It's not a myth that travelling can be a dealmaker/breaker in a friendship. Travelling is, in fact, a commitment when it involves a long journey with a companion and it can sometimes feel like you've been married to them for a long time. ? Between planning, getting there, and actually carrying out your plans (or dealing with mishaps) it can be a lot of stress on all of you!
As the journey continues your group might end up bickering like an old married couple - one friend's flippant, the other can't wake up early, another's just super picky with good, the list goes on. But, we're here to help you rid of potential negative outcomes and make the best out of your pack-travels! (Psst... If you need a guide on choosing the ideal travel buddy instead, read our piece here to help you maximise the chances of happy travels! ?)
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When planning for a trip with friends, these are the do's and don'ts we think you should be mindful of!
1. Align your expectations on... everything ?
Travelling is meant to be a stress-free period for everyone, and the way to tick that box in our checklist is by knowing what everyone's preferences are beforehand. What are the things everyone looks forward to doing on this trip? Are there non-negotiables that each member of the pack need to be aware of?
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It's good to keep in mind that while some people are okay with crowded tourist attraction districts, others aren't. Some love to always be on the go, others aren't as much. If your travel buddies are open to be on different wavelengths and adapt to different paces through the trip, great! If they aren't, it's time to ask everyone what do they want to achieve out of the trip, what do they want/not want to do, etc so everyone's happy by the end of it.
2. Design a budgeting plan that fits everyone (and their pockets) ?
Money, whether we like it or not, will always be a big deal when travelling. Booking a trip when other members of the group are willing to spend significantly lesser/more than you could end up in a twist.
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The best way to keep the financial tangle at bay is to discuss with the group on how much is everyone willing to spend on food/accommodation/recreational activities. No, you don't have to outline every little detail (that'll drive you crazy, for sure!). But it's helpful to have expenditure limits that everyone can agree on. What would be the maximum cost for flight tickets or even breakfast? When a common agreement is met, that's one concern out of the window! ?
Apps which you'll definitely find useful for budgeting (and the stress plus awkwardness in-between) is Splitwise and Splittr. It's perfect for tracking group expenses when multiple people are making payments, can be used offline, and they are free to download! Oh, Splitwise is also integrated with Venmo, so you can easily do money transactions without exiting the app. ? How cool is that?
3. Who does what? ?
Setting up logistics for a group of people may be frustrating, but it has to be done. Whether it's about crafting the itinerary, planning where to eat or making reservations, your group could always use a heads-up, especially if you're going to a foreign country. If you or any of your friends have a knack for detailing, organising and keeping things in shape, that person is it!
However, ensure that everyone gets the same amount of responsibilities in the planning process so that the bulk of the work isn't being left to just 1 or 2 people. In the end this group vacation is a team effort, and each member should chip in to ensure that no one's left stressed out at the end of the day doing everything by themselves. ?
P.S. If you're setting different tasks for each other, remember to regularly check-in to make sure important things are being completed. You don't want to arrive at the airport for your flight only to realize that someone hasn't changed any money, or that you've forgotten to bring something important!
4. Helpful travel-coordinating apps, anyone? ?
To organise everything, our phones are a powerful tool. There are a few apps I'd recommend you download on your phone (if you haven't already):
At its simplest, Google Sheet does not disappoint, ladies and gentlemen. You and your friends can plug in your preferred destinations, accommodations, etc, all in one shared spreadsheet. It is convenient, and lots of travel websites and bloggers provide online templates you could use, such as this simple one by Girls Night In. ?
I always offer to book the accommodation when I go on overseas delegating trips simply because I get membership points on my favourite travel booking site, Booking.com. Being a forgetful person, it helps when the app notifies me with reminders a few days running up to my trip on what to anticipate in the city I'm heading to. Lovely isn't it? You'll be kept up-to-date on last-minute weather or event changes!
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TripIt is also a great itinerary-building app that not only allows you to collect details (such as flights, hotels, car rentals, etc.) into a master itinerary — the app’s Inner Circle feature then allows you to share your itinerary with other members of your travelling group. That way, everyone will stay synchronised 24/7 (important if you're all busy and can't keep track of 10 different trackers at the same time!) ?
If you find all the extra downloads a little overwhelming, simply starting a WhatsApp group to coordinate all the plans is sufficient. With the help of external attachments, you can dump all your spreadsheets and reservation links here and guess what? You're set to go! ✈
5. Is anyone in the risk of critical medical attention? ?
If there is someone in your group who is, it's wiser to be travelling within the city centre where hospitals are more accessible compared to... a safari trip, per se! Having a chronic illness doesn't mean you can't travel, but you should definitely take more precautions to ensure that all bases are covered before you go e.g. make sure you bring more than enough medication, or any required items such as inhalers or blood pressure monitors. Inform your friends of what to do in case something happens (e.g. a seizure) so that the whole group will feel prepared in case of an emergency.
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When it comes to the everyday health issues, I swear by the perk of having a mum who makes me bring a Ziploc of basic meds like flu pills, paracetamol, charcoal pills and of course, band-aids. ? Consider packing one for yourself as they've been really helpful in case of allergies, headache from jetlag, and food poisoning (whew, thanks Mama!)
6. Pop the right questions
Are you travelling with pals who are as strict/flexible as you? How much physical fitness activity can each person handle? What can't you/your friend eat? Does anyone have a phobia for heights when you're, in fact, planning for a sky-diving trip? Cross out all the possibilities beforehand so you won't be travelling with an unhappy gang. Some questions may feel silly to ask (Would your friends like to visit small cafes with you?) but you never know what might come up!
7. Pack well ??
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Trust me when I say this, it's a real workout to be sharing essentials, be it phone chargers or worse, towels (yuck!). Don't be that one friend in the group who's always going around borrowing stuff because they forgot theirs. Even if you're packing light, shedding your essentials from the checklist doesn't make your life easier. So yes, pack well, and if you do want to share items such as adaptors or chargers make sure to keep it clear who's bringing what so miscommunication doesn't happen!
During the trip
8. Be present
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After going through all the trouble of planning a group trip, the only plausible thing to do is... be present! By that, I mean hands off the gadgets, of course. Sure, you can get your friends to take a photo while you pose at an Instagrammable monument somewhere, but save the editing and posting for later. Soak in the moment while you're around good company, and start snapping quirky group photos like this:
??Wondering where was this taken? Check out our article on Exploring Hong Kong On A Budget!
Doing so in my previous trips made me realise how better I felt about my travels. I came back with lesser photos than I probably should have, but it was satisfying to be able to tell stories I otherwise wouldn't collect had I been occupied with my phone! Not to mention how walking around with phones in our hands is a safety hazard...
9. Be open to unplanned things as you go!
Sometimes, the most rewarding trips are the ones you didn't mean to take. Keeping in mind safety aspects and how much you have in your pocket, don't be afraid to do a little detour with your friends and let your inner child take the wheel! If you're in a foreign country, go out of your comfort zones and ask the locals where do they go for an escape. You've got nothing to lose. For all you know, you're probably one question away from discovering the greatest surprise you'll encounter during your trip ?
P.S. If you plan anything drastically different from your itinerary do remember to keep someone back home informed just in case!
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PS: Thinking of going spontaneous? We've listed the pros & cons for you right here ?? Itinerary vs Spontaneous: How You Should Travel
10. You don't have to be around each other 24/7
Unless you and your pack are chained together (which we're pretty sure won't happen lest you're filming a Black Mirror episode), take a break from each other from time to time!
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When you've been touring as a group for weeks, it'll subconsciously feel like a routine and you'll run out of things to talk about because everyone's going through the same thing. It's completely okay to tell your friends to break up temporarily and just do what you've always wanted to do alone for one whole day.
I personally found it satisfying to be able to take a chill day on my own, at my own pace-- which was something I got to do in Manhattan. That 2018 winter, I was delegating at a United Nations Youth Assembly and I only had a week in the city. Yes, one week in the Big Apple (check out our 6D5N NYC Itinerary here!). Definitely not enough time, if you ask me ?
After being around friends for the first few days, we all agreed to spend a day to ourselves. It's a brilliant idea, considering we all had seen various parts of the city and learnt how to go around, so it's not such a scary thing to do when you're completely on your own.
With my subway card in one hand and Google Maps in the other, I navigated around Midtown to the Upper East Side and had a relaxing afternoon at the Central Park! The best bit is not having to wait or rush for other people. I don't feel guilty from wanting to walk slower or to chat with the musician at the park bench. In hindsight, that was probably one of the most fulfilling trips I've gone on.
11. Check-in with your pack periodically
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Doing this won't win you Agony Aunt of the year, but it'll definitely help the day-to-day experience a lot better for everybody. A trick I've picked up to help make everybody feel included is by doing simple catch-ups like "Hey, you OK?" or "Do you think this works?" especially at the end of a day. Not only will I know how they're feeling about the trip so far, but it's also a great indicator for any arising conflict. Nip it in the bud, as they always say!
12. Accept that not everything is within your control
A diarrheoa episode. An uncomfortable night sleep thanks to the paper-thin mattress. A friend who's too fussy about food that you never get the chance to be the street food daredevil. Whatever it is, not all travels are going to be a 10/10 experience. But that's what makes it what it is.
I remember being told by an acquaintance that my trip to Uganda wouldn't be complete without a safari drive. Weighing our plans and the limited time that we had before our conference begin, my friends and I ended up never making it as we were too jetlagged to wake up at 3 am (after a 28 hours flight) and make the drive. We were bummed at first-- not knowing when's the next time we're gonna be in Africa. I comforted myself using the law of attraction; there'll always be next time!
That's all we've got, folks! This is where I tip my hat and bid you good luck as you book that group trip and see if our tips (pun intended) work ? Give it a try and let me know in the comments if you find it helpful. ?