Traveling in a group certainly has its challenges — but with careful planning and communication, it can be the best vacation you take.
One of my most memorable trips was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants visit to Morocco one April with a group of friends. Our group consisted of me, two of my good friends who had never met and a German graduate student we met at a hostel the week before. We had a loose plan to meet in Tangier on a certain date, with intentions of visiting Fez and Marrakesh and trekking the Atlas Mountains.
As you can probably imagine, the trip involved dealing with some unexpected events. There were missed connections, a lost passport and a terrible stomach bug, to name a few. Even so, we had unforgettable experiences that we still laugh about years later — and, perhaps more importantly, we’re still friends.
The trip was a perfect example of how traveling with a group of friends can be both incredibly rewarding and fraught with challenges. Fortunately, it’s possible to avoid the latter with some careful planning and communication among your travel buddies. Here’s how to make the most of your next group trip:
Discuss travel styles beforehand.
Just because you and your friends or family members have similar interests back home doesn’t mean you like to travel the same way. In Morocco, everyone in our group was happy to make last-minute decisions and roll with unexpected events (such as when two of us arrived in Tangier on the entirely wrong day). Some people, though, want a solid itinerary in advance. There’s nothing wrong with that, but these travelers might have found our trip very uncomfortable or frustrating.
That said, having different travel styles doesn’t mean you can’t travel together — but it is important to respect those differing styles when you do. For example, while I like to eat street food and try local delicacies wherever I visit, I have friends who are leery of anything from a street stall. During one trip to southeast Asia, our group compromised by eating dinner at established restaurants and grabbing snacks and lunch from marketplaces, where we could find anything from the wildly exotic to the comfortably familiar. The end result? Everyone was happy and satisfied.
Talk about budget.
Pre-trip discussions should also include budget. After all, few things ruin a trip like feeling forced to spend beyond your means. Alternatively, if your idea of a relaxing vacation involves four-star hotels but everyone else in the group wants to stay in a hostel, you won’t fully enjoy your experience either.
On a recent trip to Hawaii for a wedding, most of our friends wanted to splurge on a secluded, luxury resort. My husband and I admitted it was out of our budget and ended up sharing a more wallet-friendly resort villa with another like-minded couple. We had fun with the group during the day, and everyone was able to spend within their comfort zones.
For a large group trip, often the most convenient and memorable accommodation is a vacation home, where families and friends can share time, cook meals and make vacation memories together.
Make a “don’t miss” list.
While you’re still in the planning phase, ask everyone in the group to make a list of must-do attractions and activities they’re interested in. Try to hit at least one thing on everyone’s list to ensure everyone has a say, and to prevent the more vocal personalities from dominating the trip. Who knows? Someone’s offbeat idea might end up being a big hit with the entire group.
While I was traveling with a group in Colombia, one of my friends insisted he was happy to let everyone else make the itinerary. But when pressed, he admitted he really wanted to check out some salsa bars — something that wasn’t on anyone else’s radar. Everyone else ultimately loved the idea; we ended up dancing not one, but two nights away at one of Cartagena’s historic clubs.
Wrangling a large group for activities can be a challenge, but one that’s made easier on a vacation tour with a dedicated leader.
Know that it’s okay to split up.
If the group’s itinerary doesn’t suit everyone, it’s perfectly acceptable to branch off and follow your own plan for the day. On the same Colombia trip, most of my group wanted to do a four-day jungle trek to see the ancient ruins of Ciudad Perdida — but one of my friends was recovering from an injury and chose to book an excursion to a remote island instead. It was a brave decision to be a solo traveler for the day; but after the fact, she said she was glad she did it. Not only did she make new friends, but she was also well-rested enough to join us later for a mountain biking excursion.
It can take a little extra planning and compromise to make a group trip successful, but it’s worth it. I’ve met so many new people, had wonderful experiences and ventured out of my comfort zone, all thanks to my travel buddies. I can’t wait for the next trip!
Use apps like Splittr or Splitwise to split costs without the headache, and share itineraries with Travefy. You can keep connected when you don’t have network service with chat apps like WhatsApp, WeChat or Facebook Messenger.
Vacation homes and tours are a great way to accommodate a larger group. Book yours through the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations® Exchange Program.