My mom (Robbie Hamper) and I in the Philippines
My mom (Robbie Hamper) and I in the Philippines

A great travel companion can enhance the experience of your trip and often deepen your interpersonal connection. But, a mis-matched travel companion can result in a complete disaster, a negative memory and a ruined friendship or relationship. Good friends, your family, great other couples, perfect neighbors and the best boyfriends and girlfriends in the world don’t automatically equal great travel partners.

So, what makes a good travel companion? Here are some considerations to get you started:

Sleep/wake cycles. Are you an early bird and your travel companion a late sleeper? Immediate problem. Unless you have an arrangement that will accommodate both of you (i.e. you head to the beach while they sleep) consider that this will be an issue everyday. There’s no right or wrong schedule for traveling, you just want to be sure your preferred schedules are compatible.

What’s your idea of relaxing? I learned the hard way that not everyone considers extreme hiking in tribal regions of foreign countries relaxing. For some, relaxation means shopping or spa and for some it means sitting by the beach or pool. Ways to relax are as varied as personalities. It is imperative that you find out the relaxation style of your potential travel partners.

David Peters and I in Thailand
David Peters and I in Thailand

Problem solvers vs. complainers. Travel is inherently filled with detours that are not on the original agenda like delayed flights, hotel mix-ups or stolen money. Having a travel buddy who is flexible and able to go with the flow is important. Stress will happen and when it does, you need a problem solver, not a complainer.

Communication style. Open communication among traveling companions is imperative especially if you are in a foreign country where everything is…well…foreign. To ensure that everyone enjoys the trip and can handle the stress that will come, it is important to travel with people who can openly communicate.

Issue people. There’s always at least one in every group…the person who constantly has an issue. They’re the ones who require special accommodations, the ones who get hurt, the ones who get sick, the ones who get lost, the ones who drag behind. I am not talking about those who have an ailment or physical handicap that need particular arrangements to participate in programs. You can plan for that. I am talking about those who are otherwise perfectly fine and simply need extra attention.  Unless you want the details of your trip to constantly revolve around their issues, I would steer clear of inviting such a friend as a travel companion.

Personal hygiene. You will be with this person day-in and day-out for awhile and likely in close quarters. You need to be on the same page as far as cleanliness and hygiene. To not clear this up before a trip can be a real sticky, or stinky situation.

Cultural sensitivity. One of the great joys of travel is experiencing people and cultures different from our own.  Having to apologize for a friend’s inappropriate or insensitive behavior will get old very quickly. It is best to travel with someone who looks at the world the same way you do and can appreciate cultural and religious differences.

Sharing the experience of travel is truly enjoyable. But, if there are red flags, don’t risk damaging a relationship over it. Perhaps plan a different type of trip, select a different friend or go solo. And, even with the best travel companion, be sure you both establish ground rules before the trip and commit to open communication with each other.