Some say that traveling is the greatest joy in life, but most people stay in their couch potato modes because they have no one to travel with. While everyone should try solo travel at least once in their life, I get that the idea of going by yourself might make you warry. That’s precisely why you need a travel buddy!
Having a travel buddy gives you the best of both worlds. You can have some time for yourself, to explore on your own and have the trip that you’ve always wanted (just the way you wanted it). But, with a travel buddy, you also have someone to lean on and share the experience with. It’s really the ideal way to travel!
Need a Travel Buddy? Here’s Where to Look
I found that there are a lot of advantages to traveling with someone I don’t know. The unpredictability will always keep things fresh and exciting. However, rather than leaping into the unknown and grabbing the first person I find as a travel buddy, I also found that I really have to do my research beforehand.
Finding the perfect travel buddy, someone who shares my views on life (and travel), isn’t easy. It’s kind of like online dating. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to actually find my ideal other half (at least when it comes to travel). Checking out travel buddy websites, apps, as well as social media are just some of the ways I found helpful when it comes to finding that one person I’d travel the world with.
Tip #1 Check Out Travel Buddy Websites and Forums
Independent travelers give the best advice. I found that out really quickly on this forum. They are resourceful, curious, and, most importantly, many of them are looking for a travel companion. That could be you!
A new kid on the block, this website is for women only. Since women are usually apprehensive about traveling alone or with strange men (and with good reason), an all-female travel buddy app is a marvelous idea. The Travel Sisters site matches women based on their travel interests. It’s like a mashup between OkCupid and Facebook. You can match with a like-minded woman and then chat with her on the website.
Trip Giraffe is an app that resembles many Facebook games. I’ve used it many times. I can create a trip and wait for someone to hop on board. Alternatively, I can also join another person’s (or a group’s) tour.
Each trip has to have an extensive listing of information about the conditions and the participants. I find this extremely handy, as all the info is already there, so I can pick and choose what suits me the most at the moment.
Not a travel buddy platform per se, Global Greeter Network is a non-profit organization that makes cities around the world more hospitable to solo travelers. It organizes greeter programs in various cities (150 and counting). The greeter programs include a walking tour with a local guide (a volunteer, not a professional). So, technically, you’ll be getting a travel buddy for a day — one that knows all the best spots in the city!
Another women-friendly website, 5W has decades of experience under its belt. However, unlike the Travel Sisters, 5W is a non-profit organization or, better said, a network of women all over the world who offer their homes and friendship to like-minded women travelers.
The network has an exclusive membership list, and only other members can access it. It also has some really lovely get-togethers that make it easier for the women who participate to meet each other.
This is a forum that every person looking for a travel buddy should visit. It’s a great place to seek advice, travel companions, or people willing to offer their hospitality in locations you’d like to visit.
One of the most popular travel buddy websites, GAFFL, offers fantastic security and a broad collection of people just like you — avid travelers. With a 4-step verification process, it almost guarantees that your travel buddy experience will be a pleasant one (or at least not a fishy one).
Tip #2 Don’t Forget the Travel Apps
A social platform that allows people to connect with other travelers or find locals that are willing to guide travelers through their hometowns (or countries). This is one of the most popular apps, as it has over one million users. What’s more, it also has quite a few filters that helped me find my perfect travel buddy. There, I can look for people in my age group, those who share the same travel dates as I do, or those who have the same travel interests.
Not everyone dreams of tracking across the world with nothing but a backpack on their backs. Luckily, that’s not one of the stipulations of Backpackr. All you have to do to benefit from this travel buddy app is to be open-minded and in the mood for travel.
When I first started traveling on my own, I thought that there weren’t many people interested in the travel buddy system. Well, I found around two million of them on Travel Friend waiting to change my mind. The app is simple, and it allows me to connect with like-minded travelers from around the world.
Tip #3 Social Media Is Your Friend
Don’t shy away from social media when looking for a travel buddy. First of all, social media is a great way to reach A LOT of people. Second, and more importantly, you can use social media to check up on your potential travel buddy.
There are a lot of Facebook groups out there that accept avid travelers who share stories, experiences, tips, and also a trip or two with each other. You can take advantage of that. These groups usually have quite active members, which will allow you to check a potential travel buddy’s reputation.
Safety First — How to Find a Travel Buddy and Avoid Scams
If you’ll allow me another dating comparison — meeting a travel buddy is much like going on a blind date. You have a vague idea of what’s waiting for you, but can you ever really know for sure? Of course not. However, there are some safety precautions that you can take to avoid becoming one of those horror stories that scare eager travelers away from traveling alone.
Tip #4 Always Do Your Research
Try to do as much research about your potential travel buddy as you can. Of course, allow them to do the same. Give them the necessary info (your social media, a reference from previous travel buddies, etc.)
Tip #5 Don’t Meet in Strange Places
When you’re first meeting your travel companion, set up a get-together in a public place during the day. Also, make sure to let someone know where you’re going and why. It’s also a good idea to check in with that person during the meeting. If your travel buddy tries to get you to a secondary location that you aren’t comfortable with — leave.
Tip #6 Protect Your Private Information
Never share private or financial information with anyone. Yes, I know, I said that you need to give the other person your info so that they can check you out. It’s only fair. But that doesn’t mean that you should give them your address and social security number.
Best Tips for Those Looking for a Travel Buddy
Finding that perfect someone to travel with can be an uphill battle. However, it doesn’t have to be. It’s all about how you approach it.
Tip #7 Be Realistic
Most first-time solo travelers looking for a travel buddy have a specific image in their heads of what their travel buddy should look like. They already pictured themselves trolling through the cobbled streets of Rome with someone who won’t mind taking two thousand pics of them and will eat gelato at every corner.
Listen, that someone is undoubtedly out there. But, when picking a travel companion, you have to be realistic. You have to find someone who has similar expectations from the trip as you do. It also won’t hurt if they have the same interests and energy.
Tip #8 Don’t Rush
Don’t jump on the first travel buddy train just because you’re scared that nothing better will come along. It will! But, finding a travel buddy takes time.
Firstly, you have to find someone who seems compatible. Then, you need to talk a lot of things out with this potential companion. Do they like to party? What’s their budget? How do they feel about no-booking travel?
These are just some of the questions you need to ask both yourself and your potential companion before you commit to a trip.
Tip #9 Be Honest
Don’t lie to your potential travel buddy. If you can’t do a 15-mile hike, then don’t say that you can. That will just leave you embarrassed, and your travel buddy disappointed. Alternatively, don’t say that you’re OK with lazy days if you are an active sightseer.
You must find a person that will match your pace when it comes to traveling. It doesn’t matter which form of travel and sightseeing you end up choosing (the hiking or the laidback gelato eating), as long as you’re both on board for that.
Tip #10 Be Proactive
If you and your travel buddy don’t have a fully packed itinerary, you’ll probably have days where you aren’t sure what to do. When that happens, don’t be a passive companion. Do your research and figure out what you feel like doing, and then suggest that to your buddy.
Sure, everyone loves when someone else takes care of the planning. However, traveling with an utterly passive buddy isn’t that much fun. Two heads are better than one, after all, so don’t be afraid to make suggestions.
Tip #11 Discuss Important Things Before the Trip
Sleeping schedules, travel plans, budget, and expectations are some of the things that you need to be clear and vocal about. If you have a limited budget, it’s better to find a buddy with a budget that’s similar to yours. That way, no one will feel as if they are holding the other person back.
It’s also vital to talk about expectations. If you’re expecting an action-packed trip, where every waking minute is spent sightseeing and immersing yourself in the local community, you won’t have much fun with someone who’s looking for a relaxing trip that will allow them to lounge around.
The same goes for sleeping schedules. That isn’t something many people think about, but if you’re an early bird, you do not want to have a night owl for a travel buddy (trust me, I learned that the hard way).
Tip #12 It’s OK to Be Alone
My last tip has more to do with the traveling attitude than travel buddies per se. Don’t be scared to be alone. Even if you do find the perfect travel companion, I don’t recommend spending the entire trip glued to their side. People need time apart (even if they are amazingly compatible).
Therefore, remember that it’s perfectly fine to decline your companion’s offer to do something or go somewhere. You can go your separate ways.
It’s also important to remember that if your companion decides they want some time apart, you shouldn’t resent them for it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a lousy travel buddy; it probably just means that the other person needs a breather.
A Few Parting Words
The best advice I have for first-time travel buddy seekers — your other half is out there. Hopefully, with my advice, you’ll both be able to find them, and make the right choice.
No matter who you end up traveling with, here’s my last piece of advice. Traveling is an exciting and glorious experience. However, it can also be taxing.
So, leave your passive-aggressive sass at home, and accept that both you and your travel buddy are not perfect travel robots, but humans who sometimes make mistakes. Mishaps happen, all you can do is take them in stride and enjoy your once in a lifetime experience!