For some, a group holiday is the perfect way to experience another country, while socializing and making friends. For others, it is the definition of a holiday from hell. Indeed, group holidays seem to have just as many benefits as they do disadvantages. On the one hand, travelling with others means that you are never lonely, and that there are a wide range of conversations to be had. Yet, on the other hand, travelling with a group means that you can’t do exactly what you want and that you must cater to or, indeed, put up with, other people’s personalities.
Group holidays can generally take two forms. Either you arrange to go on a package tour, joining several people you have never met before. Or, you may decide to travel together with a group of friends and/ or family.
The first of these options may be a great opportunity to meet new people, potentially from around the world. Package tours also mean that your trip will be largely planned out for you and that you should be in the safe hands of a tour guide, who will ensure that you get to visit several sights, that you are provided with accommodation, and that you are fed and watered. You can relax in the knowledge that you will be able to make the most of your trip abroad by catching the best attractions, and that you will have plenty of people to keep you company.
However, travelling with so many other people means that the pace of your trip will inevitably be slower than if you were travelling on your own. Waiting for people to join you in the morning, to finish their meals, and to make toilet stops means that you could do a lot of waiting around, and that your patience may be tried. And, your patience will be tested even further if there are people in the group that you just don’t get along with.
The second type of group travel is slightly more predictable, in that you already know the people you are travelling with and, presumably, you tend to get on well. However, friendships may become strained while travelling, especially if you have never been on a trip together before. Each individual will have different aims for the trip, which could make enjoying everything together rather difficult. There will likely be some people that impose their preferences on the group, while others may feel that their opinions are just not being heard. Different people also have different energy levels, which means that achieving the right balance of activity and relaxation may be very difficult.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your group holiday and to use the opportunity to make and keep friends, rather than lose them!
Top Tips for Travelling with Strangers
- Study the iinerary beforehand. A tour operator should provide you with a programme listing the activities they intend to cater for during your trip. You should assess whether the tour provides all you are looking for from your holiday. If not, make sure you request adequate free time to allow you to visit the attractions you want. Or, especially if travelling in a fairly small group, you could ask for your suggestions to be added to the itinerary. You should make such requests well in advance of the trip in order to allow the tour operator to carry out the necessary planning.
- Be prepared for emergencies. Although you will be in the safe hands of a tour guide, there will still be occasions when you are separate from the group. So, make sure you carry maps, emergency phone numbers, taxi numbers and the contact details of the guide. Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged every day, even if you are not using it on a regular basis. Do some research on the area you are visiting so that you can make the most of your free time.
- Don’t forget that you are in a foreign country. This may sound obvious, but travelling with a group of people you haven’t met before may distract you from your surroundings and may make you less eager to venture out and explore your destination. Strive to achieve a good balance between experiencing the country and enjoying conversations with new friends.
Top tips for travelling with friends
- Draw up an itinerary before you travel. You should gather together lists of must-sees from each member of your group and try to incorporate them all into an itinerary. If most people want to see one attraction, make this a group activity. If other sights are less popular, schedule a couple of these at one time so that the group can split up.
- Incorporate free time that allows the group to make last-minute decisions on what they would like to do. On arrival at your destination, you may discover something you were unaware of before travelling, or you might like to revisit an attraction you saw earlier in your visit.
- Be flexible. Although an itinerary will help you make the most of your trip, feel free to deviate from the plan, to divide into smaller groups, or to just spend a day relaxing when energy is low.
- Designate a leader(s) that will help drive forward decision making, but choose people who are not too controlling.
- Give each member of the group a responsibility, so that everyone feels they are making a valuable contribution to the trip.
- Sort the financial side of things well in advance. Make sure everyone has paid their share and that no money is owed. Also, decide how expenses during the trip will be paid. It is usually best if everyone just pays their own way and that shared expenses, such as tips, are split equally.
- Make sure everyone is given plenty of time to rest, to eat, and to take toilet breaks. Trying to fit too many activities in will zap people’s energy and make them irritable.
- Have back up options in case intended activities don’t go to plan, or if the group is too tired to do anything too strenuous.
- Research group discounts on public transport, at attractions, hotels and restaurants and benefit financially from travelling together.
- Send your luggage ahead. Baggage can only make a group trip more stressful. You will have to drag numerous pieces of luggage on to public transport, queue up at bag drop, wait for everyone to check in their bags, potentially suffer the embarrassment of incurring excess baggage fees or desperate attempts to shove your possessions into carry-on bags, and there is always the risk that the airline will lose someone’s bag, leading to a less than pleasant atmosphere among the group. You can avoid all this by sending your bags ahead to your hotel with Send My Bag. This means that your bags will be collected from your door before you travel and will conveniently arrive at your hotel. This way, the group can all just check in online and sail through the airport, together, stress free.
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Today air travel is something to be endured. The excitement of jetting off on holiday that we used to experience has been decidedly diminished by endless cancellations, delays, lost baggage, extortionate add-on fees and being herded like cattle from check-in to boarding. And we’re not just imagining it – things are getting worse. Flight compensation company EUclaim has recently published data that reveals a dramatic increase in the number of claims for compensation they have received from passengers against the UK’s main airlines.