By Lora Gates
Traveling with a group can be rewarding, exciting and sometimes tricky. Whether traveling with friends or family or planning group travel as a travel leader, you encounter some of the same challenges.
I remember the few times I have traveled with a group and no matter the size – small or large – there are differing opinions, thoughts, likes. Some are early risers, while other like to sleep the day away. Some like to be in control of the day and othes like to go with the flow. Outside factors that you can’t control play a role in the overall happiness of the group as well. Rain, temperature and even the travel to and from your destination may throw you a curve ball from time-to-time.
Anticipating some of these challenges will make you a better travel planner and lead to a happy experience no matter the circumstances. The following misconceptions and the actual facts will help you do just that.
1. Groups must stick together.
Fact: Groups do not necessarily have to stick together throughout the entire trip.
- Likes / Dislikes
- Big Spenders / Penny Pinchers
- Adventurers / Introverts
Build itineraries that include options that fit more than one mold. Track 1 for the adventurous, big spender who likes to be outdoors and perhaps track 2 for the reserved, saver who likes to keep inside. If you can, provide choices for those who like to make decisions while having pre-set options for those who just can’t seem to make a decision on their own. These options can nurture a traveler who will want to return for future trips you plan. With that said, when it is time to meet back up, be sure you plan early and communicate to all where to meet and when. (You may want to make sure everyone is on the same time zone as well!)
2. Group travelers are “organizers” and never forget anything!
Fact: An organized traveler does not always mean a well-prepared traveler.
Group travelers are just like you and I and they forget things too! Providing a service that may not fall within your typical offering such as simply providing a light snack on board can make for a happy traveler if they forgot to pack their favorite protein bar or treat. Other frequently forgotten items might include:
- Hair ties
Start keeping your own log of the most forgotten trip items and have them available so they will spend less time fretting about those and more time – having a good time.
3. It is difficult to inspire relationships amongst a big group.
Fact: Relationships can be built on even the shortest trip with the largest group size.
Group travelers are often there because they are looking to build long-lasting friendships with others who have some of the same interests.
- Set up opportunities for bonding time.
- Form a Facebook Group for sharing both before, during and after a trip.
- Use connection time to form your own relationships to assure satisfied travelers.
Great kick-starts include getting the group together to share whether they have traveled to this area before and can offer their experiences providing knowledge that might aid in a fellow travelers positive trip. A final gathering to share on the last day and collect contact information is also a great way to help encourage bonds between the group.
4. Bad Weather = Trip “Fiasco”
Fact: Make the most of a trip to a destination that just might be known for its rain, wind or storms.
The weather may change but the destination is still the destination. The experience is all in what you make it for your groups. Prepare ahead and do your research if you are headed to the windy or rainy city.
- Have a rainy-day back up plan for those who just don’t want to brave the elements.
- Be sure your group knows how to prepare and what to expect during your travel time.
If you are visiting during rainy season, pack raincoats and umbrellas. If you are visiting during the hottest season, include the sunscreen and extra water bottles. You get the point, don’t forget to remind your group of the anticipated meteorological conditions that just might try to rain on their parade.
5. But if we stop, we’ll never get back on track.
Fact: You will get back on track, just plan ahead for them.
Ok, so I know the difficulty in trying to off-board and on-board a group of almost 50 unique and wandering people. Just having traveled with a group of 5th graders recently, it can be a challenge… and the parents more so than the kids more often than not. With that said, no one feels comfortable being “that” person who just left the back of the bus in a bit of a quarantine zone if you know what I mean. So, don’t overlook the simplest things such as stopping frequently for restroom and stretch breaks. It is good for everyone to have a chance to step outside for a “breath of fresh air.”
6. You can’t please everyone.
Fact: You can offer choices that might help with this one.
Just as you can plan for groups who don’t need to stick together, the same principles apply to pleasing everyone. The more choices you have to offer, the more you will be able to please the majority. And ok, I am sure you can’t please everyone all the time, but you can set yourself up for success if you offer options so the decision is on the traveler and not you!
You can make group travelers happy with a little pre-planning and insight. Give them choices, let them know what they might expect and offer as many opportunities as possible to love the great service and knowledge you bring to the table as their travel leader of choice. Implement these and brainstorm additional ideas with your colleagues to get the most out of your pre-trip efforts.
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