3 Things You Absolutely Must Know Before Traveling with Friends

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With cheap flights and an ever-expanding list of places to stay, traveling is now easier than ever before. And while it’s totally possible to enjoy traveling alone (more power to you), it can be even more fun to take on these adventures while making memories with your friends.

With one quick disclaimer.

When you’re first surfing the internet with your friends, scrolling through tropical image after tropical image of white sand and blue skies, you’re going to start visualizing you and your friends lounging under palm trees with umbrella’d drinks in your hand. In those daydreams, you and your friend will be tan, decked out in shades, and throwing your heads back laughing as the sun warms your freckled faces.

Fair warning, when this visual starts to creep in, enjoy it…but know that this picture is a sign your expectations are forming.

What you imagine as the perfect vacation day–sleeping on the beach, wind in your hair, a stack of novels holding down the edge of your beach towel–might be the exact opposite of what your friend is visualizing right now. They might be picturing themselves loaded down with shopping bags on the board walk, taking dance lessons at an open-air restaurant, or flying over the beach parasailing. They may be right now this minute drawing tiny x-es on the map to make sure you make the “world’s tiniest alligator” exhibit and 16 other equally awe-inspiring tourist attractions they’ve just Googled.

And here’s the kicker. As you plunk down credit cards for the flights, even with your different visuals of what’s about to unfold, neither of you are probably visualizing the low moments to come. You’re not visualizing the allergies, the rain, the humidity, the sunburn, the traffic, the long lines, the snoring, the road/air sickness, and so on. And that’s normal. These negative experiences aren’t the part we look forward to, so we’d rather do that blind hope thing where we just will the trip to go off without a hitch. But, in reality, we all know our little daydream visuals would be more accurate if they featured the two of you sitting on the beach, one with an uncomfortably pink nose and shoulders, the other nursing a jelly fish sting, sand sticking to the side of your cup while wind knocks down your flimsy beach umbrella.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

With that snapshot in mind, we’re ready to talk tips on traveling with friends.

1. Find out what every traveler wants out of the trip.

As mentioned earlier, just because you all want to travel to the same destination does not mean you’re all searching for the same experiences. Some people may want to go to catch rays on the beach all day, whereas others might be looking hike the local mountains, explore ruins, or meet new people. If you’re traveling with friends because you’re hoping to share your vacay experiences, then you need to check to see if your travel partners are willing to do these activities with you. After you discuss your expectations, you may decide ahead of time to do some, but not all of the same activities. Talking about this beforehand will avoid anyone feeling abandoned during their favorite activity when the time comes.

2. Every traveler will need personal time.

Sometimes friends get upset if members of their group wander off to do things on their own. They feel ditched. But tolerance is key here. If you’re away for a long period of time, spending hours upon hours and days upon days without each other, some (if not all) of you are going to start to feel over-stimulated. And different people crave different amounts of down time. So most likely, when a friend strolls away to do something solo, they’re not trying to offend you. They just need a bit of ‘me’ time. Be prepared for this to happen, and when it does, just let them know where you’ll be in the evening and how they can re-join the group when they feel like it. Many times, it’s actually a healthy thing to sleep in one day or spend a day in the quiet or shade because it keeps you rested and balanced.  It’s a good idea to be gracious if a friend escapes too, because you may need some time to yourself at some point too.

3. Flexibility is key.

When there’s a group of you, it’s unreasonable to expect every decision to align with your own personal preferences. Instead, note ahead of time that traveling with others usually means you’ll end up doing a few things that aren’t at the top of your list. And your friends will probably stick it out through a few things you enjoy that aren’t their favorite activities either.

So let’s say one friend is not a crowd person. You may have to forego that trip to an enormous water park that’s overrun with spring breakers. Put your own expectations and likes out on the table and ask that person to do the same. Ask directly, would you want to go to a waterpark? She may say, oh sure, I’d be fine with catching up with my reading on the sidelines. Or she may opt to skip in and go shopping on a nearby strip. Or she may suggest some other activity the group can compromise on. The important thing is to communicate openly and in advance so you can be prepared to make the trip a win for everyone.

Traveling with friends is a great way to see the world without having to brave it on your own. It just means that you have to consider others but with a bit of tolerance and flexibility, you’ll be able to avoid any hiccups and focus on taking embarrassing selfies your friends will blackmail you with the rest of your life.

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  1. JuliaGirl90

    This is soooo good. I’m going on a trip to the west coast with 3 of my girlfriends next month and we haven’t even come close to discussing this. Once I started reading, I could see us falling into every situation described here.

    I am now emailing them this post and declaring that by the way I am not surfing or paragliding etc when we go to the ocean. Like ever. Sharks. Jaws? Hello…

  2. Henderson

    Once when I was younger, my buddies and I went to Kentucky to the races for a weekend. Even though there wasn’t all out war, there were four or five tense moments that at least one person in the group didn’t ever recover from. This article didn’t surprise me at all.

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