Should I Travel With a Group?
Everybody fantasizes about a girl’s trip to Hawaii, a family trip to the Northeast, or a college reunion in Mexico. But what happens when the fantasy becomes a reality? If you decide to travel with just a few friends or even a larger group, it’s important to know what you’re signing up for before you go.
First, ask yourself a few questions. How well do you know and like everybody in the group? Is everyone going to be able to pay their own way? Do you trust these people enough to cross international borders with them? This may sound like overkill, but if you find yourself detained at customs because somebody had to be that guy and try and bring ecstasy into Thailand, you will not be a happy camper.
The Pros and Cons of Group Travel
Here’s the real skinny. The pros are, in order of importance:
- A group means there is always someone to share your experience with. If Alexander McCandless stuck with you the same way he stuck with me, “happiness is only real when shared.”
- Traveling with a group can save you money. Splitting an Airbnb between 4-6 people is way better than choosing a dorm bed in a hostel, or splitting a hotel with your partner.
- Safety in numbers. If you are an adventurer, enjoy going out for late night drinks, or are just a bit more on the anxious side, you can rest easy knowing that somebody always knows where you are, and can have your back if a situation goes south.
But, don’t forget about the cons:
- Disagreements. Vacations and trips are important experiences–and international trips are sacred. None of your emotional energy should be spent trying to diffuse arguments between group members, or engaging in fights yourself.
- A difficult topic in any friendship: money. If you’re traveling with somebody who is always the last to reach for the tab or says “let’s just split it” when they had a steak and 3 cocktails and you had a salad, you might have a bad time.
- Plans. Travel is kind of a time to be selfish. You may only be in Iceland once! If you want to go to the Blue Lagoon, and the other people only want to go for a hike, you may need to compromise or head off on a solo day.
What you need to survive group travel
I know, it sounds obvious, you’re just going to LA for the weekend, what could go wrong? But the answer is, a lot! Talk about who is making the hotel reservations, who is going to collect the money from everyone, how are you going to pay for dinner each night. (Need more info on how to best deal with money on a group trip? Check out our article on Keeping it Fair: How to Deal with Money on a Group Trip.) Are you going abroad? Make sure you have a place to meet up if you arrive on separate flights and someone’s cell data isn’t working or they don’t have an international data plan. Basically, have a group chat with your partners and put your thoughts, ideas and worries into it.
Open and Honest Communication
Travel with people you can be honest with. Some of us introverts meet our fill of socialization easily and need solo day trips or afternoons to recalibrate. If you need an afternoon to explore the Louvre by yourself, tell them (nicely, of course)! If you vehemently need to take a gondola ride, tell your companions, and make sure you seek out that gondolier. If you’ve always dreamed of meeting on top of the Empire State Building like in You’ve Got Mail, make it happen! Good travel buddies will make sure your needs are met, and you can return the favor by helping them accomplish their travel goals too.
Open communication will also help you deal with money, figuring out your itinerary, and making sure that you don’t stay in that terrible hotel that only 1 out of 5 people like.
Travel is hard–and group travel is even harder. Do your best to remember that you are on vacation and that this is your time to enjoy together. Compromise is important for everybody on a group trip. Forgive yourself and your companions in advance for needing to sleep in, head to bed early, take a solo day, or do whatever it is that you need.
Best of luck on your trip and try not to invite or be that guy.