As a people watcher, I am sometimes morbidly fascinated by what can be very public fights by fellow travellers. You have probably spotted couples not talking for days or having screaming fights in the middle of airports, hotels and train stations. I know friends who have vowed never to travel with each other again.
Here are some thoughts on avoiding frustrations with your travel mates:
1. Choose Your Travel Companion(s) Carefully
Be aware that if you find someone’s behaviours irritating on a day to day basis, then on a trip any irritation will be magnified 1000 times! TravelSupermarket found that over half of Brits (51 per cent) admit to changes of character during their getaway and 40 percent said their partners changed. So be careful who you choose. If you are travelling with your business partner, husband or wife, parents or children then you cannot, of course, make a choice and you should skip to point two! (If you are planning to marry somebody, travel is one way to find out if you are indeed compatible!)
2. Know Your Travel Companion(s) Priorities
Your travel companion(s) may have very different priorities than you. On a trip, some may want to sit by the pool all day, some play golf, others drive around the island or shop and others want to go on hikes to waterfalls. These differences can ruin an experience for someone else. One “tour bus addict” friend told me she wanted to experience Paris the way “I liked it“. For me that meant a 12 kilometre (seven mile) walk around the city in one day. As I, enraptured, pointed out the sights of the city, she kept mentioning how unfit she felt. The next day, she hopped on a tour bus vowing never to walk another step with me again. I would rather scream than sit inside a tour bus!
Work out what you all want before leaving. Discussing the top things each of you want to do or see in advance can reduce difficult decision making when you’re actually “on location.” Don’t let someone miss out on what they have always dreamed of doing because someone else doesn’t want to do it or because someone becomes the commander and controls activities.
I travelled with some friends whose holiday revolved around a sleep in every morning followed by a brunch of up to two hours every morning. A brunch once a week is more than enough for me! Breakfast on the other days for me should be quick and even eaten en route to the first destination of the day! Every minute wasted in the morning is a minute lost on trip. We set a meeting point at lunch time and let each other do what we wanted for the morning. Other friends of mine wanted to stay up all night and slept the morning away. Again, we caught up at lunch time and separated at dinner time! If you are clear about these expectations, then you reduce the chances of killing each other!
4. Know Your Budget Rules
Some of us like to travel within a strict budget and some of us blow our credit card limits and happily spend the next twelve months paying off debt. These differences can cause irritations which can build up and ruin a trip. The big areas of difference:
- Accommodation – luxury room every night a must or a frivolous expense for a bed? On one trip, we started and finished in a five star resort. The middle nights we stayed in a 3 star place and on one night we popped into a cheap and clean backpackers. That way, we all got a taste of different styles at a range of budgets.
- Class of Travel – Yes First Class on the Eurostar is nice but if I don’t want to pay for it, I can become resentful. And if you choose it, please stop rubbing my nose in by describing continually the free meal you got, the width of your seat or the lounge you got to sit in
- Meals – I have seen couples and groups have miserable meals because they cannot agree on a venue and price point. For example does one stick to bread and cheese sandwiches from a bakery or experience a $US70 meal with wines? Again, mix it up.
- Sightseeing Some friends of mine didn’t go up the Eiffel tower at all because she wanted to take the lift (which meant a wait in line and cost nine euros) and he wanted to take the stairs (which had no line and was cheaper at five Euros). After a sharp disagreement, under the span of the tower, he stormed off and she eventually followed him.
- Transport – Do you prefer to take public transport and walk rather than take a taxi-cab?
5. Abandon your Travel companions
Don’t feel you have to stick together the whole time – give yourselves permission not to stay together for a few hours or even a day or two. Build it in to your program. For example: on a three or four day trip give yourselves half a day apart. On a week trip, set aside two days to complete freedom from schedule. Even drop making firm meeting plans at the end of the day because for some the thought of cutting some activity short to come back for a drink or dinner at a fixed time, can be frustrating. If you are travelling with your kids, find something they can do without you. On one trip to the Middle East when I was a kid, my parents enrolled us for a day at the local YMCA vacation program.
6. Be Clear about Meeting Places and Times
Some friends of mine driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, hoped to follow each other through the spaghetti junctions of LA. They, of course, got separated mid route . One group waited for the other at a tedious petrol station at the end of an off ramp and the other group missed out on their much looked forward tour of Hearst Castle. When they finally all reunited at their hotel in San Francisco, there was an icy silence. Two of my friends were staying in the same hotel room and didn’t talk to each other for two days.
7. Have contact information for each other
Know each other’s cell phone numbers, email and travel insurance details. Agree how you will connect with each other on a day to day basis, as you go. Be aware of how you will contact each other in an emergency. One friend of mine managed to drop his wallet and phone into a fast moving water drain. With no phone, he attempted to call his friends reverse charges from a payphone. They refused to take the call, thinking he was playing a joke.
Any other tips on saving your friends and companions while travelling? Any stories on how something went wrong – or right?