At first, it sounds fantastic. Your entire extended family is coming together for a reunion or your friends are taking off for a tropical getaway, and you imagine all the inside jokes, bonding moments and lifetime memories that will result. What’s better than sharing your travel adventures with your loved ones?
There are many perks to group travel, but ease of planning isn’t one of them. While your companions might be excited for the trip itself, many are less enthused about the nitty-gritty logistics of making it happen. People are prone to have conflicting interests, needs, and budgets. There might be miscommunication issues or scheduling mishaps. It can often feel like herding cats!
Don’t let it scare you off. Planning a group trip requires plenty of forethought and organization, but it’ll be worth it once you arrive at your destination. Here are our top tips on how to plan a group vacation:
Choose a leader (or co-leaders).
In an ideal world, you’d plan your trip all together and with everyone’s input. Realistically, you need someone to take charge. Some group members might not have the time to research options, while others might not be that opinionated about what’s on the itinerary. It’s essential to have a go-to person who keeps track of everything and can answer questions. Depending on your group size, it might be better to have a few people share the responsibility and oversee different aspects of the trip.
Book your flights or transportation first.
Start looking at airfare as early as possible for the best prices, and check to see if you can get a special group rate. This is especially important if you want to sit together or even be on the same flight. Some airlines offer group travel discounts — including Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest — though you’ll need at least 10 travelers to qualify. The same applies for trains, buses, car rentals, or any other form of transport. Vans and seating arrangements for large groups go quickly!
Look beyond hotels.
The amenities might be tempting but hotels aren’t the best option for group trips. In a rented apartment or house, you can cook meals together, comfortably hang out in your own communal space, and effectively lower the total cost per person. The one exception is all-inclusive resorts. These typically cater to big groups, with activities and spaces for a wide variety of interests and ages. Look for ones that can assign or split expenses charged to the room, offer group dining options, and provide clubs for kids and teenagers.
Keep track of shared expenses.
Your group first needs to establish a budget for your trip, or at least one for shared costs. From there, you just need to log each expense. Several apps and spreadsheet templates are available to make this a breeze. Splid, Splitwise, and SettleUp all offer both app and desktop platforms to accurately track and split shared expenses. You can add different payees to each expense and settle bills in multiple currencies from more than 150 options.
Pre-plan some activities.
No one needs you to plan every minute of every day — in fact, it’s highly encouraged that you allow for a lot of downtime and flexibility. However, depending on your group size, some activities may require you to book in advance. Take a look at the top-rated things to do and see in your chosen destination, and try to lock down the ones that are most important to your group. Don’t forget about dinner reservations! Some tours and activities offer group discounts online, too.
Be willing to split up.
When half the group would rather take an architecture tour than lie by the pool another day, it’s better to allow for options rather than keep everyone together. Communication is key. Make sure everyone has their required travel documents, the group’s lodging information, and a way to contact other members of the group, such as through WhatsApp. Other apps, like Prava, Travefy, and Tripline, can easily share the group’s itinerary, messages, photos, locations, and saved maps when you’re apart.
When in doubt, hire a professional.
Travel agents might seem like a thing of the past, but complicated itineraries and exotic destinations still keep them in business. If you’re too overwhelmed with planning a group trip, a travel agent or group trip planning service can save you a lot of time and stress.
Now it’s time to get organized! Where would you like to travel alongside your friends or family? If it’s anywhere overseas, Swift Passport & Visa Services Services can help you get the needed documents to experience that once-in-a-lifetime trip together.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.