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Posted by on Aug 8, 2011 | 24 comments

Traveling with family and friends: dream or nightmare?

You don’t know someone until you travel with them.

Persian Proverb


I think the travel experience can be affected positively or negatively depending on who we travel with. Many people plan every detail of their trips. They decide when to go, what to wear and eat and where to go and sleep. However, a lot of people often forget about choosing their travel companions wisely. Because let me tell you, companions can contribute to make your travel experience out of this world or  help to create one of the biggest disappointments of all times.

Listen carefully to what I am going to say (ok, to write). Your mom may be the most wonderful person in the world, your sister is probably the funniest person you know and you cannot imagine the world without your best friend since kindergarten. I know, you love all your family and friends with every corner of your heart. But hey, that does not guarantee you are compatible travelers.

My husband and me in front of Wat Mahathat

I’m sorry but no. It’s like when you decide to share an apartment with your best friend and after a year you do not want to see that person for the rest of your life. Many times a person’s usual personality is different from the personality he or she assumes when traveling. And, why does this happen? When we travel, we are out of our comfortable environment. This causes some discomfort that can manifest in unusual ways. The more different the place visited, the stranger the reactions. And if we add to the equation that each person has their own expectations, needs, goals, etc, well, things get more complicated. I mean way more complicated.

I know these situations very well because I have traveled with a number of different personalities. I’ve been with those who do not like to walk, those who prefer not to eat to save money, those who have a phobia of germs, those who complain about everything, those who do not want to expose their nails to any dangers, those who are always tired and the list goes on and on. And in a way, there is nothing wrong with these people. It is just that they do not fit my travel style!!

Perhaps you’re thinking this is no big deal (wow, I’m so selfish). Why we cannot get along when we travel? But, what happens when the differences are more a chasm? What happens when the travel experience is affected? What happens when thousands of dollars are involved? What happens when you are taking the trip of your dreams?

There are always going to be differences when we travel with others in the same way there are differences in other life facets. The idea is not to stop travelling with your loved ones but taking into consideration certain things before and during your wanderings.


Here are some suggestions that may help you to choose a good travel companion:

Start by talking with honesty- A lot of the suggestions I’m presenting here will be converted into action by having a conversation with “travel companion prospects”.  Please, be open to share with honesty your travel preferences.  These suggestions will not help you if you are not willing to be honest upfront.

Know your travel style and communicate it to others – If you’re a seasoned traveler, at this moment, you should be able to mention what you like and don’t like to do when you travel. If you are a novice traveler, try making a list of things you want to do in the destination you are planning to visit. For example, when I travel I like to get up early to seize the day. I walk a lot, take public transportation and like to mingle with locals. I have always a good idea of what I am going do during the day. I like museums, parks, historical monuments and adventure offerings. I do not skip meals and make sure I sleep well. Once you have clearly defined your style, talk to others to get an idea of ​​what their travel style is. This can give you powerful information when you invite someone or get invited to travel.

Take into consideration others habits and personality.  Be realistic about your differences – Take into consideration personality traits like sociability, shyness, reaction to stress and others.  Determine where your personalities may clash. Consider other things like sleeping patterns, fitness level, special diets, preferences, etc. I know it is impossible to know a person a 100% but that is why you have to talk honestly.  Remember the little things are sometimes the most annoying ones.

Be clear about the purpose of the trip – Each trip can have a purpose. It can be a shopping, relaxation, dining, historic, family reunion, gourmet or weekend trip. If you travel to the Yucatan Peninsula for a family reunion, you have to assimilate you may not have time to see all the ruins or go to the parks because the purpose is to connect with your family, not with the Mayas. Having the purpose of your trip clear can help you to obtain greater satisfaction from your pleasure time.

Take into consideration the duration of the trip   – It is different to share space with a person for 3 days than for two weeks.  You may prefer different companions for different trip lengths.

Take into consideration your destination – Same as the previous point.  Your travel destination may have a lot to do with who you choose to travel with.  For example, a person possessing good pressure and stress handling capabilities may be more helpful in places where the language is different or the public transportation is difficult to manage.  A person who loses his/her patience easily may enjoy more familiar, closer to home places.

Listen, negotiate and compromise – I know you are going to talk about your preferences, expectations and styles. However, remember to listen to what others have to say and show respect. Try to see if it is possible to negotiate and work around some differences.  Finally, compromise on the agreements reached.


If you have a clear idea of who is going with you on a trip, do not forget about discussing the following:

Decide what you are going to do every day  – I know a lot of people are against over planning.  Well, me too.  But, if you are going with somebody, this is not only your trip.  At a minimum, decide on the main activity of the day. This will let everybody contribute to the daily activities planning and set expectations. Note:  this is not a problem if you are taking a guided tour.

Decide if some activities should be done together or alone – This is why planning the daily activities is important.  You may want to go somewhere or do something on your own.  There is nothing wrong with doing different things.  On the contrary, it may help to keep peace and good attitudes when tension is building up.

Decide on a budget or how to divide travel costs – This is extremely important.  Fights over money are the most difficult ones to overcome.  Decide the budget level for your basic travel needs (accommodation, transportation, food).  Divide costs fairly.  Have a way to keep transparent information about the costs.  Additionally, respect is one of the members of your travel party want to indulge at some point.

 Divide the obligations – It is wise to divide some of the obligations.  For example, decide who is going to wake up everybody, who will make sure nothing is left on the hotel room or who is going to be in charge of the map.  Try to get an obligation you are comfortable with.

Don’t complain if you don’t have anything to say – If someone in your travel party ask your opinion about something and you answer “whatever” or “I don’t really care”, don’t complain later. Your friends were considering you, when they decided on something.  Be strong and let them hear your opinion.


Some additional advice:

Don’t get compromised to go somewhere in the spur of the moment – Take some time to think before compromising.

If you have a bad feeling of how a trip may end with certain person as a companion, be strong and cancel (or re-plan) your trip – Indicate how much you value your relationship and how you will not want to see it ruined over a trip (or money issues) going wrong.

Stay positive – If things are not going as expected, stay positive and try to enjoy the good moments.  This will serve you as an experience for future trips (plus, you will have a lot of stories to tell).

Traveling alone is a possibility.


It is so fun and rewarding to have a good travel companion. Just make sure you guys click more than clash before hitting the road.

What about you?  In what ways, you avoid discussions and problems with family and friends while on the road? Let me know in the comments section below.



  1. ive done bothsolo and companion travelling, obviously myself and jess travel together predominantly now and it has worked out perfectly! (lucky, since we met travelling). i think compromise is definitely a key, like you said.

    there are definitely positives and negatives to both travelling alone and with someone. i really like your very last comment: “travelling alone is possible”. i think a lot of people are afraid of it. but you end up meeting a lot of people on the way, you are almost never alone. plus, you can pick and choose your travelling companions as you go!
    jamie – cloud people adventures recently posted..Iconic Melbourne – and some Fluro AnimalsMy Profile

    • Traveling with my husband is great!! I usually joke tat I married him because I discovered in him the perfect travel companion.

      I agree with you comment about traveling alone. Before getting married, I used to travel alone and it just worked fine.
      Ruth recently posted..Traveling with family and friends: dream or nightmare?My Profile

  2. So, so true!! I just returned from a road trip to Memphis with my sister and sister-in-law who are the perfect travel companions. We talked the whole way there, the whole time we were there and the whole way home and never ran out of conversations. We wanted to go to the movies, eat out, tour and nap at the same times – could not have worked out better! However, I have traveled in a group with individuals who were inconsiderate, late and generally annoying – not good. Not good at all.
    Jan Ross recently posted..Two + Years of Traveling the WorldMy Profile

    • Good to know you found two perfect travel companions!! I have also traveled in groups where some individuals are incredibly inconsiderate and rude. In summary, one time a hotel manager wanted to throw the whole group to the street because of one person.
      Ruth recently posted..Food at California’s Orange County FairMy Profile

  3. In the last year I had my family visit me in South America and then a friend. Moving forward I will be very picky as to who visits me. Spanish speakers get priority!
    Ayngelina recently posted..How to get attacked by a polar bearMy Profile

  4. Traveling with family can be a sticky situation. Everyone in my family knows I like to plan trips so they all leave it to me which sucks. So I put out a few things that I want to do and let them figure out the rest for themselves. Some have young kids and I don’t so this means we do split up some during trips.

    Great tips for dealing with this issue.
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..The 6 EST’s of EuropeMy Profile

    • At least, your family knows about your travel style. I can see why you guys split up at some moments. If adults react wildly in some travel situations, I don’t want to imagine how kids react.
      Ruth recently posted..Papillon Photos: Avalon, Catalina IslandMy Profile

  5. I’m sailing on the same perspective! In my case, travelling with friends tend to be a nightmare and I’m not so keen of doing it again. Why – because it always ended being cancelled so all the brainstorming and planning sessions are wiped out. When I went to Coron Philippines I realized how fun it it so travel with people you meet on your destination.

    • I think one of the worst parts of traveling with friends is the planning part (like you mentioned). How to reach an agreement on some key factors? Well, it is difficult. The possibilities of reaching an agreement decrease with the number of people involved.
      Ruth recently posted..Papillon Photos: Avalon, Catalina IslandMy Profile

  6. Thankfully my partner and I are on the EXACT same page when it comes to traveling (what to see, eat, where to go, how long our stamina lasts, etc) so we’re able to enjoy it together. However, I really don’t enjoy traveling with other people – there’s too much back-and-forth and trying to keep everyone happy…. which never happens. I think I’m too selfish to travel in a big group. 😛
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Camden Lock on the Regent’s CanalMy Profile

    • Christy,
      Like I said in my previous comment, the possibilities of travel failure increase with the more people you have in your group. I have seen this many times. Just to decide where to eat is a problem. My ideal way to travel is with my husband (like you) or in a small group of three. Four, I will have to think about it.

    • I don’t want to know what happened in that Thailand trip. I mean, some partsof Thailand are messy and crowded. I can’t imagine how 10 people traveling together were able to maintain their sanity.
      Ruth recently posted..Papillon Photos: Avalon, Catalina IslandMy Profile

  7. These are excellent tips, I agree honesty about your travel styles is important. I took a girl friend trip once and my friend was like a whirling dervish of activities. I finally had to say, I’m resting today, you do your own thing.
    Lisa recently posted..Expat Living; Taking the Plunge for a Third TimeMy Profile


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