Continuing our theme of group travel (check out last week’s Perks of Group Travel, if you missed it), this week I thought I’d talk about how to make a group travel experience truly great. Obviously the tour company’s planning and the tour leader’s execution of the trip are crucial. But aside from good planning and leadership, a successful group trip comes down to the people – and how we comport ourselves when traveling with others. A certain amount of give-and-take, flexibility, and zen is necessary. Plus basic good manners.
Think of a group tour as a team sport – you’re all in this together, working toward the same goal: an amazing travel experience. So to help you make the best of your group travel, I offer:
Mockingbird’s Etiquette Tips for Group Trips
1. Respect the Schedule. Someone went to a lot of effort to plan the itinerary, and when you’re traveling with more than a few people, schedules are not just “suggestions.” In other words, be prompt. If the itinerary says to be in the lobby at 9 am, be in the lobby at 9 am. You don’t want to be the one person on the tour that everybody else is always waiting for. This is ultimately about respect for the tour leader and respect for the rest of the travelers.
2. Go with the Flow. You signed up for a group tour so someone else could be responsible for leading the way – and that means you’re not in charge. Any kind of group functions best with one leader, so don’t try to hijack the tour with your own ideas about how things should be done. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lend a hand or intervene if something is about to go terribly wrong, but if things just aren’t happening exactly the way they were supposed to (or how you would like them to), just… go with it. See what happens. Live in the moment. You could also call this rule “Let it Go.”
3. Mix it Up. Meet and mingle with as many people in the group as you can. Try to sit with different folks at dinner every night. This isn’t middle school, people. No cliques!
4. Hold Your Tongue. Okay, so there is a slight chance that someone on the trip is going to annoy you. But this is not the time to set them straight. For the sake of group harmony, unkind thoughts are better left un-said. This isn’t high school, either. No drama!
5. Consider Your Needs...and Theirs. Some tours (like Mockingbird) will pair solo travelers together so that you don’t have to pay a single supplement. But give some thought to whether you’re prepared to be a good roommate. Your loved ones at home may be happy to accommodate your sleep apnea, or your scent aversions, or the whale music you have to listen to to fall asleep. But expecting a stranger to turn himself inside out to accommodate your needs – during his vacation! – is asking a bit much. Take care of yourself and be considerate of others – and pay for your own room.
6. Give Yourself a Break. If you need some time alone to recharge (perhaps to make it easier to honor Tips 2 and 4), it’s okay to take a break from the group and do your own thing for a while. Do a little homework in advance about things you might want to do, so as to avoid the major logjam that results when a tour leader has to help 10 people make separate plans for the day. And under all circumstances, abide Tip # 1.
7. Give Your Friends a Hand. A group tour is a team effort, so watch out for each other. Lend a hand when needed. Even if you’re arriving on the tour solo, it’s nice to know that your fellow travelers have your back.
8. Laugh. To paraphrase JK Rowling, take seriously the things that matter, and laugh at everything else. This being a vacation, there will be very few things that need to be taken seriously. So go ahead, laugh it up. You’ll have more fun. And isn’t that the point?