How to Travel Successfully in a Group

Let me tell you right now: traveling with friends can be gloriously fun, but it can also be rough if you are unprepared. First of all, you will spend 24 hours a day with the same people (which may cause you to redefine HELL). Then you have to compromise on how to spend the vacation that you have been scrimping, saving, and dreaming about for years. Details like where to eat or how to spend an afternoon can create tension. Two years ago, I backpacked through Western Europe with my ex-boyfriend and my good girl friend. We got along amazingly well – only two blowout fights and three or four small ones. Here are some tips:

1. Choose your travel companions wisely
While this may seem obvious, we can be so thrilled to find someone with the time and money to travel with us, that we ignore potential problems. For instance, if they seem slightly annoying at home, they will be infinitely worse on vacation. Make sure your group has almost identical budgets and plans. Ridiculously stingy people aren’t fun. Do you have the same goals? If you aim to hit every art museum on the continent, don’t go with someone who wants to drink and party constantly.

2. Keep an independent fund and a collective fund
Assign a person to be in charge of a collective fund to pay for shared costs. Don’t bother with splitting checks and I.O.U.s. There are just too many expenses. Use the fund for travel tickets, meals, accommodations, museum fees etc.

3. Make friends with other travelers
Seeing the same people everyday can get tiring. Getting fresh conversation and company will make the trip much more exciting. While on a day trip in Germany, the three of us made friends with a group of five hilarious bartender-fraternity brothers from Wisconsin. They entertained us with stories of drunken brawls and farm animals.

4. Apologize quickly – time is precious
While we were in Switzerland, Nate and Tammy wanted to go canyoning (jumping off cliffs into freezing cold water). As I am afraid of heights and was PMSing, I desperately didn’t want to go. I was unreasonably stubborn and they were jerks about it. We were all ashamed of our behavior, but refused to apologize. That stupid fight cost us 4% of our vacation. I ended up going canyoning anyway and having an amazing time. When you have disagreements, be respectful and quick to apologize.

5. Respect their quirks
You will find out weird things about yourself and your friends. For instance, I turned out to be totally neurotic about washing my clothes. Tammy avoided dirty bathrooms. Nate got tired of eating local food and wanted fast food all the time. We picked the three worst things to obsess over. But you know what? We dealt with each other. They let me wash my clothes often, we spent a lot of time in search of decent bathrooms, and Tammy and I stopped hassling Nick for his food choices. By the end, we all improved and avoided many arguments along the way.

6. Don’t feel obliged to be together all the time
If a disagreement on where to go sightseeing arises, don’t feel like you need to stay as a group. Rather than dragging my friends to examine every detail of Versailles (studying the French Revolution happens to be a hobby of mine), I went by myself while they spent time downtown. We had a lot to talk about when we regrouped for dinner.

7. Don’t gossip
The entire group will know almost everything that comes out of your mouth. Trust me and don’t say, journal, or e-mail anything unkind about your companions. Plus, the less you rant, the faster you will forget issues.