Google "rules for travelling with friends" and the top results are from Glamour, Forbes, and the Lonely Planet. Put differently, no publication with the weight and authority of the Meserve Reserve seems to have taken a serious look at this topic.
But as anyone who has traveled with a friend knows, it's an important, and potentially trip-ruining, topic!
This past weekend, some of our best friends, Paul and Deborah, who are married and live in New York, met us in Paris to celebrate Paul's recent 40th birthday. One night, as we were discussing this blog, they suggested doing a post on rules for travelling with friends. Great idea!
Having now read many of the articles out there on rules for travelling with friends, they can be summarized as follows:
- Choose your travel companions wisely -- look for people with whom you can get along with in a variety of situations.
- Discuss travel goals ahead of time -- are you wanting a relaxing vacation, or to see all of the sights?
- Discuss a rough travel budget, then stick to it.
- Make sure everyone has a say, and a part in, planning activities.
- Take some time apart from the group -- this could mean solo time, individual time together with a spouse or partner, or pairing off into smaller groups for certain activities.
- Figure out a strategy in advance for handling group meal payments -- most of the articles suggest an even split.
- If you are all staying together, divide up any necessary chores such as cooking and cleaning.
A few of the more novel ideas that jumped out were (a) discuss expectations surrounding daily routines including expected wake up and bed times and (b) figure out ahead of time if anyone has any absolute deal breakers, i.e., someone is on a special diet and will not eat certain types of food, will not be drinking, or refuses to go to modern art museums, inasmuch as any of these "surprises" could turn out to be major bummers for everyone else.
No doubt, these are all good ideas. Even sharing a list such as this during the travel planning stage could be a fun, non-threatening way to foster some of these discussions with the group.
We had a great weekend with the Paul and Deborah, no doubt because we have known them well for years and have traveled with them many times (although this was our first overseas trip together). Choose your travel companions wisely! Among other things, we ate at one of Paris's enduring, hip and hard-to-get into restaurants, Frenchie, and at one of Nicole's favorite, more casual spots, Cinq Mars, picnicked along the Siene river, tried a tasting at a high-end coffee roaster, sipped wine underneath a sparking, lit up Eiffel Tower at 1:00 a.m., and attended the final stage of the Tour de France.
Looking back on the weekend and our past travels, Nicole and I have a few additional tips we would pass along in addition to those listed above.
- Do better than discussing budgets, expectations, etc., ahead of time -- just plan a rough itinerary with the entire group's input. That way, there can be no doubt about the agenda and cost and, if anyone wants to opt out of an activity, they can communicate that to the group ahead of time. Planning an itinerary requires more work upfront, but the payoff is a much more enjoyable trip. In our case, there is no doubt that Nicole is the planner in our relationship. So she took the lead, along with Paul and Deborah, in planning and scheduling most of our activities and agenda. My sole request was that we attend the Tour de France. Accordingly, by the time we all met in Paris, we knew what we were doing, when we were doing it, and how much it would cost. It's hard to be upset about how a trip turns out when you have all of that information in advance.
- Rather than dividing costs as you go, if possible, save receipts as you go and divide the cost at the end. This eliminates so much hassle along the way. Obviously, it only works if you trust the people you are travelling with to pay you back promptly. In our case, we booked the Airbnb that we shared and Paul and Deborah paid for most joint food and activity costs as we went. Then we divvied up the overall cost at the end.
- Plan an itinerary -- but don't be afraid to call audibles and do your own thing (and don't hold it against anyone who decides on an audible, as long as it's not ruining your plans). As an example, although we picnicked along the Siene one afternoon, buying the food and travelling to the picnic site took longer than expected. I, in particular, was getting hungry and moody. Then, our first two spots turned out to have been used recently as bathrooms by Paris's homeless community. They stank. We walked until we found a better spot but, by that time, we were all tired. The food and wine perked us up but, even though we had planned to stroll Paris before heading to dinner, Nicole and I called an audible and headed back to the Airbnb to sleep. Paul and Deborah still got to take a stroll together and, when we met later that night for dinner, we were all refreshed and happier.
Travelling with friends is some of the most fun we've had over the years. But it is not always easy. If you haven't already, try some of the methods and rules above, or develop your own, and see what happens. Happy travels!