A money-sharing app will come in handy when you’re at a restaurant and the bill comes unseparated, or at a store or bar that has a minimum charge for credit cards. With a money-sharing app, you also don’t have to worry about exchanging leftover money at the end of a trip. Divvy up the cash with your travel partner and use the app to transfer the money electronically.
Another benefit of using a money-sharing app is that each traveler can take turns charging their credit card, which is particularly useful if you have a rewards system in place. Big purchases like plane tickets can really rack up points.
3. Prioritize Alone Time While Traveling With a Friend
There is absolutely nothing wrong with going separate ways on a trip, especially if it’s a long one! In fact, having a little separation will probably keep the whole trip running smoothly. This can mean different things, whether it’s just having some alone time in the hostel lobby listening to a podcast, or, if you’re comfortable and safe, doing separate activities. I’ve met travel partners that have gone to different cities and excursions and planned on a place to meet a couple of days later.
When we were in Southeast Asia, my travel partner Lindsey and I enjoyed many activities together, but we also did our own thing every now and then. As a result, we were able to meet our own travel goals without too much sacrifice. We discovered that you do not have to do every little thing together.
Don’t be afraid to carve out some alone time while traveling with a friend. Go for a walk, visit a cafe, get lost in a book, or call someone back home. Even the most compatible travel companions need a little space.
4. Understand It Won’t Always Be Rainbows and Butterflies
Towards the end of our two-month Southeast Asia trip, Lindsey and I were having a conversation in which I was voicing some guilt that I felt. There were times that I was cranky, tired, or hot, and didn’t act like my normal upbeat self. She was completely understanding, and responded, “this trip has shown me that we’re all human.”
Allow me to translate: my friend who had known me for fifteen years had seen a different side of me for the first time. Traveling will do that. It’s a completely raw experience that often makes you vulnerable and uncomfortable.
None of us are perfect. When you spend such a large amount of time with someone (and some of that time is sure to be stressful), it’s normal to have moments of tension. Don’t take it personally if there’s a little snippiness or irritability.
5. Express Gratitude!
Being able to travel with an important person in your life is such a special experience. And actually, it’s pretty rare. The fact that you are both financially able to take a trip, get time off of work together, and agree on a location isn’t something to take for granted.
Undoubtedly, when you’re looking back at pictures and exchanging stories, you’ll feel overwhelmed with gratitude. But remember, you can feel that at the moment, too.
Notice the good in your travel partner. Do they always let you have the bottom bunk or the window seat? Do they notice a type of restaurant you would like?
Take pictures together. Remind them how cool it is that you get to share this with one another. Traveling with a friend brings you closer than you were before, and you will always have this journey as something to look back on.