As the bus careened around the hairpin bends in the Ecuadorian Andes, I was grateful to be seated next to my BFF who, unlike me, seemed to be handling last night’s Canelazo and Chiva Bus festival with characteristic poise.
This International Best Friends Day (8 June), I thank him for staving off the free-range chickens that were walking up the aisle and waving away eager vendors, who would board the bus at every stop to ‘feed’ the passengers, giving all new meaning to the term padkos.
Travelling with friends isn’t always the stuff of perfect Instagram poses and lifelong memories. While a journey is best measured in friends, not in miles, after a few days of disagreements you may be craving to put more than a few between each other.
There are some tried-and-tested ways to ensure that doesn’t happen however, says Sue Garrett, GM of Marketing and Product at the Flight Centre Travel Group. “Done the right way, you’ll never want to travel any other way.
“Travelling with friends amplifies the experience. It ensures that friendship circles can make long-term memories together and is a great way to save money because group rates bring with them a sizeable discount.”
Garrett offers the following advice for friends wanting to hit the road together:
Plan in advance
It’s tricky to coordinate diaries, so planning means you can get the dates locked down quickly and take leave. It’s important to share what you want to get out of the trip in the planning stage.
Footing the bill
Don’t be that friend who hasn’t paid their way. The Flight Centre Stokvel is an excellent way for the entire group to open a Stokvel account and contribute jointly to the holiday. Simply visit a Flight Centre store and start with a R500 deposit. If you must pay for your holiday individually, do so directly with the travel provider, so one person (usually the organised one) isn’t left out of pocket.
Simple is better
You’ll want as little decision-making as possible on a trip with friends. The more choice there is the more potential for conflict. Be open enough to spend time apart from each other if you have different interests. A flexible guided holiday like a Busabout trip is ideal if you’re worried about the impact of group decisions.
Plan your trip around an event that holds common interest, e.g. Munich Oktoberfest or a music festival. Spend your time together at the event, then go your separate ways exploring the destination on your own, or with friends who share your exact interests.
You don’t have to spend every minute of every day together. It’s perfectly okay to enjoy your downtime or not to participate in a group activity. Friends should feel there’s no pressure to engage in every activity.
A focussed activity
Plan your trip around a focused activity, e.g. cruising or skiing. Although you’re together, you’re doing your own thing, whether you’re lazing on the deck cruising between ports or hitting the slopes. In the evening, come together for dinner or some well-deserved aprés ski.
Share the load
When you’re travelling with friends, there’s no need for duplication. Ladies, only one of you needs to pack a hairdryer.
A WhatsApp Group
Set up a WhatsApp group to assist with your planning, to communicate with each other when you’ve gone your separate ways in the destination, and to share your pics afterwards.
Learn from each other
Take time over dinner to debrief and talk about the highlights of the day. The same experience can be appreciated in different ways. Hearing your friends’ views on what they enjoyed helps you learn more about them and about what you’ve potentially overlooked.
It’s OK to have a wobbly
Make sure your friends understand why you’re upset or not loving that particular moment. Take time out, but move on quickly. Propose a solution or alternative rather than dwell on the issue.
On your terms
Even though you may do the same itinerary, it’s perfectly acceptable for each couple or traveller to pay for an upgraded air seat or better cabin or room category depending on their budgets and preferences. Ensuring you are comfortable is vital to your enjoyment.
Start planning your next holiday with friends this International Best Friends Day by setting up a WhatsApp Group with this simple phrase: “I don’t know where I’m going, but are you coming with me?” And see where that journey takes you.