Hate Traveling with Friends? Here’s How to Avoid Fighting on Vacation

Fighting on vacation is an unfortunate reality of travel.

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some of my best friends from college during our “senior week” trip to Cape Cod, right before graduation in May 2015. Brittney, Cassidy, and Rachael. Taken by Lauren!

Too many hours in the car, the stress of a new place, and the exhaustion of jet lag are all things that can make even the best of friends start actively hating each other.

I’ve been in situations over the years where I needed to take a step back. My sister and I went on a Grand Tour of Europe together and I swear to God I wanted her dead because of how loudly she breathes while sleeping. Another time I had a terrible migraine on this bus ride with a random baby that wouldn’t stop crying, so I kept fantasizing about just stoping the bus and leaving it with a nice couple at a gas station.

Both terrible, terrible, intrusive thoughts.

So how do you work past these instead of always arguing on vacation?

You have to address the triggers and make a conscious choice to be zen.

Quick tip to avoid fighting on vacation: you can’t control others’ behavior, but you can control your own. 

See also:

Common triggers: 

Exhaustion

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My friends Elizabeth, Char, Meagan, Mary, and me on an orientation trip for our study abroad program to a Mozzarella farm in Campania, Italy in January 2014.

People are cranky when they are tired. This is a given. Advice like “make sure to get a good night’s sleep!” is trite. Sometimes that’s impossible.

What is possible, however, it not setting yourself up to fail. Do hostels make you restless because of squeaky beds, thin mattresses, and inconsiderate roommates who turn the lights on at three am? Don’t stay there! Ask your traveling partners if you can book a private room, at least every couple of nights.

Can you never get to sleep on long-haul flights? Then don’t try to hit the ground running on your first day and pretend like you’re well-rested. Take it slow. Pace yourself.

Does your partner snore or just breath freakishly heavy when they sleep (like my sister)? Always bring some ear plugs, just in case or have a soothing sounds playlist queued up on your phone.

You can’t always guarantee you’ll sleep well, but you can still create a relaxing environment for yourself.

Quick tip to avoid fighting on vacation: avoid “one night stands” and stay in each location for at least two nights to ensure better sleep. 

Hunger

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Nik, Emily, Jessica, Mike, Rebecca, Maggie, and myself in Florence, Italy. April 2014.

Let’s be real: I get hangry even when I’m not traveling. It’s realllly hard to handle even minor inconveniences when you’re starving, so don’t let yourself get to this point!

Sometimes you have to skip lunch so you can see everything you wanted in a city or the local cuisine doesn’t sit well with you. Still no reason to be a brat! Always, always, always, have an apple and snack bar in your purse. If you’re going on a shorter trip (like less than a month) bring five or ten RXBars (or the like) with you to nibble on until you can sit down for or cook a meal.

Quick tip to avoid fighting on vacation: a collapsible water bottle like this one is a great way to avoid being a butthead due to dehydration.  

Different Interests

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My literal other half, Siobhan, and I at Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island May 2017. Luckily we both love historic houses.

If your boyfriend wants to stop for a coffee one more time, you might have to end the relationship. Your best friend has no interest in shopping in Paris? She’s the worst!

Traveling teaches us that we don’t have as much in common with our loved ones as we might think we do. Your mom might be a foodie and want extravagant sit down meals three times a day, while you would rather just eat a sandwich while running between monuments and museums.

It can be really frustrating to feel like you are “wasting time” on a trip you’ve been really excited for. To avoid fighting on vacation because of this, you can try a “quid pro quo” approach in which each person in the group gets to pick one activity each day OR you can occasionally split up. Which brings us to…

Quick tip to avoid fighting on vacation: occasionally suck it up and do what the other people in your group want to do, even if it means missing out on something you wanted. 

Too Much Time Together

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Me, my sister Kerry, and my mom Debbie at Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas. We spend a looooot of time together 🙂 March 2017.

This seems to be a bigger obstacle for couples or friends traveling pairs to overcome. After a few days of just one person, you might be desperate to interact with a human being who isn’t them or just really want some alone time.

So take the day off!

Your best friend can spend the evening at the theater while you people watch in a coffee shop. You can check out that sale while your boyfriend sleeps in. These mini solo adventures are the perfect way to recharge, so that the time spent together is enjoyable and not tense.

Quick tip to avoid fighting on vacation: communicate beforehand to find out what the rest of your group absolutely doesn’t want to do, so there’s time to schedule concurrent activities.  

See also:

Stress

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My sister Kerry and her husband Chris taking the time to destress in the Dead Sea. November 2017.

When you miss your bus, mess up your hotel reservations, or get lost, it’s so, so easy to start blaming the rest of your group or start lashing out because you are scared or stressed. Stressful things will happen when you travel. Things will definitly go wrong. That’s still no excuse for fighting on vacation. This is where mindfulness comes in.

You have to actively decide not to be angry. Not to respond to your boyfriend’s, or sister’s, or best friend’t goading. Let them be angry! Let them lash out! Choose to be calm.

If you are having a hard time staying calm in a tense or scary travel situation, I find it helpful just not to respond at all. Sometimes I even separate myself from the group. I don’t mean that in a “huff off and pout” sort of way, I mean it in a, “Hey, I’m going to go sit on that bench for a minute so I can think of a game plan” sort of way.

Arguing on vacation can also be avoided through preventative communication.

Quick tip to avoid fighting on vacation: assign group members with tasks according to their strengths before the trip, like navigating, driving, translating, negotiating, etc. This way, in a time of crisis, there’s no fighting over who needs to take the lead. 

See also:

Fighting on Vacation: In Conclusion

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My chum Bethany and I in Prague, October 2017.

Mindfulness and communication are key to a great trip. If you find yourself getting a little heated, quickly work to address the trigger. Am I hungry? Tired? Bored? Then you can work to fix it.

Remember: talk to your group about interests, budgets, and accommodations BEFORE YOU LEAVE. 

You can avoid like 75% of potential fights if all group members are upfront about their expectations; however, if things aren’t going well, if your traveling companions are excessively irritable or unwilling to compromise, just remember: take a deep breath, get through this trip, and then choose not to travel with them again.

Happy traveling!

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22 Comments

  1. November 25, 2017 / 11:56 PM

    I’ve traveled with my partner for about 2 years and your suggestions are right! I am usually the worrier though so all the stress comes from me, he’s the calm one which I usually need. 🙂

  2. November 26, 2017 / 2:30 AM

    I have to agree with the hangry comment too, I have learned that its best to make sure I have a snack to eat after we arrive at the airport before jumping in our next mode of transportation as otherwise, I am always a little more on edge. Get me some food, some caffeine and I am happy and relaxed.

    • December 2, 2017 / 12:05 AM

      That’s great that you know how to settle yourself! Makes for a happier group for sure. I’ve taken to sitting for a moment and collecting myself when I get off big flights as well. It’s soooo easy to get caught in a rush of people that you feel like you have to run out as well.

  3. November 26, 2017 / 3:32 AM

    So, so right! Especially the part about getting hangry… I can relate.

  4. November 26, 2017 / 9:04 AM

    Travelling with others definitely needs a lot more planning so make sure everyone knows what to expect from a trip and everyone get a fair share of group leader!

    • December 2, 2017 / 12:06 AM

      Yes!! Assuming you know what people want is soooo dangerous haha. always gotta talk it out.

  5. November 26, 2017 / 10:05 AM

    Great advice here! This article is super relevant for anyone traveling with companions – friends, family, or significant others. Definitely important to be mindful and honest about your own feelings and desires, I’m guilty of being a little irritable when I have an empty stomach haha so this was a good reminder to keep my own emotions in check.

    • December 2, 2017 / 12:07 AM

      For sure! Whenever I’m hungry, it’s waaaay harder to be sweet, but I have to consciously and consistently talk to myself like “keep it together girl.”

  6. November 26, 2017 / 2:24 PM

    My college girlfriends and I have been doing a chick trip every other year for the past 14 years. It’s all about giving everyone space and the opportunity to take charge of at least one thing.

    • December 2, 2017 / 12:07 AM

      I love that idea! I hope my friends and I can do the same <3

  7. Jacqueline
    November 27, 2017 / 9:16 PM

    Hahah I love this post! Very well written and sooo true! I am a solo female traveller, which helps to avoid most of these situations, but even then it sometimes starts ‘playing’ in your head, like too hungry to think straight or stressed because you missed the bus etc. Breathing deeply and finding a different approach is the best way to handle the situation. Thanks for sharing in such a humerous way!

    • December 6, 2017 / 9:16 PM

      I sooo agree. Even when I’m by myself I can feel myself getting stressed out sometimes.

  8. November 29, 2017 / 7:57 PM

    I’ve mostly traveled solo or with my husband so (luckily) I have never had to deal with fighting with friends while on the road. But I can imagine the stress that comes with. Thanks for this post, super helpful 🙂

  9. Mel
    November 30, 2017 / 5:09 PM

    Such s great post. I’ve b en trying to get write one like this for ages!! I’ve had a few times similar to you and as much as I lovevtravelling with the bffs sometimes it can be quite hard

    • December 2, 2017 / 12:08 AM

      I know! A lot of times you THINK you know someone, and then you travel with them and you’re like “daaaaaaaang.” hahaha.

  10. Kerry
    December 1, 2017 / 2:22 PM

    Addressing the trigger is key. Great summary point!
    When i encounter frustrating situations with friends I also think about wise advice from our friend, Rick Steves, “travel like you’ll be back.” That way if I miss an activity with a group it’s less of a blow.

  11. December 2, 2017 / 4:59 PM

    I agree, it’s all about communication. It’s fine for people to want to go do their own thing from time to time, or feel too tired to participate in a current activity.. you just have to let the other know!

    • December 6, 2017 / 9:17 PM

      So true! I think the hardest bit is when you DO let them know, and they still can’t compromise. I think that’s where my second point comes in, grin, bear it, and don’t travel with them again to save the friendship haha.

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