10 ways to deal with a bad travel partner

I tend to make reasonably good travel decisions. I pack appropriately (and always bring a sweater), I consult maps, and I tend not to eat anywhere that includes the phrase “o-rama” (i.e., “Bob’s Fish-o-rama.” So NOT a good idea).

But even those of us who make great (dare we say, flawless?) travel decisions falter now and then. Especially when it comes to picking a travel companion. For some reason, people tend to change dramatically when on a trip. It might be that the oxygen-rich recycled air has gone to their brain. Or that jet lag, combined with one-too-many in-flight drinks, has brought out their inner crazy. Maybe it’s the stress of being somewhere new and strange. Whatever the reason, you may have the misfortune to find that, no matter how great you are at making decisions for your trip, you’ve managed to pick a travel companion who … well, who just plain sucks.

Perhaps they snore incessantly, or chew with their mouth open. Maybe they’ve used your last clean shirt … as a handkerchief. Whatever the reason, you are not getting along. As the trip progresses, you feel tempers running short and a screaming match between the two of you looms on the horizon. But you’re stuck together. You might be thousands of miles away from home. You might have no one else to talk to. You might even be sharing the same bathroom.

First off, take a deep breath. Having a miserable travel companion doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a miserable trip. These tips and tricks will ensure that you’ll both get home in one piece, and, with any luck, you’ll still be talking to one another, too.

Kill them … with kindness.

You will notice I said WITH KINDNESS. As ridiculous as it sounds, being excessively polite and kind to your loathsome travel mate will probably help ease tensions (I’m not saying it’s easy, but it will help). Plus, they’ll find it exponentially harder to stiff you on the bill or be an all-around snot to you when you’re acting so darn nice. And in the end, you’ll come across as the good guy — because a travel companion who’s “being too nice” isn’t really something they can complain about.Don’t lose your cool.
You may feel a scream bubbling up in your throat, your hands clenching into fists, and know that a fight is mere moments away. Whatever you do, keep your temper in check. Count to ten, grab a snack, or do something else to get your mind off the situation. Blowing up at your travel mate isn’t going to make you feel any better — it’s actually more likely to make you feel worse. You could end up saying something you regret (“I wish you were never born … MOM!”) making for a very awkward flight home.

Spend some time apart.
Even someone you adore can grow a little tiresome after 6 days/7 nights together. If your travel companion wants to spend the day at by the pool, and you’re dying to explore the museum, why not go your separate ways for a few hours? It will give you both time to relax and cool down, and you might actually start to miss each other. Maybe. Or, at least, hate each other less.

Speak up before something becomes a problem.
If you suddenly find yourself traveling with a morning person, and you’re a night owl, let them know before you’re too sleep deprived to be civil about it. Bringing issues up before they bother you means you’ll be calmer — and less likely to have a vicious, hair-pulling fight about what time to set the wake-up call.

Select activities that involve little interaction.
Sometimes you might not be able to get away from your travel buddy, no matter how hard you try. When you’re absolutely stuck, try activities that don’t require a lot of teamwork. Instead of sharing a canoe, grab individual kayaks. Go see a movie (or if you can’t agree, see different ones!) Avoid ballroom dancing at all costs. It will end badly.

Make new friends.
If your travel partner is turning out to be a dud, why not try befriending some other travelers? You’ll have new people to talk to, and possibly commiserate with! You might meet someone who’s sharing an hotel room with an ex-con — or worse, a lousy tipper. It will make your situation seem like a dream by comparison. Can’t find anyone to talk to? Chat up the bartender. You might even get a free drink out of the deal.

Get some exercise.

Not only will a quick jog or swim give you some much needed alone time, but it will also help burn off all the pent-up anger and stress you’ve been lugging across three timezones. Plus, those endorphins can help calm you down and make you forget all about that fiasco with Homeland Security.

Remember: You aren’t exactly perfect.
Your mom might find your little quirks endearing, but not everyone does. Odds are, your travel partner could be just as fed up with you as you are with them. Keep this in mind, and you may suddenly find a new wealth of patience when it comes to dealing with your travel buddy’s flaws (“Well, she didn’t get angry when I borrowed her sweater, so I guess I’ll forgive her for puking in my suitcase.”).

Avoid contentious topics.
Maybe you’re a Mets fan, and he loves the Yankees. Or perhaps he watches Leno, and you’re with Coco. Whatever the case, try to avoid topics on which you disagree, not matter how tempting. It will only stress you both out, making future altercations more likely. Instead, stick to subjects on which you share an opinion: like how unicorns and cake are awesome.

Think of what a great story it will make later.
So you plan a trip to the Bahamas with an old college friend, only to discover he has a crippling case of eremikophobia (a.k.a., fear of sand. Seriously. Look it up). While seemingly disastrous now (because he doesn’t want a single grain of it in the hotel room) it will make a great tale to tell later. Try to see the humor of a dismal situation.

Rotten travel companions have happened to the best of us. Share your story — and how you lived to tell the tale — in the comments section below!

Read more:
What makes a good travel companion?
Uncommon traits of a good travel companion
Coping with a travel disaster

[Photos: Flickr | Evil Erin; W. Volk; jrodmanjr; StrudelMonkey]