Traveling alone is cool in its own way, but so is group travel! However, traveling with friends can be difficult and can even lead to rifts in those friendships that could otherwise be avoided. Don’t fall victim – here are 8 tips for how to travel with a group, and still stay friends!
1. Set expectations up front before booking your travel
Maybe you’re like me and you’re a neurotic planner who gets anxious when she doesn’t have control over any situation affecting her. Maybe you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to have a plan. Whatever the case is – discuss your travel style with those you are considering traveling with before you book anything. With group travel, or any kind of travel really, it’s important to be honest about your quirks, and be realistic about what you want to do. You don’t want to come back feeling like you wasted your time and money, or anyone else’s.
2. Spontaneity doesn’t work as well for group travel
If the group wants to stay together, spontaneity really doesn’t work well for the most part. For my most recent trip, I had everything planned out in terms of what town we would be in each day, as well as what types of activities you could enjoy in those areas – and we did book some ahead of time because I like to research the companies I choose for things like kayaking and canyoneering ahead of time, as well as negotiate discounts when possible – but, some days were left open for people to find something to do.
If you have a short time to travel (we had 2 weeks in New Zealand), being spontaneous will leave you with a lot of “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” moments and wasted time trying to determine what everyone wants to do. On our trip, we all had a good idea of what there was to do, and with driving 2-4 hours every day, that left very little time to explore each town. Having a plan of at least what everyone wants to do make it so that everyone can do everything they want!
3. Don’t go to bed without discussing the plan for the following day with the group
If you’re short on time, don’t leave the itinerary open-ended for the next day. Have a discussion each night to understand who wants to do what the next day, and what time you need to get going in order to get to everything. Do you have time for a sit-down breakfast, or would it be easier to grab something and go? When does everyone need to be on the road? Is there anything anyone wants to do on the way, and what does everyone think about once you arrive in your destination? Plans can change – plans likely will change – but at least everyone will start out on the same page.
4. Don’t be afraid to split up
It’s okay if you and your group want to do different things! I always say – I like to have control over my situation, but I hate having to control other people’s’ situations. I want everyone to enjoy their trip the way they want – I just also want to enjoy my trip the way I want. So, split up! Make a plan to maybe meet for dinner, or breakfast, or coffee – whatever it is. Sure, you’re traveling together so you want to enjoy your time with the group, but people have different interests. I like adventure, some people like architecture and museums. And that’s fine. We can all get what we want out of the trip, and still spend time together.
5. Try not to inconvenience others if you can avoid it
Group travel is very much about being considerate. I went on a trip once with someone who was so completely self-involved that I don’t think she had any awareness of how selfish she was, regularly. If you want to do something that nobody else wants to do, but you also want to do what the group has planned for the following day – get up earlier and do the thing you want! Don’t get up late and make the rest of the group wait for you. Don’t inconvenience other people to watch your stuff while you explore, or do something for you that you’re quite capable of doing on your own. Recognize that this is everyone’s trip, not just your own, and you are welcome to enjoy it how you want, but please be considerate and thoughtful of your travel companions.
Sure, things may come up that you need to inconvenience someone – hey, I really need to run to the restroom, would you mind watching my bag? But that’s very different from – hey, I really want to check out these shops while we’re waiting for xyz, would you mind watching my bag? What if I want to check out the shops as well, but can’t because we have all our bags? Instead try – hey, I want to run into this one shop real quick. Would you mind watching my bag, and then we can switch so you can go look too if you’d like? Just be thoughtful.
6. Take time for yourself
Traveling with people is hard. Traveling with one person can be difficult, but group travel…it can be overwhelming (especially for us introverts). So, plan time for yourself. When I went to Italy, we went to visit my family’s hometown of Sciacca, Sicily and I was so excited. I wanted to make sure that I was able to enjoy this experience the way that I wanted to, so our group separated to do their own thing – some went running, some napped – I walked around and enjoyed the town all by myself, and it was glorious. Sometimes being alone can be an incredibly positive experience. You don’t have to worry about what other people want to see or do, or wait for them, or miss out on the things you want to do because there isn’t enough time. You can just do whatever you want! It was seriously one of the best days I’ve ever had traveling. And in taking time for yourself, you’ll feel re-energized and less stressed when you join back with your group – in our case, to enjoy a delicious 4 course dinner with a few glasses…okay, bottles…of wine.
7. Accept that you’re going to snap at each other occasionally
Again, traveling with a group is hard. Not only are you around other people pretty much 24/7, often cramped in a small hotel room with no privacy, but then add in the stressors of traveling – long plane or train rides, missed connections, noisy neighbors, etc. These can make even the best of friends flip out on each other. And that’s okay. In order to successfully travel with others, accept that this will inevitably happen. And your immediate reaction may be to yell at them, leave, and never talk to them again.
Don’t do that. Just take a little space, maybe get some food…maybe a cocktail…and let the situation die down a bit. If it’s happening consistently, maybe have a chat to understand what’s going on, but if it’s only once or twice…maybe just chalk it up to travel stress or a hangry situation, and let it go.
8. Have a food plan ahead of time
Food can be a very sensitive topic for people, especially when they’re hungry. One of my biggest pet peeves in the world is when a group is trying to decide where to eat and nobody has an opinion. I get it – some people are just that easy going. But then for people like me – I don’t want to impose my decisions on you, I want you to have an opinion! So, before the trip – maybe have a chat for what you plan to do for food.
In Iceland, we ate a lot of sandwiches. They were cheap, accessible, and delicious.
For New Zealand, because there were 11 of us, I printed up some menus beforehand of places in each city we’d be staying so that we didn’t have to waste time while we were there getting on yelp. Here’s 3 menus, everyone pick one. Majority rules.
Maybe you’ll have access to a kitchen and you’d prefer to cook meals rather than eating out – make sure you’re all on the same page, and understand any diet restrictions. Or maybe you want to do cheap breakfast and lunch, and then splurge on dinner every night.
Whatever it is – you don’t have to have everything completely mapped out, just maybe have a conversation about what your preference is in general for what you’d like to eat along the way. It will just make things move along more smoothly on the trip so that you have more time to enjoy each city rather than sit around trying to figure out what to eat – which is even more difficult when you’re hungry and just want food to magically appear!
It’s simple, really. Communication is key for traveling with others, as is setting expectations. As long as everyone can be on the same page with what they expect out of their vacation or holiday, everyone can have an awesome trip! Happy group travel!