While travel can be an excellent way to form connections and form lifelong friendships, it can also often be draining on relationships—especially when you’re stuck with the wrong traveling buddies. A 2022 survey sponsored by Exodus Travels found that 69 percent of travelers say the right companion can make or break a trip. Because of this, many people like me limit it to a few people, like partners or siblings. Others hate group travel so much that they just fly solo. In a 2021 survey of more than 2,300 independent travelers, an average of 56 percent said they travel alone because they want to do something you want, when they want, without anyone holding them back.
This raises an interesting question: Can travel as a group Not suck? At some point in the future I’ll have to put on my big girl pants and go to bachelorette weekend or a friend’s milestone birthday in Miami or Vegas. When the time comes, how do we avoid arguing about which restaurants to go to or who will foot the bill at the end of our meal?
Kat Jamieson, blogger and founder of travel app With Love From Kat, says it’s all about planning and setting expectations. “The best thing everyone can do on a group tour is to agree on finances before you leave,” she says. Meals, tickets, toilet paper for the house – everything needs to be accounted for in advance and documented thoroughly during the trip so there is no confusion when it comes time to pay out. “It’s better to be too detailed before everyone leaves so there are no surprises.”
But I know from experience it’s not the easy. Despite a running tab on Splitwise, the group holiday is an unpredictable beast. Here are the top tips to avoid trouble in paradise and how to deal with it when it does occur.
Expert tips for planning a *good* group holiday
1. Choose your travel companions wisely
Your adventure buddy (or buddies) is unanimously the most important piece of the puzzle on a group vacation, according to all the experts surveyed for that piece of the puzzle. “It depends so much on who you’re traveling with and what they want out of the trip,” says Mike Parker, general manager of trips at Atlas Obscura. “I have dear friends who I think would drive me insane if we had to spend a week on the road together, and some of the best travel companions I’ve ever had are people I barely knew before launch .”
The solution, Parker says, is to select people who have similar travel interests as you. If you’re someone who likes to hop around from hostel to hostel, don’t invite the person who prefers luxurious 5-star resorts. If you’re the type of person who likes to splurge on fancy drinks and Michelin-star restaurants, find a travel companion who can afford to do those things with you. “Know what you want from a trip and find fellow travelers who share your interests,” he says.
2. Set a budget
Alex Simon, CEO and co-founder of budget-based travel app Elude, says finance is one of the biggest sources of conflict when vacationing. “Different incomes, spending preferences, and vacation styles in groups can create conflicts when it comes to spending money on accommodation, excursions, and even meals,” he says. “Finances will always be the elephant in the room, but in order to run a group holiday it’s important to have a clear understanding of everyone’s budgets and limits, and to set your own.”
Once you’ve assessed everyone’s budgets, it’s even more important to stick to them. “A good rule of thumb is that the person with the lowest budget in the group is comfortable with the travel plans,” he says. Written down.
3. Build in free time (or set the expectation of a casual itinerary)
Fun fact folks: you don’t to have to do everything together, even if you all showed up in the same place. Ravi Roth, LGBTQI+ travel expert and host of Ravi around the world on Youtube, suggests everyone familiarize themselves with a loose itinerary. “Be open to splitting up the group,” says Roth. “People travel for different reasons. One person in your group may thrive on Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, while someone else might just want to read by the pool. People clash when people don’t communicate. I suggest having a conversation before a possible trip and telling each person what they want to do.”
Don’t be offended that your friends want to read by the pool – just let them read by the pool. And plan for this ahead Time, with things like multiple rental vehicles or access to public transport to help you split up successfully and safely.
4. Communicate, then communicate some more
Again, things are less likely to go wrong if everyone knows what the expectations are beforehand. Speak with your group members prior to departure to discuss itinerary planning, dinner reservations, expense payment, and other logistics. “If all the cards are on the table before the trip, chances are you’ll all be on the same page,” says Roth.
That said, don’t be a bulldozer either. There’s a fine line between the logistics point of departure and the abrupt override of what everyone else in the group wants to do. It’s a group tour, after all, so listen to the opinions of your travel companions. “As long as everyone is involved in decision-making, they feel more involved and there is less conflict,” says Jamieson. “Open communication and dialogue are key!”
5. Be adaptable
When was the last time you had an absolutely perfect, completely stress-free vacation where nothing went wrong? The answer is never, right? Because things happen. Flights are cancelled, credit cards are frozen, bad weather hits and plans change. don’t be the drama Just roll with the punches.
“Often on a journey, things come together and someone might want to turn in a different direction,” says Roth. “Be willing to adapt to the itinerary and not get stuck in your own way.” And when major itinerary changes crop up (which can happen), go with the flow. And travel with people who can too.
“The best way to travel is with your friends or family who are willing to compromise,” says Simon. “You’ll never find a group of people who want to do exactly the same thing. Therefore, you should look for the best qualities [are] someone who is flexible and happy and happy to accommodate everyone’s preferences and make the experience enjoyable for all.”
6. Leave the planning to someone else
If you really can’t decide on a tour companion but want to meet people interested in the same cultural experiences as you, join an organized tour. “Just knowing that you’re around people who have a similar approach and are up for a bit of adventure makes a huge difference,” says Parker. “When someone else sets everything up, there’s less to negotiate with your fellow travelers and less to find out on the fly.”
A quick Google search will turn up hundreds of organized travel tours you can join based on a variety of different demographics and travel preferences. Some tours, like Eldertreks (50+) and Contiki (18-35), plan tours by age. Groups like WiFi Tribe and Remote Year are home to professionals who can work remotely. Companies like Atlas Obscura, Wild Women Expeditions, and Intrepid Travels plan their tours by theme.
“It can be helpful to focus on one topic,” says Parker. “[For example] We offer some incredible food journeys that really delve deep into the culinary scenes of places like Lisbon and Oaxaca. Not everyone wants to eat adventurously and hang out with people from the local food scene for a week. If you go on a trip like this, you can be pretty sure that your fellow travelers will want the same type of experience as you.”
And when conflicts arise…
- Rely on your resources: Can’t decide between snorkeling and a sunset cruise? Sushi restaurant or steakhouse? Ask a local, your host or your hotel to comment. “If you stay at a hotel with a concierge, they can give you tons of vetted suggestions for the area, as well as local gems and hotspots,” says Simon as an example. “These tend to always be a hit as people are eager to learn more about the culture of the places they visit.”
- Strike: All experts agree that the best thing to do if your group starts to get restless is to take a break from each other. “Sometimes traveling brings out a different side of someone,” says Roth. “Stress levels can be high. The comfort level can be exhausted. Go for a walk, relax by the pool, meditate for 15 minutes – give yourself some time to cool down and think before you react.
- Say it out loud: Parker says that when there’s a disagreement, a five-hour confined space car ride or the plane ride back to your hometown is probably not the place to show sympathy. Neither does the group chat (it can get complicated quickly). “At the end of the day, when you’re hanging out in a nice hotel and nothing else is on the agenda, it can take a lot of the pressure off a tense conversation,” he says. “Say it in a low-pressure environment.”
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