Snoring, slobs and splitting the bills: 19 ways to holiday with friends – without falling out

Lots of us are choosing to holiday with friends rather than family. According to a survey by Expedia of 24,000 adults across 17 countries, 65% of people planning to travel in the next 36 months will be doing so with friends. Holidaying with your mates is great fun – but the sudden change from casual socialising to spending 24/7 together can be challenging. Here’s how to navigate some common sources of stress – and ensure you’re all still speaking to each other when you get home.

Money

What if we’ve got different budgets?
This is definitely one to discuss before booking the holiday. Laura Lindsay from Skyscanner says: “Be honest about your budget before agreeing to the trip to ensure it lines up with everyone else’s expectations.” You need broad agreement on the big costs such as travel and accommodation – it’s clearly not going to work if one person wants to go backpacking and another demands five-star luxury. Day-to-day costs are more tricky. “Things could go south if part of the group are looking to go all out while some need to be more careful with money,” says Lindsay. Again, communication is key. “Agree upfront if you’re splitting things like restaurant bills equally or itemising per person.” If you’re the one with more spare cash, be considerate and don’t constantly suggest expensive days out; if you’re on a tight budget, be realistic about whether you can really afford the trip.

What’s the fairest way to pay while you’re away?
“Shared costs are at the heart of most fallouts – forgotten pledges to pay you back later can descend into resentment,” says Lindsay. “Avoid any issues from the offset and get everyone to download the same budgeting app, such as Splitwise. This will make it easy to track spending, split bills and calculate who owes what.”

One person in the group is tight!
If you know this already – they have plenty of money but never buy a round, say – do not go on holiday with this person. (Also, why are you still friends?) If it only becomes apparent while you’re away, you could call them out, but it might be better to keep the peace, chalk it up to experience – and leave them off the “Summer 2024!” WhatsApp group.

Accommodation

How do we decide who gets which room?
Remember, these are your friends – you’re not competing with them. If you sleep soundly, offer to take the sofabed or share the bunkbed and let your friend with insomnia have their own room. It’s in everyone’s best interests, says Dr Charlotte Russell, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Travel Psychologist. “None of us are at our best when we are tired, and our ability to communicate sensitively is massively affected by lack of sleep.” But again, discuss it before you go and be honest: seething with resentment in a windowless box room while your friend luxuriates in the master en suite with a seaview balcony will spoil your holiday. Also: ’fess up in advance if you snore, so your friends can pack earplugs.

Who gets top bunk?
Who gets top bunk? Illustration: ADAM HIGTON/The Guardian

My friend sleeps late and takes three hours to get ready
Just because you’re on holiday, you don’t have to spend every minute together. If you’re a lark and your friend’s a night owl, leave them in bed, go out for an early coffee/walk/swim and bring back something nice for breakfast. You’ll both benefit, says Melanie Fish from the holiday rental site Vrbo: “Being on holiday with friends means spending more time together than usual, but taking some time apart to do your own things gives everyone a bit of space.”

Equally, if you wash and go and they’re more high-maintenance, don’t sit there drumming your fingers and looking pointedly at the clock. Either make “getting ready” part of the evening fun – with Europop, cocktails and exotic snacks (paprika crisps! wasabi pretzels!) – or go out before them and arrange to meet them later.

However, if you need to be somewhere by a certain time, a little lie is acceptable. “If your friend is chronically late, tell them to be ready an hour earlier than needed,” says Rosie Panter, a travel expert at the price comparison site dealchecker. “This will avoid fallouts about missing dinners, transport and activities.”

I’m super-tidy and my friend’s a slob
Fish says: “Travelling with friends and staying in a holiday home means sharing domestic tasks. Everyone should contribute to shopping, cooking and cleaning.” But play to your strengths: if you hate cleaning, do more of the fetching/carrying/cooking. Hopefully you’re good enough friends to playfully prod anyone who isn’t pulling their weight. If not, says Fish, “It could be best for the group to agree beforehand on who does what so there are no unspoken expectations.”

My friend has bad bathroom etiquette
There’s always someone who nabs the first shower or hogs the bathroom for hours, or leaves the floor wet and clumps of hair everywhere. Casually suggesting everyone takes it in turns and cleans up after themselves may be enough to make them change their ways. If not, remember it’s a holiday, not a houseshare, and try to rise above it. Russell says: “In any relationship, there will be things that irritate us about the other person. They might take too long in the bathroom or be messy. Try to see these issues in perspective and in the context of your friend’s more positive characteristics. If you have chosen to holiday with them, there are probably lots of things that you value about them – focus on those.”

They make themselves a cup of tea and never ask if anyone else wants one
Well, you could passive-aggressively and loudly offer everyone a cuppa every time they make their own. Or – see previous advice – you could get some perspective. Anyway, you’re on holiday – who wants a cup of tea? Have a shot of tequila!

Relationships

Should a single person ever go on holiday with a couple?
Weirdly, some couples seem keen on taking a third wheel away with them. Maybe they’re so happy they want to share the love with their single friends; maybe they’re heading for divorce. Either way, Russell says “unusual dynamics” like this can work – with a little thought. “You each need to talk about your expectations to ensure they are aligned,” she says. “For example, do you feel comfortable eating alone or doing a group food tour some nights to allow the couple some time together?”

Can the child-free holiday with families with kids?
The short answer is yes, although it does beg the question: why would you want to? Just kidding; there are lots of reasons. The children in question could be your beloved nieces/nephews/godchildren; it could be a special occasion; you could be getting a cheap holiday in return for a bit of babysitting. Whatever your motivation, book somewhere with as much space as you can afford so you can relax away from the kids sometimes. James Maughan, the managing director of GroupAccommodation.com, says: “Try looking for a group of cottages or cabins, which means individual families can have their own space, or you can split the kids from the adults and then come back together at dinnertime or to watch a movie.”

What are the rules about holiday romances?
If you’re sharing a room with a friend, a blanket ban on bringing strangers back is only reasonable. Everything else is up for negotiation, but again, it’s better to discuss this before the holiday rather than on a night out. You can’t stop your friend from hooking up with a stranger, but you can take safety precautions, such as setting up location sharing on your phones.

Beach or market?
Beach or market? Illustration: ADAM HIGTON/The Guardian

Food and drink

How do we pick a restaurant?
The world is divided into people who trust they will simply stumble across a backstreet trattoria crammed with locals, and those who won’t consider anywhere that isn’t a top choice in the guidebook, even if it’s three bus rides away. There is no reconciling the two – just take turns to choose.

One of us has a restrictive diet
Picky eaters are annoying. But, Russell says: “Try not seeing your friends’ needs as an inconvenience to you. 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 restaurants that cater well for both of you.” You can also eat separately sometimes, of course.

What about self-catering?
Some people prefer to stay in and cook rather than eat out every night. Russell says: “It is important to be mindful of our travel companion’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.” If that’s the case, a mix of cooking with them and eating out without them seems fair. You could tactfully offer to pay for a meal out – say they would be doing you a favour by keeping you company while you try the place your mum recommended, for example.

We have different ideas about socialising
Some degree of compromise is possible, but if you party until the small hours and your friends like an early dinner and bed, or vice versa, it’s not going to work. Try to holiday with like-minded people who will share your hangover/join you on that dawn jog.

Activities

We disagree on what constitutes a holiday
“If you want an adventure-filled trip of a lifetime and your fellow traveller is after a relaxing beach break, there are going to be some clashes,” says Lucy Lynch of Jenza, a travel brand that arranges flexible working holidays. “But maybe there’s a happy medium.” After all, most people like a mix of activities and relaxation, so you can take it in turns to plan the day.

With bigger groups, give options, says Panter. “Offer two opposing activities: one jam-packed with sightseeing and another with a slower pace. With no obligation to do either, each member of the group can do what they want without running the risk of annoying others.” Alternatively, Lindsay suggests using the poll feature in WhatsApp to gather group consensus. And you can dip in and out – you don’t have to go in every single museum or church if you’d rather sit in the park and read for a while.

But do keep an open mind. “Groups should try to experience new things that force everyone out of their comfort zones, while tapping into everyone’s individual interests,” says Harvey Downard, the head of cycling at Cycling for Softies. “If one of your party has an interest in art, the other in winemaking and another in active excursions, that keeps your itinerary exciting. It could even spark new interests – you may not have invested the time into trying out a new pursuit at home.”

Having said that, don’t be afraid to go it alone, or get offended if someone else does. “Holidaying with a group can be enjoyable, but also runs the risk of becoming tiresome and intense very quickly,” says Panter. “I’d recommend setting your own schedule and touring a few sights on your own. This down time will recharge your social batteries and you won’t get so easily irritated at offhand comments.”

Relax or explore?
Relax or explore? Illustration: ADAM HIGTON/The Guardian

We navigate the world differently
If you prefer to wander down whichever street catches your eye as you gradually head towards the market, it can be frustrating if your friend never deviates from the fastest route on Google Maps. But for them, the risk of getting lost might be very stressful. Michael Brein, AKA the Travel Psychologist, says this could partly be down to your personality characteristics. Traits that may affect how well fellow travellers get along include anxiety, risk-taking, novelty-seeking, sociability, independence and pleasure-seeking. We all fall somewhere along a continuum for each characteristic, and are likely to enjoy holidaying most with those who are similar. For that reason, says Brein: “Consider taking a brief ‘test’ vacation or staycation to test the waters.” In other words, see how you get on during a weekend away before booking that round-the-world cruise.

Attitudes

We’re on a summer holiday and my friend hates hot weather
OK, perhaps they should have known what they signed up for, but temperatures have soared across Europe this summer, so try to be sympathetic if anyone is struggling with the heat. Make reasonable adjustments, such as going out earlier in the morning and later in the evening, and taking siestas in the hottest part of the day. But unless they are actually unwell, don’t feel bad about going out and enjoying the sunshine without them.

One of the group has a bad attitude
If someone is getting tetchy, you might need to make an extra effort. “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,” says Russell. “When we are generous and grateful in relationships, this can prompt more positive behaviour back.” But occasionally, you see an unwelcome side to your friends on holiday. If anyone is rude to the waiter, demands English food abroad or won’t even attempt “hello” in the local language, you need a new friend.

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