How to Plan a Trip With A Big Group
Big family holidays or trips abroad with all your friends can be both exciting and overwhelmingly stressful. There are so many variables and so much to plan that you might not even know where to start. You may struggle to find a balance between careful planning to make sure that things go smoothly and the flexibility that is necessary to roll with sudden changes. Read the following guide on planning a holiday for a big group for guidance on organising the perfect trip.
Decide Where and When You’re All Going
The first thing that your group needs to agree on is where you are going on your holiday and when. You will all need to decide upon not just a departure date and return date, but the actual duration of the holiday. Large groups can get tiresome very quickly, especially if there are clashing personalities, so the general guideline for group trips is 5 days. You can add a travel day to get there and one to get back on either side if you wish. The larger your group is, the more difficult it will be to lock down specific dates. Check everyone’s availability as soon as possible and schedule the trip for a time when everybody is definitely able to make it. Ensure that everyone blocks it off on their calendars and books the time off work. Before you can settle on dates, though, you need to decide on your destination so you can check flight availability. It is better to keep things simple, so agree on travelling to a place within Europe or Central America.
Group Holiday Destination Ideas
● a rental beach house in the US or Western/Southern Europe
● a cabin in the mountains in Northern/Eastern Europe
● camping for large groups in the UK
● a transatlantic cruise from Europe to the USA
● a rental apartment in any major city
AVOID long-haul trips and backpacking. Not only are the flights likely to be more expensive, but people will be more likely to start disagreeing and getting tired if a large group of you are constantly moving and bedding down in hostels.
Choose the Destination & Appropriate Accommodation
Arguably the most important part of the holiday will be where you choose to stay. The living facilities and sleeping conditions will impact each of your moods. This is why everyone should agree on the type of accommodation before you search and confirm the final choice before you book it. The accommodation needs to work for everyone, including their budget. Individual hotel rooms can be expensive and isolating; hostel rooms can be cheap, but lack privacy. The best option for a group trip is to rent a house with several bedrooms. You can search for rental apartments or houses on Airbnb in your destination city. Ensure that the property has all the amenities that you need and is within walking distance of public transport and shops. This gives the group more agency, but also requires taking responsibility for grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Hanging out in a shared but private accommodation can feel more homely.
Designate a Leader to Take Control
Some groups will naturally have a stand-out leader, but some will have more than one strong personality or none at all. Either way, you all need to agree on a leader to be in charge of the holiday. This person will be the administrative leader and the liaison for everyone in the group. The leader does not necessarily have to do everything themselves; they can designate tasks to other members of the group, but they are responsible for making sure that everything gets done. This means setting deadlines and keeping track of bookings, gathering funds and making payments, and ensuring that everyone has all the necessary travel documents. Other group members can help the leader out with research for places to go and things to do. It is important to note down the preferences of every person in the group to inform your final choices. This includes things such as dietary restrictions, physical abilities, personal interests, financial situations, and medical conditions. If more people want to get involved in the planning, you can designate leaders of particular areas. One person can be in charge of transportation and hotels, another can organise the sightseeing, etc.
Communicate with the Whole Group
Communication is key to make sure that everybody knows what is going on and is happy with the plans. Create a packing list for the group so that everyone brings everything they will need. You can assign individuals a shared item to pack, such as a hairdryer or portable speakers. When it comes to planning the accommodation and activities, it is important to be democratic. Not everyone will have the same tastes or capabilities, so if there is disagreement, then the group should vote. Set up a communication channel such as a group chat specifically for discussing the holiday so that nobody misses out on contributing to the plans. You might want to create a shared Google document which lists all the important information, such as flight and hotel details, contact numbers, and the final itinerary. The person in charge of the financial aspect should create a private spreadsheet or document to keep track of who owes what and what still needs to be paid for, and make sure that everyone is aware of payment deadlines and the amounts to pay.
Book Your Flight Tickets ASAP
Find the cheapest and most convenient flights available for your route and book the tickets as soon as possible. To ensure that everyone gets the same price and to increase the chances of your group sitting together, purchase all of the tickets at once. The group leader can do this if everyone transfers them the money for their flight upfront. There may even be a group discount available, so check with the airline about this before booking. You also need to make concrete plans for how everyone is getting to the airport, and from the airport to the accommodation when you reach your destination country. This could mean everybody meeting up at one person’s house for a minibus to the airport, and booking another airport transfer at the other end or seeing what public transport is available, depending on your luggage and mobility situation. The availability of flights can determine the start and end dates for the group holiday.
Budgeting and Financial Planning
Not everybody will be in the same financial situation, so creating an affordable holiday package is crucial. Decide your budget before you book travel and accommodation and make an itinerary. Necessities like the flights and the rental house may be less flexible costs, but make sure they are split fairly. If one person pays upfront to secure the bookings, keep track of who needs to pay them back. When it comes to tourist attractions and activities, look for places with free entry or group discounts. Book tickets for activities online in advance if it is cheaper to do so, and design your itinerary around them. Have a general group budget for things like food and public transport to ensure that these costs are all covered. Each person can set their own budget for personal spending on souvenirs and such according to their own finances (but be sensitive to others in the group who may not have as much to spend!). To split group costs evenly, use a free app such as Splitwise. This will reduce the stress of manual calculations and records but keep track of the bills.
Plan the Details & Create a Flexible Itinerary
This might seem contradictory, but you need to plan everything while still remaining flexible. Set some things in stone and take care of bookings and payments in advance. This includes the airport transfers, flights, accommodation, and public transport tickets. It is better to pre-plan some activities, such as one major tourist attraction each day in the late morning or early afternoon. Remember that big groups are much slower and that you also need to plan for downtime in between travelling around so that people get the chance to relax. If you intend to go out for dinner, research places to eat in the area and make a group reservation in advance. Make a groceries list for the group and choose where to get the shopping from in advance, then do this on the first day. Don’t be too ambitious or strict with your daily plans, because it can become stressful trying to stick to it like clockwork. Realistically, not everything will go to plan, so you need to keep an open mind and have alternative options. Spontaneous choices can be fun and create extra-special memories, so leave room for unexpected adventures. Always decide on a meet-up point and time if you ever split up.
Food Expenses and Dining Out
Food is a necessity, and you need to consider how everyone will be eating and how much it will cost. Having a rental house or apartment with a kitchen is great for controlling meals such as breakfast before you head out in the morning and dinner when you come back in the evening. However, you must purchase appropriate groceries and designate a cooking and clean-up crew. You might decide to eat in on certain days to reduce your budget and eat out on specific days. It is better to plan group dinners out carefully, especially if your group is a larger one. The restaurant needs to accommodate everyone’s dietary needs and be able to host your group, which is why you should make a reservation. Other times, you may want to pick up snacks at stands or pause for a light lunch at a local cafe. A big part of the joy of travelling is experiencing the local cuisine, so try to fit this in wherever you can (without forcing anyone to try things!).
Don’t Be Afraid to Split Up
Being in a big group increases the chances of not everybody agreeing on things. Sometimes it will be easier to split up if some people want to do one thing and the rest of the group would rather do another. This will keep everyone happy, and you can make plans to meet up again afterwards. On some days some people might not feel up to the planned activities, which is why flexibility is important. You should be able to adjust plans to suit the needs of each person in the group. If the group does split up, make sure that nobody is left alone or gets left behind. You should have a pre-arranged meet-up spot just in case anyone gets lost. Make sure that everyone in the group has each other’s phone numbers and stay in contact throughout the day to check up on each other if you do separate into smaller groups.