Isn’t it great when you talk your best of friends into going with you on a large group vacation? Whether a family reunion getaway or a trip with friends or co-workers, it’s like worlds colliding! Your BFF gets to meet your work buddy who get to meet your next door neighbor and your barhopping soul mate. It’s all going to make for one great getaway.
Now for the bad news. Traveling with a large group has to be planned or else you’re in for a massive headache. Here are a few tips on planning events while traveling with a large base of your favorite people.
1. Talk out your plans as a group. Possibly the worst mistake you can make is waiting until the same day, or the event itself, to talk things out with your friends and determine what everyone wants out of the vacation. Are your friends hoping for rest and relaxation or a vacation full of activity? It’s best to discuss these matters well in advance since various guests might disagree on their preferences, approaches and general itinerary. Knowing this information allows you to plan for more efficient travel, and planning schedules. Perhaps best of all, you reduce the risk of a misunderstanding or hurt feelings occurring.
2. Don’t let any of your guests compromise YOUR vacation. Don’t be such a good host that you end up missing out on all the exciting things that you actually wanted to do on the vacation. It happens too often—you spend big money on traveling, lodging and entertainment; but then something goes wrong and you end up placating someone in your group…only to go home disgruntled that your friends ruined your vacation. Don’t let this happen. It is entirely OK to let your friends disseminate and go forth where they wish as you enjoy the main attraction that you came for. Meet up later and have some enlightening conversation. More importantly, don’t let anyone change your plans.
3. Plan events with flexibility. It’s simply not practical to do every event you plan. Time runs out quickly, especially if you stop to eat and conversation gets going. You might also anticipate unexpected traffic delays, closings or other problems. So don’t make the schedule too stringent or too difficult. You wear out your energy quickly by midday. At the same time, make alternative plans just in case the primary attractions don’t turn out as expected. Plan too much but be flexible as far as canceling the least important events. Do the most important events first and then play everything else by ear.
4. Always ask about group discounts. An expert from the Smoky Mountains cabin company, Diamond Rentals, had this to share: “Always ask for group discounts. Assuming that prices stay the same does you no favors, because most companies will not tell you they have specials for groups. They assume you will ask because you want to negotiate a better price. So make mention of your traveling party, including the number of guests, and ask for a discount from hotels, theme parks, restaurants, spas, shows and the like. You may have to purchase these tickets in advance but it’s usually worth it. You can also haggle just a little bit and you might be surprised.”
Negotiating with airlines is also an option. “What our group travel experts do is negotiate with airlines for groups of ten or more, to contract an average fare for the whole group to be sure everyone pays the same amount. While the seats might seem higher than what you might find for just one seat on your own, the fare will be much lower than what the last person in your group might end up paying. The larger your group, the better your savings,” said Tiffany Harrison of STA Travel
5. Research the area well in advance or try trip planning services. It’s not a great idea to plan your itinerary as you go, because most of your friends don’t know the area very well and are depending on you, the organizer, to direct things. If you’re not sure what to expect or what’s around you, then consult travel guides or trip planning services like TripIt.com. However, if you want to save time and money, create an itinerary yourself and arrange your trip according to day, times, travel, attractions, food, amenities and breaks. When choosing between the attractions, aim for a balance; perhaps one item across each category; as in theme park, museum, arcade, boating, wildlife walk, and fishing. Don’t feel obligated to go every “landmark” place; just what’s exciting. Poll your friends if there’s any doubt.
6. If your friend or family membr has a talent for directing or talking to others, encourage it. If one of your friends seems to take over traffic directions, reads a map very well, or talks to strangers easily, speaks a foreign language, etc. then use that skill to your advantage as a group. Don’t feel threatened. This is a free service you’re getting and so it’s best to encourage your friend to continue doing a job that he or she is comfortable with. When everyone is given a job they enjoy, everyone is happier!
A Few More Tips From Travel Experts
• Try a vacation rental. “I suggest renting a villa or house for large family vacations. Often these rentals include food and babysitting…excellent for multi-generation or multiple family travel,” advised Kerri Zane, a lifestyle expert.
Charles McCool of McCool Travel agreed, “For privacy, independent spirit, and cost savings, select the vacation home, especially when traveling with a group. Even if hiring a caterer for meals, renting a Jeep, and paying extra for activities, a vacationing group can save thousands of dollars by renting a house.”
• Travel with those who have a similar interest. Anirban Bardalaye, CEO and Co-Founder of VaycayHero said, “This seems to be a no brainer, but there are so many situations that come up when going with a group of family and/or friends, that unless everyone is on the same page, there could be awkward moments or constantly having to compromise, that you do not enjoy the vacation and feel like you tagging along.”
Anthony Bianco of The Travel Tart echoed these sentiments by saying, “ensure there are activities that suit everyone in the group and their interests. No point going on a trip if there is one person who is left out.”
• Try a cruise. “Rather than pick a destination that’s best for large groups, I’ll go with a generic type of vacation – cruising. Number one, there’s never an issue on cruise ships with finding enough staterooms for groups. Second, the cruise experience eliminates the headache. Particularly with shore excursions, everyone can choose their own through the ship’s shore excursion desk, and nobody has to deal with arranging multiple tours,” offered Sriram Srinivasan of Upgrd.com
Enjoy your large group vacation and be sure to get everyone to open up, express themselves and share the moment. It will be a great memory