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Finding Friends to Travel With in Retirement

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Friends traveling together

For retirees with wanderlust and no obvious travel companions, finding friends to travel with can present several challenges. In addition to finding a willing traveler, you’ll also need to make sure you share travel styles to ensure a happy trip for all.

Phyllis Stoller remembers the time she agreed to share a room with someone she didn’t know on a group trip to China. It’s not a good memory.  

“She needed to be joined to me at the hip. If she wanted to do something optional like shop, she insisted I go with her. When she ran out of Diet Coke, she needed me to spend time with her hunting it down in hotel shops. Had I spent a day with her before the trip, I would have known about this inconvenience,” says Stoller, owner of group tour organizer The Women’s Travel Group.  

While Stoller’s experience underscores how retirement travel can be more enjoyable when you travel with someone you know well, circumstances might make that impossible. Here’s how to find a travel companion who will enhance, rather than harm, your travel experience.

Start Your Search Locally 

As you explore your circle of friends for a travel partner, ask your married friends, too. “Don’t assume your girlfriends won’t travel with anyone but their husband. Some of us are more active than our spouses and might welcome the invitation,” says Kathy Sudeikis, a travel agent and vice president of corporate relations at Acendas Travel

Tell everyone you know about your trip, too, says Francesca Montillo, owner of Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures. “Announce it on your Facebook page and mention it to your hairdresser, doctor, and basically anyone, and chances are, someone will say, ‘That sounds great! I should consider joining you!’ ” she says.  

When mining your personal network doesn’t yield results, explore options within organizations, institutions, and clubs you belong to. “You can find lots of avid travelers in churches, alumni associations, public libraries, or even places of employment,” says Becky Moore, founder of Global Grasshopper

Consider Group Tours

When your goal is to avoid solo travel or to share the cost of a hotel room or cruise cabin, many experts recommend signing up for a group tour. “When you book a tour, you find built-in companionship with like-minded people. These are travelers who want to experience similar things and dive into the same place as you by design,” says Esther Pato, senior partnership marketing manager at AAA Member Choice Vacations. 

Solo travel expert Deborah Ives, who has organized tours for members of her Solo In Style: Women Over 50 Travelling Solo & Loving It! Facebook group, says group travel is one way to connect with people you might enjoy traveling with later. “You’re solo until you meet up with the group. Then you travel with like-minded ladies of a similar age who support each other and enjoy fabulous destinations. It is a great way to meet future travel companions,” she says. 

When pairing up with someone is your group travel goal, Sudeikis advises being selective about the group you travel with. “Do this only if you know the individual or organization planning the trip, whether it’s your sorority or fraternity, alumni organization, church, or the Knights of Columbus,” she says. If they can’t match you with someone, at least you’ll be with people who are familiar to you, she adds.   

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Compatibility 

No matter how you find your travel companion, on-the-road compatibility is important. It’s also why good friends don’t always make the best travel partners. In general, you want to travel with someone who matches your energy level, is interested in doing most of the same things you are at your destination, and won’t keep you awake with their snoring.  

“Ask yourself what you expect from a travel mate. Can you accept sleep and dining times that are different from yours? The same goes for grooming, snoring, and CPAP machines,” says Mitch Krayton, owner of Krayton Travel

In addition to personal hygiene and sleep habits, Mandy Pullin, co-owner of DPP Travel, emphasizes the importance of compatible personalities. “The first thing I consider when pairing two people is their social habits. Putting an extreme introvert in a room with a social butterfly is a bad idea. The introvert gets overwhelmed and doesn’t feel like they have an escape the entire trip,” she says.  

Go Solo 

Some travelers are better off without a companion, says Bob Glaze, a senior traveler and founder of Globalphile. “I think it is almost better to travel alone. Then you can focus on going where you want to go and doing what you want to do when you want to do it,” he says.  

Glaze suggests solo trips centered around classes for something you’re interested in, whether cooking, art, or photography. “You’ll interact with others and make friends while learning something new,” he adds.  

Ives agrees that traveling alone is better than not traveling at all. “Don’t wait to find someone who wants to do what you want to do. I guarantee you’ll have the best time, and you’ll meet some amazing people along the way. You may travel solo, but you’ll never be alone,” she says.