Tips for Group Travels
Having a group trip with families and friends can be incredibly rewarding but it can also be stressful and tense at times. During the trip, there might be disagreements or even clashes stemming from differences in habits which could upset or even tarnish the relationship. Below are some tips that may help make your trip as seamless as possible.
Provide a theme and decide on the style of the trip
Having a common goal makes it easier for everyone to reach consensus and reduce conflicts.
Choose a leader
It is best to nominate a member to be the team leader. If you have a large team, you may consider adding a deputy leader and a treasurer. These leaders and treasurers are usually someone whom everyone trusts. During the trip, the leader would first consult the team and understand the different views among teammates before making the final decision. If there is a strong view on a subject, do not jump to a decision too quickly but take time to consult the tour guide and driver and bring the subject up for discussion among members. A leader must be fair and reasonable in order to be respectable.
Draft an itinerary
If you prefer a self-organized tour, it would be helpful to ask the leader (or a couple of members who will definitely join the trip) to suggest an outline for the itinerary including where to go, for how long (number of days or hours), when, the budget and the route to take. As the leader only helps on a voluntary basis and very often he or she is not an expert in tour planning, it would be ideal to engage a proper tour guide (or travel agent) to plan the trip for you. The tour guide is in the best position to work out the itinerary and make all the bookings for the group, having regard to the budget and age of the group. The leader would send the draft itinerary to all members for comments and confirmation. Once the itinerary is confirmed, full payment ought to be made before the trip starts.
Free time in the itinerary
Free time is needed to enable everyone to have the chance to do things that they enjoy. For a basic 5-day itinerary, the following features can be included:
special attractions and local delicacies
Local art and culture museum
Good communication channels
All members should be kept fully abreast of the itinerary and communication should be direct. If electronic communication, such as email, is used, the message should be complete with all information provided in the text of the message. It should be noted that for some tablets, attached documents cannot be opened and therefore are not accessible to the recipients. In the itinerary, details of hotels such as address and phone number should be provided so as to ease the minds of your members’ families. A WhatsApp group can be created for the purpose of instant communication and sharing photos afterwards.
Division of labour
If you opt for small group self-travel, you may assign the tasks below to different members:
During the trip
Booking of flight ticket, accommodation and purchase of show tickets
Itinerary and land transport arrangement
Budgeting, payment and cashier (also for handling foreign currencies)
“Bus leaders” to check the whereabouts of everyone
What should you do when you face the following situations? Here are some tips for you.
The difference in physical capabilities
When planning the itinerary, we have to make sure that everyone is given a chance to indicate their preferences regarding the scheduling of activities on the itinerary and to provide an assembly time and place for different members to decide how to make the best use of the time available before moving to the next destination.
The compatibility of personalities is tested particularly in the sharing of rooms and in eating together. During the planning stage, we can try to find out if anyone has any special needs or habits which can be tackled in advance. Even the trip has already started, the team can still try to make arrangements to deal with such needs, but only if everyone is willing to accommodate and is not afraid of telling others about their needs due to privacy or causing inconvenience to others. Even very good friends may not have had the chance to live under the same roof in the past. Sharing of one hotel room even for a couple of days can create a lot of stress and each should learn how to accommodate the differences. This is a key factor in determining the success of the trip.
Catering for different needs
Allocating some free time in the itinerary allows everyone to have enough time to rest. If there is no need to catch an early scheduled flight or ferry trip, do try to start the day a bit later so that everyone can have a proper breakfast. For those who habitually arise early, they can have a morning walk around the hotel before the day starts. For travelling from one location to another, it would be ideal to check-in at the hotel after lunch and have a little rest before going out for the rest of the day. People in the “Green Age” group tend to enjoy hotel facilities. If an extraordinarily good hotel has been chosen, do allow the group to have the choice of having dinner in the hotel. In this case, members can decide whether to have a simple dinner and use the time to visit the spa or enjoy other facilities in the hotel. If some members suggest taking up certain activities on their own on the spot, some flexibility should be allowed but the new arrangement should have the consent of the group and no inconvenience or extra charges are caused to others and the new activities should be entirely safe.
Self-disciplined, punctual and responsible for one’s personal belongings
As part of the team, we must ensure our own behaviours do not affect others. Punctuality is the minimum requirement. We can also agree on a reward and punishment system while making every effort to remind or persuade members who are habitually late to be considerate. Furthermore, everyone should be responsible for their own personal belongings.
Mutual understanding and appreciation
It is inevitable that some members will habitually criticize everything. Like an old friend, we can try to guide them to think positively which in the end will help them get along with other people. Don’t get upset if your goodwill is not appreciated. So team members are able to behave in a manner that is acceptable to others, it is already a valuable experience. Afterall, we are only talking about a few days. There are not too many opportunities for us to share out past experiences, out children and things that matter to us in the earlier parts of our lives.
Clear computation of expenses
When you are travelling in a group, money could be the cause of tension. There are always differences in expectations even in where to eat and what to do. Some may fancy a Michelin-starred restaurant while others may want some local and inexpensive foods. Some may want to visit a theme park while others may not be interested.
Before starting the trip, it is important to do some research and work out a budget for the expenses to be incurred each day including meals, transportation, excursion and admission tickets, etc. All costs should be shared equally and money should be collected in advance. The final computation should be done before the end of the trip. It is of course much simpler if we have a tour company to organize the trip but we still have to agree on whether it is a luxurious or economical vacation.
After the trip
1. Be grateful
No matter what happens during the trip, we should be grateful for the opportunity of getting together.
2. Only remember the positive side of the reunion
Travelling with friends is a special moment to reminisce about our younger days especially when we have aged. The personal experiences that have been shared among you and your companions and any strange behaviours you have observed will become part of the adventure and private information to be kept at the depth of your lifelong memories.