For the 50+ Traveler

As much as I love solo travel, which allows you to move about on your own schedule without being accountable to others (thus avoiding the possibility of being around people whose personalities don’t mesh with yours) nothing can take the place of a good old-fashioned group trip!

Group travel allows you to meet and mingle with new people -- sometimes people you already know and sometimes people you never would have met if this group experience hadn’t presented itself. In addition to the camaraderie, there is something special about experiencing a city’s offerings and unique attractions like the Sydney Harbour Bridge or Iceland’s Blue Lagoon with group members who are as excited about being there as you are.

You and the other group members will always remember the anticipation, the joy, and the thrill of these experiences. You will have a bond that will always remain. Group travel helps everyone involved save money as group rates can lower the cost for each individual in the group.

All that said, I must admit that group travel, with all its perks, is not always a series of Kumbaya moments. It has some very tangible challenges that, if not managed properly, can ruin a trip, break up relationships, or, at minimum, place a strain on them.

Here are five group travel challenges you could be faced with, and tips for overcoming them.

A group of travelers.
Robin Tillotson

Challenge #1: There Is No Consensus On The Destination

Typically when one person has made a decision about where the group travels by introducing it to the group as “Here is where we are all going on our next trip,” there is grumbling down the line. Subtle, unstated feelings about the locale, the cost, and the logistics are often tied into group members not having played a larger role in the planning from the start.

How To Overcome The Challenge

Ask all invited parties to join you for lunch to brainstorm a location. If your group is still in the trip-planning stages, this will get everyone involved and buying into the decision to take a trip together. No matter how the trip turns out, everyone has an equal stake in its overall success. The group may even want to discuss what each person thinks may be some challenges and concerns when it comes to group travel to your destinations of choice. This will give everyone an opportunity to openly discuss and make an informed decision as to whether this is a trip for them.

Challenge #2: Not Being Able To Avoid Or Control Personality Clashes

With groups, it is virtually impossible to avoid disagreements that stem from differences in personalities. Negative comments about some aspects of the trip, whining and complaining, and small disagreements are inevitable. One roommate wants the air conditioning on while the other wants it off; one group member wants to go to the Musee d'Orsay, another one doesn’t want to have anything to do with a museum -- these are just a few examples of issues that come into play between people who are used to having control over their own environments and agendas.

How To Overcome The Challenge

Assign each member of the group with a specific trip-related scheduling task. For example, two group members identify all of the restaurants that the group will go to, while another group member comes up with places to experience shopping. Assigning each group member the task of conducting the research on an aspect of the trip (for example, dining, shopping, how to spend free time, concerts, et cetera) gives everyone a stake in the game.

After all the necessary information has been gathered, the entire group should meet to discuss each person’s findings. This will lead to the voicing of questions, concerns, and maybe outright denial of a recommendation a few people are against -- all at the onset of the planning process. This means no one will be surprised or feel as if they are an unwilling participant once the trip begins. The discussion allows for input from other group members and a final consensus on all selections. This can minimize conflict during the trip. After all, who wants to be unnecessarily upset or facing unwelcome surprises while vacationing?

Challenge #3: You Have A Know-It-All In The Group

There is often one person in the group who, because they have traveled extensively (or at least more than the other group members), feels compelled to take charge or take over. Sometimes this personality also manifests itself via know-it-all behavior, like talking over tour directors and challenge professionals’ and locals’ knowledge.

How To Overcome The Challenge

Depending on your relationship with this person, you might ask the group leader to quietly speak to the disruptive person to make them aware of their behavior and how it is impacting other group members’ experiences.

Challenge #4: Someone In The Group Is Not Respectful Of The Schedule

This person invariably meets the group late, even when everyone is aware of the appointed time for gathering. They either wake up late or simply take their time -- thinking that the group would never have the nerve to leave them. Another way in which poor timeliness manifests is a person’s repeated requests to stay longer at a given destination despite a tight schedule. They want to browse because they can’t make up their mind about which item to purchase, or they get involved in an interesting conversation and lose track of time. Others wind up waiting for them or have to drag them away to stay on schedule.

How To Overcome The Challenge

As with a know-it-all, one of the key things you could do in this situation is have a heart-to-heart with the group member, emphasizing why timeliness is so important to everyone. Appealing to an individual’s conscience and sense of community can often make a difference.

On the planning side, you can also build in a little more time for each stop or destination, without announcing it to the group. This way, you won’t have someone pushing the envelope by not returning on time.

A group of travelers.
Robin Tillotson

Challenge #5: Someone Has Their Wallet Stolen And They Didn’t Get Travel Insurance

When someone in the group has experienced losing a personal item or being a victim of theft, yet did not purchase travel insurance, the entire group is affected. Everyone is impacted emotionally because it’s a real downer when someone in your group has been victimized. Some travelers might even be affected financially if they agree to lend money or other resources (for example, their cell phone) to help the person through the crisis. The old adage “What one does affects the entire group” is true. The crisis can cause the group to be late for excursions, not to mention that the entire mood of the trip could shift based on something of this nature.

How To Overcome The Challenge

Prior to the trip, encourage all group members to purchase travel insurance; emphasize what can happen when you don’t have it and how it will impact the group. Additionally, inform all group members prior to leaving for the trip that they should have a backup plan should they become a victim of theft. Everyone should have a way to access additional funds so that other members of the group aren’t burdened. Prior to departing for the trip, review standard and creative precautionary measures. Travelers should not walk around with open purses or backpacks, and no one should carry all of their cash with them. If a purse or wallet is stolen, they will have reserves available to them. Encourage the use of the hotel’s safe.

In conclusion, although group travel has its challenges, it can be a delightful way to meet new people or enjoy strengthened bonds. Group travel also ensures the opportunity to share the awesomeness of whatever travel experience you’re embarking on.