How to: Pick a Travel Companion

by  Teresa Bitler | Jun 12, 2014
Road trip
Road trip / monkeybusinessimages/iStock

Choosing the right travel companion can make or break your trip. The next time you’re planning a vacation, keep these five tips in mind.

1. Find someone with common interests.
If you crave adrenaline-generating adventure, don’t choose a travel companion who wants to spend every morning in an art gallery and every afternoon at the spa -- one (or both) of you will be sorely disappointed. Look instead for someone who shares your passion for whitewater rafting, ziplining, and other outdoor activities. That’s not to say you have to have exactly the same interests. If you're traveling with someone passionate about exploring local culture, they may introduce you to a new experience or food that you never would have discovered on your own. Just be sure you enjoy each other’s primary interests, too. Tip: Before you go, talk about expectations, what you want to do, and how willing you are to explore your friend’s interests.

2. Make sure you have compatible travel styles.
Common travel styles are just as important as common interest. If you’re the spontaneous type, a travel companion who needs a fixed itinerary probably isn’t the best match. You’ll also want to consider whether your friend is an independent traveler who wants to go solo sometimes or someone who expects to always be with you. If you want to spend a day exploring a particular market by yourself, will your travel companion be okay with it? Moreover, if you're an early riser who wants to get to bed early, you may not want to travel with a partier who stays up until 2 a.m. and sleeps until noon. Similarly, if you need to eat lunch so your blood sugar doesn’t drop, opt for a friend who enjoys the afternoon break, not someone who wants to skip meals to sightsee more. Tip: Even if you have different routines at home, you can make it work on the road if you agree to a daily schedule before you go.

3. Set a similar budget.
Your budget affects everything -- where you stay, what you eat, what you do, and how you get to where you want to go. If the amount you and your travel companion set aside for the trip varies greatly, your expectations will also probably vary, and one of you will either feel let down or end up spending way more than anticipated. Once you settle on a general budget, you'll want to spend some time discussing how you plan to allocate that money. Discuss where to save and where to splurge (accommodations? food? attraction entry?). Tip: Good communication is essential on the road, especially when it comes to money. You should feel comfortable talking to your travel companion about your needs, wants and concerns (financial or not) on your trip.

4. Don’t pick someone too quirky.
We all have our quirks, but when you're with someone 24 hours a day, those quirks get amplified, sometimes to the point of being tear-your-hair-out annoying. Before you travel with someone, watch for idiosyncrasies that could grow tiring during a long trip: non-stop talking, tardiness, forgetfulness, constant texting… Imagine living with that quirk for a week, then ask yourself: Can you do it? Tip: Road test your travel companion by taking a short trip together first to see how it goes. Even a day trip to a city a few hours away can give you a good idea of whether you’re compatible or not.

5. Ask yourself: “Am I willing to risk the relationship?” We don't want to be dramatic, but travel can be stressful. Before putting someone’s name on the reservation with you, think about your friendship or relationship. How strong is it? Can the two of you talk things through? How would you feel if something goes wrong and your friendship is irreversibly ruined? Base your choice of a travel companion on the above criteria, not simply on how much fun someone is or what great friends you are; sometimes, your best friend isn’t the best person to take with you on a trip. Tip: If you're single, think twice before traveling with a platonic friend of the opposite sex. If one of you wants to take the relationship to the next level and the other doesn’t, the trip can get awkward and uncomfortable real quick.

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