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Who is your favorite travel companion and why? Share nightmarish ones as well!

Who is your favorite travel companion and why? Share nightmarish ones as well!

Mar 17th, 2007, 01:45 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,793
In recent years I've always traveled alone, or I've taken small group walking tours, preceded or followed by a period of traveling alone. When I was younger I always traveled with a friend. Every friend I ever traveled with was a good travel companion and we had a good time on our trips. But my favorite travel companion was my best friend from college. We took almost all of our vacations together when we were in our twenties: two weeks in Spain, three weeks in Greece, four or five weeks in Italy, a few days rafting in West Virginia, and some others that I can't remember at the moment. We had a lot of history together, having been best friends since I was 16 and she was 17, and we knew each other well. That does not mean we thought the same thoughts or liked all the same things or had all the same abilities or never irritated each other. But we were both intensely curious, flexible, enthusiastic travelers. My friend had a lot more "family" money than I did, but traveled on my budget; I was a teacher and could only take long trips in summer, so she adjusted to that schedule; she had some unusual special interests that I didn't necessarily share, but I enjoyed being exposed to things I'd never have sought out on my own; we were both willing to speak the foreign languages we'd studied in school; we were both basically healthy and could survive being overactive in too much heat with too little rest. Probably the most important factors in our compatibility as travel companions were that we liked and respected each other so much, and we were both quick to find the humor in our less-than-perfect but always interesting experiences. I think the last time we went on vacation together was about 30 years ago. Her special interest was Turkey, and she took several trips to Turkey by herself, the summer after graduating from college and during a period when I couldn't travel because I'd gone back to school. Two years ago, when I came back from my first and only trip to Turkey all excited about Turkish culture and Turkish places, she said that she'd like to go to Turkey with me if I wanted to return in a few years. But that won't happen. My friend died a few weeks ago.
cmt is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:37 PM
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I've had so many great travel companions, it's hard to single one out as the best. However, I can write about my first great travel companion: my dad.

Aside from family holidays, he provided my first "sort of grown up" travel experiences because he took me on some business trips in Canada when I was in my early teens. He also arranged my first trip outside North America. A week or so after I finished my qualifying (articling) year after law school, he called up and said "Want to go to Russia for free? The only tradeoff is that you have to share a hotel room with me." (Which did, in fact, made me pause for a minute. He snores incredibly loudly.) But we had a great time. It was my first trip in business class, we spent 3 weeks in St Petersburg, and we mixed sightseeing with some work (visits to pulp mills). I spent half the trip in a 5* hotel and the other half sharing an apartment with one of our translators. I will also never forget getting sick. Both my dad and I picked up a bug from something we ate or drank on one of the mill visits. Let's just say you get to know your dad on a whole different leve when you're both sick and are sharing a bathroom.

My dad taught encouraged me to be curious, taught me how to relax and roll with whatever was happening, to engage with locals, and to try to the strange foods (even if they sometimes made us sick). We could spend hours in each other's company without talking - or we could talk about anything for hours. I learned how to pack light (but carrying enough toilet paper for emergencies) and to bring useful and/or thoughtprovoking gifts for my hosts. (One day, we visited a mill he had visited on an earlier trip. The mill site had an elementary school on site. During the earlier trip, he'd visited the school and saw that they had a small pool. He promised to bring the kids something back on his next trip. The teacher didn't believe him, but when we went back, he delivered a gigantic inflatable killer whale for kids to play with in the pool.)

Last summer, my dad, my husband and I took a couple of wine-tasting road trips in France. Again, the three of us had a great time. My dad (who is pulp & paper engineer) had a great time quizzing wine makers on how they made their wine - and they loved talking to him because he understood the fundamental production principles and wanted to learn about the details. He poked his head into vats, peered under things and played with the dirt. I learned so much more travelling with him than I would have learned on my own. It was a great experience.
Kate_W is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 03:59 PM
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My husband is my favorite, except for art museum visits, which he hates and I love. I found I prefer to go alone to art museums, anyway, b/c I can go at my own pace - as fast or slow as I want.

Most people tell me they love traveling with us b/c I do so much research beforehand and they are very happy to let me play tour guide. And my friend with a house at the shore told us she appreciated how we didn't expect her to wait on us. She said you'd be surprised how many people show up at her house and sit around and expect to fed, entertained, etc.
karens is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 04:07 PM
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Although I am a rather gregarious person,with lots of good friends, my favorite travel companion is me, myself, yours truly - but counting with the generosity and solidarity of my fellow fodorites, of course!

For me, the most nightmarish trips are those in which I have to travel in a group of three or more people. Too difficult to please everyone!
Brazilnut is offline  
Mar 17th, 2007, 07:48 PM
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I've traveled with many friends and enjoyed their company with the exception of one. She had never been to Europe. She decided to join me on a trip to Paris I scheduled as a reward to myself for having gone through major surgery and long recuperation the year before.

On our first day we took a walking tour of the Marais, went to Gallerie Lafayette, had lunch, wandered around a little, before going back to our hotel. In our room my friend got very emotional. These are her words, "I want to do more than walk, look at things, and eat." Hmmm...I was in Paris to walk, look at things and eat. I could see we were in trouble. We were in Paris for five nights, and the rest of our visit did not improve for too many reasons to note. I tried to get together with this person (no longer friend) before the trip but she was always too busy. She did no research and had no idea what she wanted to do once there.

As we were picking up a car to head into the Loire Valley for four nights, I suggested we rent two cars and travel separately -- or she could stay in Paris if she preferred as neither of us was very happy. She said no, she wanted us to stay together. Stupid me, I said okay and the rest of the trip was just as miserable.

luvtotravel is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 06:20 PM
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luvtotravel - what exactly DID your friend want to do in Paris that didn't include walking and looking at things? Paris is a great place for walking and looking at things! (eating, too!)
karens is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 10:34 PM
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karens, I think she wanted to do something physical. She was into working out with a physical trainer at home. Our hotel was able to get her into a nearby gym for a workout. It gave her an attitude lift, but it was clear we were not well matched. Interestingly, we had traveled for five nights to Maui years before and got along fine.

I think that people who are traveling to a major European city for the first time do not have a clear image of what they will find and may be disappointed when it's not the romantised movie version. No accordion music, no men walking around wearing berets, etc. Paris is a city with people walking up and down the streets going about their lives. It would have been sooo much easier if she had done some research to see what there was to do in Paris to her liking. I'm sure there were some sports things to do. We just weren't on the same wave-length.

To make matters worse, we stayed five nights at the Marriott Courtyard on my hotel points, I gave her a $100 travel certificate towards her flight (I was traveling on points), and at the end we had a disagreement over $200 I felt she owed me. Had it been the other way around I would have split the amount, but she didn't. And she was rude, kept me waiting all the time...I could go on and on, but she and I haven't spoken in years, so it doesn't matter any more.
luvtotravel is offline  
Mar 18th, 2007, 10:41 PM
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I have happily travelled with various combinations of my children (now teenagers), husband + children, mother and a variety of friends. Only 1 bad experience with a "friend" in 1984. She ditched me in the middle of Sorrento to go off with an Italian guy. I wouldn't have minded except that she took all my money with her leaving me 4 miles from our hotel with no way of getting back. Unbelievably, I bumped into a co-worker who lent me some money! Actually, not as unbelievable as it sounds as I worked for a travel company in the UK at the time and quite a few workers visited Sorrento as we got the trips very cheap. Still, I was very happy to see a friendly face and I never talked to my "friend" again!

Carolina is offline  
Mar 19th, 2007, 08:32 AM
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To cmt: lets raise a glass to all those dear travelling companions who are no longer with us...all our future trips are dedicated to them in gratitude for the gifts they gave...

Now as for the Nightmares: let there be a special ring of hell reserved for M who bared her "ass"ets, the towel stealing 16-year old,all the less-than-enthusiastic spouses, Auntie Lil's grumpy pal and the woman who wanted to turn Paris into a treadmill. I like to imagine them in some purgatory driving EACHOTHER nuts.
LJ is offline  
Mar 19th, 2007, 10:31 AM
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This has been such fun to read; would you believe I'm still sick! But these postings make me smile!

Isn't funny just how many nightmares there can be! But I guess for every one there are also our dream companions as well!
tripgirl is offline  
Mar 19th, 2007, 01:43 PM
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I can only hope that I have never been someone else’s nightmare! Actually, my wife has probably been mad at me on several trips (not asking for directions, searching so long for an interesting enough place to eat, not booking a room in advance, etc.), but for the most part I have learned my lessons (well… except for the asking directions thing). We have had a lot of great adventures together!

However, my worst nightmare travel companions were 26 high school students that I was one of the sponsors for on a trip to Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic a few years ago. I was asked to go because I had been to all the countries before, speak some German and am rather large and intimidating (or so I have been told) when I need to be.

Really most of the kids were very well behaved, but several had been forced on the teacher organizing the trip by the PTA and were major problems. Here are some of the incidents that occurred:

- Several times during the tour we had chunks of 4 or 5 hours to do our own things. I would normally take interested groups of students to art or history museums. However, students could go off without sponsors as long as they were in groups of three or more. During on of these outing two girls decided to get tattoos in areas that we could not see them. We did not know this had occurred until mad parents wanted the head of the teacher, who organized this trip, on a platter after we returned. The interesting thing is that one of the girls had gotten very sick during the trip, and we almost took her to a hospital. I am unsure this was related to the tattoo (but at least it spoiled a good part of her trip if it was).
- On another outing some of the boys went to a pub and drank. The idiotic part of this was that they took pictures of themselves drinking and then showed the pictures around at school.
- We had a very good jewish-german tour guide on the trip with us. During the drives between cities she would give the history of the areas we were passing through, do little contests and other fun things to pass the time. One of these was to create a heraldic device based on what we had seen. One of the students though it would be funny to make his a big swastika. Great representation for the youth of America!
- When we were flying out of Prague to return home the same boy was pulled aside by Czech security because he had questionable objects in his checked luggage. As we all watched on a monitor from our gate we could see the scan of his suitcase. It looked as id he had a gun and a large knife in them. The main sponsor told him we would leave him by himself for his parents to worry about rather then miss our flight. It turned out that it was a lighter that looked like a gun and a cheap flea market quality Rambo knife. He was eventually allowed to even take them with him back to the U.S. However this was what this kid was buying for souvenirs.

The sad end result was that this school has cancelled all future trips like this. I feel very bad for the teacher as it was her plan to only bring juniors and seniors with B or better averages and no discipline issues. She was forced to bring the children of whiney parents.
jgwagner4 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2007, 08:22 AM
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I can't say that this particular woman was the worst travel companion, but she was definitely not my style. First off, we met at the Rome airport after flying in from different cities. Once we arrived at our hotel, she proceeded to unpack her carry on bag...2 HUGE bottles of CHEAP white wine and MOUNDS of cheddar cheese and cracker packets she pilfered from the airline club lounge at her home airport! I thought wow, she must be planning on being hungry and thirsty!

This pilfering continued throughout our stay. Every morning of our trip, I just wanted to crawl under the breakfast table as she proceeded to pack 4-5 sandwiches in paper napkins and stuff them into her purse. I have to confess, although I was disgusted by this practice of hers, at one point, on a 5 hour drive, I did give in to hunger and ask for one of her sandwiches!

Everything with her was about getting something for free, including her nightly plan of "not having to pay for any drinks tonight." I prefer to pay for my own drinks, thank you very much!

She had little interest in historical sites and declared that she did not want to visit Pompeii. In Florence, we had to spend about 6 hours of our precious little time going to the designer outlets. She bought nothing! The exchange rate made shopping the equivalent or more of buying retail at home! Our other option for that afternoon was to go into the countryside for a cooking lesson/lunch and winery tour that our concierge arranged at an historical abbey vineyard in Tuscany! Again, no interest.

People have so many quirks. I'm sure she had gripes about me. The pilfering and cheapness was really the main turn-off. We are both comfortable financially and I could see no need for this. She spent so many afternoons retreating to the room to wolf-down her homemade sandwiches!

It almost got to the point that it ruined the trip. I would just head off to a restaurant for lunch with or without her. A few times, I just picked up her lunch tab. It wasn't as if we were trying to feed a family on a budget. It was just the two of us. We could easily spend about $10 for a salad or pasta and a glass of wine for lunch for the relaxing pleasure of sitting in a cafe in Rome or the Amalfi Coast.

dgg is offline  
Mar 20th, 2007, 10:56 AM
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64Kerry - thanks, glad you enjoyed it. Needless to say, the last two trips have been solo. Ironically, KIA is returning to Italy with her husband and she is now asking for my advice on intineraries, lodging, restaurants, etc. For those who did not read my Diva report, KIA, was Know It All Diva, who would ask me a question and then after I would give her my answer, she would try to prove that I was wrong. Now I have just found out she is staying at my little apt. in Rome. Should I warn the owner?
Barb is offline  
Mar 20th, 2007, 11:56 AM
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My favorite travel companion is my mom because she looks out for me everywhere we go!

My nightmarish travel companion was my last girl friend whose idea of travel was sleeping in hotels till noon and being a poor sport most of the time. Just like marginal_margiela, I cut her lose!
Mar 20th, 2007, 12:37 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 10
Best travel companion so far, me. It is so hard sometimes to get everyone in a situation where they are happy, and you are happy too. At this point, I am the only one in the family with a travel bug, so I am sure most of my trips in the near future will be alone.

I do like to travel with DH, but we generally go to Mexico to do some serious fishing and relaxing when he is along. I am more apt to want to travel abroad, and he really has little interest in that.

Worst travel companion. Easy. Friend of mine wanted to take a trip to Europe with me and another friend.

I had traveled with this friend before, it was no fun, as she is always late, sleeps all day til noon and stays up til 3-4 in the morning and just doesn't understand the concept of time or being on time. I told her that she could come along, but she would need to follow our schedule or be left behind, as we were on a tight time frame to get from place to place.

She agreed to get her stuff in a ple and keep a decent schedule. We said great, lets start making the plans. She had to back out due to monetary restrictions soon after the planning stages started.

So, other friend and I researched heavily, purchased airline tickets, made hotel, B&B, and apartment reservations, figured out the logistics and were fully invested in our budget and our plans.

2 weeks before trip was to happen, freind that couldn't go calls me and tells me she is going with us. I blanked...Couldn't even speak. It would be a logistical nightmare coordinating flights for her, obtaining new places to stay, etc. etc. She couldn't understand our reaction, said "What's the big deal? I can just share a room with you guys, there will be 2 queen beds in the hotel rooms, right?"

Obviously, friend has never been to Europe, you are lucky to get a double and a single in many places, but most of our reserved places had 2 single beds.

We had several flights between cities to save on travel time. Most of those flights were already sold out. She would have gotten later flights, but 3 hours waiting for her at each airport was a bit much.

Long story short, couldn't do it. Flat out had to tell he no. She had a fit, hasn't spoken to me since...
Whyworry is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 12:51 PM
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LJ, I love you as if I knew you.

LJ wrote <<So my perfect companion is everything this women was NOT. Well-researched, open-minded (and close-mouthed where that is called for), greatful for the experience, curious and enthusiastic. In other words, my aunt, my husband, my daughter and her young manand most of all my Mum who taught me how to travel well-may she rest in peace after many 90 years on the road of life!>>
tomassocroccante is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 12:54 PM
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aegris wrote <<Invariably, I will also have the wrong shoes for whatever seems to be going on at the time.>>

Ain't that the truth? For all the benefits of travelin' light, if I don't have to unpack often I confess I take just a little extra ... especially that one extra pair of shoes. (Feet really do like to change shoes.)
tomassocroccante is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 12:57 PM
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LJ and tom, You should meet my mom
Mar 28th, 2007, 01:22 PM
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Why Worry: It sounds like your "friend" did you a huge favor by never speaking to you again! Good for you for standing your ground.

Barb: I remember your Italy thread (excellent) and KIA. It's amazing that by the end of the trip KIA did not change to mean "Killed in Action." Maybe the apartment landlord (or landlady) will make it happen?
Poohgirl is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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Most of you who have posted so far are women - glad to see a few guys in the mix. Proof that we, too can have our preferences ...

My favorite travel partners tend to have one thing in common: a desire to go over that next hill, or take off to a mysterious side attraction - they have taught me a lot. What I provide them in return is a willingness to go along without complaint - up to a point, anyway. But I like being pushed a little into things that seem like a lot of effort then turn out to be wonderful or unique. As for my own contribution (besides in-depth research so that I havelots of ideas and a mental map when I arrive), I will always try the language - give some time to a bit of study before, if it's a new one. And I will speak to people - at the next table in a restaurant, the next chaise beside the pool, across the aisle on the train. I tend to feel that just the most innocent eavesdropping will reveal whether or not to strike up a little conversation. This has yielded wonderful results. Once in a Vienna hotel we had a 3-breakfast acquaintance going with a pair of 80+ yr old women making their first visit back after fleeing the Nazis as little girls. They were truly delightful, more Californian than Austrian, and charming.

My nightmare companion is one who must run the show. There has to be give and take, and if you happen to have very different goals, that's even more important. There have been a few of those, but I've learned to either beat them or shed them.

I'm reminded of "Summertime", the great (to me) David Lean film with Kate Hepburn and Rosanno Brazzi. Kate runs into an American couple in Venice, and they explain their breakneck organized-tour schedule. "Ten till eleven, IA," says the husband.
"IA? What's that?" asks Hepburn.
"Independent Activity! We get two hours of it every day!"

IA is a must. Probably even when you're with your absolute favorite travel partner. Definitely when with others. Who spends every waking minute together when at home? No wonder people come back from trips not speaking!

tomassocroccante is offline  

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