By Rachael Funk
We’ve all been there – after long last the trip is planned, your hard-earned cash has been shelled out, and the day has finally arrived to set off on your highly-anticipated vacation. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, someone in your group nominates themselves the Baron of Buzzkill-topia. You can’t travel with everybody, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out who makes for a poor travel companion until it’s too late. Evade the horrors of miserable company by avoiding these nightmare travelers.
This person may not always be right, but they’re never in doubt! We all know someone who regards travel as their moment to exhibit their spectacular knowledge. This person is prone to talking over tour guides, lecturing their companions, and interrupting conversations to correct misconceptions they’ve overheard. At best, they come off as attention hogs and at worst, they come off as pretentious and disparaging.
How to deal: For your own sanity, pick your battles. Ignore your impulses to be passive aggressive and let your travel buddy know you’d really love for them to pipe down when you’re trying to learn on your own. Keep a sense of humor about the situation and remember it’s unlikely someone will be able to unlearn lifelong habits in the span of a vacation.
The Picky Eater
There’s a big difference between dietary restrictions like allergies or lifestyle choices such as veganism or vegetarianism, and flat-out being a picky eater. The picky eater is the traveler who doesn’t usually need special accommodations but as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac, they only want to eat at McDonald’s or refuse to eat anything that’s not chicken fingers. Not only is this prohibitive for their travel companions who are tired of hearing “I can’t eat here,” it also causes you to miss one of the best parts of travel: trying out new foods!
How to deal: If your picky eater doesn’t lighten up about their preferences, you may consider splitting up for mealtimes. They have a right to make choices they’re comfortable with, and so do you! It doesn’t make sense to accommodate one person at the expense of the group, so continue with the original plan, then meet back up at a designated time and place.
Americans have a reputation of being loud. Instead of walking over to share something, they’ll just holler across the plaza/museum/coffee shop to get your attention. Even if they’re not screaming, their booming voice carries way too far for comfort. Even worse are the angry yellers. These are the travel companions who ruin the mood by shouting at their partner, berating staff, or starting fights with the locals. Sometimes it feels like the only way to avoid these people is to don a disguise and start a new life far, far away from them.
How to deal: Always remain calm when dealing with yellers; you don’t want to become one yourself. In the case of a loud friend, gently point out when they’re being disruptive and ask them to be aware of their volume. In the case of angry yellers, you need to set strong boundaries immediately. Make it clear the behavior is unacceptable and if it continues, ditch em. Nobody needs that energy on a vacation.
A closed-minded traveler is a bad traveler. Dropping negativity on unfamiliar foods, events, and cultural experiences is an unfortunate reality of traveling with a judge. This person won’t open up to new experiences and avoids anything outside of their comfort zone. This can suck all the fun out of exploring the novelties of your destination and crush your adventurous spirit. Though an unwillingness to lighten up is unfair to the rest of the group, they probably don’t realize it.
How to deal: Trying to pressure or coerce someone out of their cocoon is a surefire way to make them dig their heels in even harder. Shaming someone for their inflexibility isn’t going to fix anything, it’ll just sour the mood. Go ahead and enjoy the things that pique your interest, make sure your companion knows they are welcome to join, but if they decide to opt out, let them. This allows you to continue to discover and experience without adding to the tension.
The Screen Zombie
Whether they are using your trip to gain notoriety as a social media influencer or can’t pass a day without a 2-hour FaceTime session with their significant other, an adventure buddy who is always buried in their screens is no fun at all. This person is constantly checking out of conversations to “check-in” on Facebook, lagging behind the group to write the perfect Instagram caption, or excusing themselves to talk to people back home instead of the group. They seem to be completely oblivious to the world around them, but you’d never know based on the content they’re posting and the stories they’re relaying back home.
How to deal: Keep communication open and let your pal know it’s frustrating they never unplug and they’re being rude by not interacting with the people they’re actually on the trip with. It’s possible that someone constantly on the phone with home is dealing with some homesickness or travel anxiety, so it may be helpful to propose phone-free meals or set hours for technology use. It’s okay - Snapchat won’t implode if everyone waits until dinnertime to send that filtered selfie.
The Irresponsible One
One of the most frustrating travel companions is the irresponsible tourist. You’ll get a sense of who they are as you’re standing in the airport and they casually ask if they were supposed to bring their passport. You may think the worst is over once you get on the airplane without too much trouble, but don’t be fooled! You can look forward to a week of babysitting or else risk them forgetting their phone at the museum cafe, drinking too much, or trying to ditch the group for a sketchy Tinder date in a weird part of town.
How to deal: Remember that someone else’s lack of responsibility does not fall to you to correct. When things are left behind or poor choices are being made, you can confront your companion about the problem, but don’t take on the role of parent. Keep an eye on them but as long as they’re not putting themselves or others at risk, let them clean up their own messes.
This traveler is the first person on earth to experience jetlag and is ready to broadcast their discomfort throughout the whole. entire. trip. Yes, it’s humid, you’re in the Caribbean. No, they don’t speak English all over the world. Yes, your feet are probably sore; you’re doing a lot of walking.
How to deal: Earplugs, man. Earplugs.
The Time Waster
You know the type – they are never ready to leave the hotel when everybody else is and they get hyper-focused on unimportant tasks that eat up the group’s time. Whether it’s choosing the worst moment to set up the tripod, lights, lenses, photo filter, and camera to capture the “perfect” shot or generally being inconsiderate of time constraints, this person causes stress for the duration of the trip.
How to deal: This is another situation where a gentle confrontation needs to happen early. Remind them that trains, tours, and non-refundable events do not wait for laggers. It may be helpful to tell them to be ready half an hour before your true departure schedule, but this is a temporary solution which will fall through if they catch on. Your best bet is to make an itinerary and stick to it, whether they are ready to join or not.
The Cheapskate is a particularly frustrating companion. Though there always seems to be enough money for the stuff they want to do, $20 suddenly seems like an insurmountable financial burden when it comes to things that don’t interest them. They have to haggle everywhere, regardless if it’s appropriate or not. Conversely, you may be stuck with the high roller who only wants to do the wildly expensive, should-have-budgeted-for-this, high-cost stuff and expect you to casually match their spending habits. Though $300 meals may sound like a dream to your travel bud, the idea of blowing an entire car payment on a single dinner makes you nervous.
How to deal: Let’s be real – money stress is awful. Whether someone is restricting plans by being unwilling to shell out an entry fee or assumes your budget is as large as theirs, worrying and arguing about money puts an incredible dampener on the trip. To avoid these situations, agree on a general budget in the early stages of planning. This way, everyone can arrange their adventures with a similar dollar amount in mind.