Nine Tips for Traveling with a Big Group
In theory, embarking on a group trip means you’ll get to explore the world with some of your favorite people. In practice, it can devolve into fights over itinerary, haggling over hotels, and bickering with your siblings in front of your parents, even though you may all be full-grown adults.
Luckily there are ways to avoid those situations and ensure that your group vacation results in photo albums full of incredible memories. Whether you’re planning a big family reunion, a bachelor party, or a getaway with friends, there are two main rules: be patient and be flexible.
In addition to those mainstays, here are a few extra pointers to ensure that your group vacation won’t make you want to take a vacation from your vacation.
Consider Renting a House
If you’re planning a family reunion or a bachelorette blowout, renting a house can both save money and stress. Having a house also means a more convivial environment, because no one can hide out in their hotel room. Renting a house has other perks, too, like breakfast together, the ability to cook if you want, easy access to snacks, and parents will definitely appreciate the opportunity to tuck kids into bed at 7 p.m. and not have stay in the hotel room with them. Sites like AirBnb, HomeAway, and VRBO make it very easy to find homes to rent anywhere in the world. If you do rent a house, buy groceries in advance via PeaPod or Amazon Pantry and have everything you need delivered right to your door.
Head to a Resort
If renting a house isn’t an option, consider booking your next group adventure at a resort. Resorts are designed to have something for everyone whether you want to spend the day in the spa, at the golf course, kite-sailing, or doing nothing at all. Most resorts also offer kids clubs, which gives parents the chance to enjoy some quality adult time. Plus, resorts make meal time easy with large dining rooms and tables big enough for everyone. For some great options, check out T+L’s list of Best Family Resorts or Best Caribbean Resorts.
When it comes to group travel, the math is simple: if there are 12 people and you’re on vacation for five days, there’s a very good chance that not everyone will get to do what they want to do. The easiest way to solve this is by voting. Have everyone choose one must-see item or one must-do activity and then vote on what takes place—majority rules. Also, if it’s an option, divide up. One group can head to the local theme park, while the rest hang by the pool.
Don’t Be Overly Ambitious
While they say that herding cats is the dictionary definition of a difficult task, trying to get an entire group of people out the door and to a destination and then back home again is a very close second. Managing the itinerary for a large group—particularly one with children in the mix—is trying at the best of times and the last thing you want to add to your vacation is a lot of stress. Instead, limit big outings or activities to one per day, be it museum trips or a visit to the Blue Lagoon.
Plan for a Lot of Downtime
On a similar note, make sure there’s time for resting during the day. Most people in the group will appreciate the chance to do their own thing whether it’s lounging in bed, reading by the pool, or simply getting some quality alone time. Eat breakfast solo, but join up with the group for dinner, or visit an historical site in the morning, but don’t plan anything for the afternoon. Your fellow travelers will appreciate it.
Plan, Plan, Plan
Need to rent a car? Mini-vans tend to sell out quickly. Want adjoining hotel rooms? Make sure you reserve them as early as possible. Reservations are your friend, especially if you want a dinner table for 10 at 7pm on a Saturday. Also, consider making reservations for your group at a local attraction or historical site and set up a guided tour, hopefully with a group discount rate.
Focus on the Details
How will your group of 12 get from the airport to the hotel? Consider a bus or airport shuttle and make sure everyone has the hotel address. How will you get from the beach back to the house? (Walking? Taxis? Uber? Bike rental?) How will you handle snack runs? Do you want a local babysitter to come watch the kids? There are a lot of details to consider, which is why some large groups work with a trip planning service or a vacation consultant to help sort out the logistics, which frees the group up to relax on vacation.
If your group will be divided up between several cars, or spending the day heading to separate activities, communication is key. Make sure everyone in the party has the full itinerary. Make sure they all know the name of the hotel and have a plan if the group is separated by choice or by accident. Consider setting up a group text or go old school and write up a phone list or some other means of ensuring that the group can stay in touch with each other. Similarly, if your group is tech savvy consider setting up a Google Doc with all the hotel or house information, itineraries, grocery lists, phone numbers, etc.
While you may enjoy jetting out on your own with nothing but your GPS and a sense of adventure to guide you, that doesn’t always work particularly well when traveling with large groups. Instead, if you are traveling with a large, adventurous group, consider signing up with a tour group who will manage the logistics for you, while you and your loved ones enjoy the wonders of Italy, Finland, or Machu Picchu.