How To Vacation With Friends Without Killing Each Other

Every August I head to Long Beach Island for a week with girlfriends. (Yes, this is part of the Jersey Shore. No, I have never met Snooki.) This is our fourth year going and it’s taken about that long to figure out how best to vacation together. One of my friends, for instance, likes to have breakfast at the exact same time each morning while reading the New York Times. Mess with this routine at your own peril and travel gods help you if she hasn’t had her coffee yet.

Another mate is perpetually training for a marathon that requires a vigorous dedication to 6 a.m. exercise. And I am constantly experimenting with weird food choices (heads up, guys, I’m not eating gluten this year!) and strongly believe that if we are not all drinking cheap white wine by 4 p.m. then we are not really on vacation.

The point is, we all settle into different cycles while we’re traveling, and if you’re not careful then it’s easy to disrupt the carefully crafted vacation balance. So if you, like me, want to maintain your at-home friendships post group excursion, follow these five simple rules.

Choose Wisely
I’m sure you’ve heard this delightful expression: you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. There should be a travel version of this disgustingly conveyed wisdom, something like: you can pick your friends and you can pick your route but you can’t pick your friend’s route. (I’m still working on the phrasing. Suggestions are welcome.) We don’t all have the same ideas about travel. Some are determined to spend their entire South Dakota vacation at Mount Rushmore while others think the state is all about the Corn Palace (I hear it’s a-maize-ing). Agree where you’re going and what you want to see once you get there – before you start the trip.Talk it Out
What are your vacation hopes and dreams? Have any pet peeves or weird quirks? What time do you like to go to bed? To get up? I know your mom says the way you belt out show tunes in your sleep is endearing but I want to know about it beforehand so I don’t think we’re being invaded by Broadway bandits. And if me rising early to snap a million photos of the sunrise from our balcony then babbling on about how glorious it is will make you want push me over that same balcony, I want to know about that, too. Oh, and single folks should establish a hook-up policy. Mine goes something like this: do not let me go home with anyone sporting facial tattoos no matter how passionately I pontificate about how brave it is to disregard societal notions of beauty (that is just the cheap white wine talking).

Take a Break
You are traveling together. This does not mean you are conjoined twins. If you want to ride horses in the Andes for six hours that’s great, but to me this sounds like a special breed of torture. Let’s go our separate ways for a bit. We might part for the hour or day or week or longer. That’s cool. Like couples who pursue separate hobbies, we’ll have lots to catch up on when we reunite. That old travel spark will ignite between us once again and we’ll ride off together into the sunset, renewed and reinvigorated by each other’s tales of solo adventure – just not on horses, of course.

Money, Money, Money
People say there are three crucial conversations to have before getting married: about children, religion and finances. Luckily, you can avoid the former two with your travel partner – but not the latter. Are you planning to split costs equally? Divide up bills based on what each individual eats and drinks? Are you going to pay for all our trips because you recently won the lottery or work in finance or both? Hash it out now and not when the Excel spread sheet is circulating two weeks after the trip and that little square next to your name says you owe more than is in your bank account.

Keep it Real
This falls under the category of obvious but important life advice (and also under the category of white girls trying to sound like rappers) but it’s also vital for traveling with friends. If you’re annoyed, speak up (be nice, I’m sensitive). Suppressed feelings fester under the very best conditions but in enclosed spaces like cramped hotel rooms and overcrowded Bolivian buses they positively pickle. You’re bound to get into some minor scrapes with buddies on the road – the longer the trip, the more likely – but this can actually be a good thing. As long as you resolve the issue in a timely and diplomatic way and without anger-invoked defenestration from your hotel room, you’ll probably find yourself closer than ever after having survived your adventure – and each other.