One of the big benefits of group travel is that it's a great way to travel longer distances or traverse countries that can be tricky to organise yourself.
Some of my best group trips have been to countries or regions I felt overwhelmed to go to on my own, such as Morocco, Iran, Central Asia, Southern Africa.
There’s no doubt that travelling in a group has its pluses and minuses, and that travelling with a group of strangers brings a special set of rewards and risks.
I’ve undertaken many group trips and on the whole, they’ve all worked out fine.
In fact, I’ve met some fantastic and fascinating people along the way - including my husband!
I’d say I’ve travelled with decent people more times than with jerks.
But, it is a key area of a trip that you have no control over, and it’s not just other travellers, the crew/staff are part of the group too!
Questions to ask before you book
Research the company you're travelling with and find out the:
- average age,
- gender split,
- level of fitness required,
- how much free time you will get (is it enough for you - or too much?),
- what percentage of meals are group meals and how meal costs are funded or split.
If you're travelling on your own find out what the costs and options are for single room supplement.
These things are important to understand so you can make a judgement if this is the right trip for you.
How to handle tricky group dynamics
I have a theory about group travel, and it’s this. Irrespective of how long your trip is, you start to unravel as a group in the last 10% of the trip.
So if you’re on a two-week trip the last day or so people are bit tetchy. If it’s a month, it’s 3 days; 3-month trip, around 10 days; 6 months, then the last 2 or so weeks you can feel increasingly frustrated with others and impatient.
I think towards the end of a trip we are mentally and emotionally moving on to the next stage of our journey, be that going home and back to work, or on for further travels, or to start a new life elsewhere.
I feel we begin to ‘check out’ of the current situation and our tolerance has reached its limit.
Accept that it's okay for people to want to be on their own. It may well be you feeling like that, so have a plan ready.
I've heard some utter horror stories of groups that just did not gel.
If you have a tricky group situation, it’s not really up to the staff to sort it out. You’re travelling as adults, in an adult world and crew aren’t school teachers or parents.
Yes, they have a role in ensuring a harmonious trip as possible takes place; but so too does everyone in the group.
After all, you’ve chosen to do it and (in most cases) paid a fair amount of money for the experience.
Why wouldn’t you want to get the most from it, enjoy each day and make it work?
Group Travel Tip: We take turns being annoying
- If you travel in a group of more than 6 people at least one person will be very annoying. If you can’t work out who it is, there’s every chance it’s you.
- Being the annoying person isn’t necessarily a permanent post, we all take turns at wearing the annoying hat. Sometimes for longer than we think.
- If you can’t find at least 2 or 3 people you can get on well with in a group of 10+ people, you need to look at yourself, not them.
Deploy a strategic seating strategy
Chances are, in a group of adults, you’re not all going to get on, but you can try and be civil. Not always possible, I appreciate that.
The bigger the group, the more chance you’ve got of steering clear of people you’re not too keen on. You can deploy a bit of ‘strategic seating’ at group meals or on transport.
We all have good and bad days and need to make allowances for that. Some people are just particularly irritating and all you can do is manage how you feel and react.
Group Travel Tip: Step Away
- When it gets tricky try and take yourself out of the fray.
- Sit elsewhere, eat earlier or later, pop your headphones on.
- Time will pass, tempers will cool. You do not want to be one going home early from an expensive trip!
Be realistic about what this trip can do for you
If you think that going on a long trip - I'm thinking of something like an adventurous overland trip of several weeks or even months - is somehow going to change your life. It's unlikely. It's just a trip.
A trip alone won't make your unhappy marriage happy or your teenager grow up. It's the same moon wherever you are.
I also don’t think it will cure depression, cure addiction, or make you give up smoking either.
Also unlikely it will make you brave or cure anxiety, but it could make those issues harder to cope with when you’re away from home in a challenging environment.
So be very honest about what you want from this, and what's really possible.
However, a long trip, particularly a group trip, can be a time for reflection and the beginning of a new start in your life.
You never know, you might meet the love of your life, or just spend time with some great people and see some amazing sights.
Make a plan to remember your travels
Travelling in a group has the added benefit of there being someone around to take photos of you, but our travels are more than just photos and the places we've been to.
As well as big magical moments our travels are also made up of the people we met and the experiences we have and the small, everyday moments.
Often these are the things that trigger our memories.
It might be the label you peeled from the bottle of Aussie Shiraz you sipped as you watched the sun go down over Uluru.
The small trinket given as a symbol of friendship at the Indian cooking class you went to.
The beautiful yet baffling currency with far too many zeroes to wrap your head around.
So, if you're planning a special trip be sure to check out a Keepsake Travel Wallet.
With wallets available for various destinations you can create a memento of your travels and remember the best bits - not just the time someone didn't pay their share of the group meal!
Here's a snapshot of my India Travel Wallet and keepsake from my travels to India. So many memories right there for me to rifle through when I want a reminder.
In Summary, group trips can be a great way to:
- see more a country if you have a limited amount of time
- travel to a place you don't feel inclined to go to on your own/or that is more challenging to organise
- give you the experience of travel if you're a novice or finding yourself travelling more on your own
- have the company of others
- meet friends and maybe even the love of your life!
Before you go, be sure to check out our travel wallets so you'll always remember where your adventures have taken you.
You may find these posts of interest too:
- How to entertain yourself on a long flight
- Five super-useful gift ideas for a traveller
- How to survive economy on a long flight
- How to save money on vaccinations & medication