We spend so much money on it, you’d think we’d do more to prevent our travel plans from turning into a very predictable dumpster fire. Okay, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But, for anyone that’s traveled in a group, you know that traveling with the wrong group or partner can truly make or break a trip. So what can you do about it? Actually, kind of a lot. Read on to get our tips on how to make a bad situation a little bit better — starting before the plane even takes off.
Make Sure You Know at Least One Person in the Group Really Well
We’re not going to be complete killers of spontaneity by mandating that you know your entire group well (though that would definitely save you some headache), but you should know at least one person to the core. Hopefully you’ve even traveled or lived with them before, so you’ll know their quirks and — most of all — you’ll know that if all hell breaks loose, you’ll have at least one person to try and wade through the insanity with. If the trip takes a turn for the worse after that arguing couple can’t decide between one restaurant or another in Austria, don’t be afraid to split up from the group with your partner for awhile and do the stuff you both want to do — away from the drama.
Have an Open and Honest Conversation About Money (Before You Leave)
One of the most common buzzkills when you’re traveling with a partner or group is being on different pages about everybody’s individual budgets. It happens because people are too scared of talking about it before you all leave on your grand vacation. Don’t be. If you’re planning a huge trip, odds are everyone has already thought about their budgets and are also willing to compromise — or split up for a day or two — in order to accommodate everyone’s individual situation. What wreaks the most havoc is not discussing it at all and having disagreements when you’re already there. The best time to do it is before anything has even been booked — plan for a group coffee date to hash out everyone’s budgets. Be sure to ask what people expect to spend on daily accommodations, food, transportation, and activities. If there are discrepancies, see what people are (and aren’t) willing to compromise on and work out a plan from there.
Be a Little Selfish
Of course, there are qualifications here. You don’t want to be the group’s Uncompromising Dictator, but you also don’t want to be the Compromising Doormat Who Never Gets To Do What She Wanted To Do On This Trip That She Paid A Lot Of Money For. You see what we mean? We’re all for compromising — it leads to a lot of learning and self-discovery (who knew you’d like the fried cow tongue you got from that street vendor in Shanghai?) — but we’re not here for compromising on what you really want to do in favor something that you really don’t want to do. If you’re in Amsterdam and you want to see the Van Gogh Museum while everyone else wants to test their fate biking through the city — go to the museum and meet up later (hopefully not in the hospital).
Know When to Go With the Flow
One of travel’s most enthralling aspects is its penchant for packaging beauty in parcels of confusion and uncomfortable situations. Just like it’s important to know when to stick to your proverbial guns, it’s just as important to know when to unload those guns and appreciate the chaos that can be traveling abroad in a group. If arguments and disagreements are swarming around you (and you really couldn’t care less if you go to a Florentine steak place or a famous sandwich shop), try to not get caught up in the drama — besides suggesting, perhaps, that the group break up depending on which dinner everyone would rather have.
Be Vocal About Problems (And Open to Criticism)
We’re sure you’ve had this experience: Something annoys you, you seethe and grit your teeth at the problem for days and — when you finally reach your tipping point — discover that the person didn’t even realize that taking hours to decide on a restaurant in Venice was bothering you and are actually perfectly fine with letting you choose the eateries for the rest of the trip. That’s great! But there are also moments when speaking up doesn’t elicit a warm and loving response. That’s not so great — but, at least you said something instead of silently seething. If someone reacts negatively, take the necessary space — whether that’s spending a couple hours, a day, or the rest of your trip apart. Similarly, if someone approaches you about something that you’re doing, try to see things from their perspective before getting defensive. Again, take the necessary space and think about what’ll be the right move going forward for everyone in the group.
Be a Reasonable, Mindful, and Considerate Travel Partner
Just like when you lived with a complete stranger in college, there are things that you have to sacrifice when other people are in the picture. It’s part of the compromise you make when you take a group trip instead of a solo trip: for the companionship of your friends, you forgo the freedom to do exactly as you please. As with much of the above advice, communication is key here. Communication = speaking, listening, and observing in equal measure. If you agreed to a low-budget trip but find yourself growing tired of baguettes and cheese in Parisian parks (which, first, how?), voice your concerns and see if anyone is feeling the same. If they are — great! Go have a dinner with them. If not, you can always dine alone for a night or two. The thing not to do, though, is make a fuss about a condition that you previously agreed to and said you’re okay with.
Do you have any group travel tips that we missed? Get us up to speed in the comments below!