Hannah’s friend Adrienne infinitely improved her western America road trip. Photo courtesy of Hannah Harrison.

So you’re planning your next big trip, and it’s time to decide: Do I go alone?  Traveling solo or with a partner both have their high points and downfalls.  If you’re having trouble taking the leap either way, here are a few perks and a few points of consideration to help you decide.

Perk #1:  (Almost) Everything is Cheaper with a Friend

Traveling is many countries is really something meant for two.  Not all accommodations offer rooms for just one person, so you pay for the space of two people on one person’s budget.  Having a travel buddy can also mean splitting meals, transportation costs, and sharing travel necessities. Why bring two tents on your camping trip when you can snuggle up in one?

Consider: Sharing costs also means budget planning together; tracking of expenditures if you’re looking to keep things even; and agreeing on standards of living, meals, and other shared experiences.

As a frugal gal I like keeping my costs low. But my high tolerance for misery (Is that a dry corner to sleep in? How much for the night?) is not often shared by my traveling companions, and so I might end up paying more for an accommodation they can accept than I would by myself.   However, getting to stay somewhere nicer than I might otherwise is awesome!

Perk #2: Safety Comes First

Traveling with a partner, male or female, can provide an extra level of safety.  A traveling companion can keep an eye on your bags while you’re looking for the toilet, guard your back (and pack) from pick-pockets, and make some places unsuited for solo women travelers accessible to a duo.  A travel buddy can also care for you when that suspicious looking street meat comes back to visit you at 3am.

Joel’s laid-back style helped me to take life at a slower pace and enjoy the scenery. Photo courtesy of Hannah Harrison.

Consider: Safety is key to any travel experience but can be a function of the level of risk-aversion practiced by each traveler.  Does your buddy scream at the site of anything crawling or less-than-spotless? That buddy may not be a great person to take to a third-world destination. Then again, maybe your buddy is the first onboard for any kind of adrenaline-pumping adventure, and you have a fear of heights.  Matching risk-aversion preferences or having an understanding as to what is an “acceptable” risk for both of you is important.

Perk #3: Lighten up on Luggage

Traveling as a twosome can mean seriously lightening up on your luggage.  A well-synced traveling duo can get rid of all the replicates and redundancies of traveling as two separate people and become a powerful traveling team.  Two sets of toiletries? No need when you’re sharing shampoo (though maybe two toothbrushes should stay the norm).  Two sets of electronics? Buy a headphone splitter and leave the extra iPod at home.  On trips where my traveling companion and I were comfortable with sharing to the extreme, we were able to eliminate almost half of the usual gear by sharing everything but underwear.

Consider: The sharing method requires serious synchrony between you and your traveling partner.  No one wants to be sharing washcloths with someone they barely know, or stuck with a music selection they can’t stand.  Also, sharing everything means always needing to be near one another.  It’s hard to take off on a mini solo-sojourn when your partner has half of your necessities.

Perk #4: Two Is Company

Traveling solo can sometimes be a lonely venture, especially when illness or closed cultures engulf you.  Having a traveling companion can provide conversation, comfort, and company in otherwise lonely places.

Bill and Judy were indispensable friends and guides when trekking in Nepal, site of their Peace Corps service nearly 30 years ago! Photo courtesy of Hannah Harrison.

Consider: Company is great, but sometimes solitude is an important aspect of a traveling experience. A good traveling pair will be comfortable with occasional silences, and each counterpart will learn when privacy is necessary or when a comforting hug is needed after a rough day on the road.

Perk #5: Strengths Are Shared

Everyone has different strengths and skill sets.  Having a traveling partner can be like having a teammate, with each of you contributing your individual strengths to the traveling experience.  Maybe you’re an introvert, but your travel buddy can strike up conversation with nearly anyone.  Maybe your partner isn’t great with budgeting, but you’re a wiz with finances.  Choosing the right partner can mean instantly doubling your skills and abilities on the road without much additional effort on your part.

Consider: A mismatched pair can mean one person is doing everything for both people – an exhausting role to assume.  Also, sharing strengths means that both partners must consent to having those strengths as part of their experience.  Example: Maybe you’re an introvert and your partner can talk to anyone, but you don’t want to invite the whole pub to sit with you.   In this case your partner’s strength might make you uncomfortable and make them miserable when they feel they can’t indulge in their natural inclinations.

Bottom line: Open lines of communication and trust between travel partners are essential.