Group travel is great! It typically means you have a well-planned schedule, special access to museums and historical sites, guides or knowledgeable people who help you make sense of what you are seeing, discounted prices, and the chance to cultivate relationships with like-minded people who are experiencing the same journey, which can develop into life-long friendships—none of which you have to worry about planning!
Every study abroad program includes a lot of traveling in groups. Moreover, many families and individuals also select group tours over individual travel (for all of the reasons listed above). But, you need to be in the right state of mind before departure.
- Don’t be late! Tardiness is the biggest issue when trying to mobilize a group. One late person means the rest of the group had to sit and wait on you! And often your tardiness could mean the entire group will miss out on an activity. A great rule to follow when traveling in a group is to always be 5 minutes early. If everyone arrives 5 minutes early the group will never be late and often times this equals more free time for participants.
- Be prepared and follow directions! If the group is supposed to depart for a museum at 9 am, don’t show up hungry and expect the entire group to stop so you can eat! The same is true for the bathroom. It is particularly frustrating when people don’t take the opportunity to use the restroom. If everyone in the group waits until they personally needed to use the restroom, the entire group would have to stop 50 times a day! Moral of the story when you have the opportunity to eat or go to the bathroom, take it!
- Use your roommates as sort of a buddy system! They can make sure you haven’t forgotten anything (like your museum card and photo ID) when you leave in the morning. Roommates are also great for making sure everyone in the group has made it to the meeting point or on the bus.
- Always know where you need to be and when! This means looking at, and even carrying a copy, of the day’s itinerary on a daily basis.
- Stay with your group! Unless it’s a designated personal time, stay with your group. Wandering off can cause unnecessary worry on the part of your group members, can make your group late, or can cause other disruptions if you stray too far from the day’s program.
- Be Competent! Just because you have a guide who leads you around does mean you shouldn’t know how to read a map or get from point A to point B. Paying attention and being aware of your surroundings are important, even if you have the comfort and safety of traveling in a group. You should always know how to find your way back, just in case you get separated.
- Be Patient! Yes, groups take longer to do everything. When you are frustrated with time, just remind yourself of all the benefits of group travel. Because someone is planning everything for you, you should be focused on having fun and relaxing. Don’t stress over time management (other than being where you need to be and when), that is someone else’s job.
- Finally be prepared mentally to travel in a group, and travel in general! At some point something will go wrong, but if you have a good attitude, even the worst day can turn into a great memory–because again, you aren’t having to deal with stressful travel situations alone. The best example of this was our group excursion to Cinque Terre two summers ago. Halfway through a 2 hour journey the train stopped and we were forced off in the middle of nowhere. It was a train strike! As a group of 35 it took some time before we could organize the journey home. While frustrating, the group ended up exploring the nearby tiny town and laughing about our terrible day at the local McDonalds.