Traveling With Friends…And Staying That Way

By Gretchen Kelly

pic1It’s the ultimate test of a friendship (after borrowing money or stealing a boyfriend). A road trip with a friend can be a relationship-bonding journey of discovery. Or it can turn into a nightmare that has the power to end friendships abruptly and embarrassingly.

I’ve had them both, so I know what I’m talking about.

I once traveled to London with a good friend. We were sharing a room for a weekend jaunt to the UK to go barhopping and English-boyfriend shopping. My friend had just started a new diet and, it seemed, everything in London was conspiring to subvert her—even me. Firstly, the flight attendants on the plane over would not cook her the Weight Watcher’s frozen dinners she’d packed in her carry-on. Secondly, I wouldn’t go with her to a Weight Watcher’s meeting once we landed. While I wholly supported her efforts to stay “on program,” talking about weighing baked potatoes was not what I wanted to do my first afternoon in Jolly Olde England. Then there was the choice of things to do. I wanted to explore literary London. My pal wanted to shop for clothes. Ultimately, we split up and did our own thing and my friend ended up leaving early because she discovered she basically didn’t want to be there in the first place. Our friendship broke up after the trip and I never saw her again. (If you’re reading this H., sorry about the mix-ups!).

Contrasted with that was a trip I took to Mexico with a gay, guy friend. We drove through the Yucatan together for a week, staying at local haciendas along the way. Our interests were very similar. We laughed, we cried, we had some close calls (with stinging insects, camera theft and scary Mayan rainforest ruins) but came through it better friends that we started.

Moral of the story? Travel with people who like to do what you like to do. And never, ever travel with a friend just because it’s cheaper. Many tour companies have buddy programs where they will hook you up with a roommate if you need it. It’s much better to have roomie tensions with a stranger than with a friend. You never have to see the stranger again, but you could lose that friend over who gets TV rights or when the lights go out.

Forewarned is forearmed. That said, here are five dos and don’ts for traveling with pals:

1. Base your traveling companion on mutual interests, not longstanding friendships.
Just because you’ve been pals with Sally since High School doesn’t mean she’s cut out to go white-water rafting with you in Costa Rica.

2. Consider taking separate rooms.
Yes, it’s cheaper to share a room, but is it worth the fights and squabbles that can ensue over who gets the bathroom first?

3. If you do decide to share a room, establish rotation of preferences right away.
Night one, you get bathroom, she gets dips on TV, etc. That way you won’t have to get irritated thinking about it during the day.

4. Have a frank talk about romance (if that’s on the menu) right up front.
If you or she hooks up with someone, what is the protocol? Sometimes this happens to just one of the traveling partners, while the other oozes with jealousy and anger the rest of the trip. Not good for any friendship.

5. Don’t make the mistake of spending every minute together.
Explore on your own. Make other friends if you’re traveling with a group. Agree beforehand that free time is friend-friendly, not visa versa.

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