I have had my share of group travel adventures over my 20+ years of living. Whether I was traveling with family, friends, and even people I did not know, I found a common set of issues that would arise. Let’s be real, traveling as a group can be extremely fun. You’re in a new location, or possibly a familiar one, and you want to enjoy your time away because you took time off from work to escape reality.
On the other side, traveling as a group can turn into a nightmare before the trip even starts and especially during. You are dealing with different personalities, negative attitudes, and everyone wants to do something different.
Listen. I’ve been through it and I don’t know about you, but I’m not dealing with it anymore. To help you, and me, I created a list of guidelines that I believe will make any group travel trip peaceful and highly enjoyable.
If this doesn’t help you, then you need new friends or need to travel solo. I said what I said.
1. Have a Set Itinerary
This tip right here will solve so many issues right off the bat. If you’re in charge of planning the trip, send out the itinerary to everyone during the planning stages and before the money is collected. This way, everyone knows exactly what the trip entails and there are no surprises.
If you want to get input from people to create the itinerary, then do so before sending out the official plans. Ask your group for their top “Must See” in order to create the itinerary. Or, if you want more control, send out a set list of defined plans that people can select from.
I believe in being extremely organized and highly detailed. When you create the itinerary, it needs to be very clear. Depending on your trip, make sure you include the following: Flight times, dates of the trip, the daily schedule with the times in which each event is happening (i.e. planned tours) when breakfast, lunch, and dinner is scheduled.
Once the list has been finalized, send it out. At that point, little to no changes should be made. Everyone has agreed upon the set schedule ahead of the planned trip date. Knowing up front the planned activities and the places that will be visited will also help people to plan how much extra money they should bring.
2. Leave Space for Individual Free Time
This goes hand in hand with Tip #1. In the planning phase of the group trip, make sure you leave open space for everyone to have their own free time to do as they please. Depending on the length of the trip, this could be in the form of a free day where meals and all plans are left up to you. Or, set aside time each day for a few hours.
You may have couples that want to go out to dinner on their own. Or, in your group, you may be traveling with kids and they may need time to play or go to the pool.
Plus, even though you came as a group, everyone needs their space from others. Even family can and will get on your last nerve. To avoid the meltdown, have some time to back away and regroup.
3. Agree on Excursions BEFORE the Trip
Group excursions will absolutely give you a headache. One person wants to go jet skiing, while the other wants to take a city tour. Maybe someone doesn’t want to do anything at all. If the excursion must be done as a group, then you will have to take a vote. Again, do this BEFORE you are at the destination. Don’t wait until the day of and then spend the rest of the day arguing because one person doesn’t want to do what the other person does.
Take a vote, and the majority vote wins. That’s it. If others want to do something else and that’s an option, then let them do it. But just let them know, that the excursion that won is the excursion on the itinerary and it’s their responsibility to find something else if they so choose.
4. Don’t Take it Personal. Let. It. Go.
Yes my friend. Be like Elsa and LET IT GO!
This more so goes for when you are on the trip. Enjoy yourself! If someone else is miserable and not having a good time, let them be and don’t bother with with them. It’s nothing worse than flying half way across the world and someone is upset because there’s no McDonald’s.
Don’t take another person’s misery personal on your vacation. You took time off to have a good time and by golly, you should!
5. Have Only One or Two Trusted Trip Leaders
Every trip needs a designated point of contact. Especially when it’s a large group. This leader is responsible for the following:
- Communicating with entire group updates/changes
- Ensuring all hotel accommodations are set
- Making sure everyone in the group has all information needed
- Collecting the money
- If booking a group flight, making sure everyone knows the travel documents they are required to bring
- Confirming reservations
- Answering questions
I want to emphasize, this needs to be a trusted person. Don’t let just anybody start collecting the money! Plus, this person needs to be pretty organized. They need to be willing and available to answer questions before the trip and during. By no means does this person need to be a professional travel planner, but only one or two people should carry the responsibility of making sure the whole group has what they need.
The last reason you need a designated leader is who else do you blame when the reservations get messed up?
6. Book Using a Tour Company
This is always a great choice for group travel adventures. Go with a trusted and reliable tour company. I know many people like to plan it themselves and think they can get off much cheaper and that may be true. However, using a tour company alleviates a lot of stress and there’s no confusion as to what the trip entails.
Depending on the tour company, some may even allow each individual to pay their portion of the package. This at least provides more trust and it’s not all on one person to turn over a large sum of money.
Also, a tour company will already have a set Itinerary based on your needs and travel destination location. Let someone else with more experience worry about the hotel, transportation, food, and tours. All you have to do is get your plane ticket, and show up!
7. Be Open Minded
If you are traveling as a group, then you should already understand that you will be together as a group for the duration of the trip. It’s not all about you. Be willing to try new things, eat new foods, and go to places you may not have normally gone. Travel is all about the adventure you take. Group travel is the adventure you take with others.
Remember, no one knows you in the location you’re going to. You can be anybody. A lot of the amazing experiences I have had have been through group travel. People will introduce you to things you haven’t tried. Be open and be willing.
Loosen up your tie, let your hair down, and be open minded.
8. Try to Book Flights Together
You may or may not be able to do this. However, if you are coming from the same city, book a group flight or get everyone on the same flight. Many times, you will get a discounted rate if you book a 10+ flight trip.
If the group is not coming from the same city, then at least try to arrive around the same time. This way, vacation can get started right away especially if the vacation is with a tour guide.
Take into consideration that if you are traveling abroad, understand that not everyone has experience with traveling alone to another country. I know my first time traveling to Egypt, I had no idea where to even start with booking a flight to another city, let alone another country! If you travel together, everyone goes together and you can lean on someone when you don’t know what to do and where to go.
9. Collect a NON-REFUNDABLE Deposit and Set Solid Payment Deadlines
I’m pretty sure everyone has seen the above meme. I’m also pretty sure that everyone can relate to it. Don’t be like the meme. Avoid the meme at all cost. Want to know how to avoid this meme situation?…
Wait for it…
Get some money upfront and make it non-refundable!
Let’s quickly jump back to tip #1, when you send the finalized itinerary out, include the dates that individual payments need to be made and finalized. Matter of fact, make sure you make the dates early because you already know, someone is going to be late at least once or twice. You’ll thank me later.
Look, group trips require advanced bookings in order to accommodate all of those planning to come. I am not going to book a guided tour with transportation for 16 people, put a deposit down with the intentions of 16 people coming, and then only have 7 people show up. You may or may not have the ability to update your bookings depending on the company.
I would suggest the deposit should be at least $300-$500, depending on the price of the total trip. This will let you know who’s serious and not going to waste your time. By collecting a non-refundable deposit in the event that someone decides to back out, at least you have money to put towards the group. Most people have better judgment about their decision to attend the trip when a significant amount of money is given upfront.
10. Create an Agreed Upon Contract and Have Everyone Sign it.
If you learned nothing else from my list, then this is the most important one of them all.
If you have watched Judge Judy over the years, the person that most likely wins the court case is the one that has physical proof on paper. You can’t argue with a written document or a contract. Get it in writing.
Now, this does not have to be fancy and you don’t have to consult an attorney, unless you want to. I’m not qualified to give legal advice and you may think this is doing the most. But, I watch Judge Judy so I’m pretty legit. Travel is not a cheap hobby and to have people cancel on you and leave you to foot the bill is not right. Everyone needs to be held accountable for their portion of the trip.
Get it in Writing!
Type up a one page document and have everyone review it. If they agree to the terms, have them sign it, keep a record of it, and then proceed with collecting the deposit. This not only protects the group organizer, but it protects others in the group as well. If a group member and I pay for a room that is based on double occupancy and the group member backs out, now I’m responsible for the other portion. It’s not fair.
Set the rules and all stipulations. I recall when I traveled with a group, we were told that if 2 people dropped out of the package (since this was booked through a tour company) we would be responsible for paying the full portion of the person not going. I don’t know about you, but that’s no bueno for me.
Get it in writing so if you end up on Judge Judy, you won’t be embarrassed. You’re welcome!
What other tips do you think are important in group travel? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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