When I was leaving high school I had all of these dreams about traveling the world alone, discovering amazing things and exploring incredible countries. Ten years later, I have been lucky enough to enjoy traveling with my family, with my brothers, with girlfriends, with my boyfriend’s family, with my mum and nana, with friends, with other couples and around the world with my best friend and husband.
I realise now that I love travelling with other people and there is nothing better than tossing around ideas about your next adventure with another person or group of mates.
Nonetheless I am always a little nervous knowing that some group dynamics can be one of the toughest aspects to overcome in any trip. Traveling with other people often means that you will be spending extended periods of time together, sharing space, armrests, washing powder, food, hotel rooms, bobby pins, Band-Aids, budgets, and even luggage space or clothes (depending on your situation). Hostilities can escalate dramatically and even the smallest argument can ruin your holiday or work conference.
In a study, latedeals.co.uk found that over 75% of couples argue at least twice during a two week trip. As someone who has spent years travelling with my best friend and boyfriend (now my husband), I know that travelling with someone else can make or break your relationship. Some arguments can help build your relationship, but many do not. By diffusing any argumentative situation quickly you can usually avoid unhappy travel companions and enjoy your trip instead.
Here are eight tactics that I use to avoid unnecessary arguments while ‘on the road’:
1. Pick your travel buddy
You cannot choose your family, but sometimes you might be lucky enough to choose the people you travel with. If you do, make sure you pick them wisely, or you might be stuck with some awful pain in the neck who always has to be at the airport two hours before the flight and keeps moving all of your stuff from the middle of the lounge room (oh wait, that’s me!). If you do get stuck with someone you can only handle in small doses, put on your headphones and feign sleep, or organise a day (or a few) where you go your separate ways. Trust me, they are probably feeling the same way about you.
2. Men Vs Women
There are a few things that, stereotypically, men and women do that bug members of the opposite sex. These are unavoidable, but here are a few ideas to deal with a few of them –
Men will check out other women… and they can’t help being obvious about it. Buy him a pair of sunglasses and ask him to be a little more subtle. Let’s be honest, women do it too.
Women (and my hubby, although he denies this) generally take much longer to get ready. There are two ways to avoid a fight over this. Either you leave her to her own devices and meet up with her later on; or tell her that the taxi/flight/dinner is booked 30 minutes before the actual time. This will reduce the stress about getting somewhere on time.
Men watch sport. There always seems to be that ‘all important’ footy match showing at the nearest pub or venue that you get dragged along to. Have a drink and suck it up. Then next time you want to just ‘duck into that little boutique on the corner’ he will not have a leg to stand on.
3. Compromise on activities, outings and where to eat
Everyone is different and will want to travel differently, do different activities, see different sites and eat different foods. It usually helps if you have set out the ground rules before you depart. Know what your companion expects and be clear about your own intentions.
Dan loves to snowboard and I don’t ski or snowboard. But that’s ok because I always tag along and find other things I like to do at the snow. When we went to Berlin for a weekend recently, I took myself to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe while he slept off a hangover. When we were in Copenhagen, Dan spent hours on the rides at Tivoli Gardens while I spent the day relaxing in the sun and reading a book. When we were in Japan with a large group of friends, Dan and I spent a few days away from the group to do the things we wanted to do. And, they did the same.
Do you want to be up early to visit every museum in the city while your travel buddy spends every night at the local pub and sleeps through the next day? Your time might be limited and you cannot accommodate everyone, so learn to compromise; catch a crappy train for one leg of your journey and fly on another; split up for a day or two to experience different sites and activities; or get take out from different restaurants and eat together at the hotel.
4. Take turns reading maps
As someone who is awesome at reading maps (that’s what I like to tell myself), this is a tricky one. Let’s face it, there will always be someone in your party who is more dominant at reading the map but terrible at asking for directions or help when they are lost.
Many research studies support the idea that men are better at reading maps than women but women tend to be more aware than men of objects around them, including those that seem irrelevant to the current task. My only piece of advice here is to use these facts to your advantage and work together, if you can. Or be the bigger party, take the backseat, enjoy the scenery and only contribute when the map reader has become hopelessly lost or asks for your help.
6. Be responsible for your own packing
I don’t know about you, but I make a point of not sharing luggage and packing space unless absolutely necessary. This is probably because hubby has an issue with over packing (do blokes really need three pairs of shoes?!) and I find that I can never find anything in my luggage unless I have organised it myself. The downside is that you become solely responsible for lugging your own bags around without having the chance of asking someone else to ‘take their turn’.
Learn how to pack light and take responsibility for your own belongings. Don’t rely on someone else to pack the power point adapter or your phone charger; this will only lead to arguments about who forgot to pack what. Just because you might share everything else does not mean that you need to share your dirty laundry… literally.
7. Be open about money
Money and stress about money causes arguments. Some people share money, others travel on a strict budget, and some like to spend big and not miss out on a single thing. While it can be a private matter, make sure you have an understanding of what your travel companion’s money situation is and that they understand yours.
Before your trip, try to discuss how you will access your money (read here about using your debit card, credit card, or cash while travelling) and what your budget is, whether it is a hitchhiker/backpacker’s budget or a luxury/business class budget. It also helps to know the local currency, have a basic knowledge of the exchange rates and know that you have an easy access to enough money for your whole trip.
And, there is nothing more stressful than losing your wallet full of credit cards, tickets and cash. So have a back-up and be prepared.
8. Keep healthy (and happy) with a balanced diet
We all love to indulge in rich foods and enjoy the culinary delights of a new destination, but make sure you are keeping track of your eating and drinking habits for the sake of your own health and the sanity of your travel companions. You will probably find that you and your companions will not enjoy the trip if you are too hung-over, hungry and/or sleep deprived. I am the moodiest person in the world when I am hungry, and I know that my husband is unbearable when he has had too much wine the night before, so I always try to keep a sandwich nearby or let him sleep it off before we start our day of sight-seeing.
While I am not one to talk about healthy diets (give me a pack of Pringles over an apple any day), I find that my general mood improves if I spend at least 1 day a week eating well and walking/riding to sites and landmarks. Quick tip – always keep a bottle of water handy when you are travelling as flying and walking can dehydrate you quickly in any weather.
Looking for more travel inspiration?
Check out my recommendation on what to do in:
Amsterdam, Bali, Berlin, Brisbane, Bristol, Budapest, Cambridge, Canberra, Cappadocia, Chamonix, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, Istanbul, Kotor, Kyoto, London, Lyon, Madrid, New York City, Noosa, Paris, Riga, Scotland, Tokyo and Washington D.C.