Travelling with friends and family is not only incredibly fun but an excellent opportunity to strengthen relationships and make memories of a lifetime. Spending almost every hour of every day does come with its difficulties. Short trips are a breeze with almost any travel companion, but once you start reaching 10, 14 plus days, that’s when you need to be mindful and aware of ways to avoid annoying or frustrating situations.
Here are some of the biggest lessons I have learned travelling with friends and family and my tips on how to successfully travel with another person…and not want to kill each other by the end of the trip.
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9 tips for travelling with friends and family
1. Know who you are and how you “recharge”
I’m an extroverted introvert, which means I love being around people but recharge by spending time alone. A four day trip is easy and I honestly don’t even notice how I am with someone all day every day. Once we start going past 4 days I will become aware of how I haven’t had much alone time. It’s important to know how you recharge…is it by being around others or getting “me” time? Travelling with friends and family and in general is fun, but tiring. If you don’t know where you get your energy from and make a point to give yourself the time and required atmosphere to recharge, you will find yourself exhausted and potentially frustrated by the end of your trip.
This tip is obviously more important for introverts or extroverted introverts like me as extroverts are in their element being around others all the time. If you are an extrovert make sure you know if your travel companion is someone that will need some alone time here and there and be mindful of that. This leads us to point #2.
2. Don’t be afraid to take a break
Whether you're looking for time to be alone or maybe you just need a break from the person you’re traveling with, don’t be afraid to voice that you need a moment to yourself. That could look like a morning jog, maybe the excuse of checking work emails at a nearby coffee shop, or just going for a walk. Don’t worry about hurting the feelings of your travel buddy. If you word it right by just saying you really enjoy the solitude of your ritual morning jog, or maybe you’re an early riser and want to use that time to catch up on emails, your travel companion should understand. It’s better to be honest and prevent the possibility of getting annoyed with each other…which leads us to point #3.
*Don’t be afraid to do tours or even spend an entire day apart when travelling with friends and family. There is no rule that you have to spend every day together during the trip.
3. Be honest from the get-go
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when travelling with friends and family is not being honest from the beginning. When you travel with someone you are sharing the decisions on how much money you spend, what types of hotels you stay at, how you spend your time, etc. If you aren’t honest with each other from the beginning, you will run into trouble.
Whenever I'm travelling with friends for the first time, I tell them before we commit to the trip how I travel and what’s important to me. I am honest about my budget and what I’m comfortable spending. If you skip this and keep your mouth shut the entire trip feelings of frustration are sure to pop up. If you have dietary restrictions speak up! Don't go with the "anything sounds good" route and then make a fuss at dinner when you can't eat anything on the menu. If you have a strict budget speak up! Don't make a point to barely eat anything at dinner because everything on the menu is over your budget.
My biggest tip for travelling with friends and family is if you're a picky eater, have a strict budget, or particular travel style that you aren’t willing or can’t deviate far from you have to voice that…and not after the fact. Help in the planning and research so you know wherever you decide to go or choose to do is within your parameters. But don’t go overboard and be the inflexible debbie downer…point #4…because then you will never get invited on a trip again. I know that’s harsh…but it’s the hard truth.
*To avoid awkward meals when travelling with friends and family discuss how you want to spilt bills before the trip.
4. Be flexible when travelling with friends and family
As mentioned earlier it’s important to be open and honest about your travel style…but that doesn’t give you the excuse to not budge an inch during the entire trip. If you’re extremely particular and aren’t willing to bend here and there whether it be the type of hotel you stay at, what activities you do for the day, etc., then you're probably better off traveling on your own.
Traveling with friends and family has awesome perks but it also requires a little give and take. That’s why I do a mix of trips on my own, with Jake, and with friends and family. Sometimes I want to take a trip where I have 100% control. I sacrifice sharing those moments with others but get to spend my day exactly how I want it. Other times I really want to share my travel moments and am willing to sacrifice doing things “my way” all the time. Know that the moment you commit to traveling with others you’re not always going to get your way, so be flexible. Don’t go overboard though...which leads us to tip #5.
5. Know when to have a voice
We all have friends that have a plan and always voice their opinions. We also have friends that never have an opinion and just go with the flow 100% of the time. It’s good to be flexible but also know when to have a voice. Sometimes it becomes stressful if the same person is having to make all the decisions all the time…even if they are the ultimate type A personality. Feel free to lift that burden from the decision maker and have an opinion every now and then.
6. See the big picture and know when to be the “bigger person”
No matter how careful you are in trying to avoid conflict while travelling with friends and family, chances are a situation will pop up here and there. Traveling can be stressful and tiring. Sometimes you run into bad situations where nothing seems to work or go your way. Sometimes your travel buddy really screws up and makes a mess of things. Sometimes frustration gets the best of us and someone lashes out. If you get into an argument with your travel companion consider if continuing to be mad or “winning” the argument is worth ruining the moment, the day, or even the entire trip.
There of course have been moments where Jake and I have gotten into an argument during a trip. In the early days of our marriage sometimes those arguments would linger and ruin an entire experience. Now that we have 5 years of marriage and countless trips behind us, we have learned it’s just not worth it. It’s better to swallow your pride, forgive, and move on so you can enjoy the moment. If what happened is a big deal maybe wait until you get home to really rehash things vs. replay the argument over and over during a trip.
7. Know when to be the cheerleader
When we are travelling with friends or family one person often takes the lead or is in charge for certain events. It might be that they planned this portion of the trip or that they just happen to be the one driving the rental car. When things get stressful and you can tell the person “in charge” needs a moment or is stressed because things aren’t going as planned take that as your cue to be the encourager. If instead you add to the stress by being impatient and even start placing blame that will just make the situation worse.
A perfect example is when Jake and I were driving a manual car in Mykonos. Jake hadn’t driven a manual car in years. Our car stalled in the worst possible place. On a completely uphill incline on a hair bend turn. I was worried any moment a car or bus was going to run us over as they blasted around the corner…and here we were stalled. We probably sat there for a good 15 minutes while Jake, bless his heart, was trying to get the car into gear before we slid back down the hill into the brick wall behind us. I knew I needed to be quiet and let him think while also telling him it’s “ok” and letting him know that I had his back. If I had been berating him with threats that a bus was going to run us over any moment or voiced that this was a disaster we probably would have had to call a tow truck. Thankfully after a few stressful and sweat dripping down your back type moments, we made it up the hill and were laughing about it later.
8. Be mindful of the work behind the scenes
For 99.9% of trips I am the one who plans almost everything from how we get from point a to point b, our restaurant options, the order of sightseeing, etc. And honestly, I want it that way because I really do enjoy planning trips! When things are thrown in a twist, like a sight that closed unexpectedly that day, or what I thought was a 10 minute walk ended up being closer to 30 in extreme heat, don’t be quick to complain if you weren’t the one who spent hours on end planning the trip.
A lot goes into piecing together a trip, especialy if you're travelling with friends and family and have others to consider. If you haven’t done it before and you’re the lucky person that just gets to “show up”, trust me on this. Know that whoever planned the trip spent more time than you can imagine with the details. There is a lot to consider and you can’t possibly plan for everything when traveling. So don’t be quick to judge or complain if things don’t work out perfectly. Stay positive and let the person who did plan the trip know that it’s ok when things don’t go perfect. In fact, go out of your way to be supportive. Chances are the person who planned the trip feels like they let everyone down if something goes wrong. Suck it up and play the role of the cheerleader…your travel planner will appreciate it greatly.
9. Take steps to be the best you and an easy travel companion
Know what brings out your dark side and avoid those things or situations. Do you get nasty and mean when you’re hangry? Carry a snack bar with you. Do you get sloppy or pick fights when drunk? Limit your alcohol intake. Do you get irritated when lacking a full night’s rest? Go to bed at a decent hour. We should obviously be mindful of these things all the time, but this is extra important when you’re travelling with friends and family for days on end.
See my other travel tips!
Do you prefer travelling with friends and family or on your own? Let me know your travel style in the comments below and if you have any tips of your own!