Think back to every great trip you’ve had. Chances are, your mind wanders to the people that shared the experience with you. Sights can be pretty and food can be mouthwatering, but if you’re in the company of folks who drag you down, well, you might have this lingering desire to book an earlier flight home.
According to Dr. Michael Brein, travel psychologist and author of Travel Tales: Women Alone: The #MeToo of Travel, everyone possesses certain “travel personalities,” which can be a combination of independent or dependent, extrovert or introvert and active or passive. If you and your travel partner— be it a significant other, sibling or friend — fall into two different categories, you’re not necessarily destined for a miserable trip, you might just need to work a little harder to have a great one.
Here’s how to position yourself as a great travel partner.
You don’t want your partner tapping their wrist and rolling their eyes as you search desperately under the hotel nightstand for your passport. When one of you goes down, so does the other. If you aren’t motivated enough to bring a travel folder storing all of your important documents in one place for your own sake — like insurance information, medical and emergency contacts and flight information — do it for your travel partner.
Keep your head up
Traveling won’t always look like a giant Instagram photo. In fact, you spend more of the travel process planning for it than actually experiencing it. Comparing flights, reading hotel reviews and packing aren’t exactly glamorous, but you should use this opportunity to bond with your travel partner over your soon-to-be-shared adventures. A positive attitude from the get-go will set the framework for a more enjoyable trip. It’ll be easier to maintain a positive attitude throughout the entire trip if you go into it with one. For instance, while misery loves company during a flight delay or weather hiccup, someone has to eventually bite the bullet and say “Hey, it’s no big deal. These things happen.” And that person might have to be you.
“Travel hassles are a rite of passage,” said Dr. Brein. “Treat them as part of the whole adventure. Overcoming some sort of destabilizing or unpleasant task or event related to the destination makes you value and cherish your arrival. In an ironic way, it also makes it more memorable.”
Don’t be too rigid
We all have our “schtick.” For some of us, that means lights out shortly after sundown, or eating at restaurants that only serve burgers and fries. And that’s fair! Routine is comforting! But now that it’s the two of you, it’s wise to loosen your grip on certain habits. While you can’t control the behavior of your travel partner, you certainly can adjust yours.
“Flexibility is an important characteristic,” said Dr. Brein. If you don’t know each other too well, he said to take a short sojourn together or schedule a “pre-interview” so you can get to know each other’s quirks (or aforementioned “travel personalities”), and resolve any clashes beforehand. Ironing out your differences en route can be “disastrous,” he said.
He noted that flexibility is not a trait you can immediately lean into, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not on the exact same page.
Certain scenarios will require not that you abandon your own needs completely, but meet in the middle. If your partner is on a tight budget, it’s disrespectful for you to insist you eat at Michelin-starred restaurants every night or book the most extravagant yacht trips. Likewise, if you’re on a tight budget and your partner isn’t, don’t feel pressured to spend beyond your means in order to keep up or avoid FOMO. Being a good travel partner doesn’t mean giving in to their every whim, but also setting healthy boundaries.
When money isn’t the issue, it’s usually a matter of timing. If one of you prefers to spend the day browsing souvenir shops while the other prefers to scope out the new art museum, agree to spend an equal amount of time at each one together, or split up for the day. Before splitting up, establish safety guidelines. “Don’t go off with strangers. Notify them of your whereabouts. It’s not always easy to use cellphones overseas so work out the methods of communication beforehand,” Dr. Brein said.
Look out for them
Between delayed flights, pushy vendors and a language you might not understand, traveling can often feel like it’s you against the world. When you travel with another person, there’s the implication that you will keep an eye out on their wellbeing (and that goes both ways). That means checking in with them occasionally to see how they feel about the overall pace of the trip, helping them out of uncomfortable situations — physically and otherwise — and, arguably the most important of them all, making sure they’re staying hydrated.
Following these guidelines might not guarantee you your dream trip, but you may just land yourself a travel buddy for life.