Travelling is one of my favourite things. Each year I book about three trips with friends. Sometimes there’s just three or four of us, but we occasionally go en masse with as many as 10 people.
From increasing the fun factor to offering safety in numbers, group travel — whether customized, small group excursions or escorted tours — is cool again. In fact, one in three hotel bookings in North America are for group reservations. Everyone from baby boomers to solo travellers are doing it, and millennials especially like to travel in groups.
But while there’s not much better than immersing yourself in a destination with like-minded people, a week or longer spent in close proximity with family or friends can sometimes lead to vacation drama. Whether you’re attending a destination wedding, a multi-generational family reunion or exploring the Galapagos with your besties, here are some tips to ensure everyone has a great time.
Go with the flow
It’s critical to be flexible and adapt to any situation, even if it’s not exactly ideal. This may sound obvious, but people aren’t always as laid back as they think they are. Plans change for any number of reasons — weather, mood, circumstance — and inevitably, larger groups mean more personality types, opinions and interests, as well as a higher probability that things don’t always go as planned. Everyone needs to be prepared to make some concessions for harmony in the group, and to keep the good times rolling.
Honour your bucket list
Most of us have at least one thing that we don’t want to miss out on seeing or doing, but not everyone has the same goal. Whether that’s a hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti, or rebuilding your wardrobe at the outlet malls of Milan, if your heart is set on something in particular, plan ahead and arrange to make it happen. Chances are someone will join you, but it’s okay if you strike out on your own for a bit; there’s no need to be together 24/7. Just make sure you communicate your plans so everyone knows where you’re going, and when you’ll be back. You’ll be happy you achieved what you wanted and bring good vibes back to your group.
Establish a budget
Unless you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, there are likely some additional things to consider and plan for that should be communicated up front. For example, people may have different expectations about how much money to spend on anything from food to extra excursions. Especially in a group setting, there’s likely to be a variety of income levels.
When planning meals, think about how you’ll handle grocery purchases, or restaurant visits. Some people set up a liquor fund while others prefer to buy their own. When choosing restaurants, research menu prices to avoid surprises. Talk about expenses before going away, and establish a budget that works for everyone, so nobody feels uncomfortable about how much they’re spending.
Look for discounts
Often, one of the benefits of travelling in larger groups is the opportunity to score discounts. Before booking a show or any attraction, ask whether group rates are available. This applies to travel insurance as well: group rates may be available when 10 or more people are travelling together. Coverage can be tailored to each individual and requesting a quote can easily be done online.
Having travelled with my niece and nephew for hockey tournaments, making sure we’re all sufficiently covered in the event of an emergency is critical. And if you take frequent family trips or go cross-border shopping on a regular basis, annual plans are also convenient way to save money and ensure you’re covered every time.
Match activity levels
Some people prefer to relax on the beach or hang by the pool and read, while others like to be more active. Usually, people like to do a bit of both, so align yourself with whoever’s activity level matches yours. Break up as necessary and regroup at dinner. The best trips happen when people can come and go, without judgement or attitude, to enjoy different activities, but always come together at some point during the day for lunch, dinner or drinks.
The dynamics of a travelling group shift and change, much as they do at home. Sub-groups form and new or deeper friendships are created. New experiences forge new memories and even unexpected bonds. And in the end, everyone is enriched by the shared adventures.