Traveling solo is the current travel trend and I completely understand its appeal. As an only child and introvert, I am well acquainted with solitude and welcome it in certain circumstances. Travel is not one of them. There is nothing like sharing the experience of seeing a new place or being exposed to another culture with friends and/or family. It is hard to put into words the feeling and emotions you experience while traveling and it’s great to have others who can relate to that specific experience.
I have had my fair share of group travel experiences, good and bad. I had my very first large group travel experience when I traveled to the Dominican Republic with nine of my friends from medical school for spring break. I learned a lot of lessons from this trip. The most important being that I should take a greater role in planning trips or at least be involved in making lodging decisions. Given that we were working with graduate student budgets, we opted to stay at a pretty inexpensive resort and silly me, I did not even look the place up until after we had confirmed that we were staying there. Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the resort and it was in the middle of nowhere with poor quality food and questionable cleanliness. I was not too pleased because I am very picky about where I stay when I travel and the food that I consume. Despite the lodging debacle, I did actually have a fantastic experience because of my friends.
Thankfully, my travel companions convinced me to go on excursions including horseback riding and hiking so it ended up being an enriching experience. Lesson learned: if you are picky about where you stay, be more involved in deciding lodging arrangements.
I took my second large group trip during my last year of medical school. The last year of medical school offers more schedule flexibility and is the last chance to take advantage of student discounts ;). Me and five of my friends took a two and a half week European excursion. We were very ambitious and visited London, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, and Barcelona.
My friend did a fantastic job planning majority of this trip but was very diplomatic and offered us options for lodging which we voted on. This was actually my first exposure to Airbnb and I fell in love with the concept. The only downside to this trip was that since we went to so many places, we had to coordinate traveling between the different places and it is more complicated with a large group. Lesson learned: Try to limit large group trips to 1-2 destinations and one week or less.
My most recent group trip to Cape Town was my best group trip experience yet. I took a more prominent role in planning but everyone contributed their ideas and opinions. This group trip was also unique in that not everyone knew each other before the trip but thankfully everyone got along well. We spent a full week in Cape Town which gave us the opportunity to try to do all of the things that each person wanted to do. Additionally, we took turns deciding where to eat dinner each night which ensured that each person felt like they had a say in the choices that were made during the trip. Lesson learned: Group trips should be a democracy, not a dictatorship.
It can be very difficult to corral a group of people with different schedules and budgets. As you have read, I have been on a few large group trips and my experiences have been variable. I think most people that travel on group trips can fall into the following categories. Read on to see how to deal with these different travel personalities to create a positive group travel experience.
1. The Type-A traveler:
This is the person who likes to plan out everything. They will likely have a detailed itinerary planned prior to the trip and get a little bent out of shape if you stray from the itinerary. They will be the go-to person if you want to know any facts about the history and culture of your destination because they likely have read a ton about the destination and will be the “expert” in the group. It is great to have this type of traveler in your group because they will keep the group on task to see the most important places and keep you from having regret that you missed out on seeing and experiences all the destination has to offer.
How to enjoy a group trip as a Type-A traveler: Accept that plans can change and that you can’t control everything. Weather conditions can ruin an outdoor activity or your travel companions could revolt and decide they don’t want to follow your itinerary. Just go with the flow and learn to make compromises. Communicate what is most important to you and try to find a happy medium. No one wants to travel with a tyrant, so loosen up and enjoy.
How to please the Type-A traveler: Don’t downplay the work that they put into planning a trip. They likely spent many hours of their free time researching and putting in an effort to ensure that you have a truly enriching and life-changing experience. If you don’t agree with their plans, don’t be passive aggressive, just communicate your concerns. But don’t wait until the last minute to communicate that you want to change plans, Type A travelers need time to adjust.
2. The Social Media Maven:
This traveler is all about sharing their experience with their social media community. They want to make sure that they capture every detail of their travels in pictures and videos. They will make frequent picture stops and will have their own list of must-see locations based on their own social media research. They will go to great lengths to get the best picture, even if it means taking a risk.
How to enjoy a group trip as a Social Media Maven: Be open to going to places outside of your own personal must-see list. Some of the best captures come in the most unexpected places and you can be one of the first to discover an Instagram hot spot. Additionally, it is easy to take a great picture in front of a famous landmark or lush landscape, but likely capturing more culturally and historically significant places will encourage you to be more creative in producing a picture that elicits social media envy.
How to please the Social Media Maven: Indulge them. Take their picture for them and try to put an effort in getting a great shot. If you give them a lackluster picture at an unflattering angle, they are just gonna ask you to do it again, so just save yourself some time and make it great the first time. Be patient when they want to stop and take pictures at every stop. This is the way they memorialize their travel and it may be the only time they get a chance to enjoy this destination.
3. The Shop-a-holic:
This traveler wholeheartedly believes in the benefit of retail therapy. They will be the resident fashionista who will have the perfect outfit for each excursion. Their priorities lie in finding the best places to shop during their travels. They want to find exclusive items that can only be purchased at that destination. For the Shop-a-holic traveler, a trip is cherished by the items that are purchased while traveling.
How to enjoy a group trip as a Shop-a-holic: Don’t expect everyone to want to spend hours at the mall shopping. Be cognizant of everyone’s time and how they want to spend it during the trip. Not everyone’s priority is shopping. In order to be most efficient, do research ahead of time regarding where you really want to shop so you can go directly to a specific store instead of browsing for hours in shops that don’t have the items you are looking for. Also, try to find unique places that have things that you can’t get back home so that everyone feels as though they are having a cultural experience instead of just aimlessly shopping.
How to please a Shop-a-holic: Patience, patience, patience. The Shop-a-holic will want to find the perfect items and will want to take their time. If that conflicts with your priorities, make arrangements ahead of time to do another activity while those who want to shop can do so at their own speed.
4. The Laissez-faire traveler:
This traveler just likes to go with the flow. They just want to take it all in and have no specific agenda. They are ok with making plans on the fly and will not have a problem if plans suddenly change. This traveler is the easiest to travel with because they are very flexible. They travel for the overall experience and have no specific expectations.
How to enjoy a group trip as a laissez-faire traveler: Continue to have a go-with-the-flow mentality and you will enjoy your travels and help your companions enjoy themselves as well.
How to please the Laissez-faire traveler: Give them concrete travel plans because since they are not into planning ahead, they may miss out on great experiences without some concrete plans.
5. The Life of the Party:
We have all traveled with the life of the party. They are the travelers who make sure you are exposed the local area nightlife. They make sure that everyone has a great time and creates lasting (sometimes embarrassing) travel memories. They keep the bar stocked with drinks and encourages everyone to partake. When traveling with the Life of the Party, there is never a dull moment.
How to enjoy a group trip as the Life of the Party: Be aware that some of your companions may not want to party the whole trip and may want to go on some cultural excursions. If you want to go out, make sure you research great places to go ahead of time so you aren’t leading your travel companions to sketchy places.
How the please the Life of the Party: Loosen up and have fun. You don’t have to party 24/7 but make sure you carve out time to party, preferably a night when you can sleep in the next day without worrying about missing a scheduled tour.
6. The thrill-seeker:
Zip lining, bungee jumping, skydiving, scuba diving, and the like are all on the thrill-seeker’s must-do list. They are all about experiencing a destination through harrowing experiences that you will never forget. This travel companion will bring you out of your comfort zone and make you try new adventures.
How to enjoy a group trip as a thrill-seeker: Don’t be upset if your travel companions are not as enthused as you are to go on death-defying excursions. Some people prefer to not risk their lives on vacation. It’s a personal choice and you have to respect it. If it is something you really want to do, don’t be afraid to venture out and do it on your own, making new friends in the process.
How the please the thrill-seeker: Try to compromise and do something adventurous to satisfy the thrill-seekers need for adrenaline spiking activity, within reason. Try to research the excursions that the thrill seekers desire to take part in to assess safety risks and hopefully reassure yourself that you are going into these activities with full knowledge of what you are getting into.
The best way to get to know someone is to travel with them. You spend an unusual amount of time with them and learn about their quirks and pet peeves. During my group travel experiences, I have been exposed to all these different travel characters and they have all contributed to memorable travel experiences.
What type of traveler are you on group trips? Do you think you could have been a better travel companion in the past by better understanding the perspective of your fellow travelers? Let me know what type of traveler you are.