Our friend crew takes a ski vacation every year and it’s always awesome, except for one thing — and that is ‘Carl’

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

A group of us are really into skiing and snowboarding, and for years now we’ve had a group trip someplace outside of Alaska where we spend a few days tearing it up, going out at night and partying, and just having an all-around good time — except for one problem, and that’s our buddy, I’ll call him “Carl.”

Most of us are really laid-back and easy-to-please guys. As long as there’s beer and snow, perfect, and even better if there’s a hot tub. A few of us have kids and wives and this trip is a chance to really cut loose and have a great time. But nothing’s ever good enough for Carl.

Carl will complain the snow is “too dry” or “too sticky,” or the weather is “too warm” or “too cold.” It’s never just right. He complains about his food wherever we go, even if it looks amazing. We always put a lot of effort into finding a great AirBnB and while Carl rarely helps search, he always has plenty to say about where we’re staying — my favorite from last year, he complained the hot tub jets were “too hard.”

You’re probably wondering why we invite Carl, and honestly when we aren’t on these trips, he’s like a different guy and really cool. There’s just something about Carl when we travel that sucks. I want to un-invite him this year. The other guys are afraid of upsetting him. But why should we all suffer? What do you think?

Wanda says:

I think most of us have some version of Carl in our lives — that hard-to-please friend that seems to focus on the negatives and the shortcomings, even when life is awesome. It can be a really oppressive energy and it’s even worse when you’re traveling and staying with — and stuck on a chairlift with — that guy. So I get it: Carl is a lot.

Carl is also your friend, and uninviting him from what sounds like a pretty entrenched tradition without messing up the dynamics in your friend group isn’t just tricky, it’s probably impossible. In effect, doing so would probably lead to ending your friendship altogether. There’s no nice way to tell someone that their presence makes the experience lame for everyone.

It’s interesting that Carl’s irritating behavior is isolated to this once-a-year bro snow trip. Why is that? Maybe traveling stresses him out. Maybe spending money on vacations brings out his inner travel critic.

Either way, rather than kicking him to the curb, try a buddy-to-buddy conversation. Tell him you’re concerned this trip has been somehow lacking for him in previous years; ask what would make it better. This shows you care, and puts him on notice that his energy is a downer, and opens the door to have a constructive conversation that could hopefully lead to a better experience for everyone.

Wayne says:

Life, time off from jobs, and money are way too short for lame vacations. I don’t care if the trips are romantic getaways, once-a-year bros/girls weekends, multi-week family road trips, dream journeys, or just a nice three-day weekend change of pace. The only baggage required for your vacations should be used for transporting destination-appropriate apparel, assorted sundries and maybe a book, Bluetooth speaker and headlamp — never know when you’ll need one! All other baggage — from buzzkill buddies and third-wheels, complaining kids, family members and in-laws, picky pets, partners and friends of partners, should be left at home, far, far away from your good-vibes vacay buzz. That includes Nothing’s-Cool-Enough-For-Carl.

You guys have jobs, families, countless responsibilities and barely enough time or energy to keep it all together. Trips like these with your buddies are rare, big-time breaks from the exhausting routine of daily adult life. They are for fun and revitalization. They are for letting loose. And in this case, they are from shredding lots of pow, popping lots of brews, staying up way too late, laughing way too loud, and connecting with friends you never have enough time with minimal distractions. And we’re fortunate to even travel these days after all of the COVID-related travel mandates, restrictions and stress of the past year-plus.

So why add the Cranky Carl factor into that? You haven’t even hit the slopes and you can already hear his crabby voice echoing about something, anything, anyone that aren’t up to his standards. Sure, he may be a fun hang when he’s in his comfort zone in the 907. So that’s probably the best place to spend quality time with him: in Alaska, far away from your vacation destinations.

Just give him some tough, honest love: “Dude, you can’t come if you’re going to complain the whole time.” That should be all it takes for him to either have a positive moment of clarity or a negative knee-jerk reaction. Either way, with that simple convo you’ll have at least laid the ground rules and been honest with him, and paved the road for the vacation that you all want, need and deserve.