Making and keeping friends

by Swim

The loneliness topic this week was interesting and sparked conversation about creating and maintaining friendships.

How do you maintain friendships?

We have all heard funny stories about how couples have met, so what are the funniest ways you have ever met or made a new friend?

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111 thoughts on “Making and keeping friends

  1. Did you all see this cheat sheet on making a friend?

    1) Become a person who is comfortable spouting non-sequiturs. Friendship starts by talking, which means that someone has to start talking! Comment on the weather, or the smell of the room, or something on TV last night … regularly. It’s pleasant to make conversation about something light. Just talk about Beyoncé!

    2) Then, once you have built up a rapport with your Potential Friend, you have to DTT: Divulge To Them. Share a very tiny secret, like you have cramps or you’re hung over or you accidentally voted for Bush. This is step one to building trust.

    3) The next step is crucial! After you DTT, wait a period of time, and then refer back to the thing you divulged to them! You are creating an inside joke. THE FOUNDATION OF FRIENDSHIP.

    4) And finally, you have to ask them to hang out with you one on one. And then again, 2-6 weeks later. Then they should get the hint and ask you to hang out, too. Now you are friends. Congrats!

  2. Wow! I love that cheat sheet! I think I need to use it always.

    My stumbling block is DTT. I get so anxious about that (will it be used against me somehow, will they find it stupid, me stupid) that I just clam up. Putting myself out there is absolutely terrifying.

    Case in point – the leadership program wants me to include 1-2 interesting tidbits about myself as part of the get to know you. I am boring!

    The one story I’m including is that I have a penpal I met in the early days of AOL. We exchanged emails frequently, and now text and call regularly. We have never met IRL.

  3. Rhode – Aren’t you allergic to seafood and yet look at your career? Good tidbit for work purposes.

  4. Rhode – you could mention what Kerri brings up and that you’re married to your HS sweetheart…those are safe/can’t be used against you.

  5. Rhode, how did you first become interested in your field? You may have told us but if so I’ve forgotten. (I have no idea what DTT is.)

    I met one of my best college friends when I moved into what had previously been the international housing dorm and ran into him with some of his friends who lived there, all from India. I was taking a non-major geology class and he was a geology major. He asked me if I wanted to go up to his apartment to see his rock collection. And despite my suspicions, he really just wanted to show me his rock collection. :) Shortly thereafter I changed my major to geology.

  6. Perfect topic today. This morning, I entered into a casual conversation with the woman, about my age, next to me in a very crowded exercise class. She began the conversation by asking about Thanksgiving plans, and a few minutes later I learned that she recently moved to the area, loves cross country skiing, but doesn’t know where to go or whom to go with. I have been skiing on my own since my older ski friend dropped out with injuries, so was very excited to find a potential ski partner. I don’t usually start conversations like this so am very glad that she took the initiative.

  7. I met a law school friend when she offered me some Baked Lays while we were both doing research in the school’s computer room.

  8. My challenge is to keep up with current friends and acquaintances. There is one person I really like, who keeps turning down offers for coffee because she is so busy. I will keep trying and sending out invitations twice a year.

  9. Kerri – yup. You are correct. I am allergic seafood.

    July – DTT comes from the article posted – Divulge To Them. This is where I am such an introvert! Ha!

    Nope – never told anyone how I got into marine biology. Mostly because it’s somewhere between adorable and embarrassing. Somewhere in grade school, the show SeaQuest DSV was on – about a sub full of scientists living under the ocean and protecting it from evil. Well the kid on the show (a 90s heartthrob IIRC) had a pet dolphin who could talk. I wanted to talk to dolphins from there on out – I wanted to be a marine biologist. About 10 years later, I was completely disavowed of ever talking to dolphins by my college advisor and found I really liked coastal systems. I like the challenge of balancing human use with ecosystem function as Nature intended it.

    OK maybe I am more interesting than I thought… :)

  10. Houston – don’t you get discouraged? I have a friend who does this frequently. She is super busy and has about 6 million friends. I can never decide if she’s really that busy or is politely trying to tell me I’m not longer in the inner circle she likes to see regularly (or even yearly).

  11. I should save this for future reference. I am trying to move some of my ‘work friends’ (women in my firm or with whom I have lunch professionally) into ‘actual friends’ territory but it is HARD!!! Part of the problem is that I live far away from work and don’t have much time to socialize after work unless it’s at an event.

  12. LOL at “he really wanted to show me his rock collection.

    “My challenge is to keep up with current friends and acquaintances. ”

    Yes. This is where I am right now.

    I am trying to think of a funny friend meeting story. I did once pick up a friend in a bar. That is not a euphemism for anything. My friend & I started chatting with these two girls who were sitting next to us, found out they were new to the city, totally hit if off, and one of them is still a very close friend to this day. Most of my other close friends are from college or work. A few from when we were pregnant at the same time & joined a “due date club” but most of those I have drifted from a bit. I also have some HS friends that I catch up with once in awhile, but it is my college friends that I consider my true lifelong friends – the people I tell good or bad news to first & rely on.

  13. Rhode – allergic to seafood and love of marine biology sparked by an old TV show you watched as a kid? Handswipe twice, you are done!

    No need to be embarrassed by the career spark. There are many (older) folks in fire/emergency service today who have no trouble admitting that their love for the field started with the TV show Emergency 51! The more hardcore can claim to having owned the board game.

  14. I am not usually someone that will initiate a conversation at the gym, airplane, nail salon etc., but I find that I am talking to a lot of people at the pilates studio because I am there all of the time. I think social media helps a bit too because you can friend someone on instagram or facebook before you take it to the next level of actual plans.

    Most of the friends that I’ve made since college are people that I met at work or through DD. One of my closest friends is someone that I saw down next to during a bank training program 30 years ago. Even when we don’t see each other, we speak/text at least once a week. Our friendship ties my to many, many other people that we’ve worked with throughout the years because we usually go to dinners or lunches with friends from different banks. I also “work” on these friendships. I make plans to meet people for lunch or drinks. I also show up when invited…for example, I mentioned that reunion for my other bank training program a few weeks ago. That was a 20 year reunion of a different program. I am no as close with those folks, but I still went to the reunion and I reconnected with some people that I haven’t talked to in person in a very long time. The people that I met in both of my training programs are really friends. They are not just work colleagues, but I had to put in the effort to maintain the friendships.

    The same is true about putting in a little effort in my town. Showing up seems to be 1/2 of the equation to get invited to future stuff. I try to make the effort to go on a Thursday or Friday night because there always seems to be some bday or girls night out.

    I really love the few college friends that I am still close to, but that is mainly through texts, calls and the once a year trip or visit. Even though I don’t see them day to day, these are the people that I consider my very close friends.

  15. “don’t you get discouraged?”

    Sometimes yes and sometimes no. IT isn’t too hard to reach out with a short email. It makes up for the fact (guilt wise) that I don’t send out Christmas cards.

  16. I met one of my lifelong friends because we were both TAs for a course. I hadn’t met her yet, but heard from someone else that there was another punk TA. Then, we got assigned to staff the help table in the computer lab at the same time, so we finally met. She arrived wearing fishnets, and I knew we were going to be friends. She lives in Chicago now, but we still visit several times a year.

  17. I have trouble making friends at work. I always feel like there are boundaries that should not be crossed. I really like one of my colleagues and we have gone out to dinner, but still, I feel like we can’t really be friends.

  18. I always feel like there are boundaries that should not be crossed.

    If you’re just peers what sort of boundaries?

  19. Off topic – I put another “weird news” on the suggest topics page. :)

    MM – I have the same trouble too. At this current job, because of the small staff, we became friends quickly. That has proven to be very tenuous and I do not accept offers to hang out socially anymore.

    Houston – I see you point. I guess I just get burned out by the fact that I’m *always* the one initiating plans with everyone else. Including this woman. It sorta makes me feel like if I weren’t around these people wouldn’t miss me so why bother. On the other hand, I’ve accepted that I may be the one who’s enough on top of things that I can actually initiate and formulate plans with people. (If this is a feature or a bug depends on the mood).

  20. Funny meeting friend story. Five years ago when DD was in 4th grade, she took video on the bus of a boy, then shared the video, bragging about her crush. School rules say no video and her crush was doing something that a parent who saw the video thought was unsafe, sent video to principal, DD and crush got reprimanded and I got that obligatory phone call home. I am LIVID (I know, I know, but back then it seemed like a big deal) DD now owes her crush a big apology, but I can’t find a phone number to reach them, so I try fb.

    I find a woman with the same last name, DD confirms via pictures that it’s his mom. In looking through the pictures DD says, “oh look, she likes to run and drink wine, you should run with her and have a splish of wine some night.” If looks could kill. I seethed as I sent a fb message to a stranger explaining that I’d like to bring my deviant malcontent over to apologize to her son.

    The mom hadn’t seen the video so we sent it to her – she didn’t think it warranted a phone call to the school. She was very gracious about the incident, we got to talking, she was new to town and was indeed looking for some people to run with. We are friends to this day and have enjoyed many nice runs and glasses of wine.

    DD became an inside joke. When one of our running group wants to go out and no one is available, they’ll chime in, “Hey Swim, can DD go get in trouble again, we need more running friends.” Or if DD likes a boy, the’ll say, “Oh good, does his mom run?”

  21. I am friendly with DS’s classmates’ parents, but I don’t consider them friends. We hang out in kid or school situations, and I like a fair number of them. But I would never keep in touch with any of them if DS switched schools or anything.

    I kinda feel the same way about my neighbors.

  22. Ivy and Mooshi – same. I am only friends with my one peer who has left the firm (and I didn’t work directly with her when she was here), and I haven’t met any other parents who strike me as people to be friends with (yet…).

  23. Swim – that is the best story EVER! At least the mom was cool about it. I could see that going the other way. And if your DD every brings home a potential spouse – that person’s mom better be a runner and wine drinker! LOL!

  24. So, I am the one who starts talking to random strangers everywhere. It is going to the next step that is hard, partly because I often don’t find enough of a spark at the first random conversation to make the rest of it a go.

    I, too, have had some issues with getting too friendly with people at work and have pulled back in that area. The issue generally comes up when one of you changes roles within the organization. I am observing this with a trio of co-workers now. One was promoted to the manager and two were direct reports. Unfortunately, the manager let the friendship put rose-colored glasses on what the quality of the job the direct reports were actually doing. The manager was moved to a different department (promotion) and “promised” one of the direct reports would become the new manager.
    Well, it didn’t happen, upper management picked someone else. Now the new manager doesn’t have the same glasses and sees the direct reports differently, while the direct reports are both mad that the “promise” wasn’t kept.

  25. I always feel like there are boundaries that should not be crossed.

    Why? I’ve had coworkers that I became pretty good friends with, although we’ve drifted apart. One of the things I don’t like about my current job is the lack of social stuff since I never actually see any of my coworkers.

    I really want to work on expanding our social circle, especially with the kids getting close to leaving for college. DW is a big introvert,which makes it harder. And then you run into the issues of people being busy or not really responding. This summer, I tried to arrange a bbq with some families that we were really friendly with when our kids were in daycare together. One said they were open any time, another said they were busy the whole month of August, and the other two said they wanted to do it but then never responded when I asked them for specific dates. It’s very frustrating.

  26. We have a friend who talks to everyone. We referred her to our dentist, and after her first appt she had the dentist’s entire life story. I have no idea how she was able to find out so much when she was sitting in the chair with her mouth open most of the time.

  27. Denver – That is my MIL. Our nanny was very reserved with us about her private life. My MIL meets her and within hours has the whole scoop. I bet they still talk to this day.

  28. Denver – my DH has specifically told me that he doesn’t want any more friends! He only has bandwidth for what he’s doing now.

  29. I haven’t made friends since I moved here. It wasn’t easy since I worked while most of my neighbors and mothers at the kids school stayed home. I am friendly and chat with them when I see them but no real friends.
    I always say it will be my empty nest activity along with Spanish class and piano playing. That’s my problem right there, structuring my time so much that there is no time to fit a spontaneous get together.

  30. I feel that if you are friends with co-workers, it can get in the way of getting the job done. For example, I might need to critique some work a co-worker has done, or strongly disagree on something. It is hard to do that when it is a friend. I also find that when there are a lot of friend groups in a workplace, decisions start being made along friendship lines.

  31. Mooshi, I think that might be one of those male/female differences. The generality that men tend to be more task-oriented and women tend to be more relationship-oriented. Most men would have no problem arguing with a friend about a work issue.

  32. we know this family that we kinda like to hang out with. But boy do they blow hot and cold. We used together together regularly, but since their kids got a little busy, they blow off all plans. My kid is younger than theirs, so all kids adore each other, there is same age friendship between them.

    We are not the only ones they dropped, they are really really focused on their own little family right now it seems like. Seems weird to me.
    Many of our couple friends seem to be super engrossed in their own lives. None like this couple though.

    Sadly DH and I haven’t found a compatible couple that likes to do the same things as us. My dream would be to find such a couple who has same age kids as our kid. We do have our own friends that we hang out with individually.

    We like to travel, go camping, movies and just even hang out over the weekend.

  33. Denver Dad, I disagree. I mainly work with men and have seen many cases where every decision was based on friendship cliques. Guys tend to call it “loyalty” but it is the same thing.

  34. We used to be friendly with a family whose son played with one of mine. They were really fun to hang out with – we all liked to cook and talk politics and stuff. But now their kid has gotten involved in some dicey things, and is generally obnoxious so my kid refuses to do anything with him. Boy, that can put a damper on a friendship

  35. “For example, I might need to critique some work a co-worker has done, or strongly disagree on something. It is hard to do that when it is a friend. ”
    MM – in grad school, did you ever have a cohort you started with? I did. We were a lab. We were insanely close (and still are, though we are around the country now). We were expected to critique and disagree with each other. We were able to keep it professional and it never harmed our friendship. In fact, many of these people are my go-to editors. I know they’ll be ruthless but fair.

    “I also find that when there are a lot of friend groups in a workplace, decisions start being made along friendship lines.”
    This I can see. I haven’t experienced it, but I know of other groups where this has happened.

    I just don’t think it’s all or nothing. You can professionally disagree but be friends outside of work. It does require boundaries though.

  36. Grad school critique is really different because it is Kabuki theater. You make up some questions that aren’t too difficult and leave it to the professors to go on the attack. When you are working, you have to do it for real.

    An example – we have some interviews coming up for faculty, and I am really really appalled by the CVs. It is likely I am going to vote no on every single one. Our new chair chose those CVs, I like her, and am friendly enough to know a lot of details of her life – but we aren’t friends who visit each others houses or anything like that. If we were, I think it would be a lot harder to do the no votes.

    I also notice that the old guard professors, who are pretty friendly with each other, protect each other in ways that are bad for the department. One of them really needs to be reassigned away from the courses he teaches because he is a thousand years out of date. Our old chair, who was friends with him, would admit to me that the guy shouldn’t be teaching the courses, but refused to do anything about it because of the friendship

  37. I think work friendships are different from friendships that start in other places. You do have to have different boundaries. But they can also be stronger because you have to be able to effectively disagree, because there is a level of professionalism that has to be maintained, etc.

    As far as decisions being made based on cliques or relationships – well, sure that is going to happen to some extent in any organization, but if I refuse to build relationships because of it, it is only going to hurt me in the long run because I’ll be cut out of opportunities.

    The hardest thing I see is when a person gets promoted over their former peers, who they are friends with. That is a really hard adjustment for everyone. But I think that’s hard regardless of if you go to lunch or happy hour together or hang out in your free time sometimes.

    We all spend so much time at work, that I think it is natural to make friends at work. I’ve been at my company for 8 years – I think it would be really odd if I didn’t have any friends from work at all. Plus, earlier in my career – I was moving a lot, and there were a lot of us that were young and single and new to the area. Who else were we going to hang out with? Some of that socializing was probably ill advised and resulted in some awkward situations, but I don’t really regret any of it in retrospect. And then there are groups that travel together a lot – that’s a whole other beast.

  38. Another introvert without many friends here. DH keeps talking about how much fun it would be to do a weekend at the beach, trip to waterpark (think Great Wolf Lodge or similar), etc with other people. It sounds like fun in theory, but my personality is a people pleaser, so I feel I would spend the whole time worried about everyone else. It sounds very stressful to me.

    When just our family goes away, no one else plans anything, so I plan what I want to do and they go along with it. If they complain, I tell them to speak up during the planning phase next time.

  39. Mooshi – Not so for architects. Peer review in college is brutal and real. Interesting to see the different approaches in different fields.

  40. Most men would have no problem arguing with a friend about a work issue.

    I agree. I can’t see why being friends would have any impact on her vote. MM thinks they’re shitty and presumably the Chair thinks that’s the best they can do. It is what it is.

  41. protect each other in ways that are bad for the department.

    Don’t you want to be protected when the time comes?

  42. Over the years I have experienced boundaries and barriers to making work friends.

    As mentioned, cliques and personal relationships can influence careers, for good and for bad. I was once burned by a work “friend” who used information I had shared in confidence (complaining about my boss) to hurt my career.

    And then there was the problem when I worked in NYC and most of my coworkers lived very far from each other. We could do things together after work, but getting together on weekends was a rare occasion and made friendships hard to maintain.

  43. I do think that my situation with some of the work friends is different because I met many of them in a training program. It is like watching a TV show with a bunch of interns in a hospital. Boundaries got crossed all of the time because we were together 24/7 due to several reasons. Long work hours, work travel that included weekends, most of us were single or just dating, and most of us were looking for people to hand out with – especially if we weren’t in our “home” city.

    Since I stayed in the industry, I kept running into people at conferences or other financial institutions. The boundaries blurred as people married and I went to their weddings too. I think I may have shared this on another post, but I had three couples get married when I managed one team. The same thing happened at another bank when I took that job after my MBA training program. Multiple marriages.

  44. In less than 2 years our nest will empty, at which point we could have some big changes in our friendships. For the last 14+ years, our social lives have largely revolved around our kids. There are a couple families we’ve gotten close to, that I hope we’ll continue to spend time with, but the potential complication is that both families have younger kids and their nests won’t be empty until later.

    One family is DD’s BFF’s family; they’ve been close since they were in the same 4th grade class. We’ll be at their home for T-day. It’s gotten to where they didn’t actually invite us this year; a few weeks ago, instead, BFF’s mom asked if we could make it, as if the invitation was assumed.

    DW and I have talked about getting together with DS’ friends’ parents over the holidays while the kids are home, as will be one set of parents who recently moved to upstate NY to be closer to her family and his job (he’d been telecommuting from here). We need to start contacting the other families.

  45. Growing up my dad was very close friends with his coworkers. He was a professor, so it is interesting to her Mooshi experience is so different. These coworkers went to my hs graduation, my wedding, and even my baby shower. And there was a time when my dad was department chair. I learned during that time that you can disagree with your coworkers, piss them off, but still have them over for dinner. Now everyone is retired and they all still get together on a regular basis.

    I thought that it was normal to be friends with coworkers. DHs parents never did that, and as it turns out my outgoing DH does not make friends with his coworkers. I’m the introvert and most of my friends are or were coworkers. The rest of my friends are parents of my kid’s friends.

  46. be one set of parents who recently moved to upstate NY to be closer to her family and his job (he’d been telecommuting from here).

    Relocated from HI to upstate NY? Ewwww. No offense Fred.

  47. This discussion has me thinking about possibly traveling with tour groups. I think DW and I have been assuming we’d usually be our own tour guides in retirement, but joining tour groups does seem to be one way to meet others with similar interests.

  48. @Lemon – My experience with my professor dad was much more similar to yours. It is also a small college town, so it’s not like there were all kinds of people with similar interests to my dad who weren’t academic coworkers. And my parents weren’t from the area, which is isolating there as well. After 30 years, my mom has more friends from outside of the college community than my dad, but most of them are through her church and volunteer work, neither of which really interest my dad.

    That said, DH isn’t close to many of his coworkers, and he’s worked at the same place for over 20 years. It’s just a different environment and culture there.

  49. “Since I stayed in the industry, I kept running into people at conferences or other financial institutions. ”
    I actually do have a lot of friendships with colleagues at other places – we socialize at conferences but also outside of conferences. We often collaborate on projects or papers so we are doing work but it is different from the kind of work that goes on in your own institiution.
    And just to be clear – I am not against having relationships with my co-workers. I mentioned that I like the new chair, and we talk a lot about stuff, including our families. At conferences, we might get dinner together. But that isn’t a friendship, to me. And I think it is best to keep it that way

  50. “Relocated from HI to upstate NY?”

    The guy who came to fix my garage door relocated here from Hawaii. His cellphone has an area code from that state, which my robocaller app blocked, so it’s a good thing that I arrived at the house just as he did. I asked him why on earth he had moved here from Hawaii – he was born in Fairbanks Alaska (where he sometimes saw snow on his June birthday and where you need special light bulbs in your fixtures so you don’t go crazy in the long dark winter), then moved to Hawaii because he was tired of being cold and depressed. After 15 years in Hawaii, he was tired of working all of the time to pay his bills, so he moved here to be close to family.

  51. but joining tour groups does seem to be one way to meet others with similar interests.

    That’s a very good idea. I wonder if they have groups where the travelers are all from the same area? You might be going to Spain but everyone is from Boston or the northeast.

  52. MM – that is very interesting. My grad program was not at all you described. The harshest critics of my work (then and now) have been peers.

    Finn – Meme has talked about the tour groups often. Maybe when she returns she may high insight if folks become friends there and consistently tour together but don’t get together unless they are touring.

  53. I totally understand and agree that it can create challenges to have close friends at work. I never developed those deep relationships when I joined other banks at a later age. I just didn’t have the time and i wasn’t looking for real friendships at that point.

    I need my local mom friends now even though most of those are not real relationships. I think that I won’t speak to 90% of them after HS graduation.

  54. Denver Dad, I disagree. I mainly work with men and have seen many cases where every decision was based on friendship cliques. Guys tend to call it “loyalty” but it is the same thing.

    I think we’re talking about different things. I’m talking about when two men disagree about a work issues, it (usually) won’t affect their friendship out of work. It sounds like you are talking about people giving preference to their friends on work issues.

  55. Rhett –
    none taken. Over the years, even to this day though it’s been 28 years, people really do wonder why we would / how we could leave LA for here.

    There’s a lot of Upstate. Where I am is different than where Kerri grew up. And is different from where we both spent some of our college years. And, using a common colloquial definition of Upstate starting at the northern border of Westchester County, all of that is way different than 2mi north of Westchester. A lot of it is very nice. Highly taxed, but nice.

  56. An example – we have some interviews coming up for faculty, and I am really really appalled by the CVs. It is likely I am going to vote no on every single one. Our new chair chose those CVs, I like her, and am friendly enough to know a lot of details of her life – but we aren’t friends who visit each others houses or anything like that. If we were, I think it would be a lot harder to do the no votes.

    Again, this is where I think men differ. A man would not have a problem expressing a differing opinion even if they were friends outside of work.

  57. Re: becoming friends with parents of your kids friends – that has worked out very well for us. However, and it’s a BIG however, we have worked to maintain the friendships with those parents who we like despite any continuing relationship between the kids. Logistically, that’s hard to do until your kids are old enough to be left on their own. Last weekend we had people over, mostly people we have met through our kids. The ones we met through DS didn’t bring their kids since they are away at college. From the crowd we met through DD who didn’t bring friends – no hard feelings about it. One of them is my friend described earlier, she left her son home. If he had come, the girls would have welcomed him, but being that the kids are now HS freshman, he opted to do something on his own.

    Another friend who came last weekend w/her husband is a woman I met when I coached soccer and ran a GS troop – our girls got along swimmingly when they were young, but have drifted into different social groups since. I think the world of this woman, she’s also part of a group of us who go out for girls night so I get to see her then as well. We joke that it might be better that our girls aren’t close friends because with their combined brainpower they could get into grand teenage trouble together and be smart enough to cover their tracks.

    Sometimes you just have to be out in the open about it, like these folks. It’s awkward to say it the first time, but if you like the person/s and want to continue the friendship, just say it. They’re probably thinking the same thing.

    We’ve adopted this approach because we see that those forced togetherness days are coming to an end (sports teams, school functions), and if you want someone to hang with you have to open the door.

  58. “I wonder if they have groups where the travelers are all from the same area?”

    I believe that’s pretty typical here.

    A little while back, I suggested that a regular (IIRC, Lauren) who was looking for tours to Japan look at offerings from travel agencies based here. Were she to join such a tour, she’d definitely be unusual in that aspect.

  59. Re: work friends – I lean toward former co-workers rather than current co-workers as friends, it avoids some of the awkwardness that many of you describe.

    The idea of having a work loyalty because of a personal friendship is interesting. Rather than it being a gender tendency, I think it’s related to level of empathy. The higher the level of empathy, the more likely you are to tolerate a bad fit/accept recommendations, etc.

  60. It wasn’t me because I don’t have any plans to travel to Japan. I think it would be interesting to visit, but there are probably ten other places that I want to visit before Japan.

  61. Maybe it was Lark? Or L? Or another poster whose handle starts with L?

    But the point was that on the group tours from here to places like Japan and Korea and Taiwan and China, almost everyone on the tour is from here, so it’s a way for people from here to meet other people from here, with whom you have at least one interest in common.

  62. Those of you who travel internationally a lot, we are planning a trip to New Zealand and Fiji and maybe stopping in Austria as well for next Christmas. How early should we start looking for tickets? Any suggestions for sites that provide useful alerts for fare changes? I’ve tried Kayak in the past and the alerts I’d get would have two connections with crappy times. There wasn’t any way to limit it to flights we would actually take.

  63. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed reading the Neapolitan novels and now starting to watch the HBO series My Brilliant Friend is because I can relate to the friendship depicted in the stories. Somewhat similar to one of the book characters, when I was growing up I seemed to drift toward friends that were larger than life in some way, certainly much more rebellious, smarter (or way dumber), and assertive than I. This turned out to be good, although it sometimes placed me in situations more risky than I would have been on my own. I learned good lessons from these friendships, and some of the best parts of my friends’ traits rubbed off on me a little. This could be an argument for peer influence, but maybe in ways that are unexpected. If I had hung out with quiet, rule-following kids I may have developed into a different person.

  64. That was me, looking for Japan. We found 2 tour groups focused on families with itineraries that look really good. They were shockingly expensive – not surprising since they market themselves as luxury and Japan is already expensive to begin with. So we are doing Greece this coming summer while I tuck away some additional savings and think about whether that’s how we want to do Japan.

    DH and I did travel with a tour group this past year – a company called Backroads. Loved, loved, loved it. To be able to enjoy the travel, meals, and itinerary without thinking about any of the logistics was amazing, and I have to say I am sold on the model.

  65. @ DenverDad, I would start following on Google flights 11 months out, and probably would plan to book 5-6 months out, maybe as close to 3-4 months. If you follow the flight for a few months you’ll get a feel for what’s a “good” price.

  66. I would not expect there to be “Deals” on holiday travel to NZ. This would be a good opportunity to cash in a bunch of miles (or, if you are ambitious, apply for a bunch of credit cards now and make the points translate into tickets. Chase points can be used on United, 40k each direction for tickets – 320k for the four of you, You and wife each get a card, you will get 120k, plus maybe a United card. A little spending or some miles already in a FF account, and you’ve got one-way tickets for everyone. That could be a nice buffer if you wanted to travel one-way on a high-demand day. )

    Having said all that, I like secretflying for really good deals – but they last hours (they are often mistakes, but the airlines typically honor them).

  67. ” a company called Backroads”

    If that’s the same Backroads I’m thinking of, they started out as a bicycle touring company (IIRC, back then they were known as Backroads Bicycle Tours, or something close to that). A few friends went on bike tours with them and really liked them.

  68. “apply for a bunch of credit cards now and make the points translate into tickets.”

    I suggest you also keep your eyes open for credit card offers. As you watch google flights and see which airlines you’re likely to take, watch for offers for credit cards from those airlines. They often come with perks in addition to miles, e.g., free checked baggage, access to lounges, that you typically won’t get from credit cards not specific to airlines.

    That suggests considering getting two credit cards, one specifically for the airline you’ll take, and one (or maybe even more than one) not specific to an airlines.

  69. There are sociable people who make friends on a group tour and grow into a habit of meeting up on other tours with the same people, no matter where they two couples live. There are also lots of people who always travel with a family or other group on cruises or larger group tours. There are also lots of return to roots tours from areas with substantial ethnic origin groups, so you woukd meet others not only from you local area, but of the same descent.

    We are too quirky and DH is not a sturdy traveler, so we like the couple time. There is no way we could manage the enforced conversation or group participation required to maintain a travel companionship with another couple.

  70. Chase points can be used on United, 40k each direction for tickets

    I wouldn’t expect there to be saver level awards available during Christmas which is the absolute peak of demand for that part of the world. If you wanted to go in July when it’s winter in NZ and Auckland is in the upper 50s low 60s* then you could find decent saver level awards.

    * Which is great weather if you’re going to be hiking and biking around anyway. Although looking at Auckland mid winter to mid summer involves a temp shift from 58 to 73.

  71. Sydney also barely changes winter to summer. July (winter) it’s low to mid 60s and February (summer) it’s 78.

  72. July, I am very similar to you. I always had overly dramatic friends and relationships. Thus, I related to the Neapolitan novels in the same way. I have had to draw boundaries and opt out of toxic friendships later in life because I take on too much of those friends’ drama. It gets old. It has helped me stretch out of my comfort zone for good and bad.

  73. DD – Scott’s Cheap Flights. But the holiday period is usually blacked out for any kind of deal. I would say check the route on Google Flights over the next month or so to get a sense of what airline/route is your best bet for price, and then buy as soon as the fares open up for sale. I wouldn’t think that route and time of year is going to get cheaper with waiting, so the cheapest fare class available initially may end up being your best bet.

  74. Rhett – fair point, but I think that if you are looking 9+ months in advance, there are some pretty cheap tickets available (for miles). I don’t book a lot of FF UA tickets, but with some airlines there are saver level fares available if you book far enough out.

  75. Ada, I know there aren’t going to be super deals, but prices still fluctuate. And trying to work something using miles is never going to happen. I’m not going to get credit cards to get miles and then have no guarantee we’ll be able to get flights..

    The summer idea is intriguing. I’ll have to talk to DW about that. My bigger concern would be how long the days are. I haven’t looked closely enough to see how far south it is.

  76. “More reasons to go in their winter our summer:”

    Skiing!! Probably not much of a reason for DD, but for many years I wanted to take my family skiing in NZ in our summer, as that seemed it fit best into our schedules.

    I still want to do that.

  77. “I’m not going to get credit cards to get miles and then have no guarantee we’ll be able to get flights.”

    Do you not travel much by air? Keep in mind, that may change soon, depending on where your kids go to college.

    We’ve milked the CC for miles deals a bit. Between DW and me, I think we’ve gotten 6 cards for the miles, and we’ve always used the miles.

  78. Denver – look at this – you see how right as the fares open up you get an opportunity for some pretty cheap fares, like less than $4K total for a family of four? And then the ones that have already been open for a few weeks, you still can pick up fares between 4 and 5 K for a family of four.

  79. The fares for a summer trip look even better – you can do less than $3K for a family of four for a couple week trip.

  80. Maybe it’s tied to my google account . . . I’ll try doing the same thing in incognito and paste that link.

  81. That’s mighty good; <$3k for 4 ppl r/t.

    Hotels, VRBOs, rental cars, etc. will all be cheaper during our summer as well.

  82. Here’s a link done in incognito mode, so maybe it will work: https://www.google.com/flights?lite=0#flt=DEN.CHC,SYD,/m/0chgzm,BNE,AKL,WLG.2019-10-02*CHC,SYD,/m/0chgzm,BNE,AKL,WLG.DEN.2019-10-16;c:USD;e:1;px:4;sd:1;t:f

    Otherwise, how you get there starting from the Google Flights page is enter your departing city – Denver – and multiple possible destination cities (after you type in your first one, click the + symbol to add another, and then keep typing them in where it says “Where else?”); the dates around when you’re aiming for; and select your number of passengers. Then when it pulls up that search result, click the Dates tab to get a grid of departure and return dates with lowest price available for each combo.

  83. HM,

    I love that wonky $30,000 flight at the bottom. $2900, $2900,$4100, $30,000. And it’s economy!

  84. Rhett, it’s kind of fascinating what ridiculously expensive yet inconvenient itineraries you can put together, isn’t it? Like you’re working with the De Sade Travel Agency!

  85. We went to New Zealand in January and for day length reasons and the very reasonable prices, I would choose summer over winter. Verify the attractions you want to see are open/available in winter if you go in their winter. We went on a balloon ride and saw yellow-eyed penguins, for example, that are seasonal opportunities. Gas is priced similarly to here but meals, hotels, rental cars, etc. were similar to U.S. prices n NZ dollars, so ~2/3 of prices here.

    If you want to ski on the South Island, their winter is obviously a good choice.

  86. Do you not travel much by air? Keep in mind, that may change soon, depending on where your kids go to college.

    About 2-3 times a year. No enough to make it worth getting miles instead of cash back, IMO.

  87. HM, thanks for the link. Going back into June, which is when we would go if we did go in the summer, they are down to $2,900. That’s a very compelling argument in favor of it.

  88. I’ve really liked the Chase card – I can convert to UA miles, or use them 1 point = 1 penny on Amazon, or use 1 point = $1.25 to just buy tickets through their portal (at the same price as from the airline). So, I can’t imagine a situation where you spent an hour applying for credit cards in your name and your wife’s, used it for gas and costco for a few months (and spent 10k) and then regret deeply the 130,000 points you just earned, compared with $100-200 you would have gotten from the cash back on another card (for your 10k spend).

  89. DD, I agree about cash rather than miles if you travel infrequently.

    However, you don’t have to use the airline card for all, or even most, of your spending. Many of them have an offer like 40k to 60k miles if you get their card and spend something like $3k with the card.

    What we’ve done a few times is watch fares for a trip we’re planning, from which we can narrow down the possible airlines we’d use, and we also watch for offers for cards associated with those airlines. When we are pretty sure which airline we’ll use, we get the card associated with that airline, and use that card to buy the tickets. Typically you’d get at least double points for any spending on their tickets, and those tickets often get us above the spending threshold for the mileage bonus.

    All the while, most of our normal spending stays on our cashback cards.

    So we’re not getting the cards to get miles to pay for the immediate trip, but use those miles for future trips. More recently, we’ve been using the miles for DS’ trips to and from school.

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