How To Survive While Traveling In Packs

It can seem like a great idea to gather a group of friends and family members for a mass migration during the holidays, but unforeseen complications tend to crop up when you bunch together various groups of people with different routines, financial resources and quirks.

Posting at Always the Planner, Lindsey offers several tips on how to avoid letting your vacation becoming a hellish reality show.

A sampling:

*Put someone in charge. Things will work better if a point person can make some trivial decisions, set agendas and mediate disputes that emerge.

*Meet beforehand. A pre-trip summit can let people air out pre-conceived worries, such as sleeping arrangements, morning routines and plans for meals, activities and sight-seeing.

*Keep it short. It seems logical to get the most out of your time off from work by staying at your destination as long as possible. But after a few days, the law of diminishing returns sets in and you’ll start to get sick of whoever you’re stuck with. Keep the trip to less than half a week and the vacation will seem like more of an adventure than a slog.

If you have a group travel horror story, share it in the comments.

10 tips for group travel planning [Always the Planner]


Edit Your Comment

  1. dannod says:

    I disagree. Nothing makes the holidays sparkle like a nice “F*ck you” between relatives. It might not be that great in the moment but 10 years after the Thanksgiving from hell, that trip makes a great story.

  2. Angus99 says:

    #4. Drink. A lot.
    #5. Keep a camcorder in everyone’s face, constantly.
    #6. Issue sidearms.
    #7. Discuss religion and politics, exclusively.

  3. misterfweem says:

    We have to post horror stories? A few years ago we took a multi-family, multi-vehicle trip cross country, visiting 11 states. We had a ball.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You had a ball because your family likes doing the same things. This doesn’t always happen. I didn’t like family vacations when I was a kid because I never liked to do anything my parents wanted to do. They wanted to go shopping and visit relatives, and I wanted to go to museums. I could not care less about seeing relatives (none of them were my age). They didn’t like museums so when I got old enough they started dropping me off in front of a museum and I’d spend the entire day exploring the city by myself. Things were better this way.

  4. areaman says:

    I like the 10 tips, but they’re built on the premise one is dealing with rational people. If I could pick my family, I would only pick rational people.

    • Bohemian says:

      Every family and every group of people has “that one” that everyone mutters under their breath about wanting to do bad things to them because they are so insufferable. That is the person you leave at home.

  5. ARP says:

    Free Time- give eveyone a few hours per day of free time to pursue their own interests. What I found works is doing the touristy things, group activities, everyone wants to do in the morning and then split up after lunch to do your own thing. You can meet in the late afternoon/early evening to discuss dinner, bars, etc. and talk about your time.

    Put people in charge of something that they’re interested in. If you’ve got a foodie in the group, ask them to pick out a few restaurant choices each day (but remind them that they should be sensitive to a wide variety of pallettes). If you’ve got a history buff, ask him/her to put together tourist sites, etc.

  6. Geekybiker says:

    Pro tip: If half a week seems like a slog to you, maybe you should find different people to travel with.

  7. nybiker says:

    Hey, it’s a Wall Drug sign (free ice water!!).

    • Costner says:

      For those who have visited Wall Drug and been incredibly disappointed, I beleive I speak for all South Dakotan’s when I say… I’m sorry. Come to Mt. Rushmore and we will make it up to you… but blame the $14 for parking on the National Parks Department… not on South Dakota.

      • mariex05 says:

        Or just drive on highway 16 (Iron Mountain Rd) and you’ll get a good view of Mt. Rushmore from afar without paying the parking fee.

      • nybiker says:

        Disappointed? Not me. I enjoyed it very much. It’s the kind of place you have to see to believe.
        I had driven from NYC to Missoula, MT for a Bikecentennial 25th Anniversary Reunion during the summer of 2001. On the way home I played tourist, so I stopped at Mt. Rushmore, stopped at Little Big Horn, and eventually started seeing signs touting the ‘free ice water’ at Wall Drug. I kept seeing them and seeing them and I was curious about it. As it so happened, Wall, SD ended up being at the perfect stopping point for the day’s driving. So, I stopped, got a room at a hotel, and explored the town and the drug store. I had dinner there, shopped at the gift store, and in general had a pleasant evening. If I had been on a motorcycle, I would have stuck around for another week or two, and attended the Sturgis rally. But alas still no motorcycle. When I left the next morning, I drove through the Badlands. Talk about a lot of nothing. And I say that in a good way. I am a born & raised NY’er. So when I saw all that openness and nothing around, it made me really appreciate the concept of getting away from it all. The problem for me is I’m not exactly an outdoor-campground person. I just checked Google and they don’t have a street view for the place. I wonder why since they have it for street nearby.

  8. Jubes says:

    I’m in the midst of planning a 3 week European vacation with my Dad, brother and boyfriend. My Dad could not care less what our itinerary is and my brother thinks that EVERYTHING I book or suggest could be different and better (typical older sibling!). Luckily my boyfriend has complete faith in my abilities so i don’t have to worry about him, but getting him interested in hotel choices has been hard. For $1600 per person, I’ve booked us 4 days in London, 6 in Berlin, 3 in Amsterdam and 4 in Paris, with all overseas and inter-Europe flights and transportation included.

    It was only a few days ago when I realized how it’s actually going to be being stuck with all of them for 3 weeks straight. One of us may not come back.

    • ARP says:

      Nice work. I think you’ll wear out Berlin in a few days. I’m sure its too late (and it might be the 2nd guessing you were referring to), but I would drop Berlin to 4 days add a day in Paris and either London or Amsterdam (if you’re experiencing all of Amsterdam, count on a wasted afternoon or two). Or you can schedule a day trip to a nearby town.

      • Jubes says:

        Yeah I’ve been looking into Berlin a bit, not much because my brother is going to be living there so I’ve left Berlin to him, but nothing has stood out as a “must-do” there. The bf and I have already done Paris and Amsterdam, and we’ve already added extra days there (Amsterdam to count on getting absolutely baked with my dad to get some stories out of him ;) – provided we still can! haha) The price will also go down quite a bit if my brother has room for all of us, right now we’re at 1300 without hotel/hostel expense there.

    • brownhb says:

      Wow! Can you plan my european vacation?

      Friend and I, when studying abroad, bought Eurail passes and did 5 countries in 2 weeks on probably less than $1500. But we were sleeping on trains and not staying in nice places, and we stayed for 3 days with my aunt in Vienna.

  9. Ilovegnomes says:

    For larger groups going to crowded areas, invest in long range walkie talkies and give one to each group leader. That way they can warn everyone about being late, lost, wanting to stay longer, etc. This is especially important in amusement parks. Just make sure that everyone knows what channel to tune them to.

  10. CalicoGal says:

    If there are other travelers at your “pack” vacation destinati, e.g. on a cruise, at a resort; PLEASE do not “take over” stuff, like one particular bar, or crowd around a buffet table, or walk slowly in a pack 6 abreast, blocking the walkway– and most of all, please please do not SHOUT at your pack-mates across the lobby, pool deck, restaurant, etc.
    It isn’t YOUR ship, resort, or hotel.
    Others are there, too.

  11. Brie says:

    The best thing our family does while on vacation is a whole lot of nothing. Seriously, we’ll “schedule” maybe one touristy thing a day, but the rest of the time we’re good just hanging out in the house or one year, the resort suite. Which is good, because I’m the default point person, and my in-laws are the type who tell me “Okay okay” when I inform them three weeks in advance that I’m renting a car, and then panic the day before: “Did anyone rent a car?!”

  12. SonarTech52 says:

    I think you’re all [censored] in the head! We’re ten hours from [censored] fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something, this is no longer a vacation, it’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun, I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun, we’re all gonna have so much [censored] fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our god**** smiles! You’ll be whistling Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah out of your [censored]! I gotta be crazy; I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose! Praise Marty Moose! Holy, [censored]!

  13. James says:

    I just returned from two weeks in Spain and Morocco. Other than spending two days with a couple friend of mine that was passing through, I had the entire time to myself.

    In the evenings for dinner it would have been nice to share a meal, but the few stressful times, like navigating the Metro for the first time, or getting the to the train station late and finding the tickets for a day trip were sold out – I was SO glad I was by myself, – not being responsible or having to apologize why I didn’t set something up correctly.

    I tend to make the plans, so any diversion, good or bad, comes back to me.

  14. LatinoGeek says:

    Yeah, took a vacation w/ extended family to Ft Lauderdale in 03′. Will never do it again. Ever.

  15. mac-phisto says:

    group traveling in my family only has one rule:
    1) don’t

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      That’s basically the only rule. All others are unnecessary. Every time I’m lulled into a family outing, I realize (again) why I don’t like family vacations. We’re all very different people, and have different ideas of what is fun. Plus, we live life at different speeds. My parents love traveling, but they tend to like going to places that we find extremely boring, like the beach.

  16. Ducatisti says:

    We do month-long motorcycle adventure trips with various friends. This not only includes the regular stresses of travel with others, but added tension of bad weather, mechanical failures and poor hotel choices you all have to live with. Here’s my short list of what helps keep everyone together without losing friends.

    1. Designate ONE person as the planner. If you’re gone a long time, this can change as one person might be an expert in one area, and someone else in another. The Planner makes the travel arrangements and lets everyone know what is happening. It is their responsibility to keep everything within budget and within quality standards, it is everyone else’s responsibility to NOT WHINE about the arrangements.

    2. Make sure everyone is on the same page, literally. Each traveler needs their own map and destination information. The time to discuss changes is BEFORE you leave, not during the trip.

    3. Food is simply energy. Some nights you will not be happy with the restaurant selection, other nights you will be thrilled. It is not the law that everyone needs to eat together, go to the grocery store and grab bread and cheese. Standing around a strange city after dark discussing “what do you want to eat?”, “I don’t know, what do you want?” is a time waster, frustrating, dangerous and stupid.

    4. When bad things happen, the first response shouldn’t be to figure out who caused the problem, but use your energy to figure out how to fix it. If you want to finger point later, whatever.

    5. There are times when it is imperative that everyone stick together, there are times when it’s good to split up. Know the difference between the two and act accordingly.

    6. Don’t get angry when you have to wait for one person in the group, they’ll have to wait on you for something eventually. Along that same line, do everything in your power to NOT be the person they’re waiting on.

    7. Remember Spock, “The needs of the many…blah blah blah”, but it’s true. My little idiosyncrasies are cute until they start affecting the entire group, if that happens, I need to suck it up and get into group think.

    Most importantly, if you are with a group and it’s just not working out – know when to call it quits and split up. Also know when to just swallow your pride and stick it out. Some of our best trips have been with groups that I thought would never work out.

    • nybiker says:

      I like your suggestions. Good thing you’re on motorcycles. Try a similar same thing but sign up for the Adventure Cycling Association’s Trans-America bicycle tour. 93 days bicycling across the USA with anywhere from 8-11 other people that you haven’t met before. Oh what wonderful feelings one can get. In that case, it’s the luck of the draw. During my tour in 1980, when it was only 90 days, we had Mt. St. Helens erupt at the start and our leader left the group in Carbondale, IL; but 2 people who met, got married the following year and are still married – so it can work out.
      Of course, trying to plan such a tour with your friends, well, you better be damn sure you all know what you’re getting into.
      In spite of the problems, I’d do it all over again.

  17. suez says:

    The worst is when everybody has different ideas of what “getting away” and “relaxing” means. I went in on beach house for a week with 7 other friends a few years ago. We are all well past the age of drinking ourselves into Girls Gone Wild, so that was not the issue. The trouble was that it was an extremely hot summer (+100) so we were forced to stay inside through the worst of the day, and while some of us wanted to use this time away to enjoy the simple nature of the beach by reading and writing and generally relaxing, we had one member who felt compelled to play obnoxious video games on the large TV in the main room all day every day. Have you ever sat in a room having to endure the same 5 bars of video game music over and over again for a week? At one point I just got in my car and drove 100 miles along the beachfront, just to escape Mario for a while.

  18. hymie! says:

    A group vacation? We can’t even go out to dinner without trying (and failing) to accommodate
    (*) the vegetarian
    (*) the gluten-allergic
    (*) the health nut
    (*) the picky eaters
    (*) the impoverished

    • Geekmom says:

      the impoverished? Why the hell are you inviting people who are impoverished out to eat and complaining about having to pick a place in their price range? You want that person to come eat with you at some expensive place, than pay for them yourself or stop inviting them to places out of their price range.

  19. rahntwo says:

    11. Hit on the attractive in-laws.

    12. Eat off others’ plates without asking.

    13. Skip your shower turn, it gives you more time to do other stuff.

    14. Snap your gum all day every day.

    15. Text or talk on the phone constantly.

    16. Hum or whistle tuneless melodies all the time.

    17 Constantly remind everyone how much better the last group vacation was.

    18. Two words- Backseat Driver!

    19. Borrow money from others in the group every day.

    20. Insist on a tight schedule down to the half hour.

  20. jason in boston says:
  21. scgirl_212 says:

    My family has done the cruise thing, and regardless if you like them for yourself, it’s hard to go wrong. Everyone gets their own cabin (or every family unit) the little ones can go play at the kids club place so no one gets stuck with the baby (ies) all day, You can do whatever you want on the ship and then you get a couple hours to explore whatever port of call you are at and have dinner together and that’s it.

  22. brownhb says:

    I went on vacation with a friend who was not much of a saver. The 2nd day I almost had a heart attack when she and her cousin were planning out the itinerary – brunch, massage, mani/pedi, a concert, expensive dinner, then out for drinks. I seriously thought we were going to spend $400 in one day. Fortunately after the massage we were too relaxed to do anything more than have a good dinner and go home with some wine, but I thought I was going to have to bring out my inner thrifty self and put a kibosh on all the fun.

  23. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    This is why we travel alone or only with my parents.