5 things to ask your travel partner before a trip….
Since I began traveling, my trips... have ranged from exploring alone, visiting friends, to traveling with a partner. While I enjoy all three, the hardest one to get right is the last one. Traveling ...with someone isn’t easy. Once I started to share my travels on social media, the comment that I hear most often is “I only travel with someone, I can’t imagine doing it alone”.
But for all of us who have visited different locations and whose interests range from museums to hiking, casual eats to fancy restaurants, early-morning jogs to late-night speakeasies, the range of preferences makes choosing a travel companion very hard. After exploring a couple of times, I have come to realize what kind of traveler I am … and that being best friends doesn’t mean you will travel well together.
1.What is your budget?
From the total amount, to what to spend it on…
Never “assume anything” when it comes to money. Even if vague we all have limits in mind and things we prefer spending our money on. Not fully aligning everyone’s stance can end up in disaster. When it comes down to it, we are all on a budget whether you are very well-off or counting your change ... Money becomes a critical point of discussion when it comes to accommodation, food, activities, drinks and entertainment, as you will most likely be sharing these costs.
Tip: Even though it’s difficult and uncomfortable to talk about it, be sure to at least convey your top priorities, as they will affect your partner’s experience, as well as your own.
2. What type of accommodation do you prefer?
5-star hotel, a friend’s apartment, Airbnb, hostel, or a tent….
The diversity of options out there for your “temporary home” are too vast not to be discussed thoroughly. This may be the most expensive part of your trip and will set the tone for the type of traveler you are. Be sure to clarify which are your and your partners “requirements” for picking a place to stay: location, cleanliness, convenience, luxury, comfort, services, expenses.
Tip: When choosing a place, consider its location and your proximity to the spots you are visiting. The most precious commodity on vacation is time, don’t waste it commuting.
3. What are your eating and health habits?
Fast food, vegan, fancy, casual…
Do you eat/exercise for pleasure or for necessity? For many, food and fitness are like a religion, and more so now that there are so many custom food vendors and activities making our daily regiments more tailored. The range of preferences is immense: fast food, sit-down meals, gluten-free, paleo, traditional dishes, protein bars… Also consider how often you work out! Hotel gym, running path, walking tourist, couch potato…
Tip: Always travel with personal snacks and a pair of sneakers or at least a comfortable walking pair of shoes. Be prepared for hunger to strike at the worst time and give yourself the possibility to be active.
4. What are your touristic plans?
What to see and How to see it… structure vs. spontaneity, local vs. touristic activities
Are you travelling with someone who wants to see the Van Gogh Museum or just shoot pool at a bar? Do you go with the flow or have a structured way of exploring? It’s important to have an idea of what each person wants to see. What I have come across is that many travelers don’t know that there is an alternative to their way of exploring. That often means that their travel partner’s approach come as a shock upon arrival.
I usually plan ahead and share Google documents with the people that will be joining me.
Tip: Tourist sites can be expensive and work on a schedule, so consider the times and dates your attractions are free, open, and available. Take a glance at their the websites, we all something that made our sightseeing list that we don’t want to miss.
5. What do you do for fun and what are your social habits?
Alcohol, smoking, dancing, reading, movies, people watching…
We all have something we like to do to unwind at the end of the day. What is your idea of fun and what daily habits do you travel with? Some people travel with check-lists of iconic clubs, fancy hangouts, divebars, local festivals… And are you habits compatible? social drinkers and smokers, neither, or have you made it a sport? But with all the multiple differences, there is nothing better than a good partner in crime to go clubbing in Russia, or for a dip in the Baltic Sea after a sauna steam.
Tip: Make a list with your travel partner of the places you want to venture out to at night. This will help with packing the right clothes and saving some energy for later J
Here are 3 more things to consider….
1. What is your social relationship?
Acquaintances, friends, romantic interest…
Are you travelling together due to cost, are you BFFs or do you or your travel partner have a romantic agenda? We see what we want to see, so be clear. Some people want to just share expenses and have other personal plans. Some travel with their best friend and want to spend the whole trip together. Make sure you are on the same page when it comes to your interpersonal relationship. Declaring your love or “making a move” halfway into your trip can easily lead to a very awkward situation, or even a parting of the ways.
Tip: This one can be a little delicate. Be upfront or even use old examples of tragic stories or amazing scenarios. Tell your travel buddy of your intentions - have “the talk”.
2.How do you pack?
Carry on vs. checking a bag…
Even if the suitcase fits on the plane, that does not mean that it will fare well at your accommodation or that I will be easy to move around a city. It also does not preclude that it might lead to extra travel time or that you’re not prepared for all scenarios. Light packing helps travel time and maneuvering at your destinations. Yet, over-preparing eliminates unnecessary shopping days and laundry time. As time is the most precious commodity on your vacation, be mindful and discuss the options.
Tip: Try to travel with a carry-on, but research your transport logistics, weather, accommodations, and complimentary items at your accommodation (e.g., shower gel). I pick accommodations that include hairdryers and avoid big luggage on small European planes or for multiple layovers.
3. What is your organization and cleanliness level?
Are you OCD or a slob?
The fight for the bathroom and closet space -- How long do you take to get ready and how clean and organized are you? Will you use your suitcase as your closet or occupy all the drawers as your personal domain? The bathroom becomes an issue when talking about time, space, and cleanliness. It’s hard to travel with people that leave a trail of evidence behind them. This is an issue you will be dealing with daily and it won’t take long before one of you declares war.
My personal fails and success…
Fail: When I find myself in a city with good public transportation I make use of it. However, my travel partner insisted on taking taxis because it was his concept of a vacation and we didn’t discuss this up font. This doubled my transportation budget.
Success: I stayed with my travel partner in a tiny apartment of a friend of theirs in NYC. Even though the setup was very basic, it was exactly what we had discussed and we made the best of the situation.
Fail: I was staying at a reputable hotel chain, but my travel partner decided to change hotels because they were unhappy with the quality of the place. This resulted in lost time to repack and discuss relocation, adding stress and disruption to the holiday.
Success: I was in NYC with my brother who had no desire to meet me at sunrise and run along the High Line Park with the rest of the locals. I let him know that I would do it alone, went for a solo run, and met him afterwards. He didn’t even miss me.
Fail: I had a travel partner that needed to stop for long meals to enjoy the view. However, the reality was that they were tired and couldn’t handle walking for extended periods of time in the heat. This led us to cut many planned activities and increased the meal budget.
Success: My Iceland trip partner resided in a different country and time zone, so organizing our trip was a challenge. We coordinated via Google Docs, which allowed us to get a clear understanding of our sightseeing expectations.
Fail: I never thought about asking friends how often they smoked. Yet, after a trip where my travel partner’s frequent smoking breaks massively delayed our travel plans and my clothes started to smell like an ash tray, traveling with chain smokers has become a non-negotiable for me.
Success: I was traveling to 2 cities with my friend - the first was where they lived and second for our joint holiday. We had talked so many times about what we wanted to do that is seemed liked we had been travelling together forever.
Fail: While I was staying at the place of someone I had known for over a decade, my friend decided to declare their love for me, which led to me feeling trapped at my accommodation, ultimately wanting to return home ASAP.
Success: When our plane arrived early on a trip where my travel partner and I were traveling with just carry-on luggage, we were able to jump on another connection at short notice only minutes before takeoff. This cut 2 hours off of our layover.
Fail: Traveling with checked luggage, my travel partner and I had to arrive at the airport more than 1 hour earlier to check luggage at the airport. When the airline lost the checked bag, the missing luggage procedure added a few more hours. The travel day became longer and we had to return to the airport the following day for the other bag.
Success: I had a perfect match in a travel partner with the same taste in beauty products that we ended up sharing. Somehow our compact toiletry bags merged and we ended up with a little luxury spread.
Fail: I had to clean the bathroom every time before using it, because my travel partner’s cleanliness left much to desire. There should be a standard that disqualifies you from sharing space with people.
Success: After a long day of sightseeing, my friend and I had some tea in the popular Meatpacking district in NYC. We did not go clubbing, but instead settled on some good people watching - perfect for us. We had the same habits when it came to fun and entertainment.