26 July 2012

Travel Buddy Guide

If you’re thinking about a long trip, but don’t want to go alone, finding a travel buddy (or two, or five) is your best option. But traveling with buddies is not as simple as buying plane tickets and booking hotel rooms. A lot of preparation and teamwork goes into a smooth trip. Each buddy shares the responsibility of keeping the ship afloat through the strenuous trials that are sure to test whatever bonds the buddies had when they started.

  1. Choosing A Buddy
  2. It’s imperative to choose the right travel buddy for a long trip because you will be relying on each other constantly. Here are some tips for finding the right one:
    • Trustworthiness: this may be the single most important trait to expect in a buddy because you will have to trust them with your feelings, your money, your time, and your belongings – and you’re stuck with them for the entire trip.
    • Avoid sexual tension: I would advise against traveling with someone who you have unrequited feelings* for or where there is any sexual tension whatsoever or else get ready for an emotional rollercoaster in the middle of nowhere.
    • They can take criticism: Being upfront and honest is one key to a good travel buddy relationship, but what good is honesty if your buddy flies off the handle when they’re called out on their bullshit? Choose someone who can acknowledge his or her faults like an adult.
    • Self-motivated: Traveling in groups means responsibility, which means that everyone needs to do their part without being asked more than once and without getting upset at having to work.
    • Prepare to overdose: Any traits that your buddy has that annoy you when you hang out with them normally will be amplified during your travels, so make sure you can take your buddy in large doses.
  3. Teambuilding
  4. No matter how much you think you know about your buddy, just think about how much your buddy doesn’t know about you. Before going on your trip, share as much about yourselves as you can think of. Even if you don’t like what your buddy has to say, knowing about it will allow you to adjust your expectations to make sure things are copacetic.
    • Prepare your buddy for dealing with you: Tell them what what makes you cranky, what makes you happy, what you want out of the trip, how you start your day, how much money you’re comfortable spending, if you snore, if you have medical conditions, when you should be cut off, etc.
    • Agree on a mutual budget: “I’d like to aim for $30/day, but don’t sue me if I go over.”
    • Share your goals for the trip: “I want to fear for my life as many times as possible.”
    • Divide planning responsibilities: Everyone gets invested in a trip that they’ve helped plan out. Make sure each buddy has a hand in deciding the itinerary, researching activities & requirements and setting up reservations.
    • Make a questionnaire: If there are going to be a bunch of you, sometimes it’s easier to just answer questions and have people read your responses instead of sharing things with everyone all at once.
  5. Packing
  6. Aside from whatever you pack for yourself, here are some tips for packing in preparation for living with your buddy:
    • Simple multi-player games: Games are great for bonding while you’re traveling, waiting in line, or simply relaxing. They have the added benefit of passing the time without any filler conversation or awkward silence. Games also help for meeting strangers on the road – just invite them over for a game of UNO.
    • Ear plugs: whether your buddy snores or you find a cheap room right next to the outdoor dance club, your sleep is bound to get disturbed. Ear plugs will help you get a full night’s rest so that you are less cranky in the morning and are also less fatigued by the stresses of travel.
    • Leave extra room in your bag: Packing light is important for efficient travel when you don’t want to be the one slowing everyone down. The added benefit of leaving extra room in your bag is that you can temporarily carry things for your buddy in various situations. For example, my buddy was able to fit my toiletries in her bag, which she checked for the flight, allowing me to bring my bag as a carry-on. (Why? Because my bag has an aluminum frame, which can get damaged by baggage throwers.)
    • Bring enough snacks to share: The simple gesture of offering your buddy some of your chips or trail mix is both kind and nurturing and will make everyone comfortable and pleasant.
    • Create a list of required documents, dress codes, ticket costs and opening times for attractions and regions: When traveling in a group, it is important that everyone be prepared so that they are not left out due to any oversights. Nobody wants to be left out of the temple because they dressed too casually.
  7. Group Fund
  8. I recently traveled with my friend Ky and she introduced to me the concept of the group fund. Each buddy contributes an equal chunk of money to the fund, which is managed by a single person. The fund is then used to pay for communal expenses like transportation, lodging, fuel, supplies, tipping, and other shared purchases. This becomes more convenient as the travel party increases in size. For example, instead of having to divide a taxi fare three ways, the group fund can be used.
    • Be very clear on what expenses the group fund is being used for and make sure everyone approves of the expenditure. If someone doesn’t drink alcohol, the group fund shouldn’t pay for the 12-pack of beer.
  9. Getting Along
  10. The aim of every travel buddy should be to make the lives of their fellow travelers easy. If everyone starts the trip with this mentality, things will go swimmingly the whole way through.
    • When someone needs help, give it: Whether it be a hand to hold when someone is scared of heights, or watching a bag when someone needs to use the toilet, there’s no room for joking around when someone needs help because travel is stressful enough.
    • Address problems immediately: There are few things more awkward than a day-long silence because of some unresolved argument between two buddies. If someone says something rude, call them out on it and be upfront about why you’d like an apology – and accept the apology.
    • Always be willing to make decisions: sometimes even the most driven people need to give their head a rest and let others carry their torch. If you’re the one who is usually up for anything that others suggest, also be prepared to weigh in and settle indecisions and disagreements, or to be the one to ask strangers for advice.
    • Split up occasionally: No two people will always have the same priorities throughout a long trip. Go off by yourself and get your own unique experiences. This is very important on a trip where you share almost everything else with your buddy.
    • Meet strangers: Bringing temporary friends into the mix for an evening or two will help cure the monotony of having every meal with the same person (people) every day. You’ll also hear stories and learn about other cultures at the same time.
    • Be wary of clique-ish tendencies: Large groups inevitably fracture into smaller ones, which can cause competitive or antisocial feelings to grow within the division. Be vigilant about hanging out in different configurations and be proactively inclusive.
    • Be generous: Just because the group fund exists doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share your personal purchases with others.
  11. Attitude Adjustments
  12. It’s important to actively work at maintaining peace amongst a travel party. When people let down their guard, responsibilities can slip and attitudes can get out of hand. Here are some tips to keep in mind for those occasions:
    • Swallow the unimportant stuff: The goal of traveling with a buddy is to keep it as smooth as possible. This means letting the little things that bug you bounce right off.
    • Move on from mistakes: Things get lost, people arrive late, and wrong words are said all the time. Chalk them up as learning experiences and deal with the new reality. Never let an honest mistake get in the way of your enjoyment of the moment.
    • Be humble: Spending weeks with someone who can only talk about themselves is a real drag. Don’t be that person.
    • Adapt quickly to discomfort: Travel is often as uneasy as it is relaxing, but the only thing that complaining will accomplish is annoying your buddy. Remedy your situation or keep quiet about it.