How To Stay Friends and Not Murder Each Other: A Guide To Travelling With Mates
How to protect your friendships — and your sanity — on the road.
Holidays come in all forms. You have your family getaways, the ubiquitous couple trip to Japan, gap years in Europe and road trips throughout the United States. And then, there’s the elusive group holiday.
Until recently, I hadn’t been on a group holiday, which for the purposes of nailing down a taxonomy I’ll define as four or more people going further than a beach house down the South Coast.
It sounded like a great idea when the tickets went on sale and my friends and I impulsively booked flights to Hawaii. It was more than nine months away, we had endless amounts of time to book and plan… and we did! But not without some concerted organisational effort. You do not want to be two weeks out from your fly date and still nailing down if you’re going to be staying in an AirBnb or a resort.
If you’re planning a group holiday of your own, here’s what you’ll need to do in order to maintain your friendships. And more importantly, your own sanity.
Do a pre-trip vibe check
While it might be tempting to throw together a bunch of friends and an exotic location in a kind of whirlwind memory-making travel blender, doing a pre-trip vibe check will help a lot. Avoid any uncomfortable mid-trip conversations by discussing ideal budgets and timelines early.
Are you all fine with maxo-relaxo vibes, or would you prefer a healthily busy itinerary? Do you want to visit multiple places, and will it involve people shouldering a load of driving time? Are your star signs compatible? Screen your travel companions early, people.
If your group is made up of friends and also friends of those friends, I suggest having a few in-person catch ups before your trip.
As well as getting everyone in the room together and having the panopticon of other people force you to at least Google the car hire at your destination, it’s nice to be able to start laying the groundwork for spending a lot of uninterrupted time together.
Get booked and busy
Once you have a general idea of budgets and timelines, decide how you’ll book and pay for things like flights and accommodation.
If you’re aiming for sale fares, give one person everyone’s passport details so you’re not dealing with multiple bookings and wondering who’s buying your ticket. The same goes for accomodation. You could also have different people book each segment to spread out the initial financial outlay before you pay each other back.
While you don’t need your itinerary planned out to the minute, a good spreadsheet is extremely helpful for sketching out any specific activities or time-sensitive things. We plotted out where we’d be located, any pertinent flight times and the tour that some of the group would be going on.
Depending on the level of organisation ability of your group, it’s also helpful to include a pre-travel to-do list. Add in any items people should be sorting out: visas, travel insurance, pre-flight food purchases, getting a travel card or currency and the like. Don’t be the person who arrives without a visa and ruins it for everyone else.
…Then plan some more
A communal spreadsheet also helpful for not doubling up on research. There are many ways you could do this, but essentially you want a few categories for food, nature and sightseeing, shopping and cultural sites.
Everyone can drops links for things they’re interested in doing in there. This also importantly gives everyone agency in planning what they want to do (and gives you time to suss out who does nothing, and therefore gently avoid).
In that vein, start a shared Google map and save in any landmarks or restaurants you want to visit. This might sound like a lot, and it kind of is, but it works. By taking 15 minutes every couple of days out of your Instagram scrolling schedule to plan, you end up with a stacked sheet of pre-vetted activities and food options, thus avoiding waking up one morning and wondering what there is to do.
Secondly, the offline Google map is invaluable for when you’re between activities or want to see what’s good in the area you’re in without spending 25 minutes in a McDonalds scraping WiFi to search for a non-touristy cafe or lunch spot.
Okay, you made it. You’re all there. Being flexible and realising you’re going to need to slightly recalibrate your own travel style is essential here.
My advice is just Bruce Lee’s advice: be water, my friend. Travel, even the meticulously planned, can throw curveballs at you. And there’s a beauty in that spontaneity – otherwise you would have stayed at home. Prepare as much as you can and then let go, these are my final rapid fire tips.
If you’re planning on splitting up at any point, be aware numbers and public transport really dictate things here. For example, a group of five people means you’ll always have a buddy (unless you abscond solo), but in a place like Hawaii where you’re limited to using a car on some islands, it means pre-organising pick up and drop offs that you all agree with.
Carry small change or consider a group pool for shared expenses like taxis, car hire or fuel – or drop it into the spreadsheet and work it out later.
A final word on travel with friends
If you find yourself chafing with someone, I’d actually suggest trying some light one on one time with them – it can strangely be a good way to smooth out your differences. If this doesn’t help, let the group dynamic naturally run its course. Nobody is everyone’s type and that’s chill too.
Finally, and I can’t stress this enough: find your alone time. Good luck, and bon voyage!