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How to deal with difficult travel buddies


No one knows better than us that the right travel buddy can make or break a trip. At Thelma & Louise, we usually concentrate on the ‘make’ part of that equation. After all, that’s been the upshot of the vast majority of our travel buddy experiences, and the pros of finding a travel buddy to help make your dream trip happen usually outweigh any potential cons.

Image by Anthony Quintano on flickr

But, occasionally, bad travel buddies happen to good people. It’s not always someone’s fault. Often, it’s something as straightforward as incompatibility. Occasionally, however, it’s because there are some truly awful people out there, the sort of people who don’t pay for a thing, have a secret motive, or are outstandingly unreliable...
But the good people – and let me reiterate that that is most of us – usually find a way to turn the negative into a positive. And the even better people share their learnings with the rest of us, as they have here!
Here are eight experiences that various members of our travel community have had with difficult travel buddies, and what they learnt from them.
“In all honesty, my first experience was not so good. I saw a post on Thelma & Louise from a UK girl about a road trip in California. She never accepted my Skype call (why?) but I trusted her anyway. I bought my plane ticket, paid for hotel reservations and finally, she let me down. I could not get a refund on my plane tickets. She never sent me the money for the hotel I had reserved, at her request, through Groupon and I could not get a refund.
But mainly, I was worried. Would I have to drive alone from San Francisco to Los Angeles? I put another post on Thelma & Louise and luckily, Susan answered. She offered to meet me in San Francisco and drive with me to San Diego, where she lives. Finally, my bad luck turned into good because it introduced me to Susan! We drove south slowly, spending a stormy night in a lighthouse, visiting Monterey, driving the wonderfull Big Sur road and ending in San Diego. Still the adventure is not finished – Susan will visit me in June and I am looking forward to seeing her again!

“Ultimately, the experience turned out to be so good that I put up another post to find another travel buddy to visit Prince Edward Island in July 2016.”

Moral of the story: Don’t give up!
“I could write a book on the subject! One ex-friend's soul aim was to find boyfriend a.s.a.p. and she did.  Stayed in his room until the afternoon and then just saw me to eat for a couple of hours. Another was mega-jealous which caused arguments. One wouldn't go outside the hotel at night, over Xmas and New year, in Tenerife. Others wouldn't move from a sun-lounger. Then there are the miserable ones.
That's just a few comments so I now go on my own or insist on having my own room. Going with the wrong person can really spoil a holiday.” – Elsa
Moral of the story: Make sure you factor in plenty of personal space.
“I tend not to plan anything in advance, so whilst I have stuck out feelers on the website in the past I've never really firmly committed to anything until the Turkey idea came up.  I felt very strongly about wanting to go somewhere in June and so when I created a trip for it I hit it off with a fellow traveller with whom I've subsequently met up in person. 

“To other women looking for travel buddies on Thelma & Louise, I say this. Try something outside of your comfort zone.”

Are you in your twenties and never travelled with someone from another religion or age group? Try it, I guarantee 100% that you will learn something. Always plan everything in infinite detail? Don't. Just book and go and let the experience wash over you instead of trying to control every aspect of it.” – Lisi. Read the rest of Lisi’s story here.
Moral of the story: The right travel buddy isn’t necessarily someone like you. And travelling with someone who has a different life experience can widen your horizons beyond belief.
“A few years ago I joined a two-week tour of Java – fabulous place, loved it – my roommate was a young Canadian woman who seemed to take an instant dislike to me. She was rude, boastful and spiteful (when there was no one to see/hear). From hearing some of the things she said to others in the tour, I gathered she had a dislike of English people. (I was the only English person in a group of Canadians and Australians.) I was civil to her all the time for the sake of group harmony. When the tour finished in Bali, I decided to stay on for a few days, but to my dismay she said she was too.

“Enough was enough, I asked to be allocated another room and told the tour-guide why.”

I am widowed and usually travel on my own, making friends as I go along. That is the only unpleasant experience in several years of touring and hostelling, it hasn't put me off. And I do not presume all Canadians to be as nasty as her!” – Felicity
Moral of the story: If there’s a tour guide or some kind of ‘authority’ who can help settle any disagreements or unpleasantness, don’t be afraid to enlist their help. The alternative is a spoiled trip.
“I went to Phuket last year with two other friends, let's call them and Effy and Marsha (not their real names). So, during the planning of the trip, Effy was always unsure of the activities that we intended to do whereas Marsha was very firm in her decisions. We wanted to try out the watersports and other exciting adventures but Effy was just unsure if she wanted to do it or not.
However, lo and behold, on the day of booking of flights, Marsha didn't fly with us in the morning but she flew in at 6pm Phuket time! Once we were at the resort, she told us that she only brought SGD200 for the trip! Which, mind you, is not enough because of all the activities we intended to do. Effy and I had brought more than enough. So, of course, we paid for every meal, every tuk-tuk ride and all the admission fees. I was beyond annoyed. On our second day, she told us she didn't even want to do any island hopping or any water activities. Hell, not even a Thai Massage! Surprisingly, Effy was the one who became a sporting travel companion and wanted to do every activity that we could during the trip.
To sum things up, it was the first and the last holiday trip we had with Marsha. When Effy and I went to Scandinavia last April, we didn't even ask Marsha if she wants to go. Pretty sure we would be the ones paying for everything and we ain't got no time for her nonsense.” – Rose
Moral of the story: Don’t pre-judge! The most obvious travel buddies aren’t necessarily the most compatible.
“I was let down by my travel buddy and so-called friend Cayti 9 years ago. We booked to go to New York for ten days over New Year. It was meant to be a girly holiday and I was so excited as it was my first time visiting the Big Apple, it was always on my wish list! As soon as we arrived it became apparent that my friend was only interested in meeting a guy she knew that lived over there so I was made to feel like the spare part. The guy and his friend made no effort to talk to me which was rude!

“I met some new people to hang out with and ended up having a brilliant time!”

The first evening (New Years Eve!) my friend left me alone in Times Square to meet this guy, second evening she left me sat on my own in a club and then left without telling me so I was alone and not sure which area I was in! When I eventually arrived back to the hotel she had the cheek to shout at me and said I was being selfish!? Third day she left New York to go and stay with the guy’s family in New Jersey, leaving me behind. She packed her things without saying anything and didn't tell me where she was going until she was at the airport. I was shocked and appalled. After feeling very disappointed and crying to a nice taxi man I decided to make the most of it and booked into a hostel. I met some new people to hang out with and ended up having a brilliant time! I explored the city and went to all the places I wanted!
My so called 'travel buddy' sent me one text to say she hoped I was staying safe! I presumed she got an earlier flight home to the UK because I never heard from her and I didn't see her at the airport. Half-way through the flight back to Manchester I went to use the toilet and spotted her sat at the back of the plane. She awkwardly smiled and said “hi” and that was it. I thought, “what the hell?” It was almost as if she was a stranger to me. She never apologised about this and we haven't spoken or seen each other since. Some friend eh? – Cora
Moral of the story: Even those you have known for years can become strangers when you travel together. Make sure you’re both absolutely clear on what you want out of the trip.
“Although I feel uncomfortable sharing my disappointment in my travel buddy on a trip which I am still on, she has gone home so I can reflect a little. I was perfectly clear about what my intentions were regarding spending, accommodations and meals, and more importantly my preference for activities, and activity levels. During our discussions, she agreed that it was her style too. However, reality was different. She was not fit enough to walk, hike and bike everywhere like I planned for, nor did she want to maintain a budget for food and eating out. Hostels and budget accommodations were not appealing to her even though she agreed to a few in the end, therefore overall, my budget was blown.

“I feel it is crucial to be honest about every detail and what one’s expectations are, because ultimately the purpose of the website is for those of us who prefer not to be travelling solo!”

I had a very different currency exchange rate as well, which she wasn't considerate of. I feel it is crucial to be honest about every detail and what one’s expectations are, because ultimately the purpose of the website is for those of us who prefer not to be travelling solo! By the end of our time together she had come around a little, and attempted to accommodate my preferences, however by the time I return home this trip will ultimately have cost me some of the experiences I wanted. Now that I am on my own for a few days I am finally wandering the streets and seeing the real communities, instead of the touristy ones. I'm not about to rely on TripAdvisor or any other travel forum to know what I should be doing, like she did... – Emma

Moral of the story: Be brutally open and honest about what you want from the trip – especially when it comes to budget. This is no time to be coy about spending habits!


“I once travelled with a lady who turned up at the airport with an enormous suitcase plus another as a carry-on, telling me she had a bad back so I had to manage her luggage as well as my own. We were going to share driving but the one time she took a turn she nodded off at the wheel! She wasn't keen to pay her share for meals etc, not wanting to 'break' a large note ... (however she did send me a cheque to square up after we got back). We nevertheless enjoyed the trip, but didn't travel together again. – Ishbel

Moral of the story: Sometimes you just have to suck it up and put it down as experience! Trips aren’t forever, and what you learn on this one can help make future trips even better.

Tell us what you’ve learned from past travel buddies who turned bad in the comments below.

Minimise your chances of finding a difficult travel buddy with these 20 questions. This piece about how to find your perfect travel buddy on Thelma & Louise might also come in handy.