What You Need To Know For Successful Group Travel
Group travel is a juggling act of keeping everyone out of the hangry zone, being fair when choosing activities and staying within everyone’s budget. Although I have traveled plenty with my family growing up and have had my share of doing activities I had no interest in (8-mile loop, dad), traveling with friends requires much more patience and preparation in order to keep everyone’s sanity in check.
I’ve known for a long time now that whenever I’m too tired or too hungry, I tend to go very quiet and distant. This happened a lot on my previous Europe trips and during my last time in New York. Unfortunately, I’ve also discovered that if people push me when I’m too tired or too hungry with innocent questions like “Are you feeling this type of food? We can always go here instead?” I will likely say, “Sure, whatever.” If more of those same questions persist, I become snappy. Not the best attribute, but I now know to be more vocal about when I’m starting to feel tired or hungry because there is only a 30-minute window from hungry to hangry for me.
To save you the trouble of discovering some unsavoury personal attributes of your own, here is what you need to know before traveling in a group.
Discuss your individual budgets before planning anything
Money can make or break a trip. I won’t lie- I’m very jealous of my friends who can live at home year-round and whatever they earn at their part-time jobs goes toward future travel funds instead of rent, groceries, and paying the monthly minimum on an ever-growing student loan. I’m also very jealous of my friends who pay significantly less rent than I do because their University isn’t in the downtown core of one of Canada’s most expensive cities.
This sometimes means that my budget can be stretched a bit thin during group travel trips. I went to New York City twice during May on group trips. The first trip was with my boyfriend and his two friends, where we saved on accommodations in Brooklyn, packed brunches and ate breakfast at our AirBnB. The second trip two weeks later was for my friend’s sister’s graduation from Columbia Law, where we had free accommodations and did a round-trip road trip, but I needed a ball gown, an evening dress and a daytime dress. In both cases, everyone I went with had a pretty tight budget, so we agreed fairly easily on accommodations and most of the activities.
But that’s not always the case. It’s best to have that discussion with your friends before planning anything.
To read more about ball gown-clad photo shoot in Central Park and dinner at the Plaza, click here.
A photo posted by Deni Verklan (@thefulltimetourist) on
Plan a loose itinerary beforehand
Yay! We’re at the fun stage of group travel- planning what everyone wants to do! This part should be a fairly easy process. Start by asking everyone individually what they would like to do and see during the trip, and cross-reference it with everyone else. Usually, there is quite a lot of overlap. These activities should be the bulk of your day. Everything else is up for discussion and for compromise. Make sure that you and your friends can do and see everything on their list before you leave, which might even mean planning a little “me time” where everyone can branch off and do their own thing before meeting up for dinner.
While it’s important to have an itinerary beforehand, it should never be set in stone as one of the best parts about traveling is impromptu decisions and making new friends. Plan a loose itinerary beforehand…
… And a back-up
A back-up itinerary is an aspect of travel I became intimately acquainted with during my first May trip to NYC this year because it rained almost every day I was there. But when you’ve spent money on flights and accommodations to explore a new city, you have to make the most of your trip despite the gloomy weather. So instead of having to do what I did- being stuck planning activities the day before or the morning of- try to have some alternate activities planned so that your plans aren’t so reliant on the weather. It’s also a good idea to have some back-up plans according to what your mood might be that day. If you’re really jetlagged, maybe a 6-hour hike isn’t an enjoyable activity, so see a local theatre show, try a new restaurant, or visit a museum.
For ideas on what to do on a rainy day in New York City, click here.
If there’s one thing you never do in my friend Sarah’s household, is mess with her mother’s photos. So when I was invited to her sister Amanda’s graduation from Columbia Law School, I knew I had to semi-formal myself into a rigorously pre-approved dress. I popped into a flowery dress that I had worn for a wedding last summer and I sent Sarah a photo to see what she thought of it for Amanda’s convocation. “Is this for the daytime, the evening, or the fancy event?” she asked. “Any of the above?” “I think this is great for the daytime event. Here’s what I’m wearing for the evening and fancy events,” Sarah said as she sent me two photos. The first was a black-fading-to-silver sequined three-quarter-length dress that came just above the knees. The second was a Full-On Ball Gown. (And yes it’s so proper that autocorrect said it’s a Proper Noun.) This trip to New York got a whole lot different from the last one…
A photo posted by Deni Verklan (@thefulltimetourist) on
‘What are you wearing?’
When it comes to packing, you should definitely check in with your friends to see what they’re bringing. You might just bring shorts and t-shirts, while your friend brought a cute dress for a night on the town. This is also true for shoes, as you might just bring your Keds, whereas your friend brought heels or hiking boots. Although what you might be wearing is dependent on certain activities you plan on doing, it’s always good to check in with your friend to see if there are any extra activities they want to do that you haven’t discussed together yet.
A good example of this was my recent trip to New York City where I found out that I needed a full-on ballgown for my friend’s sister’s graduation from Columbia Law. I should have known- because I’ve known their family for 15 years- but it’s always good to ask.
Communication is key
Although traveling in a group means that you will have to accommodate other people’s suggestions and needs, you also need to voice your own suggestions and needs to have a fun trip. For me, finding gluten- and dairy-free vegetarian foods can be a nightmare while traveling. Luckily, my main travel buddy (my boyfriend) is vegan and eats gluten-free with me, which makes finding food options easy for us. But it can be difficult finding food to eat (other than a salad) when traveling with friends that don’t have dietary restrictions. This is something I need to improve on, as the first three days of my last New York trip I subsisted on a large bag of gluten-free pretzel & vegan chocolate trail mix, a little container of roasted chick peas and a single salad on two of those days. Not good.
Communication is important for other physical needs as well- like needing a nap, needing a coffee, needing some Advil or some bandaids, or being able to sit down to take off uncomfortable shoes. But it’s also important for your mental well-being, which brings me to…
Don’t be afraid of some ‘me time’
I’m one of those people who fluctuates between introvert and extrovert. I definitely pick up on people’s energies very easily, which probably explains why some of my best friends are so crazy and fun. But I also find that being by myself gives me lots of energy as well. That being said, it’s always important to find some time to yourself during any group travel. After an early morning road trip (3:30 a.m. start) and go-go-go days of photoshoots and my friend’s family events during the same New York trip, I needed a break from all the chaos.
So, I woke up and treated myself to a yummy breakfast at an Aussie cafe. From there, I walked the Chelsea Highline and called my boyfriend on FaceTime from one of the bridges because it was our year and a half anniversary. After my call, I headed over to my dream publishers, Penguin Random House, who are based out of the Flatiron Building. After spending some time in the park across the street, I met up with my friends again for a boat cruise around Manhattan, with a stop at the Statue of Liberty.
We had about two hours between the end of the boat tour and when we were supposed to all go to dinner, so I went to Top of the Rock for one of the most breathtaking views of the city. My friend’s grandma gave me a free ticket that came in her City Pass that her and her husband weren’t going to use, and it was an incredible experience. Although I did miss my boyfriend most of that day, it was definitely good for me to get away from the huge group of 30 people I came with.
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Do you have any tips for group travel? What have been some problems you’ve had during group travel, and how have you overcome them?
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