Anyone who has traveled anywhere will likely agree with this: travel can bring out the best — and worst — of everyone. Going on an extended trip with friends or other couples seems to exacerbate this universal truth. If you want to plan a trip with a group, then, avoiding these common missteps can help make this a trip to remember in all the best ways.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
We cannot stress this enough: a calm but awkward discussion is always better than a fiery argument. The best way to stave off disagreements is to have tough conversations before anything is set in stone. If you’re seriously considering a trip with some close friends or another couple that you think you mesh well with, you will need to discuss these aspects of the trip:
One person’s definition of a vacation can often be wildly disparate from another’s. Some people prefer to plop themselves down in a beautiful location so they can rest and relax; others feel that a vacation is a chance to explore and actively seek adventures. If those two people go on vacation together without talking beforehand, the results can be disastrous. So before you buy any plane tickets, make sure everyone is on the same page. Do you all share the same vacation energy level? Are you morning people or night owls? What about meals — are they an essential part of cultural exploration or merely fuel to keep going?
If you find differences between the likely travel-goers, try to see if they can be easily accommodated without anyone getting upset. For example, maybe half the group is fine with sleeping in while others embark on morning adventures, as long as everyone meets up for lunch.
This conversation can be awkward, but a disagreement on budgets can be a dealbreaker. In just about any group there is almost always someone who can afford to spend a bit more and someone else who needs to pinch pennies; the tricky part is finding a way so everyone can feel comfortable money-wise. Some things you will want to discuss include:
Sleeping accommodation expectations: Are you going to splurge on a fancy hotel, or is everyone cool with the hostel experience? What are the room options — who is going to sleep where, and are the accommodations all adequate/fair/equal for everyone in the group? (For example: it’s the worst to be the single person in a group who gets stuck with the crappiest room or the sofa bed because they’re only one person. Don’t just assume they’re ok with it; ask, and give them space to reply with an honest answer.)
Meals: If you’re planning on doing a lot of meals as a group, establish how the bill will get paid ahead of time. Maybe everyone is okay with splitting it evenly, and maybe it’s better if everyone just gets a separate check. There is also a great app called Splitwise, that takes all the guessing work out of calculating who-owes-who. [Note: even Splitwise can end up being unfair if one couple routinely spends more than others.]
Be Mindful of Vacation Personalities
Just as people’s ideas of a vacation can differ, so do their personalities. Some travelers are planners: they won’t leave the house without a detailed itinerary for every hour they’re abroad. Others are happy to be a bit more spontaneous. These two kinds of vacationers can make great travel companions as long as they are appreciative of their differences.
One major source of group-travel conflict is the fact that every group trip needs a group leader. Usually, these kinds of vacations don’t even happen without a leader taking charge, and hopefully it’s a task they enjoy. Nonetheless, one person will need to step up and do the dirty work such as organizing travel, researching accommodations, coming up with at least the beginnings of an itinerary, and establishing a network of communication. If you are the group leader, remember that these are often thankless tasks, and if you go on the trip expecting people to thank you profusely, you will be disappointed when they forget to do so. Conversely, if you aren’t the group leader: don’t complain about the plans if you didn’t provide input ahead of time. Try to be mindful of all the work the group leader has probably done; a thank-you can go a really long way.
Traveling requires making decisions constantly — where to go next, how to get there, what to eat — and traveling with friends means you need to reach consensus every time. That can get exhausting really quickly. Try to travel with an open mind, and be prepared to sometimes (but not always!) defer to someone else’s needs.
Know When Not to Flex
On the other hand, it is important that you speak up for your needs, too. One of the biggest pitfalls to group travel is the dreaded condition known as “being hangry.” Hangry is when you’re so hungry, you’re angry. If you are prone to hanger, make sure you speak up at the first stomach rumble about finding somewhere to eat, or at least pack snacks for yourself. A hangry travel companion can quickly sour everyone’s day.
Not Everything Needs to Be Done Together
By the time you’re on the trip you’ve hopefully discussed what people like to do on vacation – so be cognizant and plan around any differences. If the group needs to split up occasionally to seek their own goals, try to schedule daily check-ins to finalize next steps and make sure everyone is still feeling happy and included. Especially when you’re traveling abroad, (and in the case of a lack of cell connection) make sure you have a set time and place where people can reconnect.
Finally, be sure to plan some alone time, as well. Even the most extroverted people need some down time, so factor in a few moments each day for everyone to recharge.
Other Articles You Might Enjoy: