Traveling with friends and family can sometimes make for stressful situations. Here’s how to choose your travel companions wisely and prep for a great vacation.

More often than not, when I talk to fellow travelers about their worst travel experiences, they often discuss traveling with people who didn’t mesh well, ranging from clashing personalities to disagreements on food, activities, budget (you name it).

We’ve all been on trips where we didn’t necessarily get to choose whom we traveled with — and should you find potentially incompatible travelers will be joining you on your next trip, you’ve still got time to make the most of it.

Know Your Travel Companions

You probably have a good sense already of whether your friends and family are artsy foodies, partygoers, outdoorsy types — or some combo of interests. But what about your friend’s new boyfriend who’s tagging along on your upcoming trip? Or your sister’s roommate, whom you don’t know all that well?

If possible, spend some time with any “new-to-you” travel companions before you hit the road or take to the skies. However, if your trip will be the first introduction, keep an open mind — but get in some early phone or video chat time in before you go. A quick meet and greet, even virtually, can go a long way to minimize social anxiety and foster peace of mind (or confirm whether you should cancel).

Manage Expectations Early

Whether you’re traveling with family, friends old and new, or some mix thereof, get trip-planning conversations started early. We’re not talking planning in terms of down-to-the-minute itineraries, but more toward big-picture expectations, logistics, and budget. Will you guys want to have a few planned activities and lots of downtime? Do some of you want to plan, while others have a more open-ended approach to your trip? Who’s handling booking arrangements? Will everything be split equally, cost-wise? A few initial conversations to get everyone on the same page will eliminate questions later — and give you more time to relax once you arrive.

Be Relaxed in the Moment

You’ve had the preliminary discussions, set the budget, and put together an itinerary. You’ve arrived, settled in, and everyone seems to be having fun. And then perhaps your friend decides to go on a bender to blow off some steam. Your cousin and his husband get in a screaming match over dinner. Your mom shows up with her dog, even though your vacation rental policy — which she reviewed — clearly states no pets allowed. Don’t panic! You can still salvage your vacation.

Remember: There’s only so much you can do in a given moment with the information you have — and if there’s a golden rule of travel, it’s that there will be some unexpected curveballs. Keep a cool head, don’t take part in the drama, and lead by example. (Grownup behavior tends to make everyone step up!) Reiterate that this is everyone’s vacation, and mediate if you can. If you can’t, determine whether your hard-earned time off is worth staying in the situation or if it’s better to make alternate arrangements or cut your trip short. If it’s the latter, that’s unfortunate, but last-minute travel resources can help you change course or head home.


A lifelong traveler and bookworm, Sarah spends her days thinking of new ways to explore and tell stories.

Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.

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