Planning a group holiday can be tricky.
I used to think it was luck of the draw, whether everyone would get along great and have a whale of a time, or if you’d all have a massive fight and end up never speaking to each other again.
But last year I started travelling with my blog friends (the Bangarang ladies). We’ve done two long weekends away now, as well as a huge two week multi-city trip across Japan, and I’ve had an AMAZING time on each holiday.
I’ve also learned a lot about how to plan group trips so that everyone has fun, and no one falls out.
Basic respect and consideration are a given, but here are a few extra tips and tricks to help you plan a great group holiday with your friends.
1. Do your research
As far as I’m concerned, the only thing more fun than travel, is travel research.
I LOVE it. Hunting down info on my next holiday spot is one of my favourite at-home-on-a-Friday-night-with-a-glass-of-wine activities. History, culture, sights, food, Instagram locations… I find it all fascinating.
But I know from personal experience that not everyone feels that way. And that’s absolutely fine, especially if you’re on a solo adventure or just travelling with one other person. I did zero research before Gary and I went to Budapest, and we still had a wonderful holiday.
But if you’re going somewhere for a long time (see: 2 weeks in Japan), or with a larger group of people (see: 8 ladies in Cyprus), just know that things will inevitably run smoother and be easier to manage if you’ve done at least a little bit of research beforehand.
Which leads me to…
2. Make a plan
Even if you’re usually a “go with the flow” kind of traveller on your own, the best way to retain your sanity whilst planning a group trip is by having a bit of an outline of where you want to go, and what you want to do.
For Japan, we made a group spreadsheet on Google, where everyone could add add activities, and we’d all tick the ones we were interested in doing. Then we had a couple of meetings over brunch and cake, to narrow down the options of what we could feasibly manage in 13 days.
We separated out what we’d all do together, and what we could do individually or in pairs. We didn’t even come close to doing everything on our list, but it reeeeally helped to have it there as a guide.
Coordinating large groups of people is tricky, so having a plan before you leave will help cut out unnecessary dithering time and arguments.
3. Discuss your travel styles
This is the big one.
It’s obviously a good idea to discuss what you want to do on your travels, but I also think it’s important to understand a bit about how each person travels, especially if you’ve never gone away with them before.
Are you a solo wanderer or do you like to stick to the group? Happy to go off-piste, or do you prefer to stick to a schedule? Luxury or budget?
These differences can make or break a group holiday, so it’s important that everyone knows where they stand and what they can expect from their companions.
(The money issue can be especially messy, so it’s definitely worth discussing daily budgets in advance. If you want to eat street food but your mate’s into 5-star dining, someone’s going to have to compromise somewhere!)
4. Keep on top of the practicalities
Look, you don’t have to nominate a dedicated “mum” for the group (in fact, I think that’s an awful idea), but it’s worth just reminding your group of the practical bits, as and when you’re dealing with them yourself.
Is your passport in date? Do you need visas? Do you need vaccinations? Do you have travel insurance? Do you have the RIGHT travel insurance? Does your travel insurance cover the activities you’re planning to do?
When we went to Singapore, Gary hadn’t realised we needed to upgrade our yearly travel insurance policy, as our original one only included Europe. I also learned at an event with Post Office Travel Insurance, that if you go skiing and drink alcohol on the slopes, your travel insurance policy is invalid.
Then, for our trip to Japan, Leanne was the only one who even thought to check the regulations on taking prescribed medication into the country.
This is important stuff, and even the most organised traveller can drop the ball occasionally, so it’s worth double checking things like that with the group, just to be on the safe side.
5. Don’t be afraid to request alone time
This goes back to knowing everyone’s travel personalities, but basically, don’t be afraid to take some time out if you need it.
Living in such close quarters with a group of people, even your closest friends, can be tricky and tiring. So there’s absolutely nothing wrong in needing some time to yourself.
Go for a walk, go back to the hotel for a nap, take a long bath… anything that gives you peace.
My only tip for this would be (again) to mention the possibility before you leave for your holiday. That way there’s less chance of any misunderstandings happening, or of people getting offended.
(I actually told Gary when we went on our very first city break together, that at some point I might need to run away from him for an hour or so, just to be on my own. I wanted him to understand that if I did, it wasn’t personal, but just that my brain needs lots of alone time to recharge!)
Let’s be honest here guys, most of this comes down to one basic thing: communication.
You’ve paid good money for your holiday, and you deserve to enjoy it. But so do the others in the group. And no one will know what you want, if you don’t tell them.
So if you’ve never travelled as group before, why not organise a brunch or dinner, where you can all get together and chat about everyone’s expectations of the trip beforehand?
Half the fun is in the planning anyway, and it will help smooth the way for a truly fab group holiday!