How to choose a travel companion: find the perfect adventure buddy
The choice of a travel companion can make or break your trip. Learn how to select the best travel partner with insights from personal experience.
Want to explore a new destination with a friend instead of traveling by yourself? I love traveling solo, but exploring a new place with a friend can make your travel experience more fulfilling and fun. However, not everyone will be the right match for the kind of trip you'd like to take, so it's important to choose your travel companion wisely.
Choosing a travel companion
It's worth taking some time to think about who would be the perfect fit for you, your destination, and your itinerary before giving them the green light. It's important to be on the same page with your travel partner in order to have a good experience and make snap decisions.
If you are lucky enough to be traveling with your significant other or close friends, this might be a breeze for you! There will be times when your friends may not be able to go with you based on their schedules or budget, so finding a travel companion may be more difficult.
Thankfully there are many great websites out there to meet fellow travelers, coordinate plans, and set out to see the world together! I'll talk about them at the end of this article.
These websites match you up with another globetrotter based on your similarities and interests so that your trip with them will go smoothly. This is the perfect option if you don't want to be alone on your trip or you need help splitting costs for cheaper travel.
If your trip is happening soon and you don't have enough time to find a travel buddy, you can always opt to go alone in the hopes of making friends while with other travelers or locals along the way.
After all, the people are what make a destination so enchanting in the first place, and making friends while traveling alone has a magic of its own.
Sometimes the best travel experiences are hidden gems, known only by the locals. Befriending them is the best way to experience something unique and get the perfect trip recommendations.
You might also like to read: Why traveling solo is a social experience
One of my favorite ways to find good travel companions during the trip is by doing a work exchange. That's a type of volunteer program where you exchange a few hours of work for free accommodation and other perks, like meals and tours.
It's super easy to find and apply for an opportunity in most places around the world through Worldpackers, a platform that was created to match travelers that want to live a cheap and fulfilling experience and hosts who need some kind of help.
During your work exchange you'll probably meet people you can travel with to other places, and it will be easier to know if they are a good travel companion since you'll have spent some time with them away from home.
Interested? Check out the articles where we explain how Worldpackers works.
Think carefully about who to travel with
Not only is travel a blast, it's a completely eye-opening experience that forces you out of your comfort zone and immerses you in cultures you had previously only dreamed of. World travel captivates and amazes, especially in the online world, but it can also be stressful and full of unforeseen challenges.
The beauty of traveling with a friend is that you can tackle these challenges with them and put your heads together to come up with a solution.
Choosing the wrong travel companion, however, can greatly amplify the stress and uncertainty you will feel in your destination of choice. These tense situations tend to bring out the worst in people. The last thing you want is to be at odds with your travel companion throughout your trip, followed by a cloud of negativity and general unpleasantness wherever you go.
Finding someone whose travel philosophy aligns well with yours is essential if you're going to be stuck in a foreign land with someone for an extended period of time!
It's important to remember that just because you've spent a lot of quality time with someone at home, that doesn't mean they will be the same easy-going person on the road when faced with the challenges travelers go through.
Be sure to spend some time with your travel buddy, perhaps on a weekend getaway or a day trip, before embarking on a big adventure.
You might be scratching your head right now thinking, "So, what should I look for in a travel partner?" Here are some questions to ask yourself in your quest for the right travel companion.
How to choose the right travel companion
1. What do you have in common?
Consider what activities you and your travel buddy enjoy most. Do you prefer climbing mountains, but your partner is afraid of heights? Would you rather go museum-hopping than explore abandoned landmarks? Are you the type of traveler to enjoy the night in or go partying all night long?
You don't have to enjoy every little thing together, of course! But setting up expectations helps avoid frustration.
Make sure you know if your travel companion is as outdoorsy, adventurous, artsy, or more into the more touristy sightseeing experiences. This will help you coordinate your itinerary, plan your travel days, and help you be more prepared for each day's new adventure!
2. What are your differences?
On the other hand, traveling with someone who is too similar to you could cause you to butt heads while making important decisions. Search for a travel companion who is a bit different from you.
If you're an introvert, find someone who is more of an extrovert. If you're indecisive, choose a partner who knows what they want. If you suck at directions, pick someone who has those skills. Share interests with them, but look for diversity when it comes to personality traits.
3. Discuss how you want to experience the trip
The key to having an amazing time immersing yourself in a new culture is balance. Travel burnout is a thing! The last thing you want is to create a schedule that has you running around all day, low on energy from waking up early, only to collapse on your hotel bed at the end of the day wishing you'd taken your sweet time to enjoy the area.
A good rule of thumb is to alternate your schedule and rythm each day. Sleep in on your first day to adjust to any jet lag you may be experiencing. Make the day one of leisure, traveling slowly and getting a general feel for your new destination.
Wake up early on your second day to see the sunrise and grab breakfast at the best spot in the city. Then hit all the best museums, sights, and attractions before the afternoon rush! Having a thoughtful itinerary like this will prevent travel burnout and help you explore at a good pace.
Everyone has their own style of traveling. Some prefer self-guided tours to group tours. Some enjoy lounging by the hotel pool, cocktail in hand, instead of hoofing it everyday to see the sights. Some prefer expanding their minds in museums to paragliding over the ocean.
Discuss what you'd like to get out of the trip with your travel buddy, whether it be to find adventure, discover the best-tasting local dish, or to learn about the culture and have a truly authentic experience. Coordinate your interests and priorities so that no one gets disappointed.
4. Talk about expenditures, budgets, and money-spending habits
Before making reservations, booking accommodation, and planning your itinerary, sit down and have an in-depth discussion about your budget.
Everyone spends their money differently and values different experiences more than others. Establish a spending plan, both a daily and total budget, what items to splurge on, where you're comfortable staying the night, what kind of transportation you'll use to get around, etc.
5. Are they willing to try anything once?
Whether it be trying savory street food or going cliff diving in paradise, traveling with someone who shares the same love of adventure that you do is a must. Trying local delicacies is a big part of every culture, and new experiences that get you out of your comfort zone are what great memories are made of.
Find a travel companion that isn't afraid to try something new, even if it's just once!
6. Make sure their energy level vibes with yours
Do you consider yourself to have a more laid back personality, or are you always on the go, ready for the next activity?
Choosing a travel partner who shares the same energy level with you plays a significant role in how smoothly the trip flows and will tell you how much your partner values slow travel over a crammed itinerary.
7. Do they have a sense of humor?
This is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing your travel buddy! If something goes wrong and you miss your bus, your whole day gets rained out, you forgot to pack something, or you meet someone who is less than friendly, the right thing to do is to shake it off. These things happen, and every trip can't be perfect. Travel is messy.
Choose a travel partner who can laugh about the silly mistakes you make along the way. Traveling with someone who can't look at the bright side of life will crush your ability to have an enjoyable time and become an unnecessary burden that could ruin your trip altogether.
This is why it's important to spend some time on the road with your new companion before a big trip comes around.
8. What are their dietary preferences and restrictions?
Some travelers like to plan for everything and will meal plan to account for food costs. Talk to your travel buddy to figure out if they have any food allergies, how agreeable they are with trying street food, if they're vegetarian, if they drink or not, how much of a snacker they are, and so forth.
9. Are they willing to part ways with you every so often?
Your travel partner should be able to respect your personal space if needed and be able to have the confidence to do some activities on their own. Sometimes you just need time to relax and reflect by yourself, or you'll have different interests and opinions on what to do on a certain day.
10. Do they have an opinion or are they simply "down for whatever"?
It's always good to travel with someone who speaks their mind about what activities they do and do not like. It helps you narrow down what things you can do by yourself and determine what you need to include to make the trip an equally enjoyable experience for everyone.
However, if they are extremely easy to plan for, you can conveniently add more adventures to your to-do list. It's best to know this about your travel partner beforehand to aid you in the initial trip planning process.
11. What is their packing style like?
This isn't a huge deal, but if you're a "carry-on only" type of traveler, you don't want to be stuck checking your friend's luggage under the plane and taking up more precious time at the airport.
Additionally, if their luggage is way too heavy because they've mistakenly overpacked, it will slow down your trip when you have to help them lug it around everywhere.
Ensure that you and your travel companion are on the same page about packing and can help each other pack lighter and smarter before the trip.
12. Is this person trustworthy?
Would your companion be able to be responsible enough to take care of your belongings while you're away from the hotel, stick with you if they happen to meet an attractive stranger, and avoid wandering away from you in busy crowds?
Your travel partner should never leave you hanging in a tough situation, leave you stranded, or jeopardize the group's safety. Go with someone you can trust to have your back.
13. To party or not to party?
The more experienced traveler may enjoy grabbing a bottle of wine and resting their tired feet after a long day of sightseeing. Others might enjoy taking a quick nap to recharge before heading out on the town to party the night away.
Both are totally fine, but make sure your companion knows which type of traveler you are. If you're more of a relaxed traveler, ensure the other person is aware of this and is able to find friends to party with, and vice versa.
Check out our article about the 15 best party places in the world.
14. If you are traveling with more than one person, how does each person contribute to the group dynamic?
Traveling with a group can be tricky to coordinate. More people means you need to get along with each person in the party, or else the group could become socially divided.
If you're in a trio, two of your group members might get along particularly well, and you could wind up feeling left out. Make an effort to hang out with your group before your trip in order to get to know everyone better.
Resources to help you find a travel companion
If you can't find a good travel companion among your friends, you can try finding someone recommended by another friend or family member. That's great because the person who makes the connection knows the both of you and will probably be able to tell if there's a good chance of compatibility.
In case that doesn't work, there are plenty of websites and apps created for matching solo travelers who are looking for a good travel companion. Check it out:
- Travel Companion Exchange
- Lonely Planet Forums
- Travel Partners (Reddit)
- Challenge Chum
- Flip the Trip
- Trip in Touch
Is it possible to find an ideal travel companion?
The ideal travel companion exists, but you have to be willing to compromise. Everyone explores differently, which makes meshing your personalities, temperaments, and attitudes about travel vital to having a first-rate travel experience. One person may possess certain qualities that greatly benefit your trip, or better yet, they excel in certain areas that you may be lacking in.
Also, make sure you reflect on how you can be a good travel companion yourself. Remember that sharing a trip with someone is different than traveling alone. It's good to try and be flexible, have an open mind and communicate honestly.
Communication and an open mind are always paramount to connecting with people on a deep and meaningful level. The better the connection, the stronger the bond, which means you'll be in the right headspace to soak up more travel goodness on your awesome adventure.
The right travel companion is so important in order to have rich experiences that aren't flat. So choose wisely, but don't overthink it. Take a chance on someone you think would be a good fit, and see what happens!