While similar to the topic of Travel Experience, travel style is an essential factor when planning a trip. It’s important to keep in mind that travel style varies depending on country/destination and tends to evolve over time. Take a few minutes to sit down and really think about what your travel style is (or might be).
Do you enjoy well-organized trips or spontaneous wandering? Do you prefer to be active in the mornings or the afternoons? Camping, homestays, hostels, hotels or resorts? What is more important to you, an afternoon spent exploring a niche museum or one spent sitting at a small cafe reading a blog? These questions have a tendency to help you narrow in on specific answers that can make a huge difference.
Money. It ruins friendships, marriages, and can make or break a trip. For most of us, travel is a leisure expense. Something we have to save up for, which is optional, and tends to be an increase over our day-to-day budget. Beyond that though, most of us have widely varied spending habits.
Figuring out your budget and what classifies as an acceptable quality of life while on the road is an essential part of trip preparation. Far less talked about, however, is the importance of making sure your budget and financial means line up with those of the person you’re looking to travel with.
They seldom do.
Which is why setting a budget, which you both intend to stick to, is essential. What happens if you miss a train or get stuck paying twice what you budgeted for a hotel room? While it may be within what you can afford, can your travel partner? Or, how do you plan to divide up your expenses? If you and your travel partner have both budgeted $100/day, you’ve agreed to the preliminary threshold, but that doesn’t mean you’re done. As the old adage goes, the devil really is in the details. How much of that will go to accommodation, food, beer and/or entertainment costs?
Do your budgets and values coincide? If they do, then a trip is a safe bet. If they don’t, you’re probably better off finding a more suitable group or individual to travel with.
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Agree before the trip starts to spend some time apart. Far too often when scheduling a trip, sometimes even trips that will last months, it’s not uncommon to spend nearly every waking (and dreaming) moment together. As time passes that becomes more and more of a challenge even for the best of friends (or couples) and let’s face it, your travel partner may be great, but there’s no guarantee they’re your best friend.
Before you leave, have a conversation about working in free days where you both split up and spend the day doing your own thing. I’d suggest working in one every week and a half or so, but it will depend widely on how well you travel together. What’s important is that you recognize when you need space and are able to take it without any hurt feelings.
Even though my brother and I travel incredibly well together and have the added advantage of being able to tell each other off when something is annoying, we still benefit from and periodically take solo-afternoons. Far too often people tend to feel that to do so is some sort of expectation of failure—a veritable traveler’s pre-nup that dooms the undertaking to failure. Which is, of course, bullshit.
Timing and Commitment
Two rules tend to shape the lead-up to a trip. People are flaky, and life happens. You’ve planned a trip, started saving, found a travel partner, and then a month before the trip, you learn they either haven’t saved up the money they planned to, have made other plans, or chickened out. Now you’re without a travel partner, the prices of airfare have gone up, and you’re left high and dry. Trip ruined, all before it even began.
My advice is to let actions speak louder than words. Don’t let your desperation to find a travel partner or eagerness to travel with someone cripple or kill your trip. Set firm deadlines for ticket purchases and get your potential travel partner financially invested as quickly as possible. The easiest way to make a trip “real” is to purchase your airline tickets. While this isn’t 100 percent, it will improve the follow-through rate and weed out people who love the idea and are saying yes but would otherwise flake out later down the road.
If they can’t or won’t commit within a reasonable time period, it’s time to move on and find someone else. At the end of the day, it’s ok to be a bit selfish. This is your trip, and you’re responsible for making it happen. Set yourself up to succeed, not fail.
Remember the old saying, the more the merrier? When it comes to travel, it’s bullshit. The larger the group, the more difficult and frustrating the trip will be. That’s a simple fact. As a general rule of thumb more than three people should never travel together for more than a week (unless part of an organized tour). Remember that even adding one person triples all of the factors outlined in this section.
Are there groups that do it with more? You bet. Did they survive the trip in one piece and as one group? Sometimes. Did any make it through without significant frustration at some point or another? Probably not. Also, don’t underestimate the added complexities that come with larger groups from the emergence of multiple aspiring leaders to inter-group dating and sexual drama. There’s also the often significant loss of time and increased energy dedicated to daily activity planning as you work to align to everyone’s desires.