Dr Charlotte Russell, Clinical Psychologist and Founder
Relationships with friends are important for our well-being. Friends are the people who we share fun experiences with and the ones that we lean on when we’re having a tough time. Our close friends see things from our perspective, they support us and they can even let us know when we’re out of line. Given this, it makes sense that lots of people choose to travel with their friends. In this article I’m going to talk you through what to consider when thinking about travelling with friends. I’ll also share tips on how to make the most of your time together.
Is it a good idea to go on holiday with friends?
There are lots of potential benefits of travelling with friends under the right circumstances. Having positive experiences together can help you to build the relationship. Learning about each other can be helpful for our curiosity and personal growth, as well as building mutually supportive bonds. All of this is beneficial for both parties when the relationship is well balanced and respectful. This is not the case in every friendship, but when it is travelling together can be a mutually beneficial experience.
Friendships are important for our well-being and the research evidence in this area supports this. A recent systematic review of 38 studies found that friendship quality and spending time with friends were predictors of well-being (Pezirkianidis et al, 2023). Friendships can be particularly helpful for our well-being when the friendship is perceived to be supportive, when we feel like we ‘matter’ to our friend, and when there is intimacy, support and trust within the relationship (Pezirkianidis et al, 2023)
This really tells us that travelling with friends can be very beneficial for our well-being when the relationship is mutually supportive, respectful and when there is trust.
How do I know if it’s a good idea to travel with a particular friend?
It is important to feel confident that there is trust within the relationship and mutual respect. You want to be confident that the relationship is strong enough to withstand any tensions that may arise. Signs that this is the case would be feeling that your friend is genuinely interested in you, that they care about you and that they are ‘in your corner’. Also think about how the two of you have managed any disagreements or tensions in the past; if you have been able to see each other’s point of view and work together, this is a good sign.
I would also advise you to think about areas where there might be tensions and ideally discuss in advance how you might manage this. Examples might include if one of you is vegan and one is not; how can you work together to navigate this? There are lots of potential areas for tension like different budgets, preferences, values, and ways of doing things. How you navigate these together is going to be important for your enjoyment of your trip.
I’d encourage you to think about times in the friendship when you’ve needed to ask for something or assert your needs. How your friend has responded to this? If they have listened, been understanding and supportive then of course these are good signs. On the other hand if your needs have not been heard and understood, or if they have been dismissed, then these are red flags. Remember it is easy to get along with someone when we don’t ask for anything, and how someone responds when we do can be really telling.
How do you deal with a difficult friend on holiday?
Every person is different and so there are always areas of tensions within relationships. If you know your friend well, you may be aware of areas of tension and things that you tend to disagree about. If possible, try to talk about these in advance when you are both feeling calm. Aim to come up with a plan that you both feel happy with.
If your friend is behaving in a way that upsets you then it’s important to let them know. Try to use statements like “when you do X, I feel upset/stressed/embarrassed”. Its important to try and be constructive, because if your friend feels that you are blaming or criticising them, they may become defensive. Think about the solutions you want before starting the conversation and try to speak about your concerns at a time when you are both feeling calm.
Tips for harmonious holidays
Focus on the positives
No relationship is without areas of tension. We are all unique and have different needs, quirks and preferences and so in any relationship there will be mismatches, things that we disagree on and things that irritate us about the other person. They might take too long in the bathroom, be messy, be a fussy eater or be tight with money. Try to see these issues in perspective and in the context of your friend or family member’s more positive characteristics. If you have chosen to holiday with them there are probably lots of things that you value them. Focus on those.
Be thoughtful and considerate of each other
Travel can be stressful and exhausting. None of us are at our best when we are tired, and our ability to communicate sensitively is massively affected by lack of sleep. So we need to be understanding of this and to be thoughtful and kind to each other. Remind yourself that your friend or family member is important to you and why this is. Try to be intentional in thinking about their thoughts and feelings, even if when their quirks are irritating.
Generosity and gratitude have been found to be important for maintaining relationships in the long term (Ogolski et al., 2017). They are also reciprocal, when we are generous and grateful in relationships this often prompts more positive behaviour back. In contrast, showing negative feelings in a way that is non-constructive can be very damaging for our relationships.
It’s the small gestures of appreciation that matter; compliment your friend on how they look, offer to go and get the drinks, ask them if they want to choose the restaurant tonight.
Communicating our needs and preferences
When it comes to expressing our own feelings and preferences, being clear is always the best strategy. It is easy to avoid conversations that might bring up tensions because we all want to keep the peace. But really this just leads to bigger tensions later down the line. It is always worth talking sooner rather than later.
It is important to ask for what we need in a non-blaming way, because we want solutions and not to put our travel companion on the defensive. Here is an example of how we might communicate a need in a constructive and non-blaming way:
“when we are away I know you like to go and see the museums and churches, and I like doing that with you. However I’ve been working really hard recently and I’d love to have one or two pool days. It would be really great if we could find a way to make this work for both of us”
It is important to pick the right time to have these conversations. Think about the problem as a challenge that you need to work as a team to solve.
If you have holidayed with a particular friend before and there has been a particular tension, try and talk about how you’ll manage it before you book. Don’t just say nothing and then hope that everything is going to be fine as this is recipe for tensions elevating on your trip. This is particularly important if there might be a non-standard dynamic on your holiday, for example, if you are a single person going on holiday with a couple. You each need to talk about your expectations before you book to ensure that they are aligned. For example, do you feel comfortable eating alone some nights to allow the couple some time together or would you want to do a group food tour one or two nights to allow them some space? Coming up with a plan before booking means that everyone will feel reassured that you are all on the same page, and you can relax and enjoy the trip.
Having separate time
It’s totally ok to take time to do separate activities or have time apart when you are on holiday together. We are all different and so are our relationships, and each pair or group will vary in how much time together and apart is right for them. This can be particularly important if you have big differences in preferences for activities or your what you value on holiday is very different.
It is really the quality of time spent together that is important, and not the quantity. Having separate activities can mean you have some good experiences to chat about over dinner when you do get together.
As well as communicating our own needs it is important to be mindful of our friend’s needs. This is particularly important if our friend has a budget that is less than ours, or if they have a health condition or any other need that limits them in some way.
Restricted diets are a good example of this. If your friend is vegan and you are not, it wouldn’t be fair to eat at vegan restaurants every night, but nor would it be fair to visit seven steakhouses! Work together to find the way that feels fairest in your situation. You might take turns picking the restaurants or work together to find restaurants that cater well for both of you. The most important thing is working together as a team, being constructive and not seeing your friends’ needs as an inconvenience to you. You’re choosing to holiday with them for a reason.
Ogolsky, B. G., Monk, J. K., Rice, T. M., Theisen, J. C., & Maniotes, C. R. (2017). Relationship maintenance: A review of research on romantic relationships. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 9(3), 275-306.
Pezirkianidis, C., Galanaki, E., Raftopoulou, G., Moraitou, D., & Stalikas, A. (2023). Adult friendship and wellbeing: A systematic review with practical implications. Frontiers in Psychology, 14, 1059057.
If you liked this article check out How to please yourself on holiday: the antidote to people-pleasing