A few weeks ago Taz and I went for a week long trip to the Philippines for a family occasion on his side (see posts 1 & 2 of that trip). The above photograph captures just a portion of our group – we were actually closer to about 30 people. This wasn’t a vacation that took place at one location, we were basically a traveling caravan. We drove a lot, approximately 4 hours a day. (If anyone tells you something is “just 45 minutes drive” in the Philippines, never, ever believe them! There is ALWAYS traffic.) In 6 nights we stayed at 4 different locations. We shared rooms with multiple people. Hotels cancelled on us and plans changed frequently. A 15 seater van was hired, in addition to the family SUVs. Crying babies and antsy toddlers filled the in-between spots in the cars. People got cranky and emotional (myself included). But in the end, it was an amazing trip, worth every long and cramped car ride. And it got me thinking about what it takes to make the most out of traveling in a large group (be it with family, friends or strangers). Here are my tips, and I’d love to hear yours!
1. Have No Expectations: I received a detailed itinerary for this trip, and then a month later I received another one. By the time I arrived in the country, a third one had been drafted. While I appreciate anything this well-organized, I decided to ignore the itineraries. Why? Because I knew it would change. And it did – several times. It’s great to have an itinerary when traveling, but you have to be open to these kinds of changes! This is sometimes easier to control if you’re traveling solo or with your significant other. When you’re part of a big group, you just don’t have that much say. If I had gotten hung up on the fact that we went off the itinerary, or that some days we didn’t even know where we were going to sleep, I never would have enjoyed this trip as much as I did. Which leads in to the next point.
2. Let One Person Handle Things: (Or at most 2). While several people gave suggestions for desired locations before the trip, only one person (Taz’s cousin Bea) did the actual planning and organizing, both before and during the traveling. When our hotel for the night cancelled, she was on the phone finding another one. It would have been chaos if we all jumped in and starting calling places or offering suggestions. There’s usually someone who’s willing to take the lead, and most likely they would offer because they’re good at this kind of thing. Let that family member/friend do what they do best!
3. Compromise: Since I’m typically “the planner” in our everyday life, I actually love going on vacation and letting someone else take care of things! The only problem with this, is that you may not be able to do/see everything that you want to during your trip. And when you use precious vacation days and buy a plane ticket across the world, it can be hard to let go of this desire to do what you want. Just imagine, however, if everyone if your group got to do everything they wanted to on the trip….you would be there for months! (Granted, that might not be a bad thing.) In all seriousness though, compromise is key if you’re planning to travel in a big group. If you can’t compromise, then this type of travel is not for you. For me, it’s well worth it. Having a “go with the flow” mindset with make your family/group travels much more enjoyable. Maybe there’s something on the agenda that’s not your cup of tea…but in the end you might discover you really liked it! There’s always the option to hang back at the hotel, but I say go for the experience.
4. Speak Up: Notice I used the word “compromise” in the above point. Compromise is all about give and take. Don’t be afraid to add your own ideas to the itinerary, before or during the trip. I guarantee if you offer a suggestion such as, ” I was thinking it would be fun to hike this nearby trail that’s supposed to end with an amazing waterfall”, you will get a few takers. On my first big trip with Taz’s family, I didn’t make any suggestions, I was just happy and excited to be visiting the Phillippines. For this last trip, I was thrilled to spot Mt. Pinatubo on the initial itinerary. By the time we arrived in the Philippines Mt. Pinatubo had been substituted with an extra day at a beach resort. My plan was to go along with the group and see the volcano “next time”, but in the end we decided to make this day trek happen! On the last full day of our stay, most of the group stayed at the beach hotel, with the exception of four of us, who drove the “45 min” (about 4 hours) distance to begin the Mt. Pinatubo trek. It was a compromise, and it was a good one. (When you see the photos in an upcoming post, you’ll know why!) Bottom line – don’t be afraid to speak up, but just consider the group, and don’t be offended if not everyone is interested in your suggestion. Either way, you’re going to have a great time!
Those are a few of my key tips for traveling in a big group/family. Do you have any of your own suggestions to share?