5 Tips for Finding the Perfect Travel Companion

If you’ve decided against traveling solo, you are probably in the market for a travel companion. But choosing the right person to share a trip with is not an easy task — and traveling with the wrong companion can really ruin a trip.

And while you can never really be sure how someone’s going to act once they’re on the road with you, these five tips should help weed out some of the more incompatible travel companions.

#1: Have Something in Common

Your travel companion doesn’t need to be your soul mate, but you should have a few interests in common. It’s nice if you both like hanging out at art galleries, for example, or are both keen on trying new foods. You probably won’t spend all day, every day together, so it’s not important that your interests completely overlap, but if you don’t have anything that you actually want to do together, you are probably better off traveling solo.

A couple of years ago I took a trip to the south-west of England with a friend of mine, and the reason it worked well is we had some shared interests, but not everything. We both wanted to do some hiking along the coast, and spent a great day sharing this adventure together. Another day, I checked out the local art galleries while Tatiana headed off on another coastal walk, and we met up later for dinner with a few stories to tell each other. That seemed like the perfect balance of shared interests.


Backpackers in Silhouette, Tokyo © tanakawho

#2: Avoid Neurotic Travelers

Know someone who’s really, really neat? Or who always asks for special side dishes at a restaurant? These kinds of traits may not be a big deal when you’re in your hometown but take these habits on the road and they’ll soon drive you mad.

My other half often tells the story of a trip he made around Greece with a colleague of his who he didn’t know that well. They were backpacking, on the cheap, but that didn’t stop this colleague neurotically repacking his backpack every morning before they set off. He’d empty the entire backpack, refold all his clothes, put each toiletry item in a separate plastic bag and then repack it all. The process took close to an hour while my other half was (impatiently) waiting to get on to their next adventure.

#3: Agree on a Similar Budget

Traveling with a similar idea of a budget in mind is one of the most important things to ensure a harmonious trip with your travel companion. Three friends of mine recently took a long weekend trip through the countryside and came back with a story that I found hilarious (but only because I wasn’t involved): they had such different expectations of the expenses of their vacation that by the final night, one found a room in a hotel, the other got a bunk in a youth hostel and the third slept on the beach, all meeting up the next morning to drive back to the city.

Your budget affects pretty much everything you do: where you stay, what you eat, what you visit and how you get there, so if you’re miles apart on this topic, there’s only going to be trouble.

Sleeping Travelers, Istanbul
Sleeping Travelers, Istanbul © procsilas

#4: Road Test Your Travel Companion

Before you commit to a long or expensive trip, try to arrange a weekend or overnight excursion to someplace near home. Depending on the relationship you have with this friend or acquaintance, you could be straight with them about the purpose — to see if you’d be compatible as longer-term travel companions — or just observe them carefully without mentioning the real deal.

Key things to look for include how flexible they are about making or changing plans, if they have any really annoying personal habits that you couldn’t live with, and quite simply whether or not you feel comfortable sharing a room with them. Spending a month backpacking with a heavy snorer could put a big dent in your enthusiasm for a trip — or you might need to know about it so that you can bring ear plugs.

#5: Make Sure You Can Talk

Before you get down to any detailed planning of a trip, make sure you have “the conversation” about dealing with problems on the road. Talk to your prospective travel companion about how you imagine the trip working out: for example, would you prefer to spend half the time doing things on your own, or do you envisage spending most of the trip together, visiting the same places? Are you the type of traveler who needs time out on their own, and do they feel the same way?

Once you agree that you’ll travel together, setting some rules is essential for a harmonious trip. And to set the rules, you’ll have to be able to talk together openly and honestly. As an example, you might want to make agreements about what you’ll do if you make new friends (is it okay to invite them to travel together with you), or if one of you starts a romantic relationship with someone you meet on the road (what will you do if your travel companion wants to bring someone back to your shared room — or what if you want to?).

Traveling Companions Ain’t All Bad

Having said all this, I’m still personally in favor of traveling with a companion. Solo trips are all well and good, but in most cases, the advantages of traveling with someone else outweigh the benefits of being alone. When you’re traveling with someone else, you can split a lot of costs, see more sights that you might not have gone to on your own, and one of the nicest parts is having someone to share those traveling memories with.

Years later, it’s a lot of fun to talk to your traveling companion about all the crazy things you did on your trip. Oh, and years later, you also forget the snoring.

26 Responses

  1. Amanda

    This is great stuff. I keep wishing my sister and I could take a trip together. Now I’m pretty sure we’d be good companions.

    Reply
  2. Lola

    “#4: Road Test Your Travel Companion”

    So true.

    Once traveled to Toronto with my sister only to discover we have 2 different travel speeds.

    Me – Energizer bunny!

    She – Slug!

    Reply
  3. Amanda Kendle

    @ Amanda and Lola, interesting that you’re both talking about traveling with your sisters! I’ve traveled with mine just once – along with her husband, on their honeymoon! (Long story). And actually we turned out to be very compatible traveling companions, even though we don’t hang out together much in normal life.

    Reply
  4. Mike Richard
    Mike Richard

    Great tips all, Amanda!

    I once went to Montreal with this “cool” guy from work. It turned out he wouldn’t walk the streets with us for 2 days because it was raining. Really.

    We drove 400 miles to Canada’s mostest awesomest city and he sat in the hotel watching Lifetime because he didn’t want to get wet.

    Always, always road test your prospective travel companions!

    Reply
  5. pam

    I met my husband traveling and sometimes I think we travel together better than we live at home together. :)

    I think the test drive is key. I agreed to meet a friend for a leg of a trip after I’d been traveling solo for a long time – we’d not traveled together before and it was kind of a bust. And I had a falling out with another companion who I was sure I could travel with because my friend was really destination driven whereas I’m a process kinda person, I like all the inbetweens.

    We did a lovely short trip with a bunch of people recently where we all stayed at the same place and had one dinner and one brekkie together but the rest of the time, did our own stuff. Worked flawlessly, everyone had a great time.

    Reply
  6. Amanda Kendle

    OMG yes, avoid the “cool” guy from work! I mistakenly traveled with the “cool girl” from work once, similar problems (although unlike your companion, Mike, she was at least waterproof!).

    Pam, my husband definitely loves me that little bit more on the road because I can’t leave all those books and papers lying around everywhere.

    Reply
  7. Scott

    The Road Test is really important to make sure that we could really adjust with our companion.

    Well great tips put in.
    Thanks

    Reply
  8. Daniel

    Great post! I stopped in London, Ontario (on my way to Toronto) with my girlfriend, and we had a lot of fun walking around town. London isn’t exactly a tourist’s paradise, but having the right person who’s willing to explore the same nooks and crannies can change the way you explore a place.

    Now we’re traveling to Korea together!

    Reply
  9. jim

    Great post! I also travel with my girl friend. It was awesome. Traveling with her makes me feel comfortable and I am really enjoying the trip.

    Jim

    Reply
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    Reply
  11. elephantcarrental.com

    OMG yes, avoid the “cool” guy from work! I mistakenly traveled with the “cool girl” from work once, similar problems (although unlike your companion, Mike, she was at least waterproof!).

    Pam, my husband definitely loves me that little bit more on the road because I can’t leave all those books and papers lying around everywhere.

    Reply
  12. Jody

    I wish I knew these things before I started travelling with friends. Absolutely agree with #3 about budget and #5 about expectations for time together & apart. Misunderstandings in these areas can lead to a lot of resentment, hurt feelings & an all-around bad trip.

    Reply
  13. Joshywashington

    I have found my best travel companions on the road, it is easy because you know that the fact that you two are in the same place, on the same trajectory, means you probably have some fundamentals in common.

    For me, a willingness to embrace uncertainties, random trails and waterfalls and sleeping in awkward accommodations is a must!

    Also no whining or no binge drinking.

    Reply
  14. Bluegreen Kirk

    I would say all these tips are great except that most of my travels are done with my wife so even if a have a problem with lets just say #3 the budget there’s no way to change buddies. Just end up having to find a work around. #2 on the list would drive me crazy!!

    Reply
  15. Ned

    great post, i find alot of things are about compromise. My older brother was extremely shy, and was NOT a budget traveller. It killed me everytime i paid for a 30+ euro meal and hotel. After two trips with him, i took one with my best friend for two months and it was by far the best trip of my life =) while there are certain things to deal with (teeth grinding), we are both adventurous, easy going, and curious so it worked out perfectly =) (hostels/budget food). anyways im leaving to a 4+ month solo trip to asia so I guess ill be able to see another side to travel =)

    Reply
  16. traveler

    Great post! one more point to add is that make sure your travel partner/s will not borrow money from you and making yourself not enough in cash and have to draw from credit card.

    My bad experience was that I went for a trip with a friend and we have agreed to changed certain amount for the trip. Yet on the departure date I was told that she only changed half from the sufficient amount and expect me to lend her $ since I have changed enough for the trip. Actually it just enough for myself :(

    True enough her cash is not enough and straightaway borrow from me, and it caused me not enough then I have to draw money from my credit card including her loan from me. When bills comes with the interest, she seems doubting me on the interest and delay the payment. I feel so disgusted and to avoid breaking our friendship I just kept quiet. It about trust after all.

    Although we never argue but for sure I do not wish to travel with such behavior person.

    Reply

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