How to Do Group Travel. Right.
Group travel—whether with family, friends, or a mix of both—can be a wonderful experience. It provides an opportunity to bond, to spawn inside jokes and memories to reminisce over, and to try activities you might not otherwise have pursued. On the other hand, it can also devolve into quarrels, haggling, and deep-felt hurts.
How do you pursue that former scenario and avoid the latter?
Start with clear communication, flexibility, and patience.
When you decide you’d like to travel with a group, the first two topics that require clear communication and honesty are the budget and who will plan what. If members of the group aren’t honest about their personal budget limits and what they want to do and see, it will lead to tension, indecisiveness, poor planning, missed opportunities, and ultimately resentment.
For the overall travel budget, decide how much everyone is comfortable spending. It should be roughly the same amount. Extras and add ons—flight upgrades, alcohol at meals, optional excursions, etc.—can be paid out individually by group members when the time comes. Once the overall per-person price is determined, estimate how much everyone is comfortable allocating to the major budget categories of transportation, accommodation, activities, and food. You’ll probably find that some people are willing to pay more for luxurious accommodations, while others would rather spend the money on culinary experiences. It’s important to know this before you begin planning so you can accommodate tastes from the get-go.
Many leading travel blogs and websites suggest depositing everyone’s contributions into a single account for easy access when making bookings. This also avoids a tangle of IOUs spread across multiple members’ credit cards and checking accounts. Money for emergencies, optional excursions, food, and souvenirs should be kept separately by each member.
Now comes the most exciting—and also possibly most stressful—step in group travel: building the itinerary. Depending on the group’s size and the personalities of its members, there can be one planning leader, or the responsibilities can be spread across multiple people. Just like splitting the budget into categories, dividing planning responsibilities by category between people is often a smart move.
If the person who cares the most about sampling local cuisine researches dining options and the person with the most hospitality industry knowledge finds hotel choices, then no one person will feel the stress of “doing it all,” you’ll hear about options you might not have otherwise discovered, and more people will feel like their voices are being heard. Of course, final decisions should be made only after a consensus from the group. When making any type of booking, be sure to ask if you qualify for a group rate.
Keeping the virtue of flexibility in mind, be sure to have open time during the trip when individuals or smaller groups can have the choice to pursue optional excursions, lounge by the pool, read a book, or go shopping. It’s also a smart idea to have back-up options if the weather isn’t ideal for the planned itinerary.
Just like with solo or two-person travel, be cautious of an over ambitious itinerary. Allow ample time for sleep, transit times and traffic delays, and leisurely meals. Booking every second of your trip is bound to stress out someone in your group. You may find that some of the most fun things on your trip happen by chance!
As for accommodations for group travel, consider booking an entire house, cabin, or villa on a site like AirBnB or VRBO. This gives you the option of cooking some meals at home and offers more community space than separate hotel rooms and a public hotel lobby. It also offers a great place for those who might want to stay behind during optional outings.
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy this unique time with those you love enough to travel with!