Monday, April 27, 2015

How To: Travel with Friends

I know, I know, I'll be blogging about Italy really soon, I swear. It's just been a little difficult to get everything sorted, as I have a full-time job (as an engineer) and work has been incredibly busy and currently, I am out of town on business. I'm currently about an hour outside of Boston and have already taken advantage of my location by calling on my favorite New Englander, H. We spent the weekend dropping our 'R's (you know, "Hah-vahd") and galavanting around H's old college town.

And that makes a pretty nice transition for today's post. I've never really traveled alone, unless you count the small outings I've had on remote business trips. It's lucky for me that I have a sister and several friends who love to travel so I've always had companions on trips. I once went abroad with a friend for a month and we had to see each other's stupid faces every single day and we somehow managed to get along the entire time and I'm happy to say we're still friends.

I wanted to put together a survival guide of sorts for traveling with others. I guess I say "friends" because it's a nice and generic category. I've also traveled with family quite a lot and I've holidayed with several boyfriends (not at the same time - meaning, I didn't date them all at the same time nor did I travel with them all at the same time). But I think that family and beaus also fit into the category of "friends," right?
Every trip was a learning experience and has given me something to contribute to this list.
discuss budget You'll be splitting a room and making dining choices and sightseeing choices together so make sure you are both aware of each others' spending limitations. Nothing is more awkward than sorting out money and either admitting you don't have enough or finding out your travel companion(s) doesn't have enough. Stay ahead of the situation by discussing the issue of money in detail prior to the trip.

Once you're on the trip, keep track of your shared expenses so you can settle at the end of the trip with hard numbers. The pennies might not matter, but I know that I get annoyed when I hear, "I think I paid $120ish for that one dinner but I don't really remember." I get annoyed because I don't want to overpay nor do I want anyone to get jipped. Or, if you prefer, you can pool some money together and use that as a bank. Any money left in the pool at the end of the trip can be split evenly.
plan the trip It makes sense that you'd go on active trips with your athletic friends, visit historic cities with your culture-loving buds, and jet off to tropical getaways with your fellow sun-soakers. And if this is the case, then it's probably going to be a pretty smooth trip. However, if you're just trying to spend some time with a friend whose interests don't necessarily overlap as smoothly with yours, then it's important to set the tone for the trip early on.

Make sure you communicate with each other exactly what you're looking for out of a trip - culture, relaxation, experiencing something new, a little of everything - that way you can plan accordingly and avoid arguments. And, if, during these discussions, it seems you're both compromising to a point where neither of you is having any fun at all, then maybe you should skip the trip and just go to the movies instead. (And I wish you the best of luck deciding which movie to watch!).
plan the trip together I'm a planner and I really enjoy the act of planning. However, if it feels like I'm doing all of the "heavy lifting" I tend to get a little bitter and I want some input from my travel companion(s). At the same time, I'm sure that my overplanning may tend to feel overbearing. Strike a good balance and make sure you're contributing an appropriate amount, encourage your friends to contribute, and make an effort to collaborate so that it feels like a trip you've actually planned together.
communicate and compromise If you don't speak your mind, you're not allowed to stew or complain later on; that's my rule. So, if your traveling buddy is doing something that bugs you, say something but say it nicely to avoid causing tension. For example, if you feel like your friend is spending way too much time getting ready in the morning while you'd like to get out of the hotel room before lunch, then say something like, "Hey, I'd really like to maximize our time here. Would you mind if we woke up half an hour earlier?" Obviously, you should know your friend well enough that you can work on your delivery (whether your friend will be receptive to flat-out honesty, if (s)he needs some buttering up, etc.).

And conversely, be open to any feedback from your mates. I'm always keen on squeezing as much as I can into each trip and I'm sure it can be stressful. If my travel companion said something, instead of getting defensive, I'd respond with something like, "Thanks for putting up with me so far. I didn't know you were overwhelmed. Let's slow things down," and really show some appreciation for my friends' patience.

This is probably the biggest key to a successful trip.
understand each others' weird habits When you're spending an extended amount of time with someone, you're bound to discover some odd habits. Some people snore, some people are morning shower-ers, some people are vegetarians, you get the gist.

I like to "stockpile" my items in one corner of a hotel room because I have this paranoia that if I scatter my possessions, it increases the chances that I'll leave something behind. Most of my friends like to unpack their suitcases and hang their clothes and nest. We may each think the others' behavior is weird but we go with it. If it doesn't directly harm us, we shouldn't even bother mentioning it.
get a good night's sleep You might be tempted to stay up all night gossiping, but hey, you can do that during the day too. Being cranky from a lack of sleep is a surefire way to start some petty fights while you're out and about enjoying the sites. So, set a bedtime and stick to it.
don't spend every minute together Alone time is important. Even with your most compatible friends, you'll end up at each others' throats if you don't take any break from each others' company over the course of a weeklong trip. I'm an introvert and I really relish my alone time so I'll savor even the quick 15 minutes that my travel companion is in the shower. On trips with larger groups, I'll put on my headphones in the room to mimic alone time or I'll head to the lobby just for a little break.

Also, if a few people want to do a certain activity but the rest of the group doesn't, then split up. There's no rule that says you must be together 24/7. Just make plans to meet up later in the day and get on with it.
respect boundaries Sharing is caring, but don't overstep your boundaries. If you want to borrow something or use your companion's toiletries, ask first. How irritated would you be if you found out your travel companion used the last of your toothpaste? I would be livid. So, set some boundaries and if you're worried your friend might be a little too comfortable, mention, "Hey, I'm running low on contact solution so I can't share. If you don't have any, let's buy some while we're out today."

It's also about being non-disruptive. For example, if your companion is a light sleeper, be respectful of that. If you are a light sleeper, plan ahead and bring ear plugs and an eyemask. If your companion is v. demure, don't walk around nude after a shower and make him/her uncomfortable. If your companion is a germaphobe, don't clip your toenails in front of him/her. Just because you're friends doesn't mean you can be completely lazy and annoying. Be respectful. You get it.
share memories Take plenty of photos together - be courteous and take each others' photos using each others' cameras - and then share them promptly. I don't mean that the second you take the photo, you have to email it to one another. But, at the end of the trip, upload your snaps to a photo sharing site (Picasa is my favorite) and send out the link for your companions to download.

Also, if you're in a group, there's no need for more than one group photographer. By this, I mean that if you're out at dinner, you don't need to ask the waiter to take your photo using everyone's camera. Instead, choose the best camera (the one that produces the highest quality photos) and ask the server to take a few shots using that one camera and share the shots afterwards. It's not only rude to the waitstaff to queue up your photography devices, but it's really bothersome to find out that someone's blinked in one person's photo and someone else looks a little wonky in another person's photo and you end up trading shots anyway.

On a side note, my camera happens to have a wifi setting that makes it easy to download photos from my phone so instant sharing is also possible. I know that immediacy is pretty important this day and age with all of the social media platforms that need to be constantly updated. If it's important to you to have quality photos and ease of sharing, I suggest investing in a camera with a wifi setting.
enjoy yourself - I've listed a lot of finicky things up above but really, the most important part is to have fun. You're on vacation with your friends; you're one of the luckiest people on earth! And obviously, you're friends for a reason. So, relax and remember to enjoy yourselves.

xoxo.

2 comments:

  1. Love it!!! And I didn't ask about your stockpile of stuff but now I understand! Hahahaha <3

    ReplyDelete

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