Stephanie Spitler
April 18, 2012 5:00 am

It seems like a no-brainer. You do everything together, and you have the most fun ever. Shopping, going to the movies, grabbing a bite to eat, or just hanging out; they’re all better with this person by your side. So of course your best friend/boyfriend/girlfriend would be the perfect travel companion, right? How could you go wrong?

But sometimes, regular-day-to-day-life compatibility doesn’t always translate into traveling-companion compatibility. Just like we all have our go-to friends for certain things (a mani-pedi-partner friend, a Broadway-musical-loving friend, a workout buddy), some friends make great traveling companions, and some are better left at home to follow your progress via status updates.

When you’re on a trip, everything is heightened; it’s life on fast-forward. You have a limited amount of time and, unlike a normal Tuesday, you’re acutely aware of the hours ticking away on the vacation clock.  Having to consider someone else’s needs, wants and itineraries (even someone you love) can bring tension to your trip and the hard feelings that result can linger long after the plane ride home.

Talk about your expectations: Before you pass the point of (non-refundable) return, sit down and discuss how you see your trip playing out. Do you want to hit museums while your best friend wants to shop ‘til she drops? Is she planning a wild tour of the bars and clubs of Europe, while you want to see the famous sights and hit the sack early? And are you both okay with those differences?

Knowing each other’s expectations can help avoid awkward conversations on the road. That’s why it’s a good idea to lay it all out up front, before you’re stuck in a hotel room together.

Negotiate and compromise: Remember, you don’t have to do everything together. In fact, depending on the length of your trip, you both could probably benefit from some much-needed alone time. Be flexible and forgiving. If she needs some time to herself when you had your heart set on linking arms and taking cell-phone pictures of each other all day, remember that there will be times when you’re the one asking for some space. So shrug your shoulders and look at it as an opportunity to do exactly what you want, all day.

Enjoy the days you spend together, as well as the adventures you have on your own: If you’re both interested in visiting a little town outside your main destination, ride the train together. Even if you split up when you get there, you’re still sharing the day and the experience. And maybe she’ll come back and take you to a little café with the best pastries, or you’ll show her the awesome view you stumbled upon.

Remember, you like each other: When it’s 10 pm and you’re wandering the streets on aching feet, looking for a restaurant that’s still open (and in your budget), it’s easy to snap at each other. But there’s a reason you wanted this person (or people) with you on this trip. You love them. You have fun together. So when they want to spend another hour in another museum and you want to sunbathe in the park, remember that! And give them a hug before putting on your sunglasses and setting up a meeting time for later.

It’s true you’re traveling together, but you’re each having a different trip. It’s important to have the one you want. Just think how much fun it will be telling each other about it.

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