Although I usually just travel with one or two other people, at times I’ve traveled with a larger group. There are definite differences between the two types of travel. Read on to see how to make the best of traveling with a group.
I love traveling with my family! Most of the time, I travel with just one daughter or a daughter and her husband. As a family, though, we’ve made a couple trips together. The dynamic definitely changes with more people.
One of the first family group trips we made was in 2009. I traveled with all four of my daughters. Only one daughter was married at the time – her husband joined us even though he may have been overwhelmed by all the females. We had a great time.
In 2016, three daughters, one son-in-law, and I traveled to Japan for a long weekend. We changed our planning strategy for this trip and it worked well. The five of us, plus an additional son-in-law, are planning another trip to Japan in 2020.
Organized Group Tour
In 2015, my husband and I traveled on an organized group tour. There were around 25 participants. Transportation was provided via tour bus and all activities were planned for us.
There are advantages and disadvantages in traveling with an organized tour. I wrote about them here. The tour worked well for us considering my husband’s health limitations.
Cruising with a Group
In the past couple of years, I’ve started cruising with a group of friends. I enjoyed the first cruise so much, that I immediately signed up for a second one. My third cruise with this group is scheduled for next year.
The dynamic of this group vacation was different than the family trip and group tour. On the cruise, some activities were planned as a group, but there was plenty of free time. Even the group’s planned activities were optional, so I could do what interested me the most.
Everything Takes Longer
Often when traveling with a group, common activities take longer than if there are only two people. Using the restroom after a meal can take awhile if there are only one or two stalls and the group is large. Ordering food at a counter will also take extra time. Any activity that involves taking turns will take more time with a large group of people.
When we traveled with the organized tour, our tour operator would often go into the hotels to check-in, while we all waited on the bus. Then we would receive our keys from the tour operator. Sometimes we would have to check-in at the desk, but the desk person would be prepared and usually check-in went smoothly.
When cruising with the group, everyone boarded the ship at their leisure, meeting up once we were on board. When I traveled with my family, we often shared an apartment, so one person would be in charge of checking-in or securing the key. If we stayed in a hotel, we usually shared two rooms between the group, so it didn’t take long to check-in.
Even though the family group was small, some things took extra time. Getting out of the hotel or apartment in the morning took longer. If someone was running late or forgot something, everyone had to wait for them. No one in our family is habitually late – one day it was one person, the next day someone else.
When my family went to Europe the first time, we planned our itinerary in general. We had a few activities that were scheduled, but weren’t completely set for others. We kind of “went with the flow.”
When we went to Japan, my daughter was insistent that we plan every activity and meal. When I questioned her about it, she explained her reasoning. With five people traveling together, we would have five different opinions on what to do. We were only in Japan for 3 1/2 days and we wanted to see everything. It was better that we all voiced our opinions and decided before we arrived, so we didn’t waste our precious time trying to decide when we were in Japan. Very smart!
If you are traveling with a group, its best to make sure all decisions are made before you leave home. That doesn’t mean that one person has to dictate the itinerary, just that discussion happens before the trip. In order for everyone to see what they want, the group may want to separate – part will go to the beach, while others go to the museum. Planning the itinerary ahead of time includes:
- checking days when the site may be closed,
- travel directions to the site or activity,
- time to spend at the site,
- whether to eat before or after an event,
- and the necessity of securing tickets in advance.
When traveling with a group of any kind, it’s a good idea to schedule in some down time. When I’ve traveled with friends on the cruise, the schedule is less prescribed, so if I had wanted to go the the room and nap, I was free to do so (or I could rest in the lounge chairs around the pool).
On the organized tour that I took with my husband, however, nearly every minute of our day was filled with activities. The tour guide said he rarely schedules tours beyond ten days, although ours was twelve, because near the end, it seems that everyone starts to get sick. Not surprisingly, my husband and several others were sick with colds at the end of the trip.
When traveling with my family, we’ve realized that we all have different tolerances of busy-ness. One daughter needs more down time – an early evening or late morning start every few days. Another daughter and her husband need time away from the family group – special time on their own. When planning our itinerary, we take these needs into consideration.
If you plan a trip with your family, schedule some free time into the itinerary – an unscheduled morning or afternoon – so family members can refresh themselves in a way that suits each one best. If you are traveling with your children, have Mom stay back with one child and Dad with the other on opposite days. Make the “rest day” special by reading to the child, getting ice cream or another treat after a nap, or listening to relaxing music.
Traveling with a large group can be more taxing than traveling with just one or two people, but it can also be very rewarding. Plan ahead, taking everyone’s needs into consideration. The larger the group, the more detailed the planning should be.
Travel with family is special – some of my favorite memories are the travels I’ve done with groups of my family members. Share your memories below.