Updated 26 November 2015

Holiday companions from hell

Go on holiday with freeloading Fred or boozing Billy and you'll wish you rather stayed at home. So who do you recognise in the descriptions below?


The person or people you choose to take with you on holiday can make or break it. Most people would have more fun spending a week in a farmhouse in Kamieskroon with someone they really like, than a week in spring in Paris or Rome, with someone who really grates them.

Many people say that before you decide to marry someone, you should go on a backpacking holiday to Europe together for at least two months on a limited budget. Point is, your holiday behaviour is a good indication of what you're going to be like for the next few decades.

Few people have been lucky enough to escape the experience of being stuck in the middle of nowhere with someone who has turned out to be a disaster. They snore, or they complain incessantly, or they are argumentative, or negative, or they whine – take your pick. But you do know you never want to see them again.

So do you recognise any of the following? Or maybe yourself?

Party animal. This behaviour has a limited shelf life. A party animal for a day or two can be fun, but it does start wearing thin on day three. Even inveterate party animals should chill out after a day or two. But a holiday companion who won't let you just read your book, but insists that you boogie night and day, is a real pain in the neck. And besides, who feels like seeing your holiday destination through a permanent alcoholic haze?

Go-with-the-flow-Jo. This is the type of holiday companion that is scarce. Hang on to him/her if you can – for life. This person doesn't make waves, is not unrealistically demanding, takes things as they come, has a sense of humour, doesn't hold you responsible for everything, takes a bit of initiative and is mostly in a good mood. In short, this companion allows you to relax and have a good time – an experience to be repeated. Whether you are stuck in a station in Stockholm, or waiting for the AA between Uniondale and Willowmore, this will be a good person to have with you. Count yourself lucky.

Injustice collector. This person is a martyr who collects wrongs like others collect holiday photos. Nothing is good enough – the weather, the accommodation, the itinerary. You name it. And somehow, although it is never said directly, you are somehow made to feel that it is all your fault. Everything is said in a slightly accusing tone. This companion saps your energy, is moody and just plain difficult. Avoid this person at all costs in the future. And if you're on the camping trip in Europe, don't get married to this one.

Retail junkie. Some people's idea of a holiday is traipsing from one shopping centre to the next. Checking out the shopping possibilities in a new city can be interesting – for half a morning, after which one shopping centre begins to resemble the other 12 you've already been to. Unless you share an interest in shopping expeditions, ask yourself whether you feel like experiencing Europe, or America or Australia from the vantage point of hi-fi stores or souvenir shops.

Comedian Chris. This can be a delightful travelling companion, who will give a touch of lightness to the holiday. I'm not talking of the kind of guy whose idea of fun is to apple-pie your bed, but someone with a genuinely original sense of humour. Not the laugh-a-minute type, which can be exhausting, but with a good sense of humour when the occasion calls for it.

Routine junkie. This is the person who is used to having coffee, melon and rusks at precisely 7 a.m. every morning and gets very irritable when the motel in downtown Alabama is unable to provide it. Or who must phone home at noon every day, or get to bed at precisely 10.15 p.m., come hell or high water - despite the fact that there was a potentially interesting double date lined up for the evening.

Chatterbox. Non-stop talking can drive you crazy. Try and listen to someone talking for eighteen hours straight and see your mouth starting to froth. It is also interesting that people who talk incessantly are all notoriously bad listeners. Trying to get a word in edgeways is a bit like shouting against a full-force Southeaster. The chatterbox is an onslaught on your senses – don't take this person on holiday again.

Freeloading Fred. This person has expensive taste and likes going to trendy places. But when it comes to paying, the money is never quite forthcoming. Great promises are made about repayment at some unspecified future date, but somehow this just never arrives. Don't go on holiday again with this person unless you are prepared to foot the bill for two.

Fashion slave. This is a tiresome companion indeed. Huge amounts of luggage contain endless changes of outfits and hours are spent daily on the hair and general appearance, while you are in the foyer tapping your foot, because you want to get to the Taj Mahal or the Tower of London or the Sterkfontein Caves. As long as you're reasonably clean and not too untidy on holiday, what does it really matter what you look like?

Absentminded Abby. A day before you're due to leave, she loses her passport, or mislays her traveller's cheques or loses the reservation sheets for the game reserve. She is also the one who is likely to leave her purse in the beach café or make you miss a train, because she had the time wrong. You will spend lots of time standing around waiting for this one. It is a bit like being on holiday with a kid that needs looking after.

Neurotic Nick. This is the one that is sure he's going to get malaria, even though you're 100 km away from a malaria area. Whose slight headache is spoken of as a migraine, and who visits the chemist in every town you pass through. Every morning he/she wakes up, you get a rundown on the body part that is causing a problem that day. The biggest part of this person's luggage is a medicine chest. Given sufficient light, you are sure that the contents of this chest would enable a doctor with no other equipment to do an appendectomy on a kitchen table.

Heart-lung machine. This is potentially the most aggravating travelling companion. This is the person who will not let you out of their sight, even if you don't share the same interests or want to visit the same museums, galleries, cinemas or beaches. By traipsing along in your wake, this person manages to spoil everything for you by looking bored and disinterested. But he/she, will not venture off on their own, even for a morning. Possibly because along with being insecure, they also don't have many interests of their own?

Feeding frenzy. You're going on holiday to relax, but this companion is obsessed with filling his/her stomach. Two hours after you've eaten a big meal, their stomach is rumbling. You find that the focus of your holiday becomes takeaway joints, restaurants and supermarkets. Not quite what you had in mind. You would have been quite happy with bananas, cheese and crackers. But it was not to be.

On-the-go-Mo. This is the one who has already run 10 km by the time you roll bleary-eyed out of bed. And who packs the daily programme so full of activities, you need a week to recover once you get home. Isn't it better to see three places properly than six in a rushed fashion? For this person there is no such thing as an early night, or a late morning. It's go, go, go all the way. Going away with this person feels more like an endurance marathon than a holiday. Don't repeat the experience.

Boozing Billy. This is the holiday companion from hell – the one who vomits in hotel rooms, who gets into bar fights and who spends his entire travelling allowance on booze. You are maligned for not becoming a fellow-boozer, for being a spoilsport and for moaning about the constant alcoholic excesses. And no, he doesn't remember the girl whom he told she looked like a fat crocodile, because he was way past it at that point. You had to sort it out. Billy doesn't need a holiday, he needs rehab. Leave him there next time.

Snoring Sammy. Holidays are times to relax, but how can you, with this chainsaw that starts up every night? You lie there and curse, but the point is, you're not getting enough sleep. Sammy can't really help it, though. Get earplugs, get another room if possible, but don't do him bodily harm. It's not really his fault.

The last of the big spenders. Your holiday budget is limited, but your companion insists on eating out constantly, and we're not talking takeaway joints. Or while you are quite satisfied with a modest B+B, this one wants something with room service and a marble bath. In a way this is your fault as well, because you should clear up details like budgets before you hit the road.

Control freak Kate. Everything, from where you go, where you stay, how you get there, what you do every day, has to be 100% under the control of this companion. You can either just give in and go with the flow, or you can start a battle for control that will last the entire holiday. You'll be exhausted when you get home – this wasn't a holiday, it was a battle for supremacy. Why do this to yourself?

Play it again, Sam. This travelling companion is great – calm, pleasant, well-organised and fun to be with. You go your own way when necessary and this person is reliable and punctual, without being dull or boring. This is someone with whom you should probably consider sharing more than a holiday. People like these do not come along often.


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