Group Tour Survival Tips
In the past 6 weeks, I have been on two group tours overseas and have complied a handy list of my go-to Group Tour Survival Tips.
The first tour was to France with the lovely Jeanne Oliver. Hers was an art tour; people signed up to travel to a beautiful place and learn art. If you follow us on Instagram, you know that the second trip was a trip to Peru for the purpose of tourism and shopping. Our guide Wade Geese is an “alpaca guy” and has traveled to Peru many times both alone and with groups.
On both group tours, I was surrounded by people whom I did not know beforehand and I was led to places where I have never been. Group tours are not new to me, though; I’ve traveled with Compassion International a couple of times to visit sponsored children and I have been on mission trips to many places. In fact, I’ve probably traveled more with groups than I have solo or with my family.
Every group tour is different, but some things are the same no matter where you go or who you go with, so here are my best group tour survival tips. Group tours present the unique challenge of the beautiful discomfort of travel abroad combined with the discomfort of meeting new people and being in new situations. That being said, preparing for a group tour is a bit different than just planning a trip. There are other considerations besides your own travel needs and preparation that will help you survive if you run into uncomfortable situations. These group tour survival tips are what I have come away with and I hope they help you!
Bring whatever you need to unwind and unplug
- As an introvert, this is my #1 tip for other introverts. There will be long hours you will be with people- possibly people who you have a minimal connection with or even people who annoy you. There are two things I need to have in order to unwind whether I’m on a group tour or traveling alone. I am an avid reader and I need books! I read nightly before bed and always on airplanes and in airports, so I need enough books to entertain me for however long I plan to be gone. I also need something to listen to on my phone. Sometimes that is music and sometimes it is a podcast- no matter what, I need to be able to put in ear plugs and block out the outside world. Sometimes those earplugs just politely tell others that I’m engaged in something else so I have space to think. Books on tape help me rest, so sometimes I turn one on just to snooze. Both books and ear buds help me unplug from reality and they are important for travel in general, so I never leave home without them. Maybe you need essential oils or your yoga mat- whatever it is, don’t leave home without it!
Be prepared with snacks and water
- There was a day in Peru where we ended up on a much longer bus ride than anticipated. We were on the Altiplano (which is HIGH elevation) and it was dry and desolate. We spent many hours away from any kind of civilization where we could get food or water and it was a bit of a rough day. We had no idea we’d be gone over lunch time and we did not prepare well. Luckily, we did have enough snacks and water to make it, and everyone shared what they did have. On the trip to France, food was no issue at all. I carried water everywhere (as I usually do) and there was never a time we didn’t have snacks or a meal, so it wasn’t a problem, but it’s good to consider that it always could be a problem and to prepare accordingly. The group leader should be responsible for informing you about meals and snacks, but in the event that they don’t, you want to ask and/or be prepared in advance for the unforeseeable.
Trust your leader AND ask questions!
- If you are going on a group trip, it is very important to trust the person who is leading you. I don’t necessarily mean that you should know them before-hand (though that helps), more I mean you’ve got to let go a little and let someone else be the boss. For someone like me who wants to have control it is important for everyone’s sanity that I let the leader lead. On almost every trip I have been on with a group, the leader had traveled to the destination before and possessed intimate knowledge of the people and places we would be traveling to. He or she knew what we would encounter and worked to prepare us for what we would see and do. Wade would tell us, “this is a place you need to watch for your purses.” and Jeanne would tell us, “Our next stop has the best views!”. But anytime I didn’t know what to expect whether it was schedule confusion or when we would be able to eat next – I asked. Asking questions and gathering information makes me feel secure. If I felt like it was something not everyone might have been wondering, I waited and pulled Wade aside to ask him, but I always asked and you should be prepared to ask, too.
Ask for what you need
- Speaking of asking- I learned recently that “healthy people ask for what they need.” This is obviously true on a group trip. It’s tough on a group trip to not sometimes feel like you are the only one who needs to pee or is thirsty. Guess what? It actually doesn’t matter if you are the only one. We have to take care of ourselves and if that is an inconvenience to others, that’s OK. Certainly I’m not saying to be inconsiderate of others, but it is a balance. For example, my mom was the oldest person on this recent trip to Peru. As I’ve already mentioned we had some doozies for bus rides and she had to pee maybe a little more often than rest of us, but not much. I know asking to stop felt uncomfortable for her at times, but it had to be done (I mean what is she going to do? Pee her pants so she doesn’t have to ask!!?). However, many mornings, she intentionally limited her coffee intake so that she wouldn’t be the cause of us all having to stop 50 times. It was a balance between taking care of herself and considering the group needs. I had to ask for medicine, pee breaks, and information on many occasions and once I even had to ask the bus driver to unload the suitcases so I could get my second camera- I wasn’t excited about doing that, but I had to ask for what I needed. Be prepared to take care of yourself on a group trip because the leader has lots of other concerns. If he or she is a great leader, they will always be thinking of the group, but they may not be able to consider everything.
Bring a Friend
- In Paris, I was lucky enough to have two friends going on the trip. In Peru,
my mom was lucky enough to have memy mom and I were lucky enough to have each other. Honestly, having friends on these trips made unbearable moments bearable and beautiful moments more beautiful. I had rough moments on both trips and I was able to call on my friends and my mom to help see me through and give me perspective. Laughing together at inside jokes made many days pass quickly (and some nights go on forever with laughter). If you love to travel and are afraid to go alone, bring a friend! In my case, while I am SO GLAD I had my people with me, I am always game for new friendships and I came home from both trips with new friends, so if you do bring a friend (or your mom) be open and inclusive- you never know who you will find on the other side of the world!
- In Paris, I was lucky enough to have two friends going on the trip. In Peru,
- I don’t drink alcohol. It’s been almost 10 months that I have been in addiction recovery and going on two group tours in the last bit of time has been eye-opening. Of course, I made a decision about who I am and going on a group trip doesn’t change that, but my new-found sobriety did give me pause a few times. In each group setting, drinking was perfectly acceptable and many times I was offered a drink. Without explaining myself, I casually declined, but more than once I did have to offer the short version of my explanation. It was never a big deal, but I had to steel myself during dinners that lasted hours when everyone at the table was tipsy. I had to excuse myself early when I just couldn’t. Being myself meant skipping a boat ride so I could take a nap. Being myself meant borrowing one of the ship bikes and taking a ride by myself because it wasn’t what anyone else wanted to do, but most of all being myself meant I didn’t have to hide or pretend. We are all unique and we each have beautiful things to offer the world, by being yourself in every situation, you may find the beauty in appreciating yourself (and OTHERS!) even more.
So there you have it: my group tour survival tips. I do want to say, if you are considering a group tour, it is an excellent way to see the world without having to do all the planning and coordinating yourself. It’s an excellent way to travel with a knowledgeable person who will also help take care of you in a new place.