Travel is one of the most wonderful and enriching experiences out there. Traveling with friends can make your trip even more enjoyable, no matter how old the members of your group are.
My husband and I have taken multiple trips with friends who are also 50+, and we’ve found that there are a few things you can do to make the trip more enjoyable for all.
Here are nine ways to ensure that every member of your 50+ travel group has a great time.
1. Plan, Plan, Plan
The most important thing is to get together either in person or online prior to the trip to discuss expectations and make important decisions so that everyone is on the same page. Some of the points that need to be discussed are listed below.
2. Discuss Finances
One person’s budget could be much larger than another’s. Some older people are on a fixed income, so it is important to agree on costs ahead of time so that everyone is aware of the expenses they will incur.
Be sure to include meals (whether you’re planning on cooking or eating out), paper or plastic products if renting a house, etc.
One person should not be footing the bill for incidental expenses or food. “We will figure it out later” is not a good strategy. Expenses are often forgotten that way, and when things are finally figured out, others might fail to pay up.
3. Be Flexible And Have Patience
It can be nerve-racking when everyone has a different opinion or goes at a different pace. It’s equally frustrating when no one wants to make a decision. Just remember to be patient, and that there will be times when you’ll have to compromise and do things other than what you’d prefer.
4. Communicate Often
Raise and discuss issues before they become major problems. If the group agrees to leave at 9 a.m., but every day you end up waiting on someone till 10 a.m., speak up. If one person insists on making all the decisions and doesn’t give anyone else an opportunity to decide on activities or where to eat, speak up. The list goes on -- don’t let anything fester and become a major issue.
However, it is wise to avoid discussing controversial issues unless you are 100 percent sure everyone in your travel group has the same feelings. Politics, religion, same-sex marriage, abortion, etc. are all triggers for disagreement that can ruin a vacation. And since you are all 50+, you are probably not going to change the way they think. Avoiding each other after a heated argument can be quite awkward. Save those topics for another time.
5. Give Everyone Some Privacy
Don’t expect to be together every second of the day. If you are renting a house with your travel companions, make sure that everyone has their own space. Everyone needs privacy at times. Every couple should have their own room unless they have agreed in advance to share.
If a couple wants to go for a walk on the beach, participate in a different activity, or go out to eat alone, they should not be made to feel guilty.
6. Share Meal Decisions And Duties
Depending on the type of trip and where you are staying, you might be eating out for every meal. If that is the case, make sure that everyone can afford the restaurants you are visiting, and make sure that everyone has a chance to select a restaurant. (This is another item that should be discussed in advance.)
If you’re renting a house or condo and plan to cook some of your meals, make a meal schedule and split up the duties. When we rent with family, we typically both dine in and eat out, and we take turns preparing meals. Whoever is in charge of the meal selects the menu and does the cooking. Others help with the cleanup. One or two people shouldn’t have to do everything.
7. Show Respect
Your party will probably contain some night owls and some early birds. Being respectful of others' sleep patterns is a must. When traveling together, compromise and leave early one day and later the next, or at a time in between every day. If you’re sharing a house or condo and you’re up early, quietly read, go for a walk, cook breakfast, etc. If you are a night owl, don’t play loud music late into the night. When your travel partners go to bed, keep things quiet so that they can rest. Everyone travels better when rested, and the older we get, the more we need our sleep.
The same goes for smokers and nonsmokers. Be respectful. Don’t expect a smoker to give up the habit, but make sure they are willing to wait till rest stops for their smoke and go outside while at the house or condo.
Again, these are both things that should be discussed before agreeing to travel together.
8. Don’t Let People Get Hangry
Allowing parties to become hungry and stressed is a recipe for a group trip disaster. Make sure to have snacks on hand at all times. A bag of pretzels, an apple, a bag of nuts, or a candy bar will suffice.
Once you reach your destination, make sure to restock on snacks. Remember that while in the United States snacks are around every corner, if you are abroad or in another unfamiliar environment, they may not be so easy to find. Don’t wait till you are hungry to think about snacks -- be prepared.
9. Consider These Vacation Options
One of the best possible vacation options for traveling with friends is a cruise. I did just that last fall with some friends from high school. We knew we wanted to visit Europe to celebrate a friend’s birthday. He lives in Belgium, and the rest of the group lives in the U.S. When we started thinking about logistics, it all seemed overwhelming. After we decided on a cruise, a lot of the planning was taken care of for us.
We each had a room, and everything was priced per person. We could do things together as often as we wished, but we could do things separately as well. There were seven of us, and in some ports we stayed together to explore or go on excursions, and in other ports we split up according to our interests. It was fun to come back together for the evening meal and hear about everyone’s adventures. Some stayed up to dance the night away, and others retired early to read or just relax. It was the perfect vacation for our 50+ crowd.
Organized tours take care of much of the planning for you and have a per-person price. Just make sure the tour activities are appropriate for your activity level. One size does not fit all when it comes to tours.
Another option is an all-inclusive resort. Again, you would know the per-person price in advance.
Keeping everyone happy when traveling with a 50+ friend group is not always easy, but you can make it work -- and it is so much more fun when you have others to share your experiences and adventures with!