How To Plan A Trip With Friends: 9 Easy Steps
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Traveling with a group? This easy step-by-step guide on How To Plan A Trip With Friends will take the guesswork and frustration out of your next adventure. Trip planning can be overwhelming and stressful. Traveling with friends can lead to anger or even lost relationships when preparation is neglected.
Let us help you make the most out of your next vacation with friends.
Here’s what we will cover in this Step-by-Step Guide on How to Plan A Trip With Friends.
Table of Contents
1. Why Do I Need A Guide For How To Plan A Trip With Friends?
Traveling itself can be stressful. However, traveling with a group can bring stress to a whole new level. I learned this lesson the hard way and vowed I would never travel with a group again, that is until I discovered some simple steps to ensure we all have a good time.
Group travel can either make or break our relationships. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t really know our companions until we spend several solid days and nights vacationing with them. Tensions can rise and moods change, so a game plan is necessary to assure us our adventure will be enjoyable.
Nobody wants to have to tread carefully or be on their best behavior while on vacation. We want to relax, have fun, enjoy our friends and be free to do our thing. These steps will help you to be organized, and ensure that everyone is on the same page. In turn, this guide will alleviate frustration and missed opportunities.
Preplanning will help to eliminate wasted time deciding “what should we do now”. This will allow everyone to better enjoy their time together.
2. Intention and Overall Vibe of the Trip: The Big Why.
Stating the intent of the trip is the most important step. Every other step in planning a trip with friends revolves around this step. A trip without a purpose or stated intent can easily lead to boredom, missed opportunities, guest rumblings, and frustration.
Every trip will have a different purpose. Relaxing, gambling, hiking, meditation, spa experience, wine tasting, and tearing up the town have a particular purpose or vibe you want to experience. Solace and meditation will be a completely different type of trip than a bachelor party of shots and strippers.
A simple statement of intent or purpose to your invitees allows them to easily accept or decline the travel opportunity. More importantly, it allows you to prepare your invite list, knowing that your guests are in agreement with your overall plans.
Here are a couple of examples.
- This is a spa retreat. A completely relaxing trip: no bus tours and no shopping.
- We are going to craft all weekend at the annual Make a Craft Convention. This means “bring your soft pants and craft supplies”, not we’re going on a catamaran whale watching tour.
Imagine, being invited to a mountain cabin with your best friend, only to find out that it is a mastermind of entrepreneurs like herself. You unknowingly accept the invite because it’s the mountains. This sounds like a great time to spend sipping wine, reading magazines, and watching movies. Where you thought you and your friend would sit around bonding, gossiping, and eating junk food the trip has turned into whiteboards, think tanks, and misery.
This may sound a little far-fetched but worse trips have happened. Each time you plan a trip with friends it will have a different vibe and intention.
3. Identify The Group Of Friends Traveling
Remember, not everybody is suited for every trip. Likewise, not everyone wants to participate in every getaway opportunity.
Intention, finances, and length of the trip are defining factors. Be clear with the intent of the trip so that your travel partners can make a decision, as to whether or not they really want to go. Choosing the right travel partners for the right adventure will add to your overall enjoyment.
Likewise, some trips easily cater to large groups while others are best experienced by a smaller more intimate guest list.
- Who is going?
- How many are going?
Who is going on this trip?
Some friends want to hike while others want to booze it up. There are weekend shopping trips, Big City Christmas Lights Displays, and relaxing spa trips.
A couples retreat will differ from that of a girl’s or a guy’s weekend trip. Your church group friends’ interests might differ from your mastermind group of friends.
Identify who is going on the trip. Collect names, emails, and phone numbers for easy communication.
How many people are going on this trip?
The number of people may significantly impact the experience you want to create for your group. Every single decision from this point forward depends on this step. From transportation to having meaningful conversations your group size will dictate every opportunity.
STROTIP: For groups larger than 8, consider an all-inclusive destination. Resorts are designed to cater to larger groups as well as small groups. Seating at meals is easy, as well as the in-house entertainment. There is always plenty of room to relax, party, and explore.
Whereas, a smaller group of 2-8 people, can generally find seating in clubs, restaurants, and other entertainment venues. Transportation between venues is much easier with fewer people.
Leaving this step to chance causes frustration on every end. Members of the group may feel left out, or irritated, and will not enjoy the trip if the destination is difficult to maneuver. (Have you ever seen the Bride Train of 15 girls parading through the casino? Nobody looks happy)
Identify the group, get a commitment and begin the planning.
4. The Pre-Travel Planning Meeting
The Pre-Travel Planning Meeting is necessary and creates a foundation for the trip. It should cover 4 main topics:
- Designate a point person
- Set the budget
- Agree on expectations
- Pick a location
For large group trips, it is advisable to consult a travel professional. However, you can easily plan your trip with friends, yourself, or by consulting with your pack of travelers. Be warned though, too many voices can lead to indecision and overwhelming choices.
Designate A Point Person
The Pre-Travel Meeting is the perfect time to designate a point person for the trip. The Point Person and Host of the trip do not need to be the same person.
The main job of the point is to help with travel arrangements, make necessary reservations, help develop an itinerary and ensure that the trip remains within the agreed budget. The Point Person will need to communicate with travelers on a regular basis and be detail oriented.
This may sound a little overboard as far as the delegation of duties, but which is worse:
A. All reservations and daily itineraries are organized.
B. Standing around asking “Where do you want to go to dinner” or, “What’s the plan for the day”?
Set a Realistic Budget
For many travelers, budget is a big concern. While some may have an unlimited resource of money, others may have more limited finances. There may be times the host may need to adjust the trip itinerary to accommodate their comrade’s financial ability. Other times, the itinerary, adventure, and cost dictate your travel partners.
At any cost, never money shame travel companions into overspending their budget. Friendships are often lost over disputes involving money. Developing a realistic budget for the trip can help to alleviate any surprises and undue stress.
STROTIP: As a travel agent and personal trip planner, I often ask my clients and friends to tell me where their comfortable budget lies. Building an itinerary around realistic cost expectations is much easier. Of course, you can easily add in splurges and eliminate less important experiences.
For instance, when we travel to Las Vegas with friends, we might opt to splurge on an over-the-top dining experience rather than overpriced bottle service at a club. Your group might be the exact opposite. Money and experiences all boil down to personal preferences.
Consider these costs when making a budget:
- Special Clothes
You, the Host, need to weigh the options and set a budget that is affordable for the group that you want to travel with on this trip. There might be excursions during the trip that are optional as well. We will cover this more in the itinerary section.
The Pre-Travel Planning Meeting is a good time to discuss payment responsibilities and commitment. Stating upfront costs, as well as the incidental cost is important. Confusion and frustration often set in when one member of the group starts buying dinner one night and expects everyone else to pick a night to treat. This is an unnecessary burden UNLESS discussed ahead of time. Unfortunately, uneven or undefined financial responsibility has the ability to break a friendship
Timelines and commitment deadlines can also be discussed in the budget session. Unavoidable circumstances happen all the time, however, does that mean the rest of the group should have an increase in financial burden if someone has to cancel?
It is always best to state the terms upfront. There is nothing worse than someone dropping out at the last minute and your price just jumped $1000. How you handle this situation is completely up to you but it needs to be defined and stated.
Every trip comes with a personal expectation from each individual. Maybe you expect to explore every part of this new city, from sun up to sun down, yet your friends are late risers and have no desire to sightsee. Likewise, you might be expecting to indulge in a spiritual journey and your friends want to go to a club. Don’t ever assume you know what your group is expecting. Have everyone share their expectations with each other.
This is a good point to discuss possible venues and locations for the trip. There will be times when you, the host, will have a particular destination in mind. Other times, you may want to have your group throw some ideas into the ring and discuss the possibilities.
Pick a Location
The best opportunity to decide on a venue or at the very least, discuss possible destinations is during the Pre-Travel Planning Meeting. Deciding on a location incorporates all of the preceding steps. Aligning your intention, budget, and group dynamics will quickly help you narrow your destination focus.
In a perfect world, everyone will be able to attend the pre-travel planning meeting and add to the conversation. Travelers not included in the discussion may have ideas or excursions that are important to them. Communication is a key component when traveling with friends, especially when planning daily activities.
5. Develop An Itinerary
Now that the preliminary work and foundation are set, it is time to plan your trip with friends. This is the most fun part of pre-planning! Research and proper scheduling and timing will enhance your getaway experience immensely.
When your companions know the schedule and have contributed, however, loose it may be, everyone feels included. Being organized will cut down on unnecessary texts, stress, and frustration in the group.
Whether you are using a professional tour company or arranging a small group camping trip, the principles are the same. Let your people know where and when the activities or excursions are scheduled.
Here are some important steps in creating the itinerary for your trip with friends:
- Research and suggest points of interest
- Schedule breaks
- Keep in mind group suggestions
Research and suggest points of interest
As the designated trip planner, you may need to research and suggest points of interest to your group. Even a long weekend getaway to a cabin retreat may require some suggestions of things to do in the area, such as a local winery or restaurant.
Some in your group may want to hit the ground running, sightseeing and shopping, while others in the group may want to enjoy an afternoon lounging at the pool. Since the possibilities are endless, a good trip planner covers all the basics and includes something for everyone.
Sometimes a group needs a time out, a refreshing moment, or just some alone time. Allowing this in the itinerary provides a safe space for those that need some downtime. Busy schedules and timelines can cause tensions to increase.
Scheduling activities later in the day allows individuals to sleep a little later or spend time in the hotel gym. Likewise, taking a break in the afternoon, allows your friends to have an afternoon nap or schedule a massage in the spa.
Scheduled breaks or free time allows your friends to do something that didn’t make the itinerary list. Shopping, browsing a nearby art gallery, or reading quietly on their own could be just the reset they need.
Breaks are important to any itinerary.
Everyone Has A Say
Including the members of the group in the planning can make or break a friendship. Taking suggestions can help ensure everyone’s trip needs are met, especially on multi-day vacations. Their differing ideas can add to the overall experience of the trip.
Simply ask the group to submit 3 suggestions they would like to do or see on the trip. Make a list and the most popular and feasible suggestions for the group as a whole go on the itinerary. The least popular or more individualized items might be accomplished during the scheduled free time.
StroTip: A well-designed itinerary considers the proximity of daily activities such as sightseeing, meals, and other entertainment. Leaving ample time for your travelers to enjoy their visit while considering transit times is super important to the overall experience. Relying on ride-share and mass transit can impact your travel plans. Likewise, not everyone moves at the same speed and ease. Make sure your itinerary and timeframe are realistic.
6. Travel Arrangements and Reservations
Any How to Plan a Trip with Friends guide would be incomplete without this step. As the trip planner, you are going to have to keep track of arrivals, departures, and any other reservations.
Travel arrangements can be tricky, especially if your group is scattered around the globe. Allowing your companions to make their own arrangements can help reduce your workload and potential financial obligations.
However, it is wise to give your friends some parameters, such as “arrive by” and “depart by” times. Otherwise, you could be making multiple trips to the airport or train station.
Hotels, rental units, and campgrounds have stated check-in and out policies. Likewise, you should incorporate these details into your itinerary.
In our post-pandemic world, you will find that you are going to need reservations in most touring destinations and eateries. Piling six people into a winery on a Saturday afternoon without reservations might result in being turned away. Likewise, waiting for a table to come available might cut into a tour time.
Reservations will ensure that your group is able to experience everything the trip was designed to bring without frustration and lost opportunities.
Communication is imperative during the trip planning process because it will:
- Alleviate Stress
- Promote unity
Make sure everyone has a copy of the Itinerary.
Why leave your guests in the dark, unless of course, the trip is designed to be that type of adventure? A simple spreadsheet or document with the details of the trip, contact information, and any other important information should be able to be easily accessed by all.
The unity of the group before departure can be fun and helpful. Whether you use an email chain, messenger app, or a social media private group to talk, the guests will feel included. This also builds excitement and expectation for the trip. For those who may not know each other as well, it will help them start to bond and build a rapport.
Ask questions like:
- Will any of the dinners be dress-up?
- We have free time on Tuesday and I was thinking about going to the Farmers Market, would anyone like to come with me?
- Hey, I’m looking for a new weekend bag, does anyone have some suggestions?
- Questions open dialogue and dialogue gels the group.
8. In Case of Emergency
Even the best-laid plans sometimes develop a hiccup. Missed or canceled flights, illness, weather, and travel restrictions occur every day.
When you plan a trip with friends, consider and plan for the What If scenarios. Discuss possible outcomes and develop a fail-safe procedure to keep everyone safe.
Possible What If Scenarios:
- What will I do if I lose my passport?
- What will we do if we miss the cruise ship departure?
- Do you know if your companions have a food allergy?
- What will you do if someone goes missing? How long will you wait to notify the proper authorities?
- How will you fix a flat tire on a lonesome desert road?
Sure this is a bummer to consider, but it is always better to be prepared.
Emergency Contact Form:
Provide an emergency contact form for your group. Sure, we know our friends’ families, but do we know how to contact them in the event of an emergency? This downloadable form should help you keep all of their emergency contact information readily available.
It is a good idea to have both a paper copy and an electronic copy of all Identification Cards and travel documents. A little preparation can save hours of time, especially if you lose your passport or identifying documents.
9. Final Thoughts: How To Plan A Trip With Friends
Using this guide will help you step-by-step as you plan a trip with friends. You will stay organized and reduce the frustrations of trip planning.
Whether it’s a 10-day Mediterranean Cruise or a 3-day Road Trip to Chase waterfalls, these principles are important to ensure you achieve the last step.
More than anything, your friendships are important. Have fun, laugh a little, and then some more!
Thanks for reading! Now go forth and travel on!