Stop being polite and 7 other tricks to traveling with a friend

June 04, 2015                 5m read time
Kirsten Akens

Of course close friends travel well together. Right? Well, you are friends for a reason, but even besties need to carefully consider the who, what, where, when, and why of a trip together. To help you keep that second F in BFF, we gathered advice from those in the know on how to make the most of a getaway with your favorite people.

1. Be open to visiting some tourist spots.

Stefanie Michaels, aka “Adventure Girl” (also dubbed “America’s Tweetheart” by Vanity Fair magazine), spends a majority of her year on the road and reporting back about her journeys to her online followers. “After years of traveling with journalists,” Michaels says, “you learn how to navigate other people’s agendas.” Which is why her top bit of advice for traveling with a friend is to be flexible as to what each of you would like to see and do.

“I took my bestie Ursula to New York City for her first trip there. She wanted to see certain landmarks, but also wanted me to show her my favorite spots.” It was win-win for both of them.

Two surfers sitting on the beach ZOZI

Two surfers sitting on the beach



2. Stop being polite.

Ski Olympian and ZOZI Guru Jonny Moseley doesn't sugarcoat his travel tip. “Don’t be afraid to throw your headphones on. Sitting next to anyone, even a friend, for long periods of time is exhausting. Set an early precedent to avoid non-stop chatter and everyone will be better off.”

He adds, “I used to travel with my brother a lot and we had no problem at all telling each other what we felt, including ‘leave me alone.' In some ways brothers treat each other rudely, but on the other hand having to be super polite all time can be wearisome. Try to get to the ‘brother phase’ with a friend early in the trip. Other people may think you are crazy, but in the long run you’ll have a better time.”

3. It's okay to go climb a rock by yourself.

“You simply cannot expect two people to have 100 percent in common and do everything together,” says Conan Bliss, mountaineer and expedition guide. Therefore, “be receptive to ‘time apart.’” Especially if you’re going on long trips together.

“I have found that I get along better with a great friend if we can have an hour or two each day apart—or a day or a week apart—to recharge, then reconnect,” he says. “On a climbing trip in the Andes or the Himalayas, this can be especially important as you may be sharing a tent with your best friend for three-to-five weeks at a time, so when you get back to civilization, having some space can be essential.

“For example, after returning from a climb of Aconcagua in Argentina, one person may head to Bariloche to rock climb while the other stay in Mendoza and do some wine tours and sit poolside. Different personalities demand different methods of ‘relaxation.’”

Two women in the desert with a dune buggy ZOZI

Two women in the desert with a dune buggy



4. As they are at home, so they will be on the road.

Freelance writer, columnist for Outdoors NW, and founder of family travel website Pit Stops for Kids, Amy Whitley, recommends understanding your friend’s lifestyle first. "The key is knowing and expecting these differences," she says.

“We have close friends we enjoy taking weekend trips with,” Whitely says, “but we have very different family styles. While my husband and I are quite strict and always on a schedule, our friends—and their kids—are not. Is this a problem? Only if you let it be.

“When we take weekend trips to the beach together, we rent one large vacation house, but we designate separate spaces for late-night activity and early-morning risers. When we camp together, we establish a few important safety rules for all the kids, then relax on the small stuff. We also blend our camping styles—bare bones backpacking for me, luxury RV camping for my friend—into a brand-new experience which combines rustic tents with movie nights.”

5. Plan to meet up, rather than commit to a whole trip.

Ironman champion and ZOZI Guru Chris Lieto says he’s never organized a start-to-finish trip with a friend, but he has met up with people across the world. It’s easier, he explains, because “you’re not set on someone else’s plans. If you’re doing something I want to do, then we’ll all do it together, but there’s no expectation that you have to.”

“I have a friend that’s going to go to Bali,” Leito adds. “My son and I may go meet him down there. But he has his own agenda and things that he wants to experience. We’ll try and consolidate, but my son and I may want to go do something else.”

The best part of meet-ups, he adds? They keep potential riffs away.

Dan Larrabee leaning against a graffiti-covered wall in Batman Alley in Sao Paulo Brazil.  ZOZI

Dan Larrabee leaning against a graffiti-covered wall in Batman Alley in Sao Paulo Brazil. 


Matt Rodriguez's friend Dan Larrabee presumably just "being a Dan" in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

6. Sometimes you gotta just do you.

When ZOZI team member Matt Rodriguez and his best friend Dan Larrabee set out for Brazil in the summer of 2014, they were both bottled-up engineers in need of some freedom. 

"At the start of our journey, my travel buddy proclaimed, 'I’ve got to go and be a Dan,' says Rodriguez. It ended up being the perfect creed for their trip. "When you're backpacking across a continent and encountering different cultures, your friend is going to act weird. And, inevitably, he will begin to bother you. Rest assured, you're probably bugging him too. But that’s the beauty of it. You’re both there to explore not just the terrain, but new ways of interacting," says Rodriguez.

"Our goal was to be ourselves in whatever form that ended up taking. So whenever my friend of eight years started drifting into unfamiliar territory, I reminded myself, 'He’s just got to go and be a Dan.'”

7. Seek out strangers.

Even though he travels a lot with friends, Ultramarathon Man and ZOZI Guru Dean Karnazes says, “To be honest, I really prefer traveling by myself.” Nothing against the buddies in his life, but, as he explains, “If you’re traveling by yourself, it’s more of an immersive experience. If you want to talk to anyone, you gotta meet strangers.” So his tip? Plan time to dig into the destination on your own. “Some of the people I travel with are not runners, so I’ll run by myself. I might run to a museum or some place [like that] and then meet up with friends for dinner.” 

8. Connect during busy time and downtime.  

We’ll wrap this up with a story of my own. This spring, my best friend and I traveled together for the first time. We flew from opposite ends of the country, leaving husbands (both of us) and children (her) to meet in a city neither of us had ever visited but were intrigued by: Nashville, Tennessee. We brought our boots for line dancing (something we both love) and a shared exuberance to hit the town running. We spent hours wandering the über cool Country Music Hall of Fame and sat in on a special live recording of the TV series "Nashville" at the Grand Ole Opry. We’ve both got memories galore of those experiences. But just as important? We sat in coffeehouses and talked. Stayed up late FaceTiming her kiddos. Took silly photos. Laughed, a lot. Connected. And in those downtimes, made plans for our next trip.

Switchbacks aren't limited to mountain trails. Travel partners can go from being the best of friends to the worst of friends and back to besties again—sometimes in minutes. Share your travel buddy tales (both good and bad) in the comments below.

Kirsten Akens

Kirsten is an award-winning journalist, editor, photographer and practicing yogi based in Colorado. A lover of books, balasana, baked goods, blogging, and Boston terriers, she also has an unnatural affection for alliteration.

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