How To Choose Your Travel Companion

How much fun you have on any trip often comes down to the company you keep. So choose wisely.

With the ideal travel companion, you’ll have a blast no matter where you go or what you do. But with the wrong person, an otherwise once in a lifetime experience may quickly become a painfully flat situation you can’t wait to escape. And nobody wants that.

Come what may, being on the same page will go a long way. So play the hand you’re dealt as a team. Even if you’ve concocted the perfect plan, things don’t always go according to it. You’ll need someone by your side who is able to go with the flow and embrace unexpected change as it comes. You’ll need to be willing to do the same.

Maybe you’ve already found your travel buddy, but if you haven’t, I assure you they’re out there. While you should choose your someone wisely, stay open. Both of you must be willing and ready to compromise. Don’t be too quick to dismiss someone great. If you feel in your gut that someone is a good fit, trust your instincts. Above all else, spend a little time together before going on a real trip. Taking a joy ride or going on a weekend excursion before committing to a globe-trotting partnership can be illuminating.

While you’re spending pre-travel time together, here are some things worth considering.

You Should Have Common Interests and Similar Vibes

You and your travel companion should enjoy each other’s company no matter what you’re doing, first and foremost. Secondly, your interests, personalities, and temperaments will determine how you spend much of your time on the road or abroad.

Being like-minded, meshing well, and being able to talk about anything will turn your trip into a smooth ride, especially if you wind up stuck on a train for 12 hours. You’ll need to make the most of it.

friends relaxing in hotel room in bath robes and drinking tea

Do you communicate well? Obviously, that’s going to be important for a variety of reasons. You’ll be relying on each other majority of the time and in new places and situations, you’ll be each others source of familiarity. You never know how things are going to go or how someone’s mood may shift while traveling. So it helps to be able to read them well. And the more you and your travel partner have in common, the better off you’ll both be when and if the going gets tough.

The stronger the bond, the more meaningful the trip. If you click right out the gate, that bond is only going to grow. Traveling with someone is not just about what you’ll get out of the trip as a pair; it’s also about how the trip will deepen your relationship. To some degree, we all travel differently, and you’ll likely be more compassionate (and vice versa) towards someone you just get. The differences you both bring to the table can enhance your trip in beneficial, eye-opening, and exciting ways. Challenging each other to get out of your comfort zones is never a bad thing.

Agree on Expenditures in Advance

female friends at the pacific coast highway smiling and looking out into the ocean in front of VW van

Having a similar budget is good for all involved and reduces any sense of spending shame, or lack thereof. You need to agree upon certain expenditures in advance. If your travel companion wants to do a world of things you cannot afford, there’s going to be trouble in paradise. So speak up. With that said, you should both be allowed the freedom to spend your money however you wish. That’s why it’s helpful to travel with someone who is considerate of you and doesn’t want to leave you out or cause you to break the bank just to have a good time. Or, maybe your travel partner wants to treat you on occasion and not miss out on a shared experience. And so, it’s important that you travel with someone who isn’t funny about money. You should both feel comfortable helping each other out, even if you never need to.

To avoid unnecessary conflicts about money, plan to discuss any financial limitations before you go and find out what they consider must-spends on the trip.

Age Matters

four senior friends posing for selfie in streets

If you’re traveling with a non-family member, too much of an age gap can suck the fun out of things for all involved. If they’re much younger or much older, your ideas about what constitutes a good time may not align, at least not as often as you’d want them to while on vacation.

You may want to go out when they’re ready to settle in. Or maybe you’re the one who needs your full eight hours to function and would rather take it easy. Again, being on the same page is important. Age will undoubtedly play a role somewhere along the way, but it shouldn’t inhibit either of you. The general rule of thumb is to keep the gap between 5 – 10 years at most to guarantee you see eye to eye about your travels more often than not.

Embrace Your Differences

young couple looking at map together while traveling

There is such a thing as being too similar to someone. For instance, if you have an important decision to make and you’re both notoriously indecisive, you’re going to have a problem. While you should have things in common, similar traveling styles, and well-matched personalities, you don’t need to be carbon copies of each other. Seeking someone who shines in areas you lack, and vice versa, will help create a well-balanced dynamic that offers the chance for more surprises, more often.

If you consider yourself more of an introvert, a more extroverted person may bring out things in you that you didn’t know you could muster up. Don’t shy away from healthy differences. Your travel companion should have qualities that you admire, maybe even qualities you aspire to learn from. If you’re the indecisive one, seek an assertive, nonhesitant partner who knows what they want and goes for it. If navigation is not your thing, it helps to travel with someone who is a pro at reading maps and knows what to do when and if you do get lost. You need to get along, but diversity will be your best friend. And if you do butt heads based on your similarities, take it as an opportunity to learn how to better work together.

Discuss What You Hope to Get Out of The Trip

Again, we all have varying traveling styles, no matter how well aligned we may be. In order to have a truly amazing time, balance is key. You’re there to immerse yourself in a new culture, but don’t push yourself to the max and get burnt out for the sake of not missing out. That won’t be fun for anyone.

A thoughtful and well balanced itininerary will help you prevent travel burnout. If you create a schedule that has you running around all day and night with no downtime, your energy is going to plummet, especially if you started off with jet lag. No matter what’s on your travel to-do list, you should ease into your trips, not sprint through them. If you were alone, you could nap whenever you wanted or take an hour long shower with no regard to anyone else. But if you’re traveling with someone, you both need to make and take time to rest, within reason. So put it on the itinerary.

friends laughing together in a coffee shop

Consider alternating your daily schedule. When you arrive, sleep in, start slow, and let your body adjust. Easing into the experience rather than hitting the ground running on empty will allow you to get more out of everythiing as the trip wears on. On the second day, agree to wake up early and have breakfast in your new surroundings. Get out and about as soon as you feel rested. Maybe even get up early enough to see the sunrise. You want to take everything in, but you can’t do that if you’re completely exhausted.

However, a fully laid-out itinerary is not necessary for all travelers. I personally prefer to pin down the necessary plot points (like finding somewhere to stay that’s close to all the action) and learning the lay of land once I’m there. The sense of discovery energizes me. I prefer being prepared for anything by being aware of what we could possibly do. Planning out every detail and rigid itineraries drain me. My travel partner operates similarly, so it’s easy for us to go with the flow and change our minds on a whim. But for some, this mode of operating feels foreign, unorganized, and unnerving. Some travelers need a little more concreteness to feel comfortable. So be flexible.

Are They Willing to Try Anything Once?

Open-mindedness is always a key traveler quality, especially when two people are braving the world together. Staying open to spontaneous adventures and sudden change will take you places you never dreamed you’d go. A mutual “yes” can be powerful. Too many “nos” often breaks momentum, and sometimes, it kills all the fun. This is why traveling with someone who shares some of the same passions is a must. You want to be fully in it together, ready and willing to try new things, even if only once.

Stepping outside both of your comfort zones as a team will lead to an enriching experience that you’ll never forget. If someone is unwilling to try exotic cuisine with you and that’s what excites you most, they may not be the best travel companion. Spontaneity and willingness will keep your trip, and your dynamic, feeling fresh.

two young men jumping off bluffs into bright blue lake

However, you don’t have to agree on everything. You should travel with someone who isn’t afraid to speak their mind. If they truly don’t want to do something, going along to appease you will only breed resentment. After all, agreeing should come from a shared willingness, not people-pleasing tendencies or fear of upsetting someone. Find someone willing to draw necessary lines, someone not afraid to be the voice of reason, and someone with both your best interests at heart. You may disagree, and that’s why good communication matters.

If they’re not into jumping off bluffs into unfamiliar waters, so be it. If they’re honest about what they don’t want to do, you’ll be able to narrow down the things you’re going to do alone and the things you can live without. And on occasion, their disinterest in jumping in with you will mean you’ll have a personal photographer to capture a magical solo moment.

A Sense of Humor Is Important

friend giving other friend piggy back ride on vacation

Something is bound to go wrong at some time or another. You might miss your flight home after you’ve checked out of the hotel. Maybe you planned a day of fun in the sun and a tropical storm just ruined it. It happens. The best way to be prepared for the worst is to be able to laugh anything off and still live in the moment.

If you’re traveling with someone who sweats both the big and the small stuff, it’s going to create tension and anxiety. Once you’re aware that they’re going to be stressed out when things go wrong, you’ll no longer be traveling from a place that’s fun and fancy-free. You’ll be on high alert. It’s important to be able to look on the bright side at all times, especially in grim situations. There is humor in everything. And it helps to travel with someone who can see that, especially on the occasion that even you can’t.

Look For Someone Compatible, Not Codependent

It doesn’t matter where we are on this earth: we all need personal space from time to time. You should only travel with someone who recognizes and respects that reality. Maybe you’ll never want to separate, but maybe you will. If you’re traveling with someone who simply cannot handle doing anything on their own, it might not be the best fit.

woman entering sanctuary of truth  in Pattaya Thailand

We all need time to relax and reflect. The beauty of traveling with someone you’re comfortable with is that if there’s no way to physically separate, you can practice “separate togetherness.” With the right person, you can do “your own thing” in the same space and it won’t be awkward. Shared silence is soothing, and awkward silence is anything but. If you’re anything like me, you only need a little time alone while traveling with someone, but you never know when you’ll need it. Taking space to the extremes will be counterproductive, and potentially hurtful. So try to make space mutual.

Take turns going out for coffee and bringing it back on some mornings. Take a walk while your travel companion sleeps in. A little solo time at the start of the day can be reinvigorating. This way, you’ll be alternating who gets up and goes out and about and who sleeps in, allowing a chance for both of you to start the day with a little breathing room, take things in, and resting a little more than you would if you felt obligated to be conjoined at the hip when you weren’t really in the mood.

With a little space at the start of the day, you’ll be more ready to embrace each experience together. Again, balance is key.

Trusting Your Travel Companion Is Key

male friend helping other friend by pulling them up by the hand on a hike

It might sound like a no-brainer, but trust may be the most important factor. You’ll be relying on this person in all sorts of situations, after all. If you do take time to yourself, you’ll also be leaving them alone with your belongings. Mutual trust matters and solid communication is at the heart of it.

While you’re traveling, it’s crucial that you’re both able to be honest about what you hope to gain out of the trip, how much money you’re able to contribute, what you’re comfortable with, and what you’re not. Some days, you may just be in a funk. You need to travel with someone you can express how you’re feeling to and know you’ll be met with understanding. Nobody likes walking on eggshells, especially while backpacking in Rome. These experiences should be about opening up and staying open.

Bottom line: Your travel companion should be someone you feel safe with. By having each other’s back through anything, the world will become your oyster.

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