How To Choose Your Travel Buddies

So, recently I returned from a domestic road trip with a long-time friend. We’re both pretty chill people who enjoy adventures and unplanned side-trips. When we set out, we had three destinations and firm times in place – a ceremony in Ohio during which I was to receive an award on my grandmother’s behalf, the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum where my grandmother’s airplane resides, and a news interview I was giving in Ohio on the way back to Chicago.

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Leslie (left) and I might be a little…special…when we get together.

Admittedly, the trip was for me – I was receiving the award. The plane is my grandmother’s. I was giving the interview.

But Leslie and I have talked about traveling together for years and specifically, we were looking at next year for some international travel. This trip seemed like a good “test run” for learning how we travel together.

Our adventures were great, but showed us some things and reminded me, again, of the importance of choosing the right travel buddy for the specific destination.

All Travel Companions Need to Be On Board for the Destinations

Leslie and I had no issues with this particular adventure. She knew what she was signing up for – at least as much as she could – when she hopped on a plane from California to Chicago to join me. But I have traveled with folks in the past who just weren’t on board with the destinations.

It’s important that if you agree to a given destination or many, that the travel buddy you choose will not only enjoy the locations but be satisfied with where you’re going.

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We both knew our “turn-around” point for the trip would be in D.C., after visiting the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum in Chantilly, VA, where my grandmother’s plane resides.

Make Sure Your Travel Styles Are Compatible

Closely related to destination agreement is travel style agreement. Thankfully, both Leslie and I are pretty cool with side-trips and random stops and destinations, but not everyone is.

If you’re someone who likes a strict itinerary, choose a travel companion with a similar nature or that person will get frustrated with you and visa versa. I’ve traveled with folks in the past who had the opposite travel style as myself, and it wound up being miserable for all of us.

Discuss ahead of time how you want to do the trip – especially road-trips – and make sure you’re compatible enough to all be satisfied with how things will go.

We made a lot of random stops and generally only made plans the day of, apart from the specific commitments we had along the journey. For us, this made it a much better trip. For others, that would be miserable.

Make Sure Your Budgets Align

Before choosing a travel buddy, it’s important to make sure that your budget for the trip will match in style and ability to cover costs. This trip, Leslie and I were pretty well matched. We were both capable of splitting our travel costs (hotels, food, et cetera), and had the similar goal of budget-friendly travel. That meant free things to do, low-cost meals (i.e. packing our own and shopping at Aldi along the route, for the most part), inexpensive hotels, et cetera.

In past, I have traveled both with folks incapable of covering their own costs – that’s a post for another time – and those who expected luxury accommodations while I was going for youth hostels and cheap BnBs.

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The most “luxury” accommodation we had was the Red Roof Inn in downtown Columbus, thanks to a free night I had earned on previous hotel stays. Otherwise, we stayed in hotels under $65 a night, splitting the cost evenly.

Understand Health Issues and Fitness Levels Before You Invite Someone

On this trip, hiking was a last-minute choice – how could we turn down hiking part of the Appalachian Trail? – and so we went with it. But if it had been planned, Leslie definitely would not have been the choice travel companion for this trip.

I tend to walk between four and ten miles daily, run several times per week, and go hiking whenever I get the opportunity. Leslie has asthma – as do I, but mine is way more under control – and doesn’t walk more than a few miles each day.

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Hiking the Appalachian Trail! Straight up for one mile…

The location where we hiked the Appalachian Trail was about one mile straight upward before hitting the level-ish trail. Leslie was definitely not ready for that, especially with her ankle issues and the multitude of sliding rocks that wanted to attack that part of her anatomy. All of this made the ability to hike, walk, et cetera, a bit limited for me since I wasn’t willing to just ditch her for the day. I did still hike ahead quite a bit and got in some extra miles, but it’s just not the same as going hiking with someone at a similar fitness level.

It’s also a good idea to know health issues ahead of time in case of emergencies or issues.

Be Willing to Travel Another Time and Place Together

Leslie made a great companion for this trip. We both thoroughly enjoyed the “Aviation Trail” we journeyed visiting museums focused on aviation, the ceremony, and the news interview even. But we learned a few things that tell us that there are certain travels we simply should not do together.

Rita & Leslie with the Spirit of Columbus plane in background
That little red and white plane in the background at the top between us is my grandmother’s plane, the Spirit of Columbus, or Charlie, as she called him.
  1. We’re both flexible, so loose, easy-going itineraries are great for us together. We’re both also budget-friendly travelers, which means great destinations with low-cost food and lodging make us a match as travel partners.
  2. However, Leslie gets motion sickness, so she’s not a good front-seat companion, responsible for reading the GPS or dealing with phone calls, important texts from work, et cetera.
  3. I’m a hiker and outdoors adventure seeker. Leslie is not.
  4. I’ll be hiking and exploring the outdoors a lot and she’d prefer to explore urban locations.
  5. I’ll be exploring cities and countries on foot – backpacking my way across Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America. Leslie prefers a suitcase on wheels.

Because of these disparities, we’ve decided, instead, to do domestic or international road trips together instead in 2021, where things like major cities and small towns are the focus, rather than outdoor activities and loads of walking. And someone else will ride in the front and take care of the reading.

We’re still good friends and plan to travel together. Nothing’s been lost between us. We’re just a bit wiser on who we should travel with and when.

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After the interview with Dennis Biviano, reporter for Ohio’s Spectrum News 1. Along with my great aunt Susan Reid, Jerrie Mock’s youngest sister. At The Works Museum in Newark, Ohio.