Are you curious to know more about your friends? Simply travel with them for a few days. Their suitcases may not be the only things that hold hidden surprises. You may discover they have odd quirks worthy of a Seinfeld episode.
Let’s imagine a possible scenario with your traveling companions, another couple whom you have known for years. You rise early, eager to explore and get on with your sightseeing agenda. They choose to sleep in and linger over their morning coffee. Your traveling companions feel nutritionally deprived if they don’t have three sit-down meals a day. You prefer to graze throughout the day, taking in samples of the native cuisine, stopping occasionally to enjoy a locally brewed beer or to sip a regional wine. They’re for taking a cab; you like to walk. They love to shop; you love to tour old churches. They are hotel-chain residents; you prefer quaint beds and breakfasts. They’re afraid to try something new; you’re the first to sign up for zip line.
Get the picture? Hopefully, your friends aren’t quite the polar opposites described above, but the important thing is to know your friends and their travel habits before you pack your bags. If you understand your friends well and honestly pre-assess your compatibility, you will probably have very few glitches.
There are a few simple ways to ensure that your vacation with friends runs smoothly and that you will be eagerly planning the next venture before this one ends.
Take the time to do some pre-trip planning. Research destinations, things to do, places to see, dining options and available transportation. Then, sit down together and determine your priorities. Remember, if you have several sightseeing options, you may want to go your separate ways and enjoy the things that interest you and meet up later.
Linda Villano-Blench and her husband, Karl, of Peachtree City, recently met friends in England and then traveled with them to Scotland. She said the couples did some things together and other days they separated, but they always got together for the evening dinner.
Advance planning saves precious vacation time once you arrive at your destination.
Jaime McCarty of Chicago says that her trip with her husband and four other couples to Napa, Calif. was a great experience, but it involved some organizing. “I researched the area and got tour suggestions from seasoned Napa travelers,” she says. “Then we voted on the wineries we wanted to visit prior to the trip so we could schedule our tours.”
Terry Stahl, who travels frequently with her husband, Roger, and various friends from the Peachtree City area, says someone in their group usually books the rental house when they go to drivable destinations. “Then we have a meeting to determine what days we will play golf, what other things we hope to do, and what foods we will bring.”
She says that their groups are very flexible. “We don’t expect everyone to want to do the same things. Some couples may choose to do their own thing rather than what the group is doing. That is perfectly fine.”
Traveling with New-found Friends
Do you enjoy meeting people and creating new friendships with travelers from around the world? If you feel more comfortable exploring overseas destinations in a group with a leader who knows the area and the customs, then you may want to opt for a tour company that specializes in group travel. Tour group companies set the sightseeing agenda, book the hotels, plan most of the meals, provide local transportation, and generally make your trip as worry free as possible. Many people love this type of travel.
Iowa residents Jean Dohrmann, and her husband, Russ, have taken several trips with agencies that specialize in group travel. “We were a little apprehensive about traveling with a group the first time. We had always ventured out on our own,” she says. “But it has been a great experience every time. The guides are usually excellent and very knowledgeable about the area and its history and cultures, which adds a lot to a trip.”
Considering the state of the world today, the Dohrmanns are doing more organized group travel. “Now that we are older, I think I feel safer traveling with a group, especially in countries where there may be a language problem or other issues,” Jean says.
The Stahls have traveled to numerous overseas destinations with Grand Circle Travel. “There is usually a group of about 30 people from all over the world who join our tour,” says Terry. “It is always fun to hear their stories and get to know them.”
Just as when you travel with close friends, you can expect that some of the people in your travel group may be sitcom material — there are often good stories to recollect when the trip is over.
For instance, I know of a member of a travel group to Israel who filled a water bottle with Jordan River water to take back to a friend. She mistakenly took a couple swigs — and ultimately suffered Montezuma’s revenge. Then there’s the traveler who boasts about all the places he’s traveled, annotated with iPad photos. Almost every group traveler can tell you about the couple or individual who is always late for every event, meal and bus boarding. They’ve been known to get a standing ovation when they board the bus on time.
Like any experience where travelers from different backgrounds and locations come together, you get the proverbial “mixed bag of nuts.” However, many seasoned group travelers enjoy this blend of personalities, and some have made long-lasting friendships resulting in new travel companions.
If you like some travel guidance, but don’t feel the larger groups are a good fit for you, some travel companies and agents will put together a customized plan for you and your friends, complete with a local tour guide and advance tickets to museums, historical sites and other attractions.
Today, travel options are vast and varied and can be as freeing or restrictive as you want. You can travel solo, create your own traveling group of friends, or book a trip with a large or small tour company. You can find companies or groups that offer biking, walking and hiking agendas for the physically active. Large and small cruise ships travel the world and have a myriad of onboard activities and port exploring options. Quiet river cruises provide countryside vistas and stops at quaint, river-accessible villages.
The options are as diverse as the destinations and as encompassing as your traveling companions. Pack your bags and enjoy.