12 Etiquette Rules You Must Follow When Traveling with Friends

Follow this advice to make sure you end the trip still friends with each other.

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Traveling with friends can be an absolutely amazing experience where you make lifelong memories—or it could end up testing the boundaries of your friendship. Whether it’s a bachelor(ette) party, a one-on-one trip with a BFF, or a celebration of a birthday on a year that ends in zero, there’s plenty to consider when hitting the road with pals.

Though most people’s idea of fun vacation planning doesn’t involve serious conversations about money, food, accommodations or sightseeing, it’s important to make sure you and your friend(s) are on the same page. Here are some etiquette rules you should follow to make sure your next friends’ trip goes as smoothly as possible.

Include at least one activity for everyone

Sure, you and your friends probably have some similar interests, but that’s not always the case. In an effort to keep everyone happy, go over travel plans and expectations ahead of time. Have each person categorize activities/sights/etc into “must-see,” “want to see” and “would go if we have time,” and plan accordingly, making sure everyone gets to see at least some of their top attractions. Experts swear by these travel pillows. Pick one up before your next trip.

Be upfront about personal requirements and preferences

Everyone has personal preferences when traveling—from getting the bed closest to the bathroom or sitting in the airplane’s window seat. Then there are the things beyond your control. To deal with this, Toni Dupree, an etiquette expert and author of Whose Fork Is It Anyway? recommends sharing “the truth in an unvarnished fashion” with your travel companions. This means having a conversation about everything from allergies to hygiene, to consideration of time and space. “Everyone should be able to have an enjoyable time,” she tells Reader’s Digest.

Listen and be respectful

Given that you’re traveling with your friends, it should go without saying that you should listen to their concerns and be respectful of them. “Communication is key,” Dupree says. “Remember [that] consideration and respect go a long way.” You’re going to want to end the trip being as close (if not closer) with your friends than when you started—not upset with each other. Plus, it’ll help you avoid these common travel mistakes, so you have the best trip ever.

Don’t disappear

When traveling with a group—or even just one other person—you may want (or need) some alone time. That’s completely fine, but make sure your friends know where you are and have a way of contacting you. “Communicating your whereabouts saves your travel companions from having to play detective in the event no one can find you,” Dupree says. “Communication helps the group bond which helps build the foundation for that epic trip.” It’s especially smart when your traveling in a foreign country or other unfamiliar locales.

Keep track of expenses

Money can be one of the most stressful parts of traveling with a group, so make sure you stay on top of who pays for what. One way to do this is by using the Splitwise app, which lets you take turns picking up the tab and tells everyone exactly what they owe to settle up. Not only does it take care of the math on your vacation, but it also takes the awkwardness out of asking for money or deciding who’s going to pay for something.

Get on the same page about finances

Yes, keeping track of your expenses is important, but it’s also crucial that you and your friends are on the same page when it comes to exactly what kind of trip you’re taking. You may all have different financial situations, so while one person may be up for a no-expenses-spared getaway, another member of the group may only be able to afford something cheap and cheerful. Your best bet is having this conversation before the trip, Dupree says, agreeing on aspects of the trip like accommodation and money. When traveling, keep these emergency tools with you. 

Don’t overschedule your trip

As tempting as it might be to have a jam-packed itinerary, it’s helpful to leave some open slots on your schedule when you’re traveling with a group. “You need to leave gaps for others to enjoy, visit places that you may not want to go to and vice versa,” Will Hatton, owner of the travel site Hotel Jules tells Reader’s Digest. “Mainly you can compromise and go with them somewhere, and then they go with you.” This is just one of many travel secrets that guarantee a stress-free trip.

Get off your phone

Of course, your friends will understand if you need to take a call from a family member, or in the event of a work emergency, but other than that, try to stay off of your phone. Part of the appeal of this type of trip is to spend time with friends—not responding to non-urgent work queries or messaging someone on a dating app. In addition to that, Sarah Kim, a frequent group traveler and founder of Lust ’till Dawn suggests that everyone turns down (or off) the notifications on their phone. “Not everyone wants to hear your incoming texts,” she says. This is just one of several cell phone etiquette rules you should be following but aren’t.

Talk about travel types

When it comes to vacations, everyone has a preference: make sure you discuss this with your friends before your trip starts. “Some people like a full schedule, waking up to exercise before a full day of touring, while others want to ignore the alarm clock and sleep in before beginning to think about how to spend their day,” Jodi Smith, an etiquette consultant at Mannersmith tells Reader’s Digest. “There are those who want to party all night and those who want to rest and read. Knowing these details before you travel will help to smooth the frictions differences can cause.”

Be flexible

Try to be as flexible as possible and roll with unexpected situations and challenges. “Don’t let mountains turn into molehills, Lisa Grotts, an etiquette expert says. “Even with besties, we are all created differently. Be mindful of that.”

Give each other some space

Whether there are two or ten of you, spending so much time together with friends—especially in close quarters—can get pretty intense, pretty quickly. To manage this, make sure to give your traveling companions some space. “If you give each other some time alone every now and again, even if it’s just a half-hour every few days, you’ll reap the benefits in the rest of your time together,” says Catherine Greenwood, a copywriter at i-to-i, a company that assists people who want to travel abroad to teach English.

Swallow your pride

You can’t win every argument, be right about everything and always get your way when you’re traveling with a group. “Traveling brings out the good, the bad, and the ugly in all of us, so there’s bound to be a smidge of tension between travel buddies every now and then,” Greenwood says. “When this happens, we’ve just got to learn to bite our tongues, apologize quickly and most importantly, forgive and forget. There’s nothing like grudge-holding to ruin a perfectly good trip.” Ready for the fun part? Get inspired for your trip by perusing these 20 enchanting homes around the world that you can rent.

Elizabeth Yuko
Elizabeth is an award-winning journalist and bioethicist from New York City covering knowledge, culture, politics, history and lesser-known facts about holidays and traditions. In addition to Reader's Digest, she writes for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Architectural Digest, the Atlantic, Bloomberg CityLab, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Teen Vogue, the History Channel, Real Simple and Lifehacker.