Planning a trip can be stressful in and of itself. Adding a few extra people into the mix makes group travel planning all the more stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. This is your vacation after all, and you shouldn’t need a vacation from your vacation. Thus, I’m sharing my tips for group travel planning, so that your trip can be stress-free.
Appoint a Group Travel Leader
Appointing a group travel leader should be your first task in planning a group trip. This person isn’t just the planner, but is also the main liaison, first point of contact and the person who ensures all travel documents and plans are in sync. That includes managing small details like making sure vaccinations and travel documents are up-to-date. For example, any passports that are expiring within six months should be renewed.
Organize Your Plans
The group leader should make sure all of your travel plans are organized in TripIt. With all the plans in one place, the leader can share out the itinerary so everyone has access to important locations, times and details. Forget email threads and print outs! Having a digital master itinerary for everyone to refer to will make communicating out the plans much easier. Not to mention, any changes to the itinerary can be made simply right in the app for everyone to see.
Book Flights First
Booking flights should really be your first priority when planning a group trip. First of all, it largely locks everyone into the trip, plus it gives you a start and end date so you can effectively fill out the rest of the itinerary. Furthermore, book your flights months in advance; since the closer you get to your departure, the fewer seats will be available (and the more expensive they’ll be). Hipmunk is a great option for booking your flight, if you haven’t given it a try yet.
Research Group Airfare
Group travel isn’t something that’s offered by every airline, yet a number of airlines offer special deals and incentives for booking group travel. Perks often include flexible payment options, and with some airlines, the waiving of certain fees. Some of the airlines that offer group travel programs include Southwest, Delta and JetBlue. Typically you need at least 10 travelers to use group travel programs.
Think Beyond Traditional Accommodations
That is, think beyond traditional hotel rooms when traveling with a group. For example, using a service like HomeAway or Airbnb are convenient when you’ll largely be in one destination, where you can book a home or condo and everyone can have their own room.
Consider a Pre-Planned Cruise or Tour
Traveling by cruise is possibly the easiest, most stress-free form of group travel. Once you’ve chosen a cruise, most of the trip is planned, save for booking airfare. Cruise travel affords a pre-planned itinerary that typically involves several destinations like no other form of travel. A tour works much the same way, where you largely just have to book flights, while the tour operator plans the rest of your trip. Some of the larger tour companies that I recommend include Trafalgar, Intrepid, G Adventures and Contiki (Contiki’s demographic, however, is for 18- to 35-year-olds).
Use a Travel Agent
A lot of the work I mentioned above is alleviated by simply using a travel agent. You’ll have to pay for a travel agent’s services, but they can often save you hundreds of dollars that you likely couldn’t have saved yourself. Not to mention, it’ll save you time and stress.
Download Messaging App Before Your Trip
Before you leave for your trip, make sure that there’s a consensus on how you’ll communicate to one another whenever you’re separated. As such, you may want to look into international cell phone plans or a mobile hotspot. Apps like WhatsApp, for example, use Wi-Fi and feature a group texting and a calling functionality.
Book Restaurant Reservations in Advance
While getting a large group to decide on a restaurant is challenging in and of itself, even more challenging is deciding on a restaurant that can accommodate a large group. Consider using apps like Table8, OpenTable or Reserve to make restaurant reservations before your trip. Reserve (only available in a few U.S. metros) can also often also get you into restaurants that are hard to get into or already booked.