April 24th, 2013
How to Plan a Better Group Vacation
Got tapped to plan your group’s big getaway? Don’t panic! Lonely Planet Editor Robert Reid offers up five easy, budget-friendly tips and organizing solutions to make your next adventure a no-stress success.
It all started when someone tossed out the idea of getting everyone together...for a family adventure abroad, a spring break trip or a much-needed get-together with friends from school. And you loved the concept—until the moment you realized that everyone was looking to you to put the whole thing together. Yikes! Planning a group getaway may sound like a monumental challenge, and we won’t sugar coat it: it does take some basic organizing skills! However, it can actually be a fun bonding experience with friends and family if you know the hurdles to overcome and pitfalls to avoid. We caught up with expert travel planner Robert Reid, US Travel Editor of Lonely Planet, to hone in on the five most important things that you should keep in mind, and resources you can tap into, when putting together a big group journey. Get it right, and you’ll not only have an amazing time—you’ll get major kudos for making the trip a huge success.
Tip #1: Create a Facebook page for the trip — These days, almost everyone (including Grandma!) has a Facebook profile—so why not use the social network as a way to get everyone involved in the trip planning? Starting Facebook event for your adventure helps keep you updates and feedback about the trip in one place—and save your group from going back and forth endlessly on email. Once the trip is done, the Facebook page is a perfect space for everyone to share photos. Depending on your privacy of content, you may not want to share every photo.
Tip #2: Put Together a loose itinerary — Usually Reid prefers to have a schedule-free trip, but with a group that likes to travel at different paces and has differing expectations for the adventure, a (flexible) plan in place is probably a good idea. As the group is solidifying the general itinerary, have everyone discuss any concerns or needs at this time — vegetarian fare, wake-up times, etc. "Transparency helps curb any issue before you get on the road," Reid says.
Tip #3: Respect individual needs— Reid recommends letting each person have some freedom to do what they want during the trip, whether that means planning in one “free day” during the vacation or just a few hours break on any given day. He advises to go slower than usual — spend five days in a city instead of just two or three, if possible. This allows everyone to set their own pace for exploring, sightseeing and relaxing.
Tip #4: Discuss the budget in advance — The amount you plan to spend for major travel expenses (flights, hotels, meals) should only be as high as the person with the tightest budget—and you should hash this out well before you book your adventure. To save cash, try searching for short-term apartment rentals or homestays at HomeAway.com, vrbo.com, or AirBnb.com. These types of accommodations are often cheaper and you can cook your own meals. Reid says, and also provide a whole different vacation vibe — homey and local — rather than the impersonal feeling of a typical resort. If someone in the group really wants to splurge on a certain meal or that activity, let them. Flexibility lets everyone truly enjoy the trip in their own way.
Tip #5: Don't be afraid to search for a deal — Whenever you are staying somewhere, inquire to learn if there is a discount if you stay for a maximum number of days. "The key is calling and talking to a person directly on site, not a 1-800 reservation agent half a country away," Reid says. Same goes for tourist activities — often you can get a cheaper price when a larger number of people sign up.
Tip #6: Put things in perspective: When you’re traveling with a group, its important to remember that you’re main objective should be to spend time with one another—rather than focusing on all the things you should be doing at your destination. With a larger number of people making the journey, you should expect (and welcome!) the unexpected. “Your plans almost certainly change,” says Reid. “But it’s those last-minute developments that make for the best stories and bonding moments.”
Mattie Schuler is a freelance writer and editor, currently living in Wisconsin. She focuses on topics including the outdoor industry, outdoor recreation and gear, adventure sports, fitness and health, yoga, parenting, and travel. She also is an editor for Millennial Youth publications, a blogger for Mutasia.com and a regular contributor for Mensfitness.com.