How to travel with friends and keep your sanity

Taking a vacation doesn't sound too stressful. Load up on sunscreen, magazines and travel books and jump on a plane, right? Well, your travel partners may disagree. Trips are frequently ruined by nagging friends, complaining companions and even buzz-kill family members. Picking the right friends to travel with can be as important as choosing the destination itself. To avoid a meltdown, consider the following advice:

Choose travel partners carefully

It's critical to choose your company wisely, according to David and Carol Porter, who run Roaming Boomers - an online guide for traveling baby boomers. "If you have friends who are a challenge to be around for a few hours at dinner, then it is likely that it would be very difficult to deal with their drama for a prolonged period of time," the Porters explain.

Once you find the right partners, it's still important to discuss your travel styles with each other. Are you a leader or a follower? A planner or a spur-of-the-moment person? Traveling with like-minded friends or achieving the right balance is an important part of picking who to travel with, according to Meryl Pearlstein, a veteran travel blogger.

"It helps to talk about your travel style and plans before you leave so that there are solutions of some sort in place should situations arise," Pearlstein says. "If the friends need some space from each other during a trip, there should be a plan for that.  Close friends often assume that things will just work out, but traveling presents different kinds of stresses and has to be addressed accordingly."

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Make sure you're on the same budget

One of the most important things to discuss, and the thing that most often leads to tension, is money, according to Nadine Davidson, the author of "Travel with Others Without Wishing They'd Stayed Home."

"Just because you and your friends may be in the same tax bracket doesn't mean you like to spend money on travel the same way," Davidson says. "Some people who could afford a five-star accommodation think it's a waste of money because they are only going to sleep there, while for others, where they stay is part of the travel experience they look forward to the most."

It's also important to be clear about who will be paying for what.

"Your friends may think, 'we're going to be their guests and it won't cost us anything,' while you're thinking, 'we'll split expenses,'" Davidson explains. "It's best to just say or put in an email: 'Your half of the condo cost will be $150 a night and you can figure $100 a day for the rest.'"

Start small

If you have any doubts about your compatibility with your travel partners, it could be a smart idea to test the waters with a small trip, or even a long weekend.

"Don't make your first adventure with friends hiking across Africa's Serengeti," the Porters write on their blog. "First tackle a short weekend trip to see how the four of you blend together.  If there were no nuclear explosions leaving behind radioactive fallout, then begin to take on longer excursions together. "