THE WASHINGTON POST – Salo Aburto was thrilled about his first trip to Europe last month. The plan was a two-week jaunt with his best friend from college to Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin. His friend was married and living in Brussels and seemed eager to play tour guide (Her husband joined them for a couple of days). Aburto, 27, a digital content specialist for an environmental non-profit group in Washington, was taking two weeks off for the adventure. The pair would be travelling together for the first time.
Within days, the trip devolved into his “worst nightmare”.
Cracks quickly showed up: He is organised and likes to have “an itinerary, plus a Plan A and Plan B”, while she is more spontaneous. He grew frustrated at not having time to explore on his own and felt his priorities were being ignored. They even fought over his snoring.
Minor disagreements and snipes culminated in a blow-up fight in Berlin.
The next time he saw her was at the airport, where she switched her seat on the plane they had booked together back to Brussels. Aburto spent the last three days there trying to salvage the trip alone.
They haven’t spoken since he left Europe a month ago, although they got together for coffee just before he flew home, and he’s hopeful they’ll patch up their relationship with time. But he’ll think twice before travelling with friends again. “It does make me sad, because I feel like this trip completely bombed an amazing relationship,” he said.
The chance to see new places and make memories with friends is appealing, but much can go wrong. Personalities can clash, goals can differ, well-meaning planners can make boneheaded mistakes. Whether it’s a weekend lark or a multi-week international excursion, here’s how to move a trip from an idea to reality – and how to survive it with friendships intact.
SET (AND AGREE ON) EXPECTATIONS
Clarifying the goal of the trip can make the planning process easier. Talk about what most of the group wants to do, and people can decide whether they want to participate.
NAIL DOWN DATES EARLY
One of the hardest parts about group travel is getting everyone to commit.
People have busy schedules and varying amounts of time off. Ask everyone to look at their calendars and provide date ranges when they’re free. Pick the dates with the most overlap.
PICK A GROUP ORGANISER
The trip won’t happen if no one takes charge. Others can be assigned to book specific aspects, such as hotels, restaurants and activities, while the designated planner keeps everyone on track.
SORT OUT MONEY ISSUES RIGHT AWAY
Don’t leave for a trip without clear expectations about how much it costs, what everyone can pay and how people will be reimbursed. No one wants to be surprised with a hefty bill, and no one wants to chase down payments. Travellers with different budgets can still vacation together.
If someone is fronting money, work out how and when everyone will pay their share. Keep track of each person’s expenses, and settle bills promptly after the trip. If someone needs more time to pay, settle on a timeline and stick to it.
BE READY TO COMPROMISE
People with different habits can travel well together as long as expectations are set early.
In a large group, make sure each person gets to do at least one thing they value.
It’s okay to decide not to travel with a friend if their travel style or expectations differ too much from yours.
KEEP THE ITINERARY FLEXIBLE
Most travellers want a mix between scheduled activities and downtime. Secure tickets or reservations for any group activities in advance, so they don’t sell out. Schedule some group meals, but leave others unplanned, so people can try different places.
BUILD IN ALONE TIME
Even the best of friends need time away from one another. Factor in alone time, whether that’s staying in separate rooms or dedicating time for solo outings.
CUT EACH OTHER SLACK
Even the best-laid plans can be derailed. Remember why you’re on the trip together, and try to focus on having fun.