There’s nothing better than sharing amazing experiences in your life with those close to you. Traveling with friends can create memories you share for a lifetime. It can bring you closer together or further apart. That’s why it’s important to take traveling with friends serious. Some trips are less stressful than others, but when you are traveling to Europe or other foreign destinations there’s a lot of factors to consider. Often the trip is expensive and each person has things he or she must/want to see. There’s also travel stresses and language barriers that can get thrown into the mix. Below are a few tips on how to best set yourself up for success and how to manage needs and expectations while on your trip.
While staying together can provide a costs savings I recommend staying at a hotel with separate rooms the majority of your trip. You can pick a few days or one location to share an Airbnb or VRBO, but if you are going to be gone most of the day every day the convenience of a hotel and cleaning services can be a breath of fresh air. That way no one is stuck doing dishes or searching for clean towels. This will allow everyone to get a little bit of down time and personal space. When you are on a 10+ day trip it’s necessary to relax and have some time to regroup. Not that you can’t get that when staying together, but your quiet time can be interpreted or disrupted and you may not even realize it.
Get together with the group and plan out who will be going where and when. Everyone may not go on all the same parts of the trip. For example, on this last trip we left the group to go to Rome for a couple days. Once you figure out who will be where and when, start looking for lodging. Do this earlier on in the trip planning, 4-6 months out is plenty of time. For hotels, you’ll want to book on the 6-month side of that. I’ve been very lucky and have booked great Airbnb’s as close to a month out, but don’t wait that long it will just stress you out! But also, don’t rush it! Make sure you research the areas you are interested in and get the best location for the sightseeing and activities you want to do.
Plan, but don’t over plan. This is one of the biggest challenges when going on a big trip with or without a group. You don’t want to plan every second out that you get ran down or flustered when things don’t work out. You also don’t want to leave your agenda wide open and be looking at each other for ideas or be the tag a long to everyone else’s plans. I recommend creating a list of things you must see or do in each of your stops. When you travel with friends get together before your trip and see if any of the items on your list match up with someone else. If they do, you can plan to do those activities together, pick a day and make a loose game plan. Remember not everyone needs to be doing the same thing at the same time the whole trip. We always like to make an event out of this part of the planning. Make sure it’s stocked full of themed wine and food. It’s a good idea to have this meet up at least 6-8 weeks before you leave.
While you’re on your trip discuss the next day’s plans the night before. It’s as simple as saying what you think you may do the next day over dinner or a glass of wine. “We might do…” “and then go to…” This will let the rest of the group see if it’s something they want to join in on or allow them to talk about their plans. Remember it’s ok to say you want to go do something on your own and would like to meet up later. It’s as easy as “We’re going to go do… on our own, but we’ll text you when we’re done to see where you’re at.” Remember everyone has forked out a lot of money and it’s their trip too. Stay flexible and don’t get upset if plans change, just move on to the next thing on your list!
Communication is definitely a huge key for success in more ways than one when traveling with friends! While you need to keep open communication going you will also need to make sure you can communicate to find one another when the everyone is out and about. Most people buy an international phone plan. The features you have will depend on your provider. We use AT&T and receive unlimited text messaging and a certain amount of data. Most people will have their data off and just use wi-fi unless they absolutely have to. You will most likely rely on text messaging to communicate which works well as long as you have your iMessage (if you have an iPhone) off and text message on. Remember dropping a pin will not work unless the person receiving it is on data or using wi-fi. GPS can be tricky abroad so texting the name of a location you are at or close to may be the most helpful. That way the person looking for you can find a wi-fi hotspot or turn their data on to look up the location. More on maps later.
During your planning and during your trip certain expenses will be paid by one person or on one tab because it is not feasible to split it up. While planning you can take turns purchasing things or have one person pay. Then just pay each other back using Cash App, Venmo or PayPal. Make sure before anyone books anything that payment dates are set up. Sometimes a deposit can be made with a final payment being made later. Since big trips are usually booked far in advance some people can still be saving and may need a few months to pay. The best thing to do is just pay each other at the time of booking or on an agreed date if you need more time, it avoids any tension or uncomfortable follow-ups.
While on your trip make sure each person is able to look at the final tab. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is get out a pen and write what amounts go on what card or are being paid in cash. Don’t panic, the waiters will live if they have to wait a few more minutes for your group to figure it out. Always having cash on hand is important, some places will not take cards. Splitting tabs with groups is challenging no matter where you are. Don’t leave the table until you all feel like it’s right, no need for tension or stresses here.
One thing I learned this trip is that when you are in a place like Venice or Naples with tall buildings and narrow alleys you can lose GPS signal very easily! A few tricks I learned were to not hit “Go” on your map route. Let it create directions for you, but do not have it direct you. This will allow you to follow the route on the map and see if you are on track, but it won’t try and reroute you if it can’t find your location or if you get off track. This method will require more effort on your part. You will need to look for street names and double tap the direction arrow in your map to see if you are facing the right direction. Remember everyone is trying their best! It doesn’t hurt to have a few people mapping and stop to compare when others think you may be going the wrong way. It wouldn’t be an adventure if you didn’t get lost!
I also recommend downloading Maps.me. This app works without data and was a big help when my maps app didn’t work. There were literally times when the maps app wouldn’t even pull up. Maps.me was a lifesaver in those moments. The only complaint I have about Maps.me is that it doesn’t pull up every place you may be going, like a store or restaurant. It takes a little more work to get locations saved but it is worth it in my opinion. It does take up a lot of storage on your phone so only download maps for the location you are at and delete them when you’re done.
Lastly, tiffs will inevitably arise whether they are between couples or friends. IT’S OKAY! You are all human and being together for weeks is bound to cause tension. Just make sure you are all adults about it and can have the humility to apologize. If you and your spouse have a moment, just let the group know you’re sorry. Everyone understands that disagreements happen. If something or someone is bothering you just get it out in the air, nicely of course! Sometimes we get to a point where we don’t even know why something is bothering us it just is. And trust me, everyone else knows somethings up especially if they are good friends you’ve known for a while. None of us are that good at hiding how we’re feeling when we’ve spent days together with people. This may be a good time for everyone to go do their own thing one day and meet up for dinner later.
The more grace you can give to the challenging moments the more rewarding the good ones will be. If you follow these tips you will have more good moments than challenging ones!