Study abroad brings people together. There is something unique about students from all sorts of academic interests and organizational affiliations sharing a common experience in a foreign land. Our cohort of students has been close from day one, and as such, many of our weekend trips have been spent travelling in considerably large groups of eight to twelve students. Traveling in a large group can be a great way to get to know others, but it can also present unique challenges. Here are three pro tips for maximizing your group travel experience:
1) Plan together
As is the case with all independent travel, a good plan will result in a good time. When you’re traveling with a larger group, a good plan is even more important. Unnecessary confusion and frustration can be easily avoided if everyone is on the same page from the very beginning, so plan together.
I traveled with seven other friends on a recent trip to Barcelona. In order to plan effectively, we utilized a group message to send links to hostels we were looking at, sights we wanted to visit, and things we wanted to eat. Moreover, this group message served as a great way to document what we had accomplished and had yet to do once we actually made it to Barcelona. A group meeting when booking tickets and hostels is also incredibly helpful in terms of ensuring everyone is in the loop.
2) Stay nearby
While most cities in Europe are easily navigable by public transport or by foot, your group trip will be exponentially easier if all members of the traveling party are staying in the neighborhood – or better yet, the same hostel. One of the most time consuming things in any trip is logistics; it is far easier to say, “meet in the lobby at nine,” than it is to meet at a particular restaurant or landmark.
In Barcelona, our group was spread between two hostels within a block of each other. On another trip to Prague, our group was spread between two hostels on opposite ends of the city. I’ll let you guess which made for easier meeting. Another idea for larger groups is to check Airbnb for apartments available in the city you are going to visit. There are a number of apartments that can accommodate large groups – oftentimes at great rates!
3) Divide to conquer
Among your group, there will likely be a variety of priorities in the city you are visiting. For instance, some people might want to take a walking tour, while others might want to take in the local shopping scene. Hear this: it will oftentimes be in your group’s advantage to divide and conquer. For instance, when we were in Barcelona, half of our group went to see the FC Barcelona stadium while the other half went to explore the Gothic Quarter. Both were fantastic sights, but it would have been impossible to see both with our limited schedule, so we divided to conquer.
Traveling in a larger group is a great way to make memories and get to know a number of individuals in your program on a personal level, but it is not without its own unique challenges. By planning together, staying nearby, and dividing to conquer, your next group trip will be full of great memories and free from unnecessary stress!