I recently read a post on Darling about tips for traveling with a companion and realized that it’s only been in the last five years or so that I started getting specific with my travel partners about what would make a satisfying journey for everyone involved. With that said, I’ve outlined a few things I would add to the author’s post, as well as my variation on her existing topics that seem to be threaded with a common goal: obtaining peace of mind.

Talk About It

Everyone travels differently. While you may prefer leisurely afternoons at local cafes and museums, your travel companion may rather hit the bike trails or be chauffeured around as part of a tour group. Learning about travel styles and preferences BEFORE the trip can be helpful to create an itinerary the both of you can look forward to and will enjoy. I’ve found it helpful to chat with my travel companions about “must-dos,” “must-sees,” and “must-eats” – activities that encompass the day-to-day of a trip.

While discussing our trip to Panama over tater tots at Station Tavern and from the comfort of her apartment, beer in-hand, Google at the ready, my friend Cyndi and I agreed that we wanted adventure and authenticity and built our trip around zip lining in El Valle de Anton, an overnight camping trip to the San Blas islands and a commitment to dining out for traditional, Panamanian fare.

On a road trip through the Pacific Northwest with my high school buddies, we discussed and agreed that we would not patron big chain restaurants unless they were local to the area or were chain one of us hasn’t been to yet.

Keep an Open Mind

Being receptive to meeting new people, locals and other travelers alike can mean a recommendation to a restaurant that isn’t easily found in search results or a serendipitous connection to your peers. Engage your barista or waiter, mill around the communal areas of your hostel (or any hostel!) and don’t be surprised to discover a sixth degree of separation connection thousands of miles from home. These are the types of events I get excited about the most because these connections enrich the experience of the trip and adds extra color to the stories you’ll tell when you get back home.

Upon gathering our bags at the hostel who hosted our overnight trip to the San Blas islands I ran into a peer who worked on the same block as my former employer while I was still living in Los Angeles. During a normal work day, we would have both been clothed in business attire, attempting to avoid a jaywalking ticket from the LAPD camped on the corners as we rushed from lunch back to the office. But, here we were that evening, dressed in tanks and shorts to beat the Panamanian humidity, chatting it up and referencing the day-to-day of our lives stateside. The encounter was surreal and magical at the same time.

Slow Down

An overzealous itinerary can brew discontent for both parties. Build in some downtime to recover from a travel day, and be mindful of how each piece of the itinerary could effect the next. Maybe rethink scheduling a sunrise hike after a debaucherous night out (though to each her own – I know I can’t function properly on less than 5 hours of sleep).

For example, as I plan a Spring trip to Australia and New Zealand my travel companion and I agreed that we would stagger activities that require more energy in between more relaxed activities. Instead of tackling a Great Walk immediately after landing, we might scope out a nice brunch, grab a flat white and browse the boutiques while we give our bodies some time to adjust to being blasted into the future.

Have a Back up Plan

If you’re traveling through a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and WiFi is spotty, finding your way back to your travel companion should you two get separated can add an extra layer of frustration. A curfew and designated meeting place worked for us during our trip to Panama, as well as a mutual understanding that one of us wouldn’t just disappear on each other without huddling about it first.

Other ideas I’ve read about include keeping your hotel’s business card on your person to show a cab driver if you’ve strayed too far, as well as jotting down a few key phrases to help get you back to a central location and hopefully back to your travel buddy.

Cyndi and I in the San Blas islands.

Cyndi and I in the San Blas islands.

What do you think? Anything else to add?

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