Group travel come in all shapes and sizes – geared towards students, luxury travelers, adventurous spirits, those over the age of 65, the list goes on. Usually led by one or more directors, tours are a great way to experience a new destination. Along with the guide (an invaluable resource – even for the most experienced travelers), group travel usually includes other perks like completely pre-planned itineraries, all-inclusive prices for flights, hotels, meals, and cultural experiences, and endless opportunities to socialize with your tour group. However, the perks that make group travel great are also some of its biggest drawbacks. As a member of a tour group, you usually won’t get to choose what you do, where you stay, or what you eat…not to mention you’re basically stuck with your group for the majority of your visit. Whether you’re new to group touring, or have done it more times than you can count, here are eight essential tips for making your trip run smoothly.
When it’s 7 a.m. and you’re sitting on a bus anticipating an hour-long drive to your next destination, chances are that falling asleep will sound like a much nicer option than listening to your tour director as she rambles on about the history of the Great Wall of China. When you’re jet-lagged after your 13-hour flight to Athens, you’ll stare at your tour director in horror when he suggests climbing to the top of the Acropolis. And at the end of a long day, when all you want to do is sit down in front of the Trevi Fountain and pig out on gelato, you tour director will use this as an opportunity to test your Italian language skills. We know traveling can be tiring, but do your best to take in all of the historical and cultural significance around you. Listen to what your tour directors have to say. Their knowledge and advice is invaluable…remember, they do this for a living. Plus, when else are you going to receive a history lesson at an actual historical site, or be able to practice a local language in the country of its origin?
6. Assign Responsibilities
Learn your group members’ strengths and use them to your advantage. Is someone really good at reading maps? Put her in charge of directions. Does someone speak a foreign language? He’s in charge of communication. Pick out the responsible one to keep the group together, the artistic one to take the photos, and the comical one to keep the group entertained along the way. If everyone in the group is made to feel like they’re an essential member, the group will become a cohesive, well-functioning unit.
7. Remember to Tip
Naturally you’ll want to tip your tour director, group leader, local guide, bus driver, and anyone else who made your trip possible and – for the most part (hopefully) – seamless; but it’s also nice to leave a little extra cash at restaurants, hotels, or other service establishments, even if tipping isn’t customary in that country. Remember, groups can be a hassle to accommodate, so if you encounter an especially attentive server or hotel staff person, leave a little something to show your appreciation.
8. Get to Know Other Group Members
Getting to know your group members may be one of the most important tips on group travel. Whether you know them already or not, sharing a travel experience will definitely bring you closer together. When you look back on your trip, you won’t remember what went wrong, or who annoyed you the most – you’ll remember how you and Sally climbed all the way to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral or how you and Dave shared all those tapas in Madrid. Traveling can be a magical, and making the most of it with the people around you can turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.