If you’ve watched reality TV, you’ve probably seen how interesting traveling with a group can be. Friends and family touch down in beautiful locales, secure rooms in huge houses, and then take over the town with their fun-seeking posses. But there’s another side to it, too. Complaints about travel plans, catfights, and sometimes even emergency flights home. We all know that there’s a lot to be gained from traveling with a group — safety, fun, bonding — we just need the tools to do it right. To make sure you’re up for the challenge, the Black Love team has compiled a list of dos and don’ts for traveling with a group. Read on to get the most out of your next group travel adventure.
Last minute planning can be catastrophic to group travel plans. Everyone has their own situation, budget, and schedule, so the sooner you plan, the better. It may be the difference between someone joining and skipping out. Plus, you’ll broaden your options for how far and how long you can travel. If you can, begin planning a year in advance. That way everyone can save up, take the time off, and get someone to watch their kids.
Once you’ve decided to plan a group trip, it’s time to ask everyone the important questions. Where do you want to go? When can you go? What’s your budget? Then, based on this information, start to get a sense of what’s feasible. Does your desired destination have travel advisories? When is the weather ideal? Will you need to get passports, visas, or shots? The answers to these questions will help you finalize when and where you travel. Travel.state.gov is a great resource for international travel information.
Weigh booking options
There are more than a few ways to book flights and accommodations. Which one you pick usually depends on how much effort you want to put in and how much you want to save. If your group would rather share an Airbnb, you may have to book flights separately. If you prefer the luxuries of a hotel, look for package deals on websites like Expedia and Booking.com. And if you want to be more hands-off, consider a Groupon or a travel agent. Just make sure to keep track of it all on a Google Doc or travel app like TripIt
Create a loose itinerary
Instagram, Pinterest, and Trip Advisor are just a few of the places where you can research and select activities for your trip. The key is to not overdo it. The reality of travel is that you can’t do it all. That reality becomes even truer when you have a group of people all looking to do the things they want to do. Instead of filling each day, schedule a few activities everyone can get involved in and leave large gaps for the spontaneous or unexpected.
Ask others about their experience traveling to your destination
Too often we forget to consult our biggest travel resources: our friends and family. Don’t forget the ones who have been there before you. More than likely, they’ll welcome the opportunity to share the highlights of their own experiences. You’ll get trustworthy insight on accommodations, restaurants, and activities, plus a few things you didn’t realize you needed, like advice on packing or a friend to guide you around the city.
Forget the essentials
In all the excitement of taking some time away, it’s easy to forget everything you need to get there. Your ID, passport, visas, shots. Or maybe you have everything you need to reach your destination but not the things you need to enjoy your trip. Basics like sunscreen, bug spray, medicine, covering for religious sites. Some bumps in the road are unavoidable, but with group travel, it’s even more important that you stay on top of it all. The last thing you want to do is to make someone else miss out on the fun because you had to stay behind. Make a list and check it twice.
Miss your flight
This may sound like a no-brainer, but missing a flight is no fun, especially when you’re traveling with a group. When there are people waiting for you, the stress of missing a flight skyrockets. Does your flight plan impact someone else’s schedule? Are you going to miss some scheduled activities? Are you going to be cranky when you finally arrive? Skip the potential drama and spending a little extra time at the airport. Two hours, or three if you’re flying international, is standard.
Be afraid to split the group up
One of the great things about traveling in groups is the company. Virtually anywhere you want to go, you’ll find someone willing to join you. But that doesn’t mean it has to be everyone. Sometimes you’ll want to go on a hike while your travel mates will be committed to sleeping in. Don’t force it. Invite everyone, and then roll with whoever’s interested. You’ll find fun in unexpected places with unexpected people.
Disrespect your budget (or anyone else’s)
If you don’t have the funds to go big, don’t pretend you do. This goes for the destination and the activities once you get there. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement, but think twice before you start swiping your credit card. Your group may be able to hit the Maldives and buy the bar, but, most likely, they’re not going to pay your bills when you get home. Be comfortable saying no. On the flip side, don’t get upset when others do go hard. One day, you can too.
Act like you’re on a solo trip
You’re not obligated to spend your entire trip with your group, but being alone kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Independent travelers may want to book a trip with a group and then wander off doing their own thing, but that misses the point. Group travel is safer, strengthens relationships, and is a unique opportunity that may not present itself often. If you’re lucky enough to successfully plan and join a group trip, make shared memories instead of solo ones.
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