Traveling can be a fun adventure, or it can be a friendship-ending nightmare. Or a combination of both. One thing we can guarantee though, is that you will encounter bumps in the road when traveling, even with the most meticulous planning.
We’ve been bumped from flights; gotten a flat tire miles from the nearest town; been attacked by a dog; had various humiliating bathroom disasters; been lost more times than we can count; accidentally ordered something SUPER expensive we couldn’t really afford; encountered bed bugs; and a hundred other “bumps” that could have resulted in a huge fight.
After taking dozens of European trips together, we have developed some good techniques for how to be a good travel partner. These tips can apply to couples, or to siblings, or friends. We hope these tips help you have smooth sailing on your next trip!
1. Coordinate with your travel partner before the trip starts.
You need to sit down with your travel partner far in advance of the trip and work out a few things:
-What your travel goals are (Food and wine? Art and culture? Relaxation? Hiking and sports? Some of all?) Knowing what your collective goals are will help you focus on what to put in your itinerary. This is the first discussion we have with itinerary clients, and often takes a couple of phone calls to sort it out.
-Where you want to visit (specific sights and towns)
-What is your (realistic) budget?
Once you have worked out these concerns, you should work together to make sure each person gets a few of their top-tier wish list fulfilled. If you both have things you are looking forward to, you can share excitement about each other’s activities. If you focus on the desires of only one person, the other will inevitably resent it. But if you both get some of what you want, the shared experience will actually bring you closer together.
2. Be ready for mistakes.
Someone probably forgot to pack a map, or a converter, or underwear, or their passport, or some other damn thing that could be a major (or minor) headache. Or someone will decide they need to use the bathroom even though you've just left a restaurant; or someone will take a wrong turn on a limited-access highway that forces a route that's miles out of your way; or someone will order an entire octopus by accident, thinking it was a cheese course.
If you prepare yourself mentally in advance for mistakes, then you’ll be kinder when those mistakes do happen, instead of focusing on the disappointment.
3. When mistakes do happen, force yourself to be nice.
If your first instinct when someone makes a dumb mistake is to be nice about it, you’re way ahead of the game. In most cases, though, the typical response to a partner's mistake is anger, derision, or some other unpleasantness. If something goes awry due to a mistake, do your best to resist the urge towards grumbling or snarking, which is unproductive. A better response is to take a few breaths, keep cool, and wait until you can say something positive, like “Okay, we’ll figure this out.” This makes for the best chance to deal with the problem at hand, and it turns an experience from an uncomfortable bed of resentment into a quirky memory that you can laugh at for years afterwards.
Something we’ve learned from our travel clients is that in discussing their upcoming trip, people have the tendency to think almost entirely about where to visit, what to see, eat, drink, and so on. We try to include thinking about what kind of experience you want to have with your travel partner, and what kind of memories you want to build.