When I was younger, my family didn’t travel a lot. I mean they did, but never with the kids, and rarely in large groups(unless they were to join a tour group).
This was mainly because it was expensive, another was that many places aren’t as kid friendly. So every time I'd have to drop my mom off at the airport for one of her trips, I sometimes would feel left behind. But that was okay. I understood that there was just no money for that. I wasn't bitter. In fact, it was more of a motivation for me to study and work hard, so that someday, I’d get to travel as much as she did.
Moreover, now that I’ve grown older, and plan trips on my own, I can totally understand as to why never the big group! It’s because it’s just SO DAMN OVERWHELMING to take care of a large group’s vacation.
So yes, I get it. I wouldn’t want to be in charge of meeting everyone’s expectations during a vacation.
Nowadays traveling is becoming more budget and large group friendly. More and more places are creating experiences that allow vacations to be more kid and big-group friendly, which is great for those who travel in groups.
I actually find it quite funny that my family is made up of a bunch of travel enthusiasts, but very rarely do we travel TOGETHER. And as much as I LOVE LOVE LOVE my family, traveling with family is one of those things that that can be super stressful, especially if you are the only one organizing it. Trying to reconcile a dozen different interests in one whole trip that will suit everyone’s different travel styles sounds absolutely absurd, but it’s doable! With plenty of time and careful consideration, it CAN BE DONE! Here’s how:
1. Talk it out
Once the time and destination is figured out, give yourself ample time before the trip to talk about what everyone’s expectations are. Find out what people want to do and what they want to get out of the vacation. This is preferably done face-to-face. If not, a group call/chat is okay too. I say this because having to wait on someone to reply because they are busy doing this and that can be annoying. So real-time conversations are much more productive in accomplishing this task.
Also, during this, make sure to speak up. Speaking your mind in planning is much more helpful than just “going along” and be unhappy at the end. I promise you, those who are in charge of different things for the trip will highly appreciate your opinions. However, be sure also LISTEN and be respectful of other’s travel styles.
For example: This can get really tricky when we are planning for accommodations.
People have different ideas and budgets—some like balling out on fancy hotels, and others are just fine with simple accommodations. So talk it out and meet in the middle. See if you can all go in on an Airbnb, or hotel suites that can hold your party.
2. Divide up roles: let them play their strengths
Being assigned the task to be the only one to plan a whole trip for X amount of people sounds daunting. So if you were part of a big group, and you were to expect the one person who is “good at planning” to do perform this task, offer some help.
They may not say they need it, but trust me—they do.
There is nothing worse than being the planner, and someone in the group saying “This should have been planned better” Yup. It sucks, and it hurts. So avoid the hurt, and divide the tasks.
Share your knowledge. I am sure that almost everyone will have done some type of research about your destination with a reflection of their own strengths and interests. So divide up the tasks based on people’s strengths.
If you are good at researching for great deals for accommodations, be that person. If you know that another person is good at finding experiences (tickets/tours). Are you a foodie? Find great places to eat for the group. So on and so forth.
3. Setting boundaries
Okay, lets get the MONEY talk out of the way. I know that this is where it gets weird, but to avoid any awkward feelings, just be straight about this one and make sure that all are willing to spend the money on what is planned to be done. So agree on a BUDGET.
Keep track of all expenses, and those willing to pay for said expenses, so that all is fair right before you leave. Deadlines should also be set for the payments.
Being respectful of people’s time is also important in this. When you all agree on being up at 8am for breakfast. BE UP AT 8AM for breakfast, especially if it’s going to be a jam packed day filled with activities. If not, then go ahead. But be clear about what kind of vacation this is first.
4. Be clear about the itinerary
Before you leave for the trip, lay the itinerary out by the day. And i mean WRITE IT OUT. On paper, on Notes, Excel, Google Docs, wherever, and send it out for everyone to see. This is so you can have a clear idea on what is do be done during each day, and if people can agree that it is doable or not. If not, be flexible and prepare for change.
5. Leave ample of time for meet up times/getting ready
Trying to round up more than 5 people in a specific spot at a specific time can be more stressful than you think. So be firm and realistic about the time you want to do or meet up for things.
Especially when children are involved. I say, if it’s all adults, give +15 mins. If with kids +30min.
6. Pre-book everything if you can
It can be quite difficult to find things to do on the spot, especially when you have a group larger than four. Pre-book your excursions prior to leaving home, so that you are guaranteed to be able to do said excursion. Figuring things to do on the spot is much more stressful, leaving you sometimes to end up making executive decisions, and sometimes hard feelings when something can’t be done because it wasn’t planned early enough.
I cannot stress this highly enough for restaurants, especially popular ones that you really plan on dining at!
This is also important in transportation.
The last thing you want is not having enough space for your people plus luggage. So consider space very carefully, and pre-book these if you can to avoid being in a stressful situation during your trip. Also, you may be able to score some cars at a discounted price that way! Turo car sharing is a great option for an easy way to rent cars worldwide! It's easy. Download the app, set a time and place, unlock, and go!
If you are traveling mostly by public transportation, find out if you can purchase metro passes to avoid having to fall in line at the metro station. Liittle things like this will save you loads of time!
7. Don’t be overly ambitious. Schedule some down time.
This one I can be quite guilty of. Due to the fact that I am so used to traveling with just me and James, I can be quite overly ambitious with my itinerary making. We like to get plenty of things done early in the day, and have a more relaxing afternoon/night. This however bites me in the butt when traveling with a large group of people. Especially when children are involved, make sure to give ample time between activities for breaks (break downs lol), or just time to stroll around and not be so rushed.
8. Try not to hotel hop
If you can help it, just DON'T DO IT. I mean, if you are traveling to different cities, then yes. But try not to do too much! Hotel hopping can be quite difficult especially when there are more than two rooms that need to be accounted for. One: finding available rooms might be difficult. Two: Imagine a number of people who have to pack and unpack.. that’s a LOT of time and energy.
9. Plan some alone time
While on a trip, not everyone may have the same interests; for this very reason is why you want to schedule some alone time. Some will want to go shopping, some will want to check another thing out, or someone will want to maybe just get a workout in.
So schedule a time in the day to split up, do your own thing, and then meet back up.
Since I am a blogger this is actually pretty important for me to get some away time in order to get photos in for my blog!
10. Be flexible. Accept that things can go wrong.
Murphy’s law: anything than can go wrong, will go wrong. Be prepared for this. Your trip isn’t going to be perfect, and that’s fine. Just know that you have all come together for a reason: To have a great time, and MAKE MEMORIES. If something goes wrong, accept it, and move forward. This is also the reason as to why having a BACK UP plan is important.
For example, my family of 19 went to Lake Tahoe for a weekend. We were ready and packed 4 cars to go to the beach, when little did we know that ALL the surrounding beaches from our airbnb, including our back up beaches were PACKED with no parking left!
So what was our back up plan? The community swimming pool at the neighborhood of where our airbnb was at, lol. Was it what we planned for? Nope. But we had one hell of a time, regardless :)
Here are some group travels I've done!
I hope these were helpful in reducing your stress towards your next trip with your big group! If i had missed anything, feel free to comment on what works for you on your trips :)