August 5th, 2011

Group Travels: How to stay cool, calm, and carry-on

Group Travels: How to stay cool, calm, and carry-on

Embarking on a great travel adventure with good friends builds memories powerful enough to last a lifetime. However, the great unknown can also exacerbate friends’ individual quirks from adorable to, well, downright aggravating. Your difficulty with directions combined with a travel partner who refuses to ask for directions? A go-getter with a desire to climb pyramids and explore the jungle combined with a friend who would rather relax by the beach? This can be a recipe for disaster if you're not careful! Before embarking on your next group adventure, consider the following suggestions:

All Hail the Agenda
A good way to avoid disagreements is to create an agenda before you depart. Have each traveler come to a travel planning meeting with three travel musts, in order of priority. Review priorities and ensure that everyone gets to see/do their number one priority. Take a look at the other ideas and decide as a group when or where to fit them in. You may realize that on a few afternoons, the group can split up. Perhaps a group can go snorkeling while the fashionistas can check out the local markets, or the architecturally inclined can take a tour of impressive buildings, while the coffee connoisseurs can make a day of traveling to different cafes and sampling the local espresso.

The agenda can be flexible (after all, part of the fun of travel is being open and willing to deviate from the over-scheduling that can dominate so many of our lives), but planning ahead will ensure that everyone has clear expectations and there is a commitment made by the group to help each individuals’ travel dreams come true. And who knows, you may uncover a love for photography, para-sailing or that strange local delicacy by trying something new based on a friend’s recommendation.

Pre-Plan for Smooth Sailing
Assuming a carpe diem approach to travel rarely ends well (you might find, for example, upon arriving tired, hungry and a bit grungy from a nine-hour bus ride, that the entire town has shut down (including the banks), to celebrate a holiday you have never heard of, and every room is booked up through the weekend!). Before you take off, double check festivals and holidays and create an agenda that ensures at least a few secure accommodations along the way.

Appoint a decision-maker
Some friends are natural decision-makers; others can’t choose pizza or Thai to save their life! Before you touch ground in a new land, choose one person in your group who, in the face of group indecision, wields the right to make a decision, then and there, no grumbling allowed! In a group with several strong personalities? No problem, simply rotate each day and everyone gets a turn playing head honcho.

A Little Alone Time is a Good Idea
There's more than a bit of truth in that old saying, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and there's nothing wrong with spending a little time apart during your trip. In fact, it's a great way to handle those little things that you just can't seem to agree on - like the museum vs. the zip-line. This doesn't mean you have to be apart for an entire day; just a few hours to roam the streets, shop, read, write – whatever it is you want to do – will help to reduce your stress level. Once you've enjoyed your space, you'll find your time together even more pleasant. If you are splitting a room with your group, splurging on individual rooms about half-way through the trip can also be a great boost to morale.

Plan for Patience
It doesn't usually take long for odd little habits to wear on the nerves of a traveling partner. Raucous snoring or a propensity to pull out the tourist map in the middle of a busy, bustling street? Instead of getting frustrated, know this is all part of the joy of joint travel. For the small stuff, take a deep breath (and don’t forget to pack ear plugs!). Communication is also key and can help mitigate irritation early on. While taking responsibility for your own experience, politely request that your travel partner cease bumping into you with their travel pack. Most often, your partner isn’t even aware of their behavior, and a polite request can turn the situation around.

With a bit of planning and open communication in hand, get ready for an incredible, life changing experience with your best pals. Bon Voyage!

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