The digital age of apps and information-sharing has allowed us to easily plan vacations that were once relegated to travel agents and cruise lines. No more cheeseball, all-inclusive, weaksauce travel package nightmares! We have AirBnB, Turo, Lyft, and Venmo! A group of four, ten, or even twenty-plus people can casually coordinate the most complex travel arrangements.
Unfortunately, despite our access to the most advanced scheduling technology of our time, the interpersonal aspect of group travel remains a sticking point. No amount of logistical harmony can make up for a lack of good manners or social graces. Thankfully, all we need is a little old-fashioned mental preparation and self-awareness to avoid the worst social faux pas. Just remember these five simple rules to foster happy, harmonious vibes for group wanderlusting far and wide.
Communicate physical needs.
This issue can make or break a trip. For instance, I am prone to terrible motion sickness. After years of silent suffering, I finally spoke up to my travel buddies. We now have a standing assumption that I get first dibs on shotgun. In that same group, we also have a fellow with a chronic snore and a gal with a gluten allergy. He gets his own room, and we don’t make her go to pizza joints. None of these concessions are a big deal.
You can best serve the entire group by making sure each individual is comfortable and healthy. After all, no one benefits if someone in the group is sick all day from sitting in the backseat of a car. Anyone that labels you high-maintenance for having physical needs should probably not be on your short list for travel companions. In general, just be upfront and honest about what you need in order to have your best trip, and anyone worth spending time with will understand.
Chill with your routines.
It’s uncool to be a diva, plain and simple. Remember that sharing is caring, and you’re not the only one who needs to use the facilities. For instance, if six people are sharing a single bathroom, you probably shouldn’t hog it for a prolonged hair-and-makeup routine. The same goes for overly-specific morning coffee needs and all those other oddball rituals that are charming at home, but burdensome when you travel.
You’re not at home, so if there’s part of your normal routine you can forgo, try to skip it. If you absolutely can’t, be ready to take creative measures, like bringing your own free-standing mirror for makeup application or performing your Vinyasa Yoga meditation on the porch, away from shared spaces. It really should go without saying, but in preserving peace, being mindful of your companions goes a long way.
Voice your opinion (but be flexible).
There is nothing more frustrating than being in a group of hangry people all claiming they don’t care what they eat. It burdens the tacit decision-makers to please everyone simultaneously without knowing what anyone wants. In the cases that you genuinely do not care, that’s fine! But, don’t say you don’t care when you’re really just hoping everyone votes for your personal preference.
I like to employ a percentage rule. I express how much I care about a decision on a scale of one to 100. For example, “I 40% want to rent this particular AirBnB,” or “I 95% would rather go to the mountains than the beach.” This tactic leaves no ambiguity about preferences, and it also communicates variances of emotional wiggle room. However you choose, just make sure that you carry your weight in decision-making.
Know when to put down the phone.
Hiking to the top of a stunning waterfall? Whip out your phone. Taking the elevator to the top of the Rock? ‘Gram that shiz. But remember that your vacation is greater than the sum of its glorious views and thoughtfully-plated dishes. Don’t be that person who treads on others’ memories by insisting on the perfect pic every single time. Sometimes a hike is just a hike, and a meal is just a meal. Try to sit back and let everyone enjoy the moments along the way.
If you’re particularly eager to have an abundance of photos (it is a social media world we live in, after all, and many of us do rely on content for a living), think about creating a group folder where everyone can share their pics. This lessens the urgency by spreading the responsibility of content creation across several people. Plus, you’re more likely to get some great candid photos of yourself.
Take time for yourself.
Especially on extended trips, even the most jovial and chipper among us are apt to start seeing the worst in their companions. Throw in an actual introvert or two, and we’re all just a collective quivering, emotional mess. It is human nature to need a quiet space to reflect and refresh every now and then. Some of my friends do this quickly over coffee every couple days. Those same friends know that I need to disappear for at least half an hour every mid-day. Taking time for yourself is not selfish; it’s honest. Forget about FOMO, and take a breather. Your friends will understand.
Ultimately, the difference between a group trip full of inside jokes and fond remembrances and a sucky hellscape of miscommunications and broken friendships is usually just a little patience and preparation. You’re not at home, surrounded by routine, familiarity, and comfort. You are sharing space and venturing into the unknown, which is a wonderful thing. So just lean into the unfamiliar, and leave a little room for your friends to do the same.