Taking a trip is a great way to clear your mind, broaden your horizons and explore destinations you’ve long dreamed of visiting. Travel can also present the opportunity to meet new people and forge special bonds.
“Sometimes making new friends is the best part of traveling,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer. “Whether it is the locals or fellow travelers, interacting with more people can make the experience that much better. I especially enjoy speaking with the locals, learning their culture, hearing about their experiences and trying their food and drinks.”
Whether you’re traveling solo or with companions, there’s value in meeting new people during your journey.
“I find it highly enhances the experience of a new place because even though it’s wonderful to explore alone, meeting locals — even other travelers — and exploring together adds a whole other dimension of connection and shared experience,” friendship expert Laura Sniderman told HuffPost. “We most often remember people rather than places, so why not remember both?”
But making friends doesn’t come easily to everyone. Read on for some expert-backed advice for forging new connections during your travels.
Perhaps the most obvious advice when it comes to making friends is simply “be friendly.” That applies to everyday life as well as during your travels.
“Have a welcoming attitude and say hi to everyone you come across,” Dengler said. “If the person is on vacation, too, there’s a great chance they are in the mood for a conversation.”
He suggested saying hello and seeing where the conversation goes. Figure out if you have things in common.
“Maybe you will be taking part in the same activities or visiting the same restaurants and bars,” Dengler said. “Asking where they are from or about other similar travels always moves the conversation along and makes everyone more comfortable. Make sure you are approachable yourself so others may consider initiating.”
Take part in group activities or tours
“Group tours and activities are a perfect way to make new friends,” Dengler said. “The activity or tour will tell you that you already have at least one thing in common with your new friends. This is a great starting point.”
When you’re exploring a new city or country, consider booking a walking or driving tour with a local company. Look for recommended tours on review sites and online marketplaces such as Tripadvisor, Yelp, Viator or Airbnb Experiences. If it’s just an afternoon outing, you might want to invite people in the group to grab a drink or meal afterward.
“If you are on a resort, many times they will even have special meeting rooms or social activities specifically designed for people to mingle and make new friends,” Dengler said.
Stay at a hostel
“We have made so many friends traveling,” said Michael Lindsay of the travel content duo Michael & Matt. “Your best bet, if you are looking for connections while traveling, is to book a hostel. You are staying in a large room with multiple strangers so you’re gambling your sleep a little, but you can often find camaraderie amongst peers.”
Lindsay noted that hostels tend to attract younger age groups, but plenty of older people stay at them as well.
“We’ve stayed in hostels with people who had kids or even grandkids and they needed a cheap place to sleep,” he said.
Socialize with people at your hotel
Staying at a hostel isn’t the only way to leverage your accommodations to meet fellow travelers.
“We’ve also found groups of friends on cruises or even at resorts,” Lindsay said. “Since you often see the same people in those settings day after day, it is easier to strike up a conversation, see if they are fun, and if you enjoy their company, then go from there. Get dinner together, meet them out by the pool, etc.”
Even if you aren’t staying at a resort, you might find opportunities to connect with guests. In recent years, major hotel chains like Sheraton have rebranded with a focus on communal spaces that encourage socialization.
“It can be really fun to get to know people and hear their life experiences while you are traveling, because they are often from another country and have unique experiences or worldviews to learn from,” Lindsay added.
Join travel social media groups
You can start the process of making travel friends when you’re still in the planning phase.
“Many groups on social media apps such as Facebook exist that allow travelers to discuss their plans in advance and coordinate a meetup,” Dengler said. “This is a great way to begin making friends before you even travel. It is also perfect for the solo traveler looking to meet new friends.”
He also noted that apps like SoloTraveller and Flip the Trip allow you to find fellow travelers near you while on vacation.
Offer to buy a round of drinks
“If you are out at a restaurant or local pub and there’s a conversation, offer to buy the next round of drinks,” Dengler said. “Nothing says friendship like buying a few drinks. Chances are, if you are on vacation, this could lead to many more drinks together.”
As Lindsay noted, hotel bars and restaurants can be great places to meet fellow travelers. If you’re vibing with people, take turns buying rounds and exchange numbers so you can make plans to meet up at another restaurant, bar or attraction during your trip. (Of course, be mindful of how much you’re drinking and personal safety, especially if you’re traveling alone.)
Use friendship apps
“I suggest using a friendship app or online community,” Sniderman said. “Though they’re still up-and-coming, many people are using digital platforms and apps to make friends these days. The ‘stigma’ is disappearing, just as it did with dating apps, and people are realizing that it’s hard to make friends as an adult, let alone making friends while traveling. So why not use the tools we have to connect?”
“Ultimately, I encourage you to recognize that digital friend-making is as essential and natural as online dating ― all it takes is a little openness and exploration of what’s out there,” Sniderman added. “Your new best friends and travel companions are waiting to meet you, so go find the platform that feels right for you!”