How to choose the perfect travel companion.

Having now travelled to 30 countries, many of which were on my own, I’m a big advocate of solo travel. I believe everyone should try travelling alone at least once (even if it’s just to a new city in their home country). But there are a few downsides to travelling alone: hefty single person supplements on package holidays, all your photos being squinty selfies and not having someone special to share that beautiful sunset with.

Of course, having a travel buddy eliminates all these problems. But the person you choose to venture with could either make or break your trip – therefore it’s important to think about where you’re planning to go and what you want to do once you’re there, then consider who’d be the best person to accompany you.

I was recently chatting with one of my best friends, TJ, about where else we’d both like to visit, and when. Her and I have been friends for nearly eight years now, and have been away together a few times, including an all-inclusive holiday in Turkey and a couple of long weekends in Amsterdam and Barcelona. We also lived together for a year, so I know we’d get along fine if we travelled together somewhere.

But as TJ works in a school, she can only travel during school holidays. And as I’d rather not travel during school holidays (because it’s more expensive, there are kids everywhere and, when working a 9-5 job, I’d rather let others in my office with kids take the time off), she’s not really a possible travel partner at the moment, unfortunately.

But it got me thinking, who would make the perfect travel buddy? I’ve outlined a few tips below to help ensure that you pick the right person to take on your next trip.

1. Always discuss want you want to get out of the trip.

Everyone travels differently. While some prefer leisurely afternoons spent wandering around museums with pit stops at local cafes, others might rather a trip bursting with non-stop action and adventure (ziplining in Puerto Rico anyone?). Then there are those that like to travel as part of a large, chauffeur-driven tour group, and the travellers that want to just lounge by a pool for a week, drinking cocktails. None of these “travel styles” are right or wrong, they’re just different.

So before you book anything, talk to your potential travel buddy (or buddies) about each of your styles and your priorities for the trip. This should allow you to create an itinerary that suits everyone (and avoids any arguments while away). I’ve found it helpful to chat with my travel companions about “must-dos” and “must-sees” – activities that encompass the day-to-day of a trip. It may be that the person you wanted to come on the trip with you isn’t that interested in the things you want to do; in which case, you may be better off taking the trip on your own (or finding another friend to go with).

Take my friend Laura, for example: she travels just as much as me, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends. If with friends, she has a two sets of friends she travels with: there’s her friend Nat, who (like Laura) likes to plan and book excursions ahead of the trip, and then there is her group of school friends, who prefer to pick a destination and let the itinerary just fall into place once there. Laura has had some amazing trips with both sets of friends, from Icelandic pony trekking in Iceland to safariing in South Africa. She accepts their different travel styles, and makes sure they choose an approapriate destination.

But would Laura make a good travel buddy for me? In some respects yes, I think we’d get along – we both like outdoorsy activities and we both like sightseeing. But she doesn’t blog (or even use social media) so I think she’d tire very quickly of me having to take a million pictures of a statue or my food to put on Instagram. She also has fair skin and red hair, so isn’t a massive fan of hot tropical climates – whereas I’m a sun junkie and will take trips far and wide to find the most beautiful beach.

Should we travel together? Probably not. Instead we’ll stick to catch-ups in the city over cocktails.

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2. Always discuss your budget.

Some people like to bum their way from hostel to hostel and have picnics instead of eating at restaurants. Others prefer to splurge on hotels with at least fours stars and room service. Again, there’s no right or wrong way for travelling – it all comes down to individual budgets and preferences. Whether you’re doing hostels or hotels, budget airlines or business class, comprehensive or standard travel insurance, your budget will really affect your trip, and ultimately who you should go with. It’s hard to travel with someone when you’re arguing about money and can’t agree on where to stay, what activities you want to do and where to eat.

I was once away with a friend and half way through the trip she suddenly realised she’d unwittingly spent all her travel money, so had to resort to withdrawing money from an ATM (with the fees to do so rubbing further salt into the wound). Similarly, I’ve been the one that’s run out of cash because of an “unbudgeted for” activity (it wasn’t my fault – I just had to have that Michael Kors handbag from Macy’s in Puerto Rico).

I suggest agreeing a daily budget before booking anything, which you should try your hardest to stick to during the trip. By making sure you’re both on the same page money-wise before you go, your daily spending should not come as a surprise to either of you (and neither of you will spend beyond your means). I know it’s not always easy talking about financial matters, but trust me: having the conversation before you book a trip will save you a lot of grief – and dosh – on your getaway.

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3. Always take things at a comfortable speed.

Agreeing a suitable pace is particularly important for holidays where you haven’t made any concrete plans.

If you’re traveling with someone who wants to stay in one area and explore it in depth, but you want to travel to several different cities (or even countries) in half that time, it can be a bit of a sticking point. Some people prefer to sleep in, take each day slowly and visit every corner of a place before leaving, while others might choose to be up at the crack of dawn because they have a shorter time frame or simply prefer being busy all the time.

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Have a conversation about how much you want to accomplish each day, how quickly you plan to travel through each location, and how often you plan to relax. An overzealous itinerary could result in discontent for both of you, so build in some downtime to recover from a travel day, and be mindful of how each item on the itinerary could effect the next.

Maybe rethink your plans for a sunrise hike after a debaucherous boozy night out – unless you’re like me and can function on only a few hours sleep? When in Brussels a few years back I managed a mammoth four-hour walk from the hotel in the city centre to the Atomium, after drinking beer solidly all of the previous day. My travel buddy Solo was flagging though, so in hindsight we probably should have done something a little gentler that day.

4. Always think about your personality types and circumstances.

Imagine, your single friend wants to check out a new club to see what the local talent is like, but you (who’s happily married) want to take your full eight-hour beauty sleep so fresh and ready for exploring the next day. You decide to part ways, your friend off clubbing into the wee hours in search of a holiday romance, while you’re snoring your head off in your hotel room. Come the morning, your friend is still snoozing (potentially with a new Pedro in the room), while you’re up and ready to go. And so your whole day seems ruined, your trip is ruined, you’re bitter and annoyed and spend the rest of the holiday not talking to your former friend.

Sounds extreme, but trust me, it can happen. Therefore, to fully enjoy your trip, make sure you pick a travel buddy who’s on the same schedule and same personal situation as you.

Similarly, consider your personalities. Are you an energetic, go-go-go type or do you prefer to take things easy, ambling along at a snail’s pace? Type A personalities are all about the action, while Type B people prefer to “be in the moment” and savour every step of the trip. It’s quite possible that someone can be bothered types, too. For example, when I’m on a short city break I like to cram in as much as I can, but if I’m in an all-inclusive resort I’m happy to just hang by the pool do nothing. It all depends on the type of trip and the country I’m going to.

Keep in mind yours and your friend’s personality types and personal situations when you’re deciding whether they’d make a good travel companion. Test it out on day trips and weekends away in your home country first, like my friend Bambi and I have done. We’ve done day trips to Brighton and most recently the Mayfield Lavender farm in Surrey, plus we’re off to Longleat in a few weeks. Then maybe Bambi will come to Iceland with me in December, all being well…

*****

Writer Mark Twain once said: “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” I guess like most things in life, it’s hard to know who will you’re perfect travel companion until you’ve actually ventured somewhere together. But these tips should help you determine how compatible you and your potential travel pal are.

One thing’s for certain, whoever you end up travelling with, and wherever you go together, the best part is that you’re seeing the world, having new and life-changing experiences, and learning things (about your destination, your friend and yourself) along the way.

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96 thoughts on “How to choose the perfect travel companion.

    1. Travelling solo isn’t for everyone, I know that – but sometimes travelling with someone can make things difficult too. You don’t get to do what you want to do, you sacrifice things to make others happy. I’ve learnt a lot over the last couple of years since upping my travel game lol x

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  1. I went to India when i was younger and it was set up by a company that organised volunteer work. I met the girl that I would be travelling at the airport and a month after us being there she went home, it wasn’t for her which left me working and then travelling on my own. The experience was good but it wasn’t the same on my own, I was always on guard if that makes sense x

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  2. Great tips! I’ve been on holiday before which each of our budgets were completely different, and it kind of ruined it for one person, as they’d run out of money come day 2 or 3 and feel like they can’t enjoy the rest!

    Kayleigh x

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    1. Sadly it’s more common than you think – a similar situation happened to me. I asked where all the money had gone, as we’d been doing exactly the same activities and eating roughly the same priced food, and I found out they’d been tipping the cleaning lady the equivalent of £20 a day. Obviously it’s nice to tip (especially so generously), but at that amount for 7 days, of course you’re going to run out of money fast, which made me feel bad for wanting to do other activities and them not having the cash for it 😦 x

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  3. All these points are so true, especially the one about budget. I made the mistake of not discussing this with a friend before our trip together because we’d known each others for years and since we’d agreed on the restaurants and activities so it should be ok… Boy was I wrong! Halfway through the trip, she’d bought so many clothes that she’s ran out of money AND space in her luggage. I had to pay for both of us and carry her stuff around for another couple of weeks. Needless to say, I’m off to Korea next week and will be staying there for a few months. Alone. Haha!

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  4. I never had the chance to travel alone properly save for visits to see family and friends in other countries but I love the idea. Now I’m married with kids so my main travel buddy is hubby and kids. However these tips will be useful to most people- even on family holidays I choose to skip activities I’m not interested in and vice versa.

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  5. I absolutely love this post because I agree with each and every point. Not every close friend or person necessarily makes for a good travel partner. I like how you mention about your friend who has two sets of travel buddies with completely different travel styles and she enjoys with both, picking her destination accordingly. Finding a good travel partner can definitely make or break the experience or at least affect it in a big way.

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  6. I think this is so important! My friend and I planned our dream trip this summer then two other people asked to join and we had to turn both down because we just knew that they were looking for something different to us. It was incredibly awkward and we don’t talk much anymore but we knew it was right for us and we didn’t want to go on an expensive holiday with people we weren’t sure about going with.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Laura – I’m glad to hear you stood your ground and didn’t allow them to join the trip. It sounds harsh turning someone down, especially a friend, but if you just know that they’re going to travelling differently to you, you don’t want to potentially ruin your trip by allowing them to come along x

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  7. I would love to be able to travel someday with a friend, as much as I love my partner sometimes travelling with a really good friend is different and nice in a way. These are some really good tips about finding the best travel companion though. When I go to different countries I always want to be very active and see a lot, so finding someone with similar interests is important!

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  8. I definitely would love to travel alone but I just wouldn’t be able to cope, mainly because I have an awful sense of direction and would probably get lost. By the sounds of things, my perfect travel buddy would be my mum! I’m sure she’d love it if she travelled the world with me.

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    1. It’s funny that you say that, but my perfect travel buddy is usually my mum too (in fact she’s even in one of the pics above!). And we’re going on another trip in 5 weeks to Dominican Republic x

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  9. I love the idea of just taking off and travelling, once upon a time I would have definitely done it had I been in the right head space, these day my mobility lets me down but maybe one day I will and I’ll have to remember these tips for picking someone to travel with.

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  10. Ach – picking the right travel partner is an absolute minefield and SO important – your best friends in life can be the worst travel companions and there’s really no way to find out until you’re thrown into the deep end with them, is there? To be honest, I travel on my own most of the time too, to avoid the hassle! x

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  11. You’re totally right about thinking what you want from a holiday. I do like to prepare and plan as much as I can especially for shorter trips and this doesn’t work for everyone x

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    1. It’s great to have plans, I agree – but do you ever just go somewhere and have no plans whatsoever? I’m going to Dominican Republic in a few weeks, and haven’t researched anything!! x

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  12. Such a great post 🙂 .. When I started dating my boyfriend , before taking things forward I also wanted to test if we r good travel couple and we took one month trip to South America .. He passed 🙂

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  13. Very interesting. It’s quite logical actually, but I guess most people (me the first) never ask these kind of questions! It’s good to discover what everyone expects and see if there is a match (or a mismatch) ! I love solo travel as well, but I started to also enjoy travelling with my 2 best friends; maybe more people to come 😉

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  14. Always think about your personality types and circumstances. – Such an important point – Like you, I prefer to travel solo but there are times it’d good to have a friend traveling with you. I have one friend who is basically me, he will call me sometimes and ask where in the world I am and just come and join me, it works because we like the same things, want to do the same and go at the same speed. I’ve traveled with other people (even an ex-girlfriend) and clashed at times because we’ve wanted different things. P.S not sure if you’ve been nominated before but gonna nominate you for blogger recognition award (will get round to it next week sometime haha)

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  15. I think you raise some really good points about evaluating whether someone else is a suitable travelling companion. Some people assume that because you like someone’s company that you can travel with them easily. I have many friends that I would never travel with because they would drive me insane! And I have been stuck with travelling companions on the road who really got on my nerves, and I was so grateful when I could finally shake them off. Solo travel is definitely my favourite mode by far.

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  16. aaw, i loved this post. I actually agree with you on all your points. I wish I had had this insight years ago when I had planned a vacation with a friend who was definitely NOT compatible. We had changed too much over the year and now I no longer talk too from a sour vacation. I agree, personality is important and it is key to plan out where to go beforehand. cool post.

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  17. These are all great points everyone should think of before they book a trip. At the moment I travel with my teenage daughter who loves exploring countries as much as me. I’m not sure what I’ll do when she’s a bit older and is off travelling without me though.

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  18. This article made me think and you are right. It is important who you go with! I travel with my fiance but to be honest there are places I want to go but cant because he isnt as adventurous as me and I would be better travelling to these places alone or my trip (and his) wouldnt be enjoyable (other than the company of course!)

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  19. I used to be more picky about who I traveled with then I went into a ‘I’m down to travel with anyone’ phase. But one trip showed me that I should be a bit more picky with who I travel with. This one particular person was okay to hang out with back home but when it came to traveling, everything about us was so different: what we liked to eat, where to sleep, how to get around. It just did not work. Wish I saw this article before that haha

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