All abroad: how to plan a group trip
You always say you simply must go away together. But arranging a group trip can be akin to herding cats, and your cohorts’ enthusiasm evaporates when it comes to working out the nitty-gritty. Looks like it’s down to you.
Whether you relish the challenge or reluctantly accept the role of tour leader, don’t panic. Wrangling the in-laws or a gaggle of pals onto a plane just takes a little forethought. Get organised and give friends and family a memorable – and meticulously executed – travel experience with these simple tips.
Group trips can be epic – but so can organising them © molchanovdmitry / Getty Images
Keep communication clear
Ping! You’ve been added to a giant WhatsApp group about an upcoming event. Friend A keeps sending one-liners (notification overload) while Friend B communicates in emojis only. Friend C turns up 55 messages deep and asks a million questions, the answers to which they would find, if only they would scroll up. Sound familiar?
Instant messaging is helpful for planning group trips, but can also lead to confusion, irritation and even passive aggression. Don’t add to the spam – be clear and concise when sharing info with attendees. Avoid asking open-ended questions; if you need help making a choice, provide a few options and put it to a vote; and when proposing a costly activity or significant itinerary alteration, check in with guests individually, as many people find it hard to say no if it goes against the group. Send reminders about crucial details a few times before departure, as well as storing them somewhere more static like an email or – if you’re feeling fancy – a website.
Synchronising diaries is one of the trickiest parts of organising a group trip © SolStock / Getty Images
Agree dates as soon as possible
Settling on a certain time frame can be surprisingly tricky, particularly with large groups, so pick your dates as far in advance as possible. Instead of juggling multiple people’s preferred dates and personal caveats (‘I’m free all month except the third Tuesday, Friday mornings and the 22nd’), harness the power of technology; scheduling tools such as Doodle and WhenAvailable offer a quick and easy way to lock things down. Once confirmed, notify everyone and insist they block out the dates in their calendars.
Choose appropriate accommodation
Small groups on a tight budget might find booking entire four-, six- or eight-bed hostel rooms provides privacy while keeping costs down. For more comfortable digs, renting a villa or apartment is usually less costly than multiple hotel rooms – and comes with the bonus of a kitchen and living space. If a hotel is essential, consider contacting them directly to request rooms on the same floor (if desired) and enquire about group discounts.
Splitting the cost of a villa can be a better value option for groups © JGalione / Getty Images
Enlist a trusted helper or two
Any smart event organiser knows how to delegate. Once you’ve identified a few ‘to-dos’, ask another member of the group to help out. It could be as simple as booking a restaurant for the first night away or researching fun things to do in your destination. Involving others helps take the pressure off, making the process as smooth and painless as possible.
Get everyone from A to B – and back again
If you’re all travelling from the same starting point, shop around for deals on bus, train or even plane tickets. Convening at the final destination? Encourage everyone to arrive within the same morning or afternoon if possible. It may be worth making a note of everyone’s scheduled arrival times to keep track of delays and avoid confusion. If you’ll be getting around by car during the trip, consider the benefits of hiring two (or more) smaller vehicles over a people carrier – this would allow the group to split up from time to time.
People carrier or smaller hire car? How much flexibility do you need? © Michael DeYoung / Getty Images
Keep finances fair and simple
Money is perhaps the most contentious issue when it comes to group trips, and has the potential to stall your grand plans. As travel leader, it’s your job to take on board everyone’s budgets (confidentially, if necessary) and ensure no one is peer-pressured into spending too much. Equally, people with deeper pockets should have the opportunity to splash out if they so desire. Generally, splitting the costs of supermarket shops and activities is the way to go. Keep track of who owes whom with Splitwise, transfer cash easily with digital banking (the likes of Monzo and Starling make this particularly easy), and use the XE app for currency conversions.
Propose a flexible itinerary
No one likes forced fun. While you might think packing your days with non-stop action is a sure-fire way to please the crowd, it’s more likely to tire people out and leave them feeling resentful. Suggest one or two optional activities per day which don’t require advance booking, such as a local hike or museum, and add a couple of pre-arranged splurges, such as spa treatments or fancy meals. Making room for spontaneity is wise too, so prepare to adapt on the fly.
Make an effort to break the ice if you’re introducing strangers to each other © Westend61 / Getty Images
Tips for specific types of trip
Bachelor (stag) and bachelorette (hen) parties
Host your heart out – hen and stag-do guests may not all know each other, so make an effort to get the group talking and plan games or activities that will help strangers bond.
The bride or groom is boss – keep an eye on the bride or groom to ensure they’re enjoying their celebrations. Be prepared to change tack if they’re feeling unwell, overwhelmed, or simply not in the mood.
Bring goody bags – simple items like painkillers, dress-up accessories or disposable cameras are a thoughtful touch.
Arrive the night before – no one wants to be late for the nuptials and your motley crew of 15 cousins won’t sneak to the back pew unnoticed.
Take checked luggage – these days it’s all about the hand-luggage hustle, but you could split the cost of one checked suitcase between the group and use it to store your fancy outfits and any liquids your require to spruce yourself up for the party.
If you’re organising a family get-together, cater to the needs of each generation © FatCamera / Getty Images
Account for all ages – baby Millie and your mad Aunt Mary need regular naps in quiet spaces, while teens require cool activities to keep them occupied. Bear in mind any accessibility issues for elderly relatives and buggy-pushing parents, while catering for those keen to stay active.
Don’t forget the camera – how often do three generations or more get together? Take pictures!
Sport and music events
Research the venue – stadiums in particular can be on the outskirts of big cities. If you choose to stay close to the event arena, be aware that you may be far from other attractions.
Factor in extra time – getting to and from the venue will probably take longer than you think due to crowding, as well as the bathroom breaks a group requires. If you’re travelling after the gig or game, keep this in mind when you book your transport.
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