Selecting Travel Companions

Let’s talk travel styles and travel companions.


Before you invite your best bud into your car for a lengthy road trip, it’s wise to determine his or her travel style and compare it with your own.  You may think that you know him, but once locked into that car, you may discover the real person you invited along for a week of fun was really Mr. Hyde.

A storm is brewing…

A decade or so ago, I was thinking of heading to the Florida Keys for a journey across the Overseas Highway all the way to Key West.  My friend “Joe” is someone who I’d known for years at that point, but we had never traveled together.  He lived in Fort Lauderdale, and I thought I’d invite him along for the two nights that I was planning on spending on the Keys.

Joe hopped into my truck and within an hour or so of being on the road, I began to suspect that this could turn into an adventure.  He began complaining about the construction of my truck, the layout of the dashboard, the music being played on the radio, how the other drivers were driving, and even how I was driving.  (I take out a rider on my life insurance policy whenever I ride with Joe.  His idea of slow is 80 mph as he weaves his way through the traffic of the greater Miami area.)

When we started “key-hopping” by going over the first of many bridges to come, Joe became visibly upset.  That’s when I learned of his near-drowning experience as a child nearly 30 years earlier, and how driving on bridges over water put him into pure panic mode.  I’m not trying to discount his early near-death experience and its associated trauma, but really, Joe, was it wise of you to agree to a trip of 113 miles over 42 bridges over the ocean???  Really?  Or at least forewarn me about your reaction to being on bridges???

When we hit the Seven Mile bridge, traffic was slow and Joe was riding along, hands tightly gripping the crappy door handle and captain’s chair armrest that he criticized earlier, eyes tightly closed, nearly hyperventilating.  At least he wasn’t complaining any longer.  He could barely speak!

When we got on solid land on Key West and checked into our hotel, Joe was complaining about how housekeeping missed picking up a cigarette butt on the ground just off the patio attached to our room.

I’m an omnivore and, going into the trip, I knew that Joe was a vegan.  Of course, that complicated our dining out experiences.  Joe was not only a vegan, but an obnoxious vegan.  If I ordered a burger, he’d claim that the smell of the grilled meat would made him nauseous.  That killed a visit to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville for a cheeseburger in paradise.

As we walked the shops of Duvall Street, Joe refused to enter some on the grounds that, “I can’t afford anything in there, so why go in if I can’t buy anything?”  I’d go in anyway just to look around.

Obviously, that was not one of my more enjoyable trips, and I never traveled with Joe again.  In fact, I returned to the Keys a couple of years later on my own, driving right past Joe’s on the way.  I had a much better time the second time around.

So before you embark on a road trip where you’ll spend lots of time with your best friend, buddy, pal, it’s worth having an honest discussion about your travel styles:

  • Does one of you get up at the crack of dawn and the other roll out of bed at the crack of noon-ish?
  • Does one of you like to have every minute of the day planned, while the other makes things up as you go?
  • Do you share similar interests?  Museums versus shopping?  Sitting in a car for 8 hours or lounging by a pool?  Golf versus historic battlefield?  Vegan versus the Big Texan 72-ounce steak?

You get the idea.  You don’t have to be clones of one another, but if your interests are at opposite ends of the spectrum, neither of you may enjoy the trip.  Give yourselves permission to wander off from each other, too.  Part ways at 9:00 AM and rendezvous at a specified time and location–a restaurant for a late lunch, or the hotel for a freshening up before a spiffy dinner out.

I haven’t come up with a travel companion compatibility quiz–yet.  Just ask the right questions before you go so both of you can have a great time traveling together.

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