Tips on traveling with friends and keeping the friendship at the end of the trip vary as much as the personalities that accompany me on my journeys. Here are a few tips on how to have fun, keep the peace and come back home feeling excited about your next trip with your favorite Gal Pals:
It is pure Nirvana if you travel with people who enjoy the same types of activities and at the same pace. It can be hell if the majority of the group loves to try a new museum and one person hates them. Love to shop, but the rest of the group avoids it like the plague? Examine everyone’s needs, do your homework before the vacation to assess compatability. If you know one of your pals won’t appreciate what the rest of the group likes, then give them options. During the times when you visit museums they can either do their own thing and meet up with the group later, chill at the hotel or opt out altogether and wait for another trip when the group is more aligned with their goals for sightseeing destinations. Sometimes the best option is not traveling together at all.
Will you throw down credit cards and split every meal; do you prefer to use cash or do you want separate checks at each meal? Believe it or not, the answers to these questions cause most of the angst people have about traveling together when not discussed ahead of time. Just like marriage, money is the top reason why friends who travel together have a falling out. Discuss your budget or non-budget constraints about the trip ahead of time to avoid conflict on the road. Sometimes I travel with pals who want luxury all the way – no holds barred, first class flights and Michelin rated restaurants only. Other times, sticking to a budget is more of a concern so it is important to pick your excursion and dining choices with others’ feelings in mind. If my Gal Pals are on a similar budget, we start a “Kitty” for things like taxi rides, lunches and happy hours. Everyone begins by putting a set amount of money into the Kitty and then Kitty pays out for these items until exhausted. Using this system means no breaking down the menu items on the bill which relieves stress on everyone.
The worst trips are when nobody plans activities and there are a bunch of gals sitting around a hotel room asking, “What do you want to do now?” Invariably, most in the group will say, “I don’t care. What ever you want to do.” More often than not, women say this, but don’t mean it. What they really mean by it, is that they don’t care what it is as long as it includes something they already envisioned themselves doing. Catch my drift? To avoid this scenario, before the trip ask each person what they “must see or do” and incorporate at least one of those items for each person into the trip.
Book tickets ahead of time to ensure your activity is not sold out or that you have to wait in line forever. Try to book everyone’s flights to depart and arrive at the same time in order to keep everyone on the same page. Nothing sucks more than having people miss the best parts of the trip because they didn’t book their flights early enough and lose the flexibility to travel on the same dates. It makes sharing rooms more difficult and planning excursions more challenging. Make sure there is “down” time put into every day. Stop at a café and relax without having a deadline will allow everyone to chill and gear up for the next event.
Planned a picnic in the park and it is raining or one of your pals is too tired to make the fabulous dinner reservation you booked months ago? Don’t freak out. You’re on vacation for God’s sake! Regroup, take a deep breath and move forward. Move your picnic indoors, reschedule it or improvise and grab a crêpe on the go. If a member of the group opts out of events, stay polite and enjoy the time you do have together. They may be feeling unwell, not be in sync with your mode of travel or interests so rather than blame it on them, take ownership of the fact that you have different styles and that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to travel. Be adult about it and remember, life is short to create tension. Focus on the positives and how privileged we are to be on a trip together in the first place.
Usually on our trips, before bed I put together a slide show of the day’s events – it is so much fun have a pajama party and recap when everyone has an opportunity to chime in on which photos are their favorites. It is fantastic when the lighting is perfect and the smile on your face is genuine and natural. Occasionally someone comes out looking like something the cat dragged in, due to the photographer’s error of course. Often, I hate photos where my butt looks too big when people photograph me from behind but sometimes it is funny. In any case, if someone has objections, do not post anything to Facebook or on social media without showing and gaining approval first from the “model” in question. She may be good natured and think it hilarious, but she may also be horrified. My motto is, when in doubt, leave it out. It is, perfectly acceptable, to crop out those who do not look their best, but only if you find a lovely photo they like of themselves to post along too.
Bon voyage mes amies!
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