For the 50+ Traveler

When I requested memorable roommate stories on a Facebook group for women travelers over 60, I didn’t expect such an outpouring. Within two days, I had received more than 130 responses. Some were funny, some horrific, and some unprintable. There were recurring stories about snoring and butting heads about social media, but there were also unique tales about a roommate who brought her father’s ashes along and one about having to take care of roommates during a military occupation. Here are just some of the responses (with my own story at the end).

1. Why, Yes, I’ll Carry Your Suitcase Up 30 Stairs On My Head. Anything Else You Need?

“I have enjoyed the times I’ve traveled with friends. However, there was the time I had to carry a friend’s hard shell suitcase up 130 stone stairs on my head. I guess it was my fault because I forgot to tell her to bring a backpack instead of a suitcase to Guatemala.”

Carol, Portland, Oregon

2. She Played Games On Her iPhone All Night

“A lady I knew nominated herself to share a cruise around Australia with me. She was not a friend. I knew her from my social club. She played games on her phone in bed at night. With all the lights out, the phone was very bright, and we had words about that the next day. She avoided me after that.”

Kath, Adelaide, Australia

3. Making Rules For Travel Buddies: No Piggybacking, Please!

“My advice is to not travel with any friends. They have unrealistic expectations of who you are and then are angry when you turn out to be different from their expectations. It is easier to travel with someone you do not know because you have to adjust as you go along. If you do travel with friends, spell out exactly what the rules are: no piggybacking, no being joined at the hip, occasional time together when both of you want. Perhaps it’s better to travel with someone with whom you have already lived. If you can survive in the same house, you may be able to survive a trip!”

Nargis, New Brunswick, Canada

4. Hope You Don’t Mind, But I Have Screaming Nightmares When I Travel

“We met on the first day of our group trip. She seemed very interesting and pleasant. Then she said it: ‘Hope you don’t mind, but I have screaming nightmares when I travel.’ She was correct. Good thing that I brought my headphones or else I would have pummeled her.”

Anna, Baltimore, Maryland

5. Rule Number One: Don’t Pair Up With People Who Break Into Rooms

“She got out of her mind drunk and ended up breaking into an empty suite with a man she picked up in the small inn we were staying at. Since I had booked our room, it put me in danger, too. Rather than drive the next 100 miles with her, I found a plane out of there. Never again with her!”

Su, Sarasota, Florida

6. Rule Number Two: Don’t Share With Someone Who Dreams That Someone Is Breaking Into Her Room

“I shared travels with a good friend. We shared a rather small room in Budapest. One night she had a night terror and, based on her words and screams, I thought someone was breaking into our room. I was quite frightened awakening like that. I woke her up and she told me not to ever wake her up like that again.”

Louise, St. Paul, Minnesota

7. I Snore, But She Walks Fast

“Our first trip was full of discoveries. She discovered that I snore, and I discovered that she walks much faster than I do. We still travel together, but we've had to make many adjustments, such as scheduling solo time and booking group tours. If we stay in Airbnb apartments, we can have separate rooms. That seems to work much better for good sleep.”

Kathleen, Amherst, Massachusetts

8. Surprise Roommate For Church Trip

“On a trip with my church group, two of us could not be matched up with same-gender roommates. After consulting with our minister, we agreed to room together, like brother and sister, as we were already church friends. I was widowed and he had never married. We were both 63. He had grown up with three sisters and was a perfect gentleman the entire trip. We still laugh about it.”

Joanne, Greenfield, Massachusetts

9. Next Time We’ll Find The Air Conditioner Before Agreeing To Sleep Au Naturel

“I traveled to India for two weeks with my high school friend. One night, it was like 100 degrees in our hotel room, and we didn’t see an air conditioner. We shared one small double bed. Before the night was through, we had stripped off all our clothes and sheets, and each had gotten up three times to take a shower in the middle of the night. The next morning we found the switch to the air conditioner outside the room! If we could get through that, we can get through anything!”

Jacki, Chicago, Illinois

10. If That’s Just The Tip, It’s A Pretty Big Iceberg: 19 Days Of A Nightmare Roommate

“I’m 66 and I reconnected with a friend from our early 20s for a trip. Nineteen days in Spain and France were a nightmare. She was up until 3 or 4 a.m., drinking and talking on the phone. She was awake and drinking and smoking by 7 or 8 a.m. She was also into strangers’ personal space. Our local guides were all offended and one threatened to sue for sexual harassment. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. No surprise that we are now estranged.”

Kandis, Excelsior, Michigan

11. When Your Roommate Brings Her Father’s Ashes On A Trip To Egypt

“Went to Egypt with my bestie last November, and she didn’t tell me until day three that she’d brought her dad with her. She had carried some of his ashes, and she wanted to spread them around Egypt because it was one of the few countries he’d never traveled to. She left him in a pharaoh’s empty tomb, the Red Sea, and elsewhere -- and she spilled some of him inside her purse.”

Pamela, Clearwater, Florida

12. The Challenges Of Travel With Helpless Roommates During A Military Occupation

“I once went to Oaxaca, Mexico, with eight women during a military occupation. We were practically the only tourists in town. Because I had been there several times, I became the unpaid leader. We were the only guests at our hotel. One woman wanted to know when we were going swimming. I told her she could swim anytime she wanted, but she wanted us to all swim together. If I was going someplace in town, the others wanted to know when I would be back and what we would do next. They were so helpless. Some had never been to a non-English-speaking country. I was worn out every night.”

Mary, Walnut Creek, California

13. The One Where Her Roommate Brought Her Husband Along ... On An iPad

“I’m single, and my travel companion is married. She brings along her iPad with her husband on it. So he is the third party; he is literally streaming live as we’re dining, sightseeing, et cetera. Really weird, but I love them both!”

Lori, Arlington, Texas

14. No: Enough About Pig Farming, Please!

“I took a tour where they assign a roommate. It was a long week. She talked constantly about her family dramas, problems, crises, and pig farming. Just talked and talked. I always paid single supplement after that.”

Carol, Washington, D.C.

15. She “Only” Wore Her Cartier Earrings On A Canoe Trip

"When my roommate on a kayak trip was putting away her stuff she said, ‘I didn’t bring any of my good jewelry, just wore my simple Cartier earrings.’ That was the beginning. The whole group detested her. ... I’ll never room with a stranger again.”

Bernadette, Cathlamet, Washington

16. My Roommate Was Trashed By 4 P.M. Every Day

“My travel roommate on a three-week exploration of the south of France was a closet drinker who started with wine at breakfast and was trashed by 4 p.m. every day. And she was a nasty drunk. That was three years ago, and we have not spoken since.”

Jacklyn, Detroit, Michigan

17. Where’s Waldo? My Sister Kept Turning Up In My Photos

"I did a test trip upon my retirement to Spain with my older sister. She drove me nuts jumping in front of me constantly when I was taking a picture or video. I told her that she did it about 80 times, and that this was turning into a case of Where's Waldo?

Linda, New York City

18. Everything Of Mine Ended Up On The Floor (Including My Toothbrush)

“My roommate arrangement was through a cruise travel group (and therefore she was a stranger). She totally took over the bathroom sink with her stuff and put everything of mine on the floor -- including my toothbrush.”

Michelle, Kansas City, Missouri

19. And, Finally, My Own Contribution: I Imagined That My Roommate Was Stealing My Food

A friend introduced me to the woman with whom I traveled in Tibet in the 1980s. I was taking a prescription drug to help me sleep in high altitudes, and I think that it made me paranoid. I imagined that my roommate was stealing food from me while I slept. The good news was that she was strong enough to literally push me up hills from behind.

Barbara, Jersey City, New Jersey

Want to avoid a roommate fiasco of your own? Read our 13 tips for finding the perfect travel partner in advance!