Travel experiences are made to be shared, but make sure you choose your travelling companion with care if you want to remember your holiday for the right reasons.
Whether you’re thinking about a break with a friend, a two-couple trip, or maybe a three-generational holiday, take time to ask yourself a few essential questions before you book…
What should I look for in a travel companion?
How well do you know this person or family member? My best friend and I have known each other since school, still meet every week, and have the same kind of attitudes to life, so we never have to worry if the other is enjoying herself on a trip.
We’ve done cruises and walking holidays, cottage breaks and city stays, and on the rare occasion that something doesn’t go to plan, we just face it head on and make the best of things. But not everybody is the same.
If you don’t know someone well, test your holiday compatibility on a short break first, rather than leaping into a long haul commitment.
I once met two ladies on a Canadian coach tour who had worked in the same department store, but never been away together. Two days into the trip, the feisty one was ready to throttle her dippy but harmless companion, and the atmosphere positively bristled, to everyone else’s amusement.
Be honest about your physical abilities – can you keep up with each other? Are you a lark and your friend a night owl? Is one of you punctual, the other always late? The differences may not be insurmountable but need to be addressed for holiday harmony.
How to decide on sleeping arrangements
I love the camaraderie of an adult sleepover when I’m travelling with a girlfriend – those early morning chats over tea in bed, and the late evening recap on our day. But some people need their own personal space.
If this is you, be upfront and check the options for single rooms rather than feel uncomfortable with a room share.
Shared rooms certainly make it easier to pool accessories. You don’t both need to take large bottles of shampoo; copies of the same guidebook; or multiple gadget chargers. But if you do opt for a roommate, remember your ear plugs – and maybe a new pair for your friend too. We all snore sometimes and you don’t want to be the one whose holiday is spoilt by lack of sleep. Or be the one who’s responsible for spoiling someone else’s!
Where should I go on holiday with my travel partner?
Exotic destinations can look like a dream holiday on paper, but long haul travel, lack of sleep, and a change of food and routine can do terrible things to previously happy relationships. I know two couples who didn’t speak for years after an Asian adventure that turned out to be anything but the dream experience they’d hoped for. Little habits that seem innocuous at home can soon get on your nerves when you are travelling together outside your comfort zone.
Ocean and river cruising, however, allows friends to share the same adventure while still having a measure of independence. My husband and I recently enjoyed a Baltic cruise with old friends, everyone picking their preferred excursion or activity and then sitting down to swap stories over dinner.
Remember that group activity holidays take away the need for major decisions and potential conflict. You can join guided walks, learn new cookery skills, or try your hand at painting or photography.
How to split the bills on holiday
Make a money plan before you set off. If you eat out, will you split down the middle regardless of who ate what, confident it will balance out another time, or religiously pay what you consume? Do you settle up with each other on the spot or divide expenses at the end of the trip?
You might consider putting all incidentals on one credit card so you’ll have a printed total that’s easy to divide up. But if you pay cash, be sure to keep the receipts with a note of who settled each bill.
On a cruise? Maybe put the extras for your party onto one room number and then split it between credit cards before you disembark.
How to politely set your expectations
Many years ago, a lovely cottage holiday with our children and another family was nearly spoilt by our friends’ unexpectedly relaxed attitude to junior bedtimes.
So if you’re planning a three-generational break, state your position early.
Agree how many nights the grandchildren will be allowed to stay up later than usual; how many evenings you are prepared to babysit and how many occasions you want to go out on your own. Far better to have the conversation ahead of the holiday than in the heat of a family meltdown.
Finally, no matter who you are travelling with, if you’re renting a self-catering property, go for as many bedrooms and bathrooms as you can afford. Nobody ever had too much space on holiday!