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How to travel with friends

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For the first time in my career of vacations and travel, I visited a new place with my college friends. More often than not, I go to Mexico’s beautiful cities or visit sleepy California coast towns with my family. If I ever go to New York or Connecticut, it’s under businesses pretenses, but never strictly for fun.

My friends and I felt that spring break would be the most appropriate time to do something new. We decided to visit Seattle and Vancouver for an entire week, all on our own, and it was each person’s first time traveling without parents. As newly independent 18-year-olds, we made our own travel arrangements and it is safe to say that it was not as smooth as expected. Due to these unseen bumps and spontaneous moments, I’ve decided to compile a short list of things to know when traveling with friends.

1. Do not overpack! I cannot stress enough how much harder it gets to pack for the way back home when you go shopping and need more space. Also, learn how to fold clothes when packing. I, for some odd reason, thought that squishing everything into my messy balls would be easier than simply folding them. Both are not ideal, I discovered. Rolling your clothes is an entire game changer.

When packing, put your toiletries in a Ziploc bag because something will explode somehow, sometime. And bring comfortable shoes — being comfortable is so much better when you’re walking across hilly cities.

2. Check hotel reservation guidelines. We made the decision to stay in a hotel right in the middle of downtown, and all was well until we found upon checking in that we had to be 21 to check in to hotels. We spent a good hour waiting for our room’s mini bar to be cleared before even stepping foot past the lobby.

3. Be spontaneous. I realized that planning things weeks in advance might be more organized, but it’s also thrilling to not know what you’re doing the next day. On a Thursday night, we decided to go to Capitol Hill district to see a drag show and danced our hearts out the entire night.

The next day, we decided to catch a ferry to an island. Now, that would’ve been nice to plan since we were five minutes late and almost missed an entire trip.

4. UBER IS NOT AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE, so please check what cities do not offer Uber. Oddly enough, Vancouver is not home to Ubers and so we had to figure out how to get to our hotel in the span of some worrisome minutes.  

Also, upon this discovery, it’s also nicer to walk around the city instead of Ubering everywhere. Enjoying the nice weather and interacting with other city people is always a fun time.

5. Do not eat things you can eat at home. McDonalds is everywhere, but that cute hipster cafe with cats in it? That’s probably not as easy to access. And that goes for the menu too!

For my picky eaters, I too was one. I was so bad that I tried getting chicken strips and fries everywhere because I hated trying new foods. But more often than not, new food is amazing. Try that Italian pasta with some mystery sauce or get the sushi with the fun name! You can always share plates.

6. Desserts can make the entire trip. More often than not, there’s a signature ice cream parlor or cupcake shop wherever you’re visiting so really look out for those. Skip dessert at restaurants and search for something new since that 1) spices up the food and 2) is a new place to visit.

7. Enjoy every aspect of your friends’ company. I love my friends so much, and even though we only met in September of our fall quarter, I feel like I’ve known them for decades. Throughout the trip, I learned new things that I didn’t know about them. For example, when they eat sushi, they open their mouths as wide as they can and close their eyes for emphasis on taste. Or when it’s 2 a.m., they dance across the entire hotel room with their headphones on to destress. I even learned some of my friends like watching romantic comedies with cheesecake while others like running up emergency staircases when everyone else is sleeping.

Contact Rachel Ochoa at racochoa ‘at’ stanford.edu.