While I most certainly enjoy and sometimes prefer solo travel, I have traveled with a variety of different groups including traveling with my sorority and fraternity brothers, large organized tour groups, friends, and family. After a recent trip to Egypt with the best travel team I could have envisioned for myself, I thought it would be helpful to shed light on #grouptravel #etiquette based on my experiences.
As always, I’ve included some great and factual reads and advice on this topic from Forbes.com and Airfarewatchdog.com. I would also be remiss if I did not mention that TheCut.com offers a VERY thorough DIY plan for traveling with groups that I absolutely LOVE and plan to use for my next friend’s trip!
However, there is always a bit more to consider and so I am sharing some essentials that should be reiterated but, also a few gems not mentioned anywhere else.
1) OPEN UP. If you are the “Odd One Out” AKA joining an established group of friends: be open-minded and ready to engage with everyone. DO NOT HARP ON BEING THE ONE WHO ONLY KNOWS SO & SO. If people aren’t disposed to being friendly towards you let it be because they are socially inept - not because you are constantly reminding the group or individuals that you do not know them and can’t be a part of making NEW memories.
2) TALK. I think it’s really frustrating to be traveling with people who do not want to talk. Travel is a social experience and if you are with a group, that does entail sharing parts of yourself with others. You don’t need new best friends, but you are with people who will (or should be) on the lookout for you, if something were to go down. It is important to remember that ultimately people are social beings. If this isn’t you, you should think about traveling solo.
3) INTRODUCE. Conversely to number 2 above, if you are the “Nucleus” AKA the organizer who is bringing all these people together, it is important to do formal introductions in person and explain how you know each person at some point in the early stages of your trip. When should you do this? If everyone arrives early to the airport it could happen there, or you can do it at your first dinner.
4) GIVE. Give openly from your travel funds AKA Spread the costs. If you are #1, don’t be all “I don’t know everybody so I’m not paying for X.” If you will be traveling with people for over two days, and if the Nucleus is cool, you have to trust that by extension their friends are cool too. Also no one is going to abandon the trip to skip on paying you back for booking something.
My friend also put me on to Splitwise which is a great app for splitting costs. However I will add a word of caution here, it can get hard to keep track of expenses in 3rd world countries. So our rule of thumb was for each of us to pay cabs whenever we had the small bills handy. One night I paid extra since tips were being handled by others over the days prior. On another trip to Paris, my friends paid for dinner one night, and I covered the next. No one was hawking the menu and policing people either. The attitude of giving is essential in group trips. As an adult who works, I cannot travel with misers. The universe will appreciate your karma. This rule is also probably why talking about budget is CRITICAL and on ALL the group etiquette articles I’ve read.
5) CONTRIBUTE. Do your research, read something, and contribute to the group’s dynamic by bringing in something useful. I have to say that my least enjoyable travel experiences are when people defer to me because I am well traveled. It is a burden to feel like everyone expects one person to know everything all the time. When everyone contributes it makes the experience much more enjoyable.
For example, on my group’s Egypt trip, one person had Google translate and this came in really handy when we were tired of people trying to get over on us; two people had international data plans so that we wouldn’t lose anyone; I bought medication and was on snack patrol with another friend. Lastly everyone had the itinerary I created, and could reference it for what was happening. I also think this rule is important because even in a group, EACH person wants an experience. Without having done any legwork beforehand, it makes it difficult to have that outside of other people who you then become dependent on.