Yay! It's time to experience all the beauty the world has to offer with your best buds? But traveling is probably the true-st test of friendship. Spending copious time together in a foreign land to explore new places, cultures and cuisines may sound fun but it would be good to heed cautionary tales of friendships falling apart after a trip.
Fret not, travellers! Travelling with friends may not be as easy as pie but if you can rough out some details, you’ll be good to go! Here are our top tips for your first time travelling with friends ☺️
1. Seek compatible travel buddies
It may seem like a dream come true - seeking adventures in a faraway land with your friends as companions. But don't be hasty in planning for the trip! Knowing each other’s travel styles beforehand will enable you to make informed decisions when booking accommodations and planning an itinerary.
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A luxurious hotel stay or the more affordable option of a hostel? Exploring the wilderness or remain in the city? These are essential questions that will surface in the planning of your trip, and it is important to determine your compatibility with that of your friends by identifying your differences and deciding how you can compromise based on those differences?
Remember: you’re going to spend a lot of time together. Be with someone who you can at least tolerate when the stress of travelling starts to accumulate!
2. Discussing daily routines
On the note of discovering differences, pre-trip planning should include discussing your daily routines.
Are you someone who needs breakfast right away or are you a light eater who doesn’t mind skipping meals just to do more sightseeing? Do you prefer waking up late and tackle the nightlife, or would you rather start the day bright and early? You cannot assume everyone is cool with waking up at 5am with you to hike a mountain and catch that spectacular sunrise you’ve been dreaming of! Some friends actually go to bed at 5am (personal true story!). Knowing each other’s habits, routines, and behaviours can help you understand each other’s needs and know what to expect. You can consider planning a schedule to facilitate everyone’s morning routine so the group can start off the day proper.
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For Muslim folks travelling with non-Muslim friends, don’t shy away from informing them of prayer times. Letting your friends know your prayer schedule helps them plan more efficiently so while you pray, they could do a little more shopping or enjoy a longer lunch.
3. Create travel goals
It's unusual to set a goal for your vacation. Not if you want to make the best of your trip!? Setting goals is all about prioritising what you want to get out of your vacation. Be it personal or group travel goals, take some time to discuss this with your friends so that the purpose of the trip is straightforward.
P.S. Discuss your travel plans before heading there, whether the trip intends to explore or shop! With this, your expectations would be aligned too!
This will go a long way in making your trip a good one - especially if plans need to be suddenly changed.
4. The all-important budget conversation
Set aside all reservations about discussing budget because it will inevitably come up. Before your trip even begins, there should be boundaries when it comes to setting budget and it is always advisable to be upfront about expected expenses.
First and foremost, agree on a general budget for your entire trip. It is unlikely that everyone is drawing similar incomes so having a general budget allows everyone to be on the same page when it comes to spending money. Your more affluent friend would not be so lavish with their spending and your less than wealthy friend would not feel pressured to bust their budget as well! With a general budget, everyone’s expectations on how much they can spend are managed.
Secondly, agree on how expenses like accommodation and meals will be divided. Would everyone be okay with splitting the bill down the middle even if one person ordered a salad while everyone else had steak? How about who gets the bigger room in your Airbnb booking if everyone paid the same? Don’t be afraid to ask questions and come to a consensus on how expenses will be shared as your friends are likely thinking of these same issues.
5. Start a shared fund
Once you’ve decided on how shared bills are to be divided, consider having a shared travel fund where everyone contributes about the same amount of money. The best is if one of you carries a small sum of it with you during the trip so you can cut down time when paying for 'shared' things like meals and entrance fees. This would also prevent those awkward moments of telling your friend they haven’t paid for their share yet.
Money matters with friends can be tricky and it is important to be as transparent as possible. So whenever you use money from the shared fund, write it down in a small book to make sure every dollar is accounted for!
6. Plan specific activities before you go
You might be a spontaneous traveller when you travel on your own but with friends, it'll be great to know what everyone would like to do during the trip. Start by listing every activity each person wants to fit in and rank them by priority. Make sure everyone has at least one activity they are looking forward to in the itinerary so that the trip will be a good one for everyone.
Also, remember not to be too ambitious in planning and pack too many activities in one day! You may want some leeway and free days in case a certain activity isn't available on your scheduled day.
7. Don’t forget to schedule in me-time!
It is a common misconception that because you’re travelling in a group, you always have to stay with the group. But you don't have to stick with them throughout the trip! It's okay (in fact, we recommend) spending some time on your own.
It is also unlikely that everyone is agreeable to everything you want to do during the trip so take this time to venture off on your own (or with a smaller group) and satisfy your personal needs. Plus, with everyone seeking different experiences that day, it makes for great story-sharing over dinner when everyone regroups back again!
8. Communication in key
Conflicts can arise when there is a clash of opinions and expectations. And often times, it's inevitable when you're spending so much time together! Instead of keeping your frustration and unhappiness pent up, voice it out and resolve them. Your vacation time is a finite one and you wouldn’t want to sully it by not talking to your friends, would you??
Consider having nightly sessions where you talk about what didn’t go as planned and formulate a solution so the next day would run more smoothly. Talking and resolving things might make the trip even better going forward so don't hesitate to do it!☺️
9. Take ownership of your mistakes
If such talks do arise and your friends point out something you did, try not to shift the blame to someone else, deflect it or even blow up at the mention of you being in the wrong. Take ownership of your mistake and make a sincere apology to your friend. Admitting your faults may not be pleasant but it is an essential step in avoiding hostility (and the possibility of losing your friendship forever!?) Plus, when you acknowledge your mistake, you are giving yourself the opportunity to learn from it as well!
And if you were on the receiving end of a mistake, forgive your friend! They probably feel awful to have hurt or disappointed you. Recognise that those negative feelings would not enhance your friendship or your vacation away together. Take a deep breath in, accept their apology, work out a solution if need be and hug it out?
10. Play to your strengths effectively
Perhaps you have a friend who is great at booking affordable flights but is always tardy. Or maybe another friend has superb organisational skills but doesn’t deal with spontaneity very well. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and travelling with a group of friends allows us to take advantage of each other’s favourable traits (and be more forgiving of their not so favourable ones)?
Identity the quality that can help you and your friends on this trip. Being an actively helpful member of the group would reduce any tension that may arise from travelling☺️
11. Power down and chill out
Travelling can be stressful and when the going gets tough, it is important to take a step back, breathe and relax. Know that you’re in a very privileged position to see the world with the people you care about. Also, power down your mobile devices and be present with your friends. What makes the experience of travelling so grand is not the pictures you post on Instagram but rather the company you went with.
And ta-dah! You’re now ready to travel with your friends! It sounds scary that a trip could potentially hurt your friendship but know that having effective communication is the foundation of all friendships and relationships. So don’t be afraid fellow traveller and most importantly, have fun! ?