Have you ever wished you could find a travel companion?

One of the reasons solo travellers enjoy going on their own is the freedom to do whatever they want, when they want, without having to worry about another person. However, there are times when even die-hard solos may want to travel with a friend.

Conversely, people who are afraid to travel solo may welcome the first travel companion who presents himself with relief and without asking too many questions. This can be a mistake. Travelling alone is usually better than travelling with the wrong person. A mismatched companion can ruin a trip. Worse, you could lose a friend. Even someone you know well may not be the right match for you on the road, especially if you’ve never travelled together.

Although I travel mostly solo, I have travelled with a few other people over the years. Some of them I knew well, and some I didn’t. From my experiences, I have compiled the following list of five things to look for in a travel companion before committing to a trip. So if you want to find a travel buddy, read on.

Five things to look for in a travel companion

A similar budget

Unless somebody is treating you to a trip (boy, wouldn’t that be nice), I’ll assume that you intend to split up expenses with your travel mate.

The first thing you should discuss is your budget. Will this be a luxury trip staying at 5-star hotels and eating at gourmet restaurants, a shoestring trip sleeping in hostels and eating at night markets, or something in between? Ask the other person how much they want to spend each day. Can you match it? Is it enough to afford the kind of trip you want at your destination? If you don’t agree on budget, it’s likely that your trip planning won’t even get off the ground.

5 things to look for in a travel companion

Me and my best friend agreed to splurge on a special trip for a milestone birthday (Galapagos)

Common interests and activities

How do you like to spend your time when you travel? What would you like to see and do at your upcoming destination? Make sure that you and your travel buddy have many common interests and be ready to compromise a little. If you want to spend all your time in cities visiting museums and art galleries, and your friend wants to spend all her time in the outdoors hiking and kayaking, you have a problem. Same situation if one of you is into nightlife and the other wants to be in bed by 10 PM every night.

Also, look into food restrictions. If one of you is vegan and you’re going to a meat-eating country, the other person may resent all the time spent vetting restaurants for appropriate meals after a while. If one of you suffers from food allergies or intolerances, you may want to choose a country where it will be easier to find the right foods. (For example, Asian countries are good for lactose intolerance.)

5 things to look for in a travel companion

Me and my travel companion having lunch in Santiago, Chile

An acceptable level of independence

Even if you find out that both of you don’t want to do exactly the same things all the time, it may still work out. You need to assess how independent your travel mate is. Does he mind doing his own thing some of the time, or does he insist that you do everything together? Splitting up for half-a-day (or more) once in a while may actually be healthy and provide some space to someone who’s used to travelling solo.

Not everybody is comfortable with this though. Some people refuse to be alone at all, so you need to make sure you’re OK with that. If you travel with other experienced solo travellers, this won’t be an issue of course.

Compatible personalities

If you’re planning to travel with someone you don’t know very well, try to learn more about their personality and how it will mesh with yours on the road. How flexible is this person? Do they plan ahead or are they spontaneous? Do they like to linger, or pack as much as possible into each day? How do they behave under stress? Do they lose their head with every minor hiccup? Check out this post for the top qualities of a good traveller, especially if your companion hasn’t travelled much before.

You don’t have to be completely similar. Just as with couples, opposite traits in travel partners are sometimes an advantage, like introvert/extrovert, planner/spontaneous, leader/follower, etc. Some combinations will actually make a trip more interesting and help get both of you out of your comfort zone. But in other cases, it may just irritate you and ruin your trip.

5 things to look for in a travel companion

Me and the friend who convinced me to hike the Inca Trail in Peru!

The best way to know how you’ll get along on a trip is by … taking a trip. The dynamics of life on the road are somewhat different from being at home where everything is predictable and comfortable. Try to organize a short trial trip before you start planning for a bigger more expensive one.

No deal-breaker idiosyncrasies

Lastly, don’t neglect the small details. By taking a short trip together ahead of the big one, you may discover little things that could end up being deal breakers. For example, if one of you snores, and the other refuses to wear ear plugs. Or one person likes to get up at the crack of dawn to see as much as possible, while the other is a night owl who’s never up before 10 AM.

Unless you already live together, you may not know what these quirks are, which is why it’s better to start with a small weekend outing in a nearby location. For example, one of my travelling friends refuses to close the blinds or curtains at night so that she’ll know when daylight arrives. Or something like that. I don’t really get it, but I usually plan for it by bringing an eye mask!

What to do before committing to a trip with someone

#1. Keeping in mind the five points above, ask your potential travel mate lots of questions about their budget, expectations, interests and so on.

#2. Go on a short trial trip together.

#3. If you then decide to go on a longer trip, make sure you both read about the destination and then agree to a rough itinerary along with the “must-dos”.

#4. Discuss who will be in charge of booking what, and how you will deal with expenses once on the road. Will you keep an expense sheet (who paid for what) so you can make sure one of you doesn’t spend more than his or her share? Or will you use some other method? You don’t want to be fighting about money once on the road!

One final word of caution

Travelling with a companion of the opposite gender (or at least opposite sexual preferences), that you do not know well can be tricky. Even if you agree to travel in a purely platonic way, with separate beds (or even rooms), you don’t really know what’s in that other person’s head. They may have some expectations and turn sour on you when these aren’t met. I won’t expand on this except to say that travelling with a male companion who wasn’t already my boyfriend has never worked well for me!

Although this was my experience, your results may vary. 🙂

Do you have any other recommendations for picking the right travel companion? Let me know in the comments.

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