Crowd Knows Best: Pros and Cons of Group Travel

Featured, Group Travel, Planning, Travel Philosophy — By on April 7, 2010 at 11:37 am

By Carmi Louw
Special to Lost Girls World


You know the saying – three’s a crowd.  It’s the general consensus that too many cooks spoil the broth, and I thought no different when preparing to go on a month-long jaunt through Europe with four friends.  It seemed like it would be a mammoth task, and I wondered how we could keep 5 people happy for 30 days straight without walking away sworn enemies.

We could have avoided the tricky task of maintaining a democracy by paying someone to make the decisions on a group tour, but instead we opted to plan it ourselves, from itinerary to trains to hostels.  You may think we were crazy but I was surprised at how well it all turned out.
It has to be said, however, that group travel has its downsides, so before you jump on the phone to round up a holiday posse I suggest you take the following pros and cons into account:


– Keeping the peace
Getting along shouldn’t be too hard if you pick your travel buddies carefully, but even the most amiable and placid assembly of friends lose patience with each other when hungry, tired, sick, cold or all of the above.  These moments can cause you to question your sanity for embarking on such a venture in the first place, but afterward they often end up being the dinner-table gems that cause a smile to cross your face when you bring them to remembrance.  As long as you can laugh about it there’s almost nothing you can’t get through.

TIP: Choose carefully, it’s not necessary to travel with people you know well…just people you know well enough.  Pick people who you can trust and get along with.  You need a balance of decision makers and peace makers (plural in both cases), at least one person who can handle money and a clown to break the tension.

– Living with compromise

Taking a group holiday and living to tell the tale will require you to spend most of your time in the middle ground.  This means constantly compromising – and no sulking!   Differences of opinion could mean you miss out on seeing some of those sights on your to-do list.  If your group has different budgets it also means you might end up shelling out more than you anticipated.

TIP: Check that you have similar ideas in terms of itinerary and budget before you make any commitments.  If you do have to miss out or dish out, try not to dwell on it or it could ruin your day!  Take it as one of the givens that come with group travel, some of your favourite experiences might be the ones enforced upon you by the majority vote!

– Going slow motion

The speed of your group is inversely proportional to its size.  Unless you split up, you will become as fast as the slowest person.  This is most obvious when you want to leave your room or decide where, when and what to eat.  Meal times trigger a phenomenon whereby the group will mill around from eatery to eatery, unable to commit, until hunger overrides common sense and you end up eating at the next available restaurant (which is usually regrettable).  You can get around this by taking turns to choose a place to eat, though it’s difficult to ignore the subtle groans of disapproval when it’s your turn to decide.

TIP: It saves time to have a group “kitty”, where people take turns to pay for things and the expenses get written in a log.  That way you only have one transaction each time you eat or see a sight and it saves tedious calculations when splitting a bill.  At the end of the trip you can see how much each person has spent and even out the difference.  Alternatively you can each contribute to a group “wallet” which pays for combined expenses.


More helping hands

If you are booking your travel and accommodations in advance, having a group of people to do the planning can be a huge time saver! A group travelling in high season might find it more difficult to find accommodations on the fly, so advance planning may be essential to ensure  prime location or price.  Just make sure you can trust the people you are traveling with to make good decisions.  As long as responsibilities are clearly delegated and you communicate well with each other throughout the process, this can be a huge benefit to arranging a long trip with lots of stops.

TIP: Using a Facebook discussion thread or collaborating on a Google document is a great way to share information and keep record of what is getting done.  I can vouch for this method since we planned our whole trip online from different continents without having any face-to-face meetings.

– Greater flexibility

As much as compromise comes into play with a large group, it can also swing the other way and promote more flexibility. If you are travelling as a couple and you both want to see different things, you might have end up doing it alone or not doing it at all.  A big group can easily split up into smaller groups, giving you more freedom of choice if you don’t feel like going solo.

TIP: When you get to a new city, get someone to run through the sightseeing options and get a rough idea of who wants to do what.  This way you can quickly see what your options are and how the group should split up.

Taking time out

If the thought of eating, sleeping and sightseeing with the same person for a month non-stop makes you break into a cold sweat, a larger group might just be the answer!  There are always other people to talk to if someone’s working on your nerves, and if you want to wander off on your own it’s not really a big deal.

TIP: Everyone needs to blow off steam from time to time, but bickering about someone behind their back usually makes the problem worse.  Try to keep gossip to a minimum to avoid your trip becoming like a season of Survivor.

There you have it, the sweet and sour on group travel.  After our trip I’m a serious advocate for “large group” holidays, and I would definitely do it again!

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  • Becs says:

    that bottom picture was taken in milford sound in NZ, yeah?

    i think i have a picture of my sis, mom and i in the exact same place:-) (if it is in milford)

  • Carmi says:

    Yep, sure was, one of the most beautiful parts of NZ 🙂

  • Miriam says:

    Excellent written article Carmi! Easy to read and great humor! Esp the part about choosing places to eat!! So true! Man you sound like a real expert now!