I love traveling with my friends. It’s a great way to get to know people better and share some amazing experiences.
But that doesn’t mean travel is always perfect. Travel can be exhausting and stressful. And that can be tough on your friendships.
By doing some advance planning before your trip, you can reduce a lot of the frustrations that have the potential to damage friendships.
Follow the steps below to help ensure your friendships come out intact (and even better!) after traveling with friends.
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1. Set a budget
Money can be a sensitive topic in any relationship, including friendships. Before you begin planning your trip, you need to establish a budget that everyone can agree to.
Maybe you all decide that this is going to be a splurge, once-in-a-lifetime vacation where you’re all willing to pay a little more. Maybe you’re going on your annual friends’ trip and decide to go to a less expensive location this year.
Setting the budget will help you decide the destination, length of the trip, and what you’re going to do.
On previous trips where my friends and I didn’t set a budget, we inevitably had differences related to costs along the way.
Sometimes it was because things were more expensive than anticipated. Like that super nice hotel or four-star restaurant. But sometimes it was because things were cheaper than anticipated. Like that rickety kayak tour when you were expecting a nice boat cruise.
When everyone knows the budget upfront, it guides decisions and makes everyone aware of the financial expectations for the trip.
Hard feelings can come fast when money is involved. Help preserve your friendships by setting budget expectations before you start planning your trip.
2. Confirm how you’ll split the costs
Once you’ve decided on a budget, it’s important to decide how you’re going to split the costs.
Is one person going to pay for everything upfront and will be reimbursed at the end of the trip? Are you going to take turns paying for joint meals and excursions to split costs throughout the trip?
On a recent trip, one friend had expected to split costs throughout the trip, but the rest of us thought she would want to pay for everything upfront to accumulate points. Luckily, we ironed out the issue immediately. But we could have avoided the situation altogether by discussing it before the trip.
3. Track joint costs
No matter how you decide to split costs, you should always (always!) track all your joint costs. It can be easy to lose track of what you and your friends have spent during trips.
I recommend using some type of shared app to track the joint costs. That way, everyone can see and enter joint costs. I’ve used both Google docs and Splitwise for this.
On several occasions, a friend or I thought we had spent significantly more than the rest of the group. When we put the detailed receipts together, it turned out that wasn’t the case. But we would have been resentful (for something that wasn’t even true!) if we hadn’t seen the joint costs.
Give your friendships a helping hand and make sure joint costs are tracked while traveling with friends.
4. Decide what roles your friends want to play in travel planning
My friend Lindsay and I frequently travel together. I love reading travel reviews and blog posts, watching travel videos, and searching through travel review sites. She…doesn’t.
So we decided early in our travel adventures that I would do most of the planning. Once I had an initial plan together, we’d discuss it. She’d make suggestions, I would make edits, and we’d end up with a trip we both could enjoy.
When it comes to planning your travels, not everyone has to be responsible for something. For the people who enjoy helping with the planning, let them do it. For the people who don’t enjoy it, let them skip it.
Forcing travel planning responsibility on someone who doesn’t want it is a fast way to start off the trip wrong. When people don’t enjoy a task, they often don’t do it as well as someone who does enjoy the task.
Have an honest conversation about what role your friends want to play in travel planning. If that role is just sitting back and providing suggestions, that’s okay. You’ll have a better trip if the people who are excited about travel planning are the ones doing it.
5. Be realistic about sleeping arrangements
People can have very different sleeping styles and preferences.
One person may flail in her sleep (me). Another person may snore (will remain anonymous). Another person likes it cold. Someone else likes it hot.
If you try to crowd too many people into a small space, sleeping differences multiply and become more difficult to accommodate.
Although it costs more, you may want to consider having fewer people in a room. This will allow for a better sleeping experience while traveling with friends.
Sleep is such an important part of having a good day that you don’t want to ruin your trip by being exhausted the whole time. You don’t want a poor sleeping experience to be the most memorable part of your trip.
6. Allow for time apart
When you’re traveling with friends, it sometimes feels like you have to spend the whole trip with them. Go to the same shows. See the same sights. Eat at the same restaurants.
But not everyone likes to do the same thing. And while compromise is important for a great trip, compromise doesn’t mean that everyone does everything together all the time. Instead, a compromise might be that for some parts of the trip, people split into different groups to do the things that are most interesting to them.
When some friends and I went to Paris, two of us had never been to the Louvre. Our other two friends had already visited it several times. Rather than make everyone go (or not go) to the Louvre, we agreed to split up. My friend Lindsay and I went to the Louvre, while our friends Suzanne and Melissa went to see other parts of Paris.
7. Schedule downtime
I’m guilty of trying to cram way too much into each trip. Guidebooks, blog posts, and videos get me so pumped up about travel that I think I’ll have limitless energy on the trip.
But travel can be exhausting. Once you arrive at a destination, you’re standing a lot, walking a lot, learning a lot, and experiencing a lot.
When you try to do too much on a trip, you tire yourself out. And a tired traveler is a cranky traveler who doesn’t play well with others.
Schedule some downtime during your trip so that you have time to recharge. You’ll enjoy the trip more and will be more likely to leave the trip with your friendships intact.