When traveling alone, there is absolutely no one to answer to about how to spend your days. Would you like to wake up at 4 AM to catch the first bus up to Machu Picchu? You can! Would you like to lounge around in a hammock all day reading and sipping on mojitos? You can! Would you like to take a 5 hour nap in the middle of the afternoon instead of fighting crowds at the Louvre? You can, and I highly recommend it!
Is it any wonder that solo travel is gaining in popularity?
Though there are many reasons that solo travel is excellent, I’m here to let you in on a well-kept secret: you can have the same freedom when traveling in groups.
Is it always as easy breezy beautiful? No. Will you have to do some preparation to get there? Yes. Will it be worth it? Of course!
So how do you get that stress-free group vacation that you imagine in your pretty little day-dreaming head? There is only one requirement. Everyone, and I mean everyone, must meet together before departure. Meet for coffee, meet at the park, meet on Skype if that’s the best you can do. But meet.
Got that scheduled? Awesome! Step one complete. From there, order some coffee and settle in, because these are the points you’ll need to discuss:
Does Person A love to hike, but everyone else prefer cycling? Does Person C sleep in until 11 AM? Does Person B obsess over seeing every historical artifact? Get out in the open what you envision for your perfect trip, and see how it matches up (or doesn’t) with the rest of the group. Someone might be imagining getting up early everyday to pack in all the sightseeing, and another someone might be a night owl.
Gluten-intolerance! Veganism! Just say no to beef! I don’t know many people who don’t have some kind of restriction on what they are willing to put into their bodies, and I think food consciousness is awesome. However, it can be tough while traveling. Make sure everyone is at least aware of the needs of the group ahead of time so that restaurants can be chosen wisely.
Fancy hotel? Airbnb? Hostel? Couchsurfing? Of all of the things you’ll discuss with your traveling pals, this is the most important because it is usually a great indicator of how much money folks are willing to spend on the trip. Out of all factors, it is highly recommended that you all be on the same page about a general budget. If Person A has $5000 to spend and Person B has $500, they will be taking two separate trips altogether (and probably be resenting each other for most of it.)
Level of Independence
Hear me now, friends, or forever hold your peace. Your group of travelers needs to get especially clear on this point: how comfortable are you being alone for part of the trip? If the answer is not very, be prepared for some issues to arise. A traveler who is not able to be at least semi-independent (go to museums/hiking/sight-seeing alone) is a traveler who will be very dependent...on you. This can be very difficult when all you want to do is lounge in that hammock all day with some well-deserved alone time and those mojitos we mentioned before.
If someone cops to being a little nervous traveling alone, first congratulate them for their honesty, and then see if anyone else in the group might feel the same. Pair them up to decide how they will be spending their time when you want to zen out at your private yoga retreat. The buddy system, adultified.
A Note of Caution
All of these topics can be easily glossed over when in the comfort of your neighborhood Starbuck’s. Don’t let them. Encourage your group to be as honest as possible, for the good of the trip and for everyone’s sanity. And then, enjoy. Solo travel is awesome, but do you know what is also awesome? Sharing in the amazingness that is travel with people that you love.
PS: We'd love to hear from you! What tips do you have for group travel? Leave a comment in the section below, and thanks!