If you’ve decided against traveling solo, you are probably in the market for a travel companion. But choosing the right person to share a trip with is not an easy task — and traveling with the wrong companion can really ruin a trip.
And while you can never really be sure how someone’s going to act once they’re on the road with you, these five tips should help weed out some of the more incompatible travel companions.
#1: Have Something in Common
Your travel companion doesn’t need to be your soul mate, but you should have a few interests in common. It’s nice if you both like hanging out at art galleries, for example, or are both keen on trying new foods. You probably won’t spend all day, every day together, so it’s not important that your interests completely overlap, but if you don’t have anything that you actually want to do together, you are probably better off traveling solo.
A couple of years ago I took a trip to the south-west of England with a friend of mine, and the reason it worked well is we had some shared interests, but not everything. We both wanted to do some hiking along the coast, and spent a great day sharing this adventure together. Another day, I checked out the local art galleries while Tatiana headed off on another coastal walk, and we met up later for dinner with a few stories to tell each other. That seemed like the perfect balance of shared interests.
Know someone who’s really, really neat? Or who always asks for special side dishes at a restaurant? These kinds of traits may not be a big deal when you’re in your hometown but take these habits on the road and they’ll soon drive you mad.
My other half often tells the story of a trip he made around Greece with a colleague of his who he didn’t know that well. They were backpacking, on the cheap, but that didn’t stop this colleague neurotically repacking his backpack every morning before they set off. He’d empty the entire backpack, refold all his clothes, put each toiletry item in a separate plastic bag and then repack it all. The process took close to an hour while my other half was (impatiently) waiting to get on to their next adventure.
#3: Agree on a Similar Budget
Traveling with a similar idea of a budget in mind is one of the most important things to ensure a harmonious trip with your travel companion. Three friends of mine recently took a long weekend trip through the countryside and came back with a story that I found hilarious (but only because I wasn’t involved): they had such different expectations of the expenses of their vacation that by the final night, one found a room in a hotel, the other got a bunk in a youth hostel and the third slept on the beach, all meeting up the next morning to drive back to the city.
Your budget affects pretty much everything you do: where you stay, what you eat, what you visit and how you get there, so if you’re miles apart on this topic, there’s only going to be trouble.
Before you commit to a long or expensive trip, try to arrange a weekend or overnight excursion to someplace near home. Depending on the relationship you have with this friend or acquaintance, you could be straight with them about the purpose — to see if you’d be compatible as longer-term travel companions — or just observe them carefully without mentioning the real deal.
Key things to look for include how flexible they are about making or changing plans, if they have any really annoying personal habits that you couldn’t live with, and quite simply whether or not you feel comfortable sharing a room with them. Spending a month backpacking with a heavy snorer could put a big dent in your enthusiasm for a trip — or you might need to know about it so that you can bring ear plugs.
#5: Make Sure You Can Talk
Before you get down to any detailed planning of a trip, make sure you have “the conversation” about dealing with problems on the road. Talk to your prospective travel companion about how you imagine the trip working out: for example, would you prefer to spend half the time doing things on your own, or do you envisage spending most of the trip together, visiting the same places? Are you the type of traveler who needs time out on their own, and do they feel the same way?
Once you agree that you’ll travel together, setting some rules is essential for a harmonious trip. And to set the rules, you’ll have to be able to talk together openly and honestly. As an example, you might want to make agreements about what you’ll do if you make new friends (is it okay to invite them to travel together with you), or if one of you starts a romantic relationship with someone you meet on the road (what will you do if your travel companion wants to bring someone back to your shared room — or what if you want to?).
Traveling Companions Ain’t All Bad
Having said all this, I’m still personally in favor of traveling with a companion. Solo trips are all well and good, but in most cases, the advantages of traveling with someone else outweigh the benefits of being alone. When you’re traveling with someone else, you can split a lot of costs, see more sights that you might not have gone to on your own, and one of the nicest parts is having someone to share those traveling memories with.
Years later, it’s a lot of fun to talk to your traveling companion about all the crazy things you did on your trip. Oh, and years later, you also forget the snoring.