Travelling together offers friends the chance to enjoy quality time awash with in-jokes, proper catch-ups and unforgettable experiences. Sound like bliss? It can be. But beware: even the best of friendships can be tested on the road.

Whether you’re about to embark on your first adventure with your mates in tow or are looking to improve on past experiences, here are writer Emma Sparks' 10 tips for having a harmonious trip with friends.

Five people sitting on building terrace overlooking the cityscape of Barcelona.
Picking the right friends to travel with is key © Nomad / Getty Images

Beginners: start on the right foot

1. Choose the right people to go with

Pick any old pal with a passport at your peril. Just because you share a love of Nicolas Cage movies and Chinese food doesn’t mean you’re compatible travel buddies. Think twice before travelling with someone you only ever see in one context; your coffee-and-cake companion, yoga chum or work bestie might be a dream to hang out with at home, but a nightmare when it comes to exploring somewhere new. Opt for someone you’re confident you could tolerate for three days straight and you should have a reasonably hiccup-free trip – but there are no guarantees.

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2. Set expectations

Is this trip about winding down and going with the flow, or ticking off a list of sights the length of your arm? Will it be action-packed and outdoorsy, or heavy on the hangovers? It’s easy to make assumptions about your friends’ vision for a trip based on their usual behaviour, but travel can bring with it a different set of priorities and reveal a totally different side of people. Night owl travelling with early birds or vice versa? Proceed with caution – or agree to adjust your body clocks accordingly. Verbalise your needs: a simple conversation about what each of you wants to get out of the holiday – and what you don’t want to do – should do the trick.

Two laughing girls take a winter selfie outside a church in Saint Petersburg.
Setting expectations beforehand can lead to a harmonious trip © View Apart / Shutterstock

3. Discuss your budget

You probably have an idea of how flash or frugal your friends are, but it’s worth chatting about what you intend to spend on food and activities before you go. In situ, manage money sensitively – some people are happy to split the bill every time, while others will find subsidising your dessert addiction stressful. Keep a tally in a group budgeting app like Splitwise if you like, but don’t sweat the small stuff – no-one likes a penny-pincher.

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4. Prepare for close quarters

If you’re sharing accommodation, prepare to learn a lot more about your mates. Sleeping habits, bathroom routines and kitchen cleanliness (or lack thereof) can all cause friction between friends. Years of sharing rooms with incessant snorers, shower hoggers and the occasional gleeful farter have taught me that the best way to overcome small irritations is to make light of them – no doubt you have your own shortcomings too – and always pack earplugs...

‘When we travel as a three, Emily always gets a room to herself as she’s the loudest snorer. Emma puts up with my mild snores and I ignore the fact she leaves hair in the plughole’ – Mary, Emma’s travel buddy on many long weekends in Europe.

Emma and her friend Helen stand in front of a green lake with trees in the background and a statue in front of it.
 Emma (left) and her friend Helen in Cēsis, Latvia © Emma Sparks / Lonely Planet

Intermediate: avoid common pitfalls

5. Hanger and fatigue

The needs of travelling adults often mirror those of a two year old’s. If someone’s acting moody, chances are they’re hungry or overtired. Punctuate sightseeing with plenty of pit stops and snacks, or work siestas into your holiday routine to keep the peace.

‘I like my sleep and I’m prone to energy dips if I don’t eat at regular intervals. Before a long hike through the Latvian wilderness, Emma made sure to buy some carb-heavy snacks and sugary sweets, which saved the day’ – Helen, Emma’s travel buddy in Australia, Latvia and Estonia.

6. Too much time together

Find yourself lingering in the loo, or volunteering to pop to the shops for the milk and a few precious minutes by yourself? Don’t feel bad about taking some time away from each other. Introverts in particular often need plenty of alone time to avoid burnout – but splitting up for a few hours here and there can refresh and revive everyone. 

Five people jumping from a sailboat into the ocean during summer.
Being flexible helps keep everyone happy © DisobeyArt / Getty Images

7. Lack of flexibility

Travelling with friends is a masterclass in the art of the compromise. When Friend A is laser-focused on finding a tabbacheria for their strictly-on-holiday smokes, Friend B wants nothing more than an Aperol spritz and a sit down, and you want to get to the top local landmark before it closes, something has to give. If it isn’t essential to you, let it go – but don’t let dominant or demanding personalities get their way every time. If you’re lucky, everyone’s wants and needs can be met with some tactical shuffling of schedules. 

‘Emma has dragged us up church spires and medieval towers in Florence, Porto, Seville and more – we expect it now, just as she expects to skip a few sights so we can sample local tipples in the sun’ – Emily, Emma’s travel buddy on many long weekends in Europe.

8. Overenthusiasm

The weeks and months ahead of a trip can be saturated with hope and high expectations, excited text messages and squeals of anticipation. So much so that by the time you board the plane, you’re already exhausted. Then, in the face of adversity – a disappointing Airbnb, bad weather or mosquito invasions – one friend may appoint themselves as a hype man, ignoring glaring issues and refusing to let anyone whinge. While positivity is a lifesaver on group trips, you can still keep it real. It’s OK if things aren’t perfect, so don’t put pressure on yourself or each other to have the best time ever – go with the flow and it will happen naturally.

Young friends with a skip in their step jaunt down a lake's dock with paddles to a waiting canoe.
Be your best self when travelling with friends © Hero Images / Getty Images

Advanced: be your best self

9. Forgive (and apologise) quickly

An intense dose of togetherness coupled with new, sometimes challenging experiences means minor niggles are almost inevitable. Left to fester, resentment and pettiness can thrive. Unresolved tension is a sure-fire way to spoil a trip, so be honest about the way you’re feeling. If anyone gets snappy, forgive and forget immediately – and always apologise if you’re the grump of the group.

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10. Be considerate and self aware

When it comes to maintaining a good group dynamic, basic courtesies go a long way – and taking extra care of each other (without fussing) will give you the warm and fuzzies. Make sure you’ve got the fundamentals covered, such as doing your fair share of washing up and collecting the morning croissants, then go the extra mile by keeping tabs on hydration levels and sunscreen top ups, or volunteering to drive.

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