Group trips are the best…except when they’re not. Going on vacation with a group of your closest friends and creating a ton of great memories always sounds like a great idea, but travel has a way of testing one’s limits. No matter how well you pre-plan, uncertainties are bound to arise, and — let’s face it — that’s usually when you really get to know a person. Here are five tips for surviving your first group trip, whether taking a weekend getaway with your bestie or signing up for a budget group tour with pals.
1. Determine compatibility.
Think you know your friend like the back of your hand? Not so fast! Sometimes your closest pals are your least compatible travel buddies — and that’s perfectly OK. Before researching flights and accommodations, find out if you’re on the same page. If it helps, pretend you’re on a blind date and ask lots of questions. Are you a morning person? Do you plan on partying every night? What’s your daily budget? The goal is to put everything out on the table, so there are as few surprises as possible during the trip itself.
2. Be willing to compromise.
Compromise is key to any lasting relationship, and the same goes for platonic friendships, too. Setting realistic expectations is a great defense against spoiled plans, which again will almost certainly happen. Before hitting the road, sit down with your friends and come up with a “bucket-list” of activities each member of the group wants to have before leaving. It could be as simple as sampling street food or as extravagant as bungee jumping from a skyscraper. Use this list as the starting point of crafting your group’s itinerary, then remember to account for all travelers’ interest, so that everyone is happy.
3. Schedule alone time.
Don’t underestimate the power of some alone time, especially if you typically travel solo or if it’s been years since your last foreign jaunt. Depending on how much of an introvert or extrovert you are, your “me” time could be as little as 15 minutes or as long as an entire day. Don’t wait until you’ve reached your breaking point. Rather, take a look at that bucket list you’ve drawn up and figure out which activities you might want to duck out of — or make sure your companion(s) have something lined up for the times you want to try something by yourself. Your caffeine-loving bestie could hit up that trendy café, for example, while you join a neighborhood walking tour.
4. Know your limits.
While travel is the perfect opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone, it doesn’t mean you have to throw caution to the wind. As we referenced at the beginning, money can become a touchy subject, so it’s best to get that out of the way from the get-go. If you’re on a budget, make sure your friends know how much you feel comfortable spending on meals, accommodations, and excursions. And don’t be upset if your friend decides to splurge on a helicopter ride or indulges on a 5-star restaurant without you. On the flip side, be considerate and respectful if wallet-watching friends decline to join in on more costly parts of the itinerary. Again, it’s all about compromise — knowing and respecting each other’s limits.
5. Keep an open mind.
We’ll say it again: As detailed as your travel plans are, there are still going to be a few roadblocks along the way. Delayed trains and canceled flights — along with smaller wrinkles that may pop up — are completely out of your control, and the sooner you accept that, the better. Plus, having an open mind may lead to even more adventures, ones you’d never think to plan. After all, your trip should be all about having fun with your friends and making memories so, don’t sweat the small stuff. And remember that a positive attitude can do wonders in creating and maintaining a better group dynamic, too.