Who you travel with can make or break your whole experience. You may have put in 200% effort in planning your itinerary—you may even have read yourself into somewhat of a guru on the local culture—but if you lasso in the wrong person for your right-hand man, good luck.
If you’ve booked your trip with any of the eight following types of people, you will need a serious escape plan. Now.
1. Scrooge McDuck
Before I offend anyone, allow me a more detailed explanation of what I really mean: There is a stark difference (and a very bold line) between being budget-conscious and being a downright stinkin’ cheapskate altogether. There is nothing wrong with cutting out coupons and utilizing discounts and sourcing out the most affordable deals while traveling—sometimes, even the occasional bargaining is mandatory for a true cultural experience. But it is when frugality becomes overbearing that you know your long-anticipated road trip is fast going down the sinkhole thanks to your traveling wingman.
This travel partner will get into long, heated arguments with drivers over what will essentially equate to less than a dollar (a scene that I officially witnessed—and was terribly disgusted by—in Laos); his/her hardcore, no-holds-barred bargaining tactics will show no mercy, even with sweet old ladies and hardworking children. Of course there will always be tourist scammers lurking around, eager to make a quick couple of extra tens or twenties from you—and with those you need to stand your ground—but when the difference works out to be something that doesn’t even make a dent in the grander scheme of things, sometimes we just really need to learn to let it go. Be the kinder person. As cliché as it sounds, your $1 will go a much longer way with them than it ever will with you. After all, if you have no qualms about splurging $30 on a factory-made, store-bought wallet from back home, why does it suddenly become so hard to part with $4 for a lovingly handcrafted one in Asia (or Africa. Or wherever it is that you are with Mrs. Penny Pincher)?
You will regret your decision to bring this type of person along when, after a 16-hour flight and all you really need is a nice-enough bed and shower to collapse in, he or she will still dig up enough inner fight to drag you through every single backpacker’s hostel across town just to locate the cheapest (but not necessarily most livable) option available.
Word of Advice: Note the thin line between “resourceful” and “miserly.”
2. Little Miss Excitable
Renowned for her inability to shut her mouth, you can expect this travel buddy to hyperventilate the hell out of you during your travels. Treat yourself to live commentaries on things you didn’t ask to hear about and look forward to a whole host of trivia facts on things you never wanted to know. What’s more, along with excitability comes tactlessness, so be prepared to do a considerable amount of apologizing on her behalf for a whole slew of culturally inappropriate remarks, whether they were intentionally made or not.
The only thing that will make this travel buddy more difficult to endure would be if they also come packaged with a whole lot of naiveté. Not only will they be fawning over every single fallen leaf from the tree and offending every two out of three locals along the way, they will now also play willing victim to every pickpocketing gypsy child across the whole of Eastern Europe. Do not expect downfalls to hold back while en route with this travel partner: Bad things have a way of finding themselves to boorish and gullible people—even if implicates completely innocent folks beside them along the way (i.e., you).
Little Miss Excitables are a constant source of secondhand embarrassment and are great if you need to elevate your blood pressure within a short period of time. You don’t exactly feel right about lashing out at them, but they still piss you off so much that it inevitably leaves you with no choice but to sit silently in a corner and seethe in your own pent-up frustration.
Word of Advice: You can spot this type of person from a mile away—even on a day-to-day basis. These are often over-enthusiastic people-pleasers who have a way of dramatizing even the smallest positive things in life, somewhat like a Little Miss Sunshine on Ecstasy. Put them in place by bringing a Type No. 6 along (which may or may not backfire badly on you).
3. Mr. I-Don’t-Know-What-Do-You-Think?
The last thing you want when you ask someone a question is to have it thrown back at you—especially after a long, itinerary-packed day that consisted of five museums, three historical monuments, one temple, and then some. Not to mention that the entire twelve-day itinerary was probably singlehandedly (or at least 90%) put together by you. If you think you’re immune to this category of travel partners simply because of your own natural tendency to be in charge all the time, you’d be surprised at how readily you’d want to let go of the reins from time to time after twelve straight hours on the road, making decision after decision after freaking ol’ decision.
Word of Advice: One surefire way to identify these wishy-washy people is that during your trip-planning process, they will be the ones acquiescing to every single proposed plan of yours with an “I don’t mind”—with no additional input or opinion from their end.
4. The Spoiled & Privileged Wild Child
With that said, the only thing worse than being indecisive, is being too decisive. Travel with Madame Diva, and expect your trip to be heavily injected with “Are we sure we want to eat here?” and “Do we really have to do that?” Next to nothing pleases this person, and she (it’s mostly females) will condescend to nine out of ten plans that you have. This travel buddy of yours is going to be a nightmare from the get-go: She wakes up at ten when your itinerary kicks off at eight; spends two hours putting herself together while you sit restlessly on the hotel room floor flipping through TV channels; and doesn’t think twice about transforming your historical/cultural/geographical-themed trip into an endless string of high-end mall visits, pool lounging, and late-night club-hopping. Forget about soaking up locality by traveling on foot—these Paris Hiltons and Kardashianistas of the traveling arena will never go anywhere without flagging down a cab. Watch out for some serious sulking sessions if you’ve got one of these in tow; their “concerns” will range from how the humid weather has completely undone an entire year’s worth of hair treatments to how the hotel’s bathroom towels just aren’t white enough for them. Worse still are the Lindsay Lohans you find yourself having to babysit from city to city: Having fun while traveling is an absolutely must, but some of us might not exactly know where to draw the line. Truth is, we all want to let our hair down and party up in that free and completely uninhabited way which comes only from being on foreign ground, but we still know better than to get ourselves into shit when we’re a hundred miles away from home. A Lindsay Lohan would never understand that.
Word of Advice: No advice here, only a question: How did you even get yourself caught up in a trip with them?
5. Officer OCD
These people are good for ensuring that you keep to your carefully planned itineraries and that you don’t eventually land yourself in jail after one too many drinks (or more); but sometimes, a policeman isn’t exactly what you want to bring along with you when the whole agenda of your trip is fun. “Don’t jaywalk,” “Keep off the grass,” “Are you sure that’s legal?,” “You shouldn’t have cut the queue”; like a spoiled, privileged, wild child, an Officer OCD will pepper all of your reckless decisions with “Are you sure you want to’s”; and while generally safer than a Type No. 4, be prepared for an equally bad buzzkill if you pack one of these along for your next trip. Stronger personalities might even end up dictating your every move, leaving you extremely smothered and suffocated.
All in all, these traveling shepherds are fantastic for keeping you in line, but that’s probably the only thing they’ll bring to the traveling table.
Word of Advice: While generally harmless and definitely the lesser of most evils, this is quite possibly the hardest buzzkill to spot until the actual trip begins. Many of us have inner Officer OCDs embedded within us that don’t necessarily unravel until the situation arises (i.e. during a long, drawn-out trip); and when that happens, expect sour faces to surface, tempers to flare—and in more severe situations—friendships to be maimed. I have personally heard of more than one account where a group of close-knit friends fearlessly takes on country together, only to return with one of them quietly whispering to me, “I’m never going on a trip with x again.”
6. The Negative, Nervous, & Neurotic Nanny
You can always count on this trip buddy to fill each traveling moment with top-notch pessimism and worry. Staunch worshippers of Murphy’s Law, their specialty lies in listing down at least ten different things that can go wrong with any given plan, all in under 30 seconds. They will fret over tiny little details that don’t even exist, and something as harmless as, say, a mosquito bite, will have them drawing out a handwritten Living Will just in case it’s malaria and they don’t survive the night. These are also known as the “just-in-case” people, since every plan in their lives revolve around that very phrase: Let’s not go to the beach, just in case there’s a tsunami; let’s not eat from this roadside hawker, just in case we get food poisoning; let’s not step out of the hotel today, just in case the world ends.
Word of Advice: Let’s not travel with these people, just in case your friendship crumbles into irrevocable pieces following your failed attempt to suffocate them with the hotel-room pillow.
7. The Native Dah-ling
Third day in, and your travel buddy starts developing an awkward British accent with a strange penchant for tea and scones. As your train travels down south toward Paris, all of a sudden barrettes and stockings start making an appearance, and their conversations become heavily littered with French phrases they must have burned the midnight oil Googling. While it really isn’t a crime to dress like the locals or speak their language in a bid to immerse yourself in different cultures (in fact, it is quite recommended), there certainly is a very fine line between all that and emanating vibes that can only be written off as downright pretentious.
Native Dah-lings don’t necessarily dull your travel experiences per se, but it does taint your memories to a certain extent when, for instance, in an effort to recall your favorite vineyard trip in Burgundy, all you can remember is the way your good ol’ pal evolved into a wine connoisseur right before your very eyes.
Word of Advice: Thankfully, people don’t become pretentious overnight. Chances are, you would probably already have caught a whiff of their pretentiousness back home. These people are usually social butterflies and lead highly colorful lifestyles (hence the temptation to get them alongside your next trip); but if you abhor bullshit, giving in to this very temptation will be the single biggest traveling mistake you will ever make.
8. The Walking Lonely Planet
There are tons of advantages to traveling with someone who’s already been-there-done-that, but having to put up with their bragging rights certainly isn’t one of them. Endless traveling tales (laced with a very subtle overlay of showoff) can really get on your nerves, especially when they get extremely opinionated and are absolutely sure there isn’t any other way to do it but theirs. This person’s travel experiences will rob you of yours, so be very careful about dragging him/her along—unless, of course, you actually prefer living vicariously through their stories.
Word of Advice: These egotistical travelers are everyday people who simply must one-up everyone else when it comes to anything travel-related: If you’ve been to Hawaii, they’ll recount their highly risky trek into an active volcano. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, they’ll tell you about how they met the Hidden People. If you’re celebrating your hike to the Everest Base Camp; they’ll dig out stories about their near-death experience on top of K2. There is no winning with these people, even though it was never meant to be a competition in the first place.