Traveling with a group can either be non-stop, hilarious, exciting, trip-of-a-lifetime fun or it can be a total nightmare. And the difference is all in the preparation.
Before you set out with a group of friends or strangers, run though this checklist of questions to ask beforehand to make sure you’ll have a smooth and easy adventure.
What’s your budget?
Money is the number one cause of conflict among travel companions. Nothing is quite as stressful as a partner who insists on 5-star meals every night when you’re on a shoestring budget. And what better way to ruin the trip you’ve been saving for than a friend who is only willing to stay in dirt-cheap, roach-infested motels?
Find out what everyone’s expectations are in terms of an overall budget as well as what your group’s priorities are when it comes to spending the money. Scrimp on accommodation and spend on entertainment? Who is OK with eating street foot every night and who wants to taste the finest local restaurants?
Just remember that one of the great things about travelling as a group is the possibility of saving money by doing things in bulk. Splitting the cost of a rental car among a group is significantly cheaper than bus or train fares for everyone, and renting an apartment or house can be more cost effective than a collection of hotel rooms. Before you go, figure out where you’ll be able to save by travelling in a group and you might discover that there is room for compromise between the budget-minded and the comfort-oriented.
What do you want to see/do?
Everyone has different interests and while some people might want to spend a day walking through museums and art galleries, another might be happier climbing up a mountain. It’s important to get a sense of everyone’s expectations before you go.
You don’t have to spend every moment of the trip together and you might find that it makes sense to break into smaller groups on occasion, so everyone can do what they’re interested in. But if someone is intending on spending the entire trip on a hammock at a beach resort and another wants a non-stop road trip down the coast, you might just be better off planning separate vacations.
How flexible is your itinerary?
Another cause of stress among friends can be different styles of travelling. Are you mega-relaxed, willing to take things as they come and always interested in “finding out” what’s down that winding side road? Or do you like your time to be carefully scheduled, knowing where you’ll sleep each night and always showing up to the train station 30 minutes before your departure time?
In the case of traveling, opposites don’t necessarily attract. Rather, what seems like a great adventure to someone is super-stressful to another and what seems like common sense to someone else is seen as a waste of time. Find a group that takes a similar approach to travel.
How do you handle it when things go wrong?
It’s inevitable that something will go wrong on your trip. Whether it’s food poisoning, pickpocketing or getting lost, something will go wrong. If you see these kinds of setbacks as fun challenges, you might get frustrated by a companion who takes it as a sign that you shouldn’t leave your hotel room for the rest of the trip. Alternatively, it might be frustrating to travel with someone who
When you travel in groups, it’s good to find a balance of people who will calmly take charge when something goes wrong and people who will take the precautions to avoid problems in the first. But you still want to avoid travelling with people who completely melt down at the slightest hitch or people who seem to deliberately invite trouble.
How comfortable are you with each other?
The words of Ernest Hemingway: “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” Travelling is often when you see people at their rawest. When someone is away from the comforts and support of home, outside of their comfort zone, concerned about budgets and unsure about the quality of the drinking water they are most likely to be annoying, snappish or withdrawn. If you don’t have any love (and not just the romantic kind) for your companion, you might find it difficult to deal with the little outbursts.
And vice versa. If you aren’t comfortable enough with your companions to let them know when you’re starting to get stressed, one little thing can easily build into a major problem. Even if you aren’t extremely close, make sure you travel with people you love and respect.
Go for a trial run
If you aren’t totally sure about the dynamics of the group, take your potential travel companions for a weekend away. Use the weekend to get a feel for how you and you companions get along on long car or bus rides, how you handle hitches in the itinerary and the general compatibility of your travelling styles.
It might only take one overnight to realize that your intended month-long backpacking trip needs to be seriously reconsidered. You also might discover that you bring out the best in each other and that you see more, do more and just generally have more fun with your group.
Author bio: The article as written for Trip Originator by Whitney Cox, a New Zealand-based blogger who writes on behalf of Auckland airport car rentals agency, Rental Cars New Zealand.