We’re big fans of group travel. We love putting together awesome adventures, planning out all the ways to get the most out of the time and budget available, and sharing them with small groups of like-minded travelers.
And we know that group travel isn’t for everyone, every time. For some folks, traveling with a group just won’t work. For others, group travel is sometimes the best option. Traveling solo or with one close companion might also be the best way to go for some travelers or other situations.
Whatever the case might be, here are some of the disadvantages of traveling with a group. And later, we’ll give you our tips on how to avoid those disadvantages while still taking advantage of many of the benefits of group travel.
When you join a pre-planned group trip, the itinerary, timing, and virtually all of the scheduling will already have been set in place long before you even leave home for the airport. That’s great if you want to leave the planning and travel logistics to someone else.
It’s not great if the pre-planned schedule won’t work for you.
Most professional travel planners want their clients to feel that they are getting the most value for their travel budgets. They want their group trips to feel efficient without wasting time.
It’s pretty common for organized group trips to include instructions such as “plan to have breakfast early, check out of your room, and be in front of the hotel, with your luggage, no later than 8:00 am. Our van will leave promptly at 8:15.”
That’s fantastic for folks who are early risers. Not so good if that isn’t you. Maybe you just like leisurely travel, lingering over a delicious locally sourced breakfast and coffee, enjoying witty conversation with a charming travel companion. Or perhaps you’ve got work or family commitments to manage that are eight time zones away. That can make getting an early start so that you don’t miss the bus a serious challenge.
Lack of flexibility
Along with sticking to set schedules, organized group travel also severely limits your flexibility. If that quaint mountain village you were so looking forward to stopping in turns out to be worth an extra night’s stay, you probably won’t be able to arrange it. If your afternoon museum visit leaves you wanting to return the next morning, unless the group-tour itinerary left space for that, you’re probably not going to be able to fit it in.
Most well-run group trips will include unstructured time to do some things on your own. There might be short travel days that leave you with free time for most of a morning or an afternoon. Bigger trips will probably include non-travel days where you have an entire day to yourself.
But that unstructured time is still on the schedule. And the schedule is very difficult to change. You won’t get to decide when your personal downtime happens. Or where you are when it does.
Group travel lets you let someone else do all the planning. It doesn’t allow much room for spontaneous changes to those plans.
Having someone else plan a group trip means you can accept their choices, or you can choose not to go on the trip. If the hotels, restaurants, excursions, and routes they choose sound great to you, hooray! You’ll have a great time. If not, there’s not much you can do about it.
When you join an organized group trip, you don’t get to choose where you stay or how long you stay there. You don’t decide what attractions, excursions, and side trips the tour is built around. And for most of your meals, the choice of restaurant will already have been made for you.
The people who organize group trips are professionals, and they are really good at making good choices. But that doesn’t guarantee that the choices they make are the same choices you would make.
Unknown group dynamics
Group dynamics are a big part of any group travel. And they are not to be underestimated. How the group gets along and how each member of the group treats others will become a big part of how you remember that trip and whether or not you would choose to do it again.
It’s also something you have little control over. You don’t get to decide who else is on the trip, and in most cases, you won’t get to meet them until the trip has actually begun.
We like to think that most people are good people. And that most people who choose to join a group trip want that trip to be enjoyable for everyone else. Thankfully, that is usually the case most of the time.
However, people are individuals with their own unique habits, quirks, and well-established personalities.
On a group trip, if one person proves to be disruptive, a strong professional trip leader will address the situation discreetly, privately, and respectfully. You probably won’t even notice anything significant except for the feeling that the trip somehow just got better.
What if you are extremely sensitive to the behavior of people you don’t know very well? If your trip experience will erode because someone else talks too much, takes a cigarette break after every meal, or makes hygiene choices that bother you, then group travel might not be the right choice for you.
Paying for things you don’t want
When travel professionals plan and organize group trips, they can usually leverage their buying power to add extra amenities while keeping costs down. That’s awesome for their clients—as long as they value those amenities.
If the trip you are considering includes three nights at a luxury hotel with a huge swimming pool, private cabañas, and a fabulous nightclub with spectacular entertainment, somehow you will be paying something for those extras, whether you take advantage of them or not.
If the rest of that trip sounds absolutely perfect for you, but the fancy hotel isn’t something you would choose on your own, then you might or might not choose this particular trip with this travel professional. Maybe instead of relaxing around the pool, you can arrange extra time in a museum. Instead of enjoying the nightly revue, you can explore local cafes. Or, maybe you’ll just keep looking at what other travel offerings include.
Organized group travel is about making and accepting compromises. Taking advantage of professional planning and expertise and benefiting from the scale of group buying power.
It’s also about accepting things that are pretty close—but not perfectly, exactly—what you had in mind.
If you really want things to be exactly the way you want them to be, organized group travel is probably not the best choice for you.
Alternatives to group travel
It’s okay to choose not to join a group trip planned by someone else. There’s no need to beat yourself up for accepting and working to meet your own travel needs.
And we’re here to help you.
If you find an organized group trip that’s sort of what you want but not quite, please contact us. No matter whether that not-quite-right trip is one of ours, or is being offered by another travel professional, just let us know what you like about it and what you would like to change. We can put together a trip that is perfect for you, your needs, and the ways you like to travel.
Want to travel with a group, but go on a trip that was planned around the things you want to do, and without the uncertainty of traveling with strangers?
Just get your own group together.
Round up some friends, start floating some travel ideas with them, make a few basic decisions about where and when, and then contact us. We’ll use our expertise to build the perfect trip for you and your friends. And you’ll be able to leverage our professional contacts and negotiating power to get all the add-ons and extra-value amenities available without needing to pay for things you don’t want. No cabañas, no problem.