How to Avoid Complete Disaster When Traveling with Friends

How to Avoid Complete Disaster When Traveling with Friends

Published on January 25th, 2017
By Jennifer Oppriecht

Traveling with friends can be an absolute blast. Or, if you’re not careful, it can turn into a torturous excursion into the fiery pits of hell. Ok, slight exaggeration there, but you should adhere to these 7 group travel tips to prevent the nightmare vacation.

At any point in your life — during college and your early career especially — traveling with friends is a great way to see the world and enjoy the company of your besties all at once.

Whether you’re hitting the beaches of Mexico or touring Paris, the possibilities are limitless for group travel. We reached out to Wendy Bartnick of Burkhalter Travel and Jeff Gayduk of Leisure Group Travel for insights on group travel and traveling with friends.

Traveling with friends: How it typically works

Wendy Bartnick has booked a wide range of group travel trips, and she describes a typical example.  

“We’ve booked a group that’s gone to Mexico every year for the last 10 years. It includes friends and roommates, and their numbers have ranged from 14 to 30 people,” she said.  “It’s a great way to get away with friends.”

A great way to get away with friends.

Essentially, there are two ways to approach traveling with friends. Details may vary, but here are the broad strokes on how it happens:

1.The ringleader coordinates, and the travel agent does the legwork

In the Mexico trip scenario above, one person — let’s call him or her “the ringleader” — works directly with a travel agent.

The ringleader provides the travel agent with a description of the type of trip the group wants to take and a rough budget. The travel agent then researches potential options, and, in the least democratic but most efficient manner, the ringleader decides on the trip.

The ringleader then communicates to the group via email or Facebook, lets them know about trip, and gives the travel agents contact info.  Individuals then contact the agent, who does all the booking on a case-by-case basis.

2. The ringleader does it all

For those ringleaders who like the thrill of the hunt, the Internet provides all the data you need for researching and planning your vacation.  Jeff Gayduk notes that there are so many ideas and resources on the Internet for group travel, that this might be the place to start.

“A travel agent might have a limited idea of destinations, so go to Google and look for ideas,” he said.

If you’re going to do the legwork yourself, Jeff notes, “Many airlines and hotels have a cap on how many seats and rooms you can book.” It’s an off-line process, involving phones calls and emails to sales managers. The legwork is up to the ringleader.

Jeff Gayduk

One tool they can facilitate group bookings, which allows you to input your group’s size and intended destination. It then shares that information with appropriate hotels who can submit pricing estimates.

There will likely be more communication required with this option and the Ringleader remains as the liaison between the vacation entities (hotels, tour guides, etc.).

Traveling as a group: Narrowing it down

Wendy noted that the options for group travel are plentiful, and it all depends on the nature of the trip you intend to take, and the budget you’re working with.

Budget can determine options.

Ultimately, it’s the objective of the trip that defines your options.  Do you want to hang by the beach or the pool and chat? Or is this a trip based on adventure?  With a beach trip, you’ll likely just need a beach and some waiters to bring your margaritas.

On an adventure trip, you’ll most likely want to work with a guide who understands the logistics of the place you’re visiting.

The type of trip can you can take depends on the parameters of the vacation. Items you’ll need to define include:

  • Type of trip you want to take
  • Budget
  • Length of trip
  • Number of people included

Jeff explains that the true bond with group travel is the affinity. Are you part of a gardening group? You can book a trip to view gardens and meet with a horticulturist. Wine enthusiast? The Napa Valley is waiting.

“You name the interest, you can find an affinity around it,” he said.

Travel Options Interview

Where will you travel?

You’re only limited by your imagination.  Besides the trips Wendy mentioned earlier, she also said Iceland has become a hot destination (no pun intended).  “The landscape is amazing and the people are wonderful. They have glaciers, National Parks, volcanoes, lakes, mountains and waterfalls. Plus, there is 20 hours of daylight in the summer,” she said.

The “where” will likely be dictated by the “what?”  Here’s a great video from that shows some fantastic trip ideas to take with friends, including:

  • Music festivals
  • Mountain climbing
  • Ski trips

Check it out:

Wherever you go, you’ll find the enhanced experience by group travel.  “When you think about travel and the life-enriching experience, it’s usually about the place,” Jeff said. “Share that with people you like and the common bond is enhanced.”

Take a look at previous editions of Leisure Group Travel’s online magazines for group travel ideas.

Problems when traveling with friends

People are people, and even the best of friends can run into some serious issues.  Wendy provided a number of problems that can occur when traveling with a large group:

Not putting someone in charge: Jeff notes that it’s great to have input and share idea via email, but at some point no one makes a decision, you just wind up with conversations that don’t have any ending point.

Being unrealistic: This occurs when a ringleader plans a trip that’s beyond the scope of what a group truly wants to do or can afford to spend.

Traveling with the person everyone starts to hate: Everyone might start out as friends on the trip, but a vacation can be ruined when you’ve got one person who makes life miserable for everyone.

Booking spontaneously: If someone gets a wild idea for a vacation and you book it the next day, you’re asking for trouble. You might wind up in a bad location and at an overly expensive price.

Managing money: The Wanderbug noted on her blog that evening out money on the trip can be a problem. Her post was referring more to traveling with another friend, not a group, but be wary of one member picking up the tab and expecting something in return. Money issues can always get dicey.

Different agendas: Group dynamics are tricky, and some people may want to go see a museum, others may decide to hit the swim-up bar. If there is dissension among the group, it can make for a rocky time.

Traveling with friends tips

To avoid all those issues, here are some traveling with friends tips from Wendy and a number of other sources:

1.Be flexible: Look, you’re with a group. If you want to do your own thing, then travel by yourself. But if you want to go with a group, then you’re going to need to give in to the wishes of the masses.

Consider "must-do" options.

2. Communicate upfront to avoid the over-reach: If you’re the ringleader, thwart your own overly-ambitious tendencies with upfront communication. Establish what the group’s objectives are and your budget before you get to the planning stage.

3. Take a short-trip together first to make sure you travel well: If you’ve got some newcomers to the group, and you’re not sure if there personality will fit, take a short weekend trip together. You may not need to bring the whole group on this, but a short-getaway with a few key figures will reveal quite a bit.

4. Avoid these personalities: We love these five personality types you’ll want to avoid traveling with, as noted by Click through to the article for an in-depth description (the names alone speak volumes).

  • The high-maintenance friend
  • The cheap friend
  • The introverted friend
  • The sloppy drunk friend
  • The taken friend  

5. Let the ringleader have fun too: It’s a lot to ask of the trip organizer to plan the trip AND manage it while on vacation. It’s one benefit to booking through a travel agent like Wendy – who can handle all the issues and let you relax.

PRO TIP: Even if you find a group travel package like an Apple vacation, you can book flights through a travel agent at no extra cost. As an added benefit, if flights get cancelled, they are tapped right into the airlines reservation system, and can rebook for you. (No calling the airlines yourself!)

6. Have a plan B. While you’re on a vacation, think of a few options in the event things go awry. Is a rainy day ruining your beachtime? How about taking an excursion to the local market.  Some of these you can put together spontaneously, but planning some plan Bs upfront can alleviate the last minute scrambles.

7. Assign duties. One way to give everyone a little responsibility — besides the ringleader — is to delegate out some tasks. Is there a culinary expert in the group? Put them in charge of restaurant picks. How about an artsy-fartsy person? Make them the official photographer. Give everyone a job that plays to their strength.

Final thoughts: traveling with friends quotes

Thanks to Wendy of Burkhalter Travel, Jeff Gayduk of Leisure Group Travel, and some of the other Internet sources for the great group travel tips.  Check out some quotes on traveling with friends from our Pinterest board.


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