When you’re going to a new place, sometimes some of the charm is in traveling solo with no schedule but your own. However, the buddy system has its merits, and there are lots of people who would travel with a friend if they could. Whether you’re looking for added security in an unfamiliar place or just want to have someone to share new adventures with, you’ll want to know how to find your new companion in a safe and trustworthy manner.
The Pros & Cons of Finding Travel Companions
So, why would you want to travel with someone you’ve just met? Why might you decide not to? There are advantages and disadvantages to both solo travel and to traveling with a partner.
Pros of Traveling with a Buddy
- Safety in numbers: You’ll have someone to watch your back but also to watch your stuff. It’s not super-fun having to pack up and carry everything with you just to use the bathroom. And traveling with a friend can help ward off unwanted advances when you’re just trying to ride the bus in peace. In potentially sketchy situations, two are always less of a target.
- Your own personal photographer: If you’re willing to return the favor, you’ll get to have much better pictures and have a lot more artistic freedom if there’s someone to take photos with. Selfies are great, but those candid shots can sometimes be the best ones.
- Medical and accessibility needs: People with disabilities or chronic health conditions can absolutely travel solo, but a buddy that knows your emergency contacts or who is willing to help you navigate a place with challenging terrain can turn a great trip into an incredible one. This is also a reason why a travel companion for seniors could be helpful. Even if you don’t have any health conditions, an unexpected slip or allergic reaction can be dangerous for even the most experienced traveler. And while you might never need your partner’s help, the added sense of security alone could elevate your experience.
- Sharing is caring: Splitting the cost of a room could give both of you the opportunity to stay in a place nicer than either of you could afford on your own. You’ll also have the chance to save money on transportation costs. And sharing things like sunscreen and laundry detergent will make your travel bags lighter.
- Fresh perspective: What you’re looking forward to is probably based on your own experiences and interests. Joining up with someone else can expose you to ideas, experiences, food, and locations that you’d never have thought of exploring on your own.
Cons of Traveling with a Buddy
- Schedule restrictions: You’ll be working around each other’s needs, interests, and daily rituals. Solo traveling allows you to do whatever, wherever, whenever. Travel companions require at least a rough plan so that neither of you is caught off guard or frustrated to have missed something you wanted to see.
- Catfishing: It’s easy to get catfished, which is when someone pretends to be someone they’re not. Enough preparation and communication can prevent this, and using credible sources to find companions for travel can help, but it’s a risk you’ll need to acknowledge and take precautions against.
- Lack of privacy: Sharing can help you save money and packing space, but you’ll need to make sure you’re not sharing more than you’re comfortable with. Different people have different preferences, so make sure you and your new friend are on the same page when it comes to boundaries.
- Mismatched interests: If you wind up at odds about how to spend your time, chances are you’ll both end up frustrated and stressed. If, for example, you have different smoking or drinking habits or different ideas about how much time should be spent out and about versus resting, very fundamental elements of the trip may become taxing. Communication is key in ensuring you and your partner will both get the most out of your time.
How and Where to Find Travel Companions
Now that you’ve thought about whether or not you want to travel with someone, it’s time to talk about how to find a travel buddy. There are lots of sites that allow you to look for people with similar interests and travel goals. Here’s a list of some of the best websites and best apps for travelers looking for companions:
GAFFL is a website that allows users to publish their trip plans and connect with others whose plans line up with theirs. GAFFL also has an app available on iOS and Android, meaning you can connect on the go. It has a multistep verification process and will show when a person’s profile has been verified. It also allows users to further authenticate themselves with their phone number, Facebook profile, and more.
You’ll be able to see where people are coming from and where they’re going, and you can join others, control who joins you, and leave a review of your companions at the end of your trip to help their next buddy know how trustworthy they are.
TripTogether allows you to filter your results based on age and gender as well as travel dates and destination location. Additionally, you’ll make a profile that includes your interests, and when browsing potential new buddies, any interests they have in common with you will be highlighted to help you in your search.
This platform is also great if you’re looking for a specific type of travel. For example, if you need a backpacking buddy, you’ll be able to look through the listings to be sure someone is also planning to backpack before messaging them.
3. Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter
Social media is popular and widely used for a reason. It’s easy to use and allows people to talk to each other across time and place. But when it comes time to find a travel partner, there’s another perk to using these platforms. Chances are, you probably already have a profile on at least one of them, so you won’t need to make an account on a new site. Joining traveling groups on Facebook, posting in traveling subreddits (ex.: /r/solotravel) on Reddit, or following users and hashtags to find travel companions on Twitter are all easy ways to reach a lot of people quickly.
The downside to using social media is that you’ll have to verify the person’s identity and trustworthiness yourself, given how easy it is to make a fake account on these sites. You’ll also have less filtering ability and have to do a little more work yourself. However, if you feel up to these challenges, you’ll have a much bigger network of people to communicate with.
Meetup.com is a great place to find people to do things with, from full day trips to short evening gatherings. Most of the people you’re connecting with will also be locals, allowing you to find the true culture of your destination by participating in what the people who live there tend to do in their free time. You can browse events going on near you, join groups with similar interests, and see how many other people have joined.
This site isn’t ideal for finding someone to share a room with or travel from one location to another with. However, this is one of the best apps when traveling solo because it’s great for reaching out to people for one-off adventures. If you’d like to find people to share one or two activities with, such as going on a hike or visiting a museum, you can start an event on Meetup and let others join.
Travello is a free app (iOS/Android) that allows you to search through other travelers’ profiles and look for people who want to do the same things as you. The company calls itself a social media site for travelers, so it’s perfect for anyone trying to travel with a buddy. It also works wherever you are, whether you’re currently on the road or not, so if you want to be a friendly local interacting with travelers in your own city, you can do that, too.
Additionally, you can book lots of experiences through Travello, from touring Hawaiian volcanoes to jet skiing in Cancun, and you’ll get to meet people during those events as well.
On StrollBuddy (formerly Global Greeter Network), users are able to meet up with volunteers who love where they live and want to help others experience it as a local. Their tagline, “not like a guide, but more like a buddy,” highlights their volunteers’ excitement to make new friends and show off the city they call home.
On the website, you’ll be asked to fill out a form with your travel dates and interests. While you are expected to pay for your share of anything you and your new buddy do together, the service itself is free.
7. Book a Group Tour
Booking a tour will ensure socialization. It will also help you with planning and budgeting, as many of the experiences you’ll participate in will be booked, and paid for, ahead of time. A tour can be a day-long event in a city or a fully planned itinerary spanning a week or more in multiple locations. GetYourGuide is one site that can help you find the right excursion for you.
If you want to be sure you won’t be the only solo person in a tour full of honeymooning newlyweds and tight-knit friend groups, there are sites that organize tours for people who are traveling on their own and want to socialize in a group of others doing the same.
How to Ensure Your Travel Friend is Someone Safe
1. Conduct Public Record Searches
One way to ensure your new traveling buddies are people you want to trust with your valuables and spend lots of time around is to find public record information. You’ll be able to see things like criminal, driving, and real estate history from US databases, which will help you identify the individual while also deciding if you want to trust them.
2. Use Reverse Email Lookup Tools
You should obtain the email addresses of people you’re considering as travel companions, both for ease of communication and so you can conduct a reverse email lookup. You’ll be able to obtain information about the person, which will give you a better idea of who they are and what they’re all about and which you can use to help you make a decision.
3. Follow Your Gut
Your intuition is there for a reason. If you don’t feel right about something, there’s nothing wrong with saying a polite “thanks, but no thanks.” Alternatively, if you feel genuinely excited to get to know the person, that’s a good sign you’re about to have a fantastic adventure.
4. Take Your Time; Don’t Rush
Give yourself the time you need to think about things, and don’t be rushed into your decision. There are many places where impulsive decisions can lead to great experiences, but this probably isn’t one of them.
5. Communicate Beforehand
Communication is key in any situation, especially one like this. You need to be able to trust your new partner, and they need to be able to trust you. Lots of the above sites allow for messaging, but you should talk on the phone or video chat beforehand to verify your buddy’s identity. You should also know what your partner likes and dislikes and if he or she has any needs or requests.
6. Take Charge of Your Own Situation
Posting your event on a site is a great first step, but you might not get many responses, especially if you’re new to the platform. Search through other posts and profiles, and find people you might be able to connect with. Make your own opportunities by being proactive about the situation.
7. Make Your First Meeting in a Public Place
Until you get to know the person, you’ll want to spend time with your new travel buddy in public locations. The unfortunate fact is that not every person is trustworthy. Until you’re sure you want to trust your new friend in a private space, make sure there are other people around.
Embarking on a new adventure with a stranger can be daunting. However, it opens up lots of new opportunities that you might not get when traveling alone. If you follow the tips in this guide, you’ll be sure to find a great partner to travel with for any trip you take.