Last year my best friend graduated from her Masters program and as a gift her parents gave her a trip to Europe with my husband and me. When you get to travel to Europe with your best friends, you do your research. Planning ahead is key! I know those who know me are DYING over that statement, because I never plan ahead! My travel attitude is very laissez faire (which drives my very organized husband nuts) but when you are planning a multi-city trip with a group, planning is necessary! Since there are three of us traveling, that means there are three different opinions. Fortunately for us, we were all on similar pages. While we didn’t come to a conclusion on the type of trip we wanted to take right away we eventually realized we all had the same idea in mind. When you have three different wants and needs there is a strategic way to handle the planning, as to not leave anyone out, and to make the trip as smooth as possible. Because lord knows you never really know someone until you travel with them. So, here are my tips for planning a group trip.
Figure out what type of trip you want to take: This was by far one of the longest conversations we had. We found it best to sit down, with a bottle of wine of course, and discuss what type of trip we wanted this to be. Did we want to hit up all of the large cities and club? Or did we want to see the countryside? Or did we want to travel to smaller, unnoticed towns and have more of a chill, pub-type trip. We all went back-and-forth on deciding how we imagined this trip but we went back to our initial thoughts – smaller towns with a pub-type feel. Deciding on the type of trip you want to take is so important. This is the base of your trip and something you must be on the same page about. Otherwise you will spend your entire trip wishing you had spoken up or unhappy that this wasn’t the trip you had in mind. If one person wants to do small towns and the other wants to big cities – compromise. Group trips are all about giving a little. So maybe you hit up Madrid for a few nights and then find a smaller spanish town a few hours outside of it. You can make your dream trip work you just have to communicate and compromise.
Budget: Uhg, the dreaded word! Budget can be a real buzz kill but this conversation must take place. If you are all on the same page about what you want to spend no one will feel left out or overextended. The budget will also dictate what kind of trip you are going to take. Can you afford to rent a car and stay in hotels. Do you need to stay in a hostel every now and then. Where can you dine? What extra activities can you afford? These are all questions you need to iron out in the planning process so you can fully enjoy your trip. There is nothing worse than being on a trip and thinking about how much you are spending the entire time. Trust me, I am very guilty of this but for your enjoyments sake you must iron this detail out before you leave. I recommend designating a portion to your hotel, transportation, and eating so when you book you have an idea of what you want to spend and can look for items in that price range.
How long: This is important! Make sure you are all on the same page about how long you can be gone. This is something which will probably come up in the budget talk but if it didn’t, iron out any differences now. Since you probably want to travel together it will be important to have the same start and end dates. This will also be good to know so you can figure out how long you can stay in each city, shall you be traveling to multiple.
Where: Once you decide on what type of trip you want to take and your budget, figuring out where you want to go is the fun part. I first recommend selecting a region so you can narrow down your search. At first I wanted to go to Greenland, another wanted to go to Islands, and another wanted to go around Europe. It was a cluster! But we all found common ground – which is important. Since we knew we wanted to spend a few days in Geneva with my in-laws we decided to stick to Europe. Once you narrow down the region, it is fun to pull out a map and circle the places you want to see. If any intersect write it down. Because we knew we wanted to hit up smaller cities and decided a road-trip would be fun, our decision was pretty easy – find cities drivable from Geneva.
Logistics: Once you have your cities picked out, figuring out the logistics is similar to putting the puzzle pieces together. Are you renting a car, taking a train, or flying to the cities? Are you staying in hotels or hostels? How many days should you stay in each city? Are there any extra activities you want to do (canyoning in Interlocken, sailing in Croatia, ect.)? How many different currencies will you need? Where do you catch the train in each city or rent a car? There are soooo many logistical questions that need to be answered. Ironing out as many as possible before you leave will allow your trip to be fully enjoyed.
Book: Once you have everything ironed out and in place, book your trip. Start with flights as those will be the most expensive, then transportation within the region, and then hotels. Remember to look back at your budget and what you allotted to that particular item.
Let the Good Times Roll: You are fully booked and ready for your trip. Don’t forget, not everything will run smoothly, but that is okay! You are traveling with your best friends and making memories for a lifetime! Enjoy every.single.minute.