Group Trips: How to Plan a Smooth Getaway

Group travel

Maybe your sister wants to split a summer shore house. Or your college buddy is mounting a 30th-birthday expedition to Burning Man. Celebration vacations – any birthday that is divisible by 5 – and multigenerational gatherings are on the rise in 2013, says travel analyst Peter Yesawich of MMGY Global. With more people teaming up to split costs and create memories, chances are high that you'll be involved in a group trip sooner or later.

But whether you're organizing a full-blown family reunion or a city getaway with friends, traveling in a group can be stressful. Money worries and unrealistic expectations, not to mention personality conflicts, can create problems that go far beyond splitting the check. Here are a few things you can do to make your group trip run smoothly:

Issue invitations carefully
People don't change personalities because they are on vacation. The restless brother who always needs something to do will not enjoy a sedentary day at the beach. Your best friend who cuts coupons will probably be horrified by a high-priced spa menu. Not everyone is right for every trip – and it's better to gather a smaller group with similar tastes than trying to reach compromise with a larger one.

Ask for priorities
You can't pick your family, the saying goes, which means that often your travel guest list is set in stone. Debates over destinations can get heated; sidestep arguments by asking group members about their vacation priorities. Do they want to relax or go, go go? Cook gourmet meals or dine at hip restaurants? For most people, time off is limited and therefore precious; knowing what each person prefers can help you pick the right place from the get-go.

Discuss finances
Money can be a sticky subject, so having a discussion about your budget sooner rather than later is the most important thing you can do to keep the peace. If one couple is thinking $5,000 when another can only chip in $2,000, feelings will get hurt and friendships strained if the costs aren't dialed down.

Brainstorm together
Sharing ideas with the group as you plan not only sets expectations, it can smooth out differences before you go. A joint Pinterest board would work well, as would a private Facebook group visible only to those taking the trip. Your goal is to come up with a loose itinerary so everyone is on the same page before you leave home.

Be flexible
Although having a few planned activities avoids that "what do we do next?" question, don't be afraid to be flexible. Better yet, encourage others in the party to pursue their own bliss. Not everyone has to take the hike to the waterfall or visit the rose garden; time apart to rest, recharge and do your own thing can make the group activities more satisfying.

Settle and share any debts as soon as possible. Post photos to Facebook or a photo sharing site such as Flickr and SmugMug; just make sure that your friends approve images before you tag them (and trust us, no one wants that karaoke video out in the universe). Write down a list of funny quotes or stories from the trip because you might forget later.

Once you're home, take some time to assess the trip. If traveling with your husband's best friend and his wife proved to be a hassle, don't be afraid to say no next time. Life is too short to vacation with the wrong people.

More tips to help you travel better:
How to Find Under the Radar Travel Spots
Flying With Kids: How to Avoid a Cataclysm in Seat 9B
How to Communicate Abroad When You Don't Speak the Local Language
How to Relieve Stress on the Road
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