Group Travel: Disaster or Delight?

Group trips are touch and go; they can either be seamless and unforgettable or highly stressful ordeals that make you want to pull your hair out and desperately crave a holiday to recover from your ‘holiday’!

How to ensure harmonious group travel:

Group size and dynamics: Too many people on a holiday often disserves the very purpose of the holiday. Carefully consider the family or friends going with you; it is important that all members get along or at the very least are civil with one another. The best way to figure out your ideal group size for a holiday is by trial and error. For instance, having travelled with 20 family members, I have sworn (for life) that never again will I go on a holiday with more than four people in tow. What’s your number? Figure this out; know your level of tolerance before committing to large group trips.

Location: There needs to be basic consensus on the choice of destination. Share ideas, discuss alternatives and arrive at a decision bearing in mind the preferences of all members of the group. Everyone needs to be invested and looking forward to it in order to have a good time.

Mode of travel: Ensure all members of the group are comfortable with the mode of travel. There may be budgetary or time restrictions, allergies or car sickness – always aim to make informed decisions.

Budget: Budget has implications on every aspect of the holiday – choice of lodging, dining, mode of transport and activities, among others. If some group members are on a tight budget while others freely spend, it puts an unnecessary (and avoidable) strain on group dynamics. Have a frank conversation about what each person’s budgetary expectations are, find common ground and plan accordingly.

A priceless tip for stress-free finances: the kitty system: Luckily, I inherited from my globe-trotter mother, a foolproof system for handling finances while on group trips. We call it ‘Kitty – The Savior of Sanity’. One person is in charge of ‘the kitty’ (basically, a common purse) and all members put an equal amount of money into the kitty, e.g., Rs.1,000 on Day 1. All group expenses are paid for from the kitty so nobody ever has to worry about paying bills, or long-winded calculations. When the kitty runs out, simply repeat the process by putting in the exact same amount. It is important that the person in charge of the kitty maintains a written account of inflow/outflow so that there is a basic frame of reference in case of conflict or confusion. Further, use the kitty only for common expenses such as meals, local transport or lodging, not for alcohol, cigarettes or other such varying personal expenses like buying gifts.

Itinerary: manage your expectations: The group is inevitably going to be confronted with a choice of how to spend the day. If the preferences vary drastically, don’t be shy to pair off, or head out in threes and fours. This really helps to eliminate waiting time, which can get frustratingly out of hand in large groups. That said, make sure to fix a meeting point and designated time to re-group. Remember, you’re never going to be able to do and see every single thing you want to while on a group trip, so manage your expectations and get ready to compromise. Remind yourself that it is more important to spend time with each other rather than get what you want.

Solo time: Affording each other ‘solo time’ and privacy is essential to striking that balance when travelling in a group. Let go of the idea that the group HAS TO function as a single unit and do everything It is okay to take time out for yourself. Make sure you create this open and positive environment so your co-traveler can do the same.

Group energy: Traveling in groups is an entire production all by itself. Always bring a positive vibe to the collective energy, go out of your way to ensure a co-traveler is comfortable especially if you notice unusual moods or behavior. Be patient and tolerant.

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Shonali Chenzira
An ambidextrous thinker, I am nourished by the arts and activism. Passion keeps me on my feet, moving, and living as (comfortably) close to the edge as is possible. From performing gypsy street theater to organizing music festivals, creative activism to travel writing, wildlife exploration and more recently developing an all-India module to teach snake safety – I have evolved with every experience. I believe, fully, in the power of the pen and pursue writing that shapes perspective and builds awareness on essential issues (that we can directly effect, and are directly affected by). I also believe, fully, that precise punctuation, good grammar, (un)avoidable alliterations and a bulletproof humor go a long way. I travel to stay sane, stalk birds in their natural habitat for fun, carefully avoid routine and have been known to burst into song, in good rhyme but for no reason. I am a dreamer and a do-er, a poet and a planner. Writing is the only way I know to understand.