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Planning Group Vacation Travel Ideas on a Budget – Pros & Cons to Consider

By Casey Slide

group vacation jumpIt is starting to feel like spring across most of the U.S., and now is the time to start planning your summer vacation if you haven’t done so already. My friends and I are discussing various options for group travel, since we all have similar interests and budgets. Traveling with a large group can be a great way to lower expenses – and add to the fun too!

There are some risks involved too, so you need to review the upsides and downsides of traveling with a large group before jumping in. From my experience, it’s well worth it, but I’ll share the lessons I learned so that you can avoid some of the trouble that comes along with a big group. I’ll lay out the three big things to consider before you commit to a trip – and what top destinations are right for you and your crew.

Pros and Cons of Group Travel

1. Safety in Numbers?

  • Pro: “The more, the merrier,” we usually say, and it’s true. The bigger your group, the more likely it is that someone will be there to make you laugh. Perhaps it’s the combination of people. Regardless, large groups tend to have a lot of fun. You’re likely to be with some of your favorite old friends, and maybe some great new friends too.
  • Con: Majority rules on a big trip. If ten friends are traveling, and you’re the only one who wants to go to the mountains instead of the beach, too bad for you. When it comes to group vacations, everyone has to compromise at some point, and you may have to sacrifice a few preferences – before the trip even begins.

2. Travel in Packs

  • Pro: If you’re vacationing in a cabin up in the mountains with a large group of friends, it won’t be long before some people want to go shopping, some want to go hiking, and some want to stay at the cabin and watch the ballgame. A large group is great because everyone can split into smaller groups and do what they want, easing that need for compromising. It’s easy to keep the buddy system intact.
  • Con: You’re at your fastest on your own, and groups are inherently slow. The more people occupying a space, the more slow-going it’s going to be in the morning when everyone’s getting ready and in the evening when everyone’s gathering their stuff to head out. You’ll always have that one person (or perhaps a few people) dragging behind or spending extra time in the bathroom. And if you are staying at a rental that has limited bathrooms and kitchen space, it might seem chaotic at times.

3. Activities vs. Relaxing

  • Pro: When you’re with a large group, there’s always something to do and someone to do it with – even if it’s just someone to talk to during breakfast while everyone else is sleeping. You won’t get bored, and you will not feel lonely. In fact, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed by all of the things you would like to do. When I am with my whole family, I feel as though I am always running around from person to person trying to do it all!
  • Con: Your group vacation won’t necessarily be relaxing – fun, but not relaxing. With many people sharing the same space and schedule, you will have to find a way to get alone if you want some peace and quiet. Learn from experience: If you’re an introvert or just know you need some privacy, make sure you have your own room so you have a place where you can retreat and rejuvenate yourself. It’s worth the added cost to be sure you’re comfortable on your vacation.

4. Built-in Babysitters and Babies

  • Pro: If you’re a parent, sometimes what you need on vacation is a little break from the kids. With a group vacation, everyone can take a turn for some time away from their children. If the trip includes grandparents, there shouldn’t be any problem lining up babysitters!
  • Con: It’s tough to escape kids on group vacation with a family (or families). Disagreements and disruptions are more likely. If you don’t want children to take control of your vacation or disturb the peace, you’ll need to consider a no-kid policy for the group.

5. Budgets and Logistics

  • Pro: Of course one of the best benefits of group vacations is that they save you money. Lodging is generally cheaper since a large group will typically split the cost of a bigger rental. You’ll get much better value for your dollar that way. You’ll also be able to buy food in bulk and save by cooking your own meals. Plus, you’ll pick up group rates at most of the attractions you visit.
  • Con: Getting your group organized can seem almost impossible. Even for a simple, two-person vacation, the planning involved can be quite a chore – it’s even harder when you have a big group of people vacationing together. Learn from experience: Have a committee of a few people hold a meeting to plan out all the logistics of the trip. That way no one person has to do it, and you can discuss and make decisions early on.

Before You Commit

1. Think about the Money
When you start discussing a group vacation, decide how much everyone is willing to spend on the trip. Make sure everyone knows what to expect regarding costs. And do not commit to the vacation if you think it will be above your price range. During the trip, have one person be the “banker” to collect money and make sure that everyone is paying their share.

2. Don’t Forget Meals
As part of the planning process, decide how food will be handled. Will you be eating out on a budget? Will you cook your own meals? Also decide who is in charge of the food and preparing the meals. My husband and I went on a trip to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee with three other families last year. For that trip, I was in charge of picking out the meals and purchasing all the food. A few weeks before the trip, I emailed my shopping list and a meal list to everyone to be sure they’d be OK with the plan. I also planned a food budget that made every family comfortable. This system worked out very well.

3. Consider the Cleaning
If you are staying at a rental and will not have any sort of room service, you will need to consider who will be in charge of making sure the place stays tidy during your stay. You’ll need to clean up after every meal and before you leave to go back home. Before committing, agree on how the group will handle cleaning tasks to avoid any issues. It’s also a good idea to put together a cleaning schedule as well.

Group-Friendly Vacation Ideas

1. Beach Rental
You’ll find them in every beach town – large or small. Beach rentals come in all shapes and sizes, including condos and townhouses, and you can surely find one to fit your crowd. And beach activities are great for young and old travelers alike.

2. Cabin in the Mountains
If you want to combine group fun with some time alone with nature, head to the mountains. After that first trip to the Smoky Mountains outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, we kept going back, and I highly recommend this style of trip.

3. Camping
If you are looking for more of a rustic adventure, consider camping. Outside of purchasing camping gear if you don’t already own some, you’ll be able to keep costs very low. Camping is perfect for the young and the young at heart.

4. Cruising
If camping isn’t your style, and you don’t want to cook or clean while you’re on vacation, it’s time for a cruise. It’ll be more expensive, so be very conscious of your budget. Booking a group rate with multiple cabins is a great way to save money on a cruise vacation.

5. Big Cities
It is possible to save money while vacationing in a big city. New York City, Las Vegas, and New Orleans (especially for Mardi Gras in New Orleans) are among the big hits for young adults. Kids love Orlando and a chance to check out Disney World. When you ask for group discounts for everything from hotels to admission tickets, it’s amazing how much lower your expenses will be.

Final Word

You can make your dollar go far on an extended-family vacation or a trip with a large group of friends or other families. And everyone can have a great time if you’re aware of some of the major concerns and downfalls that come with group travel. Don’t ignore potential problems, resolve them. You’ll keep a great group together for a trip everyone’s sure to remember for all the right reasons.

What’s your next travel plan? Have you thought about going on a large group trip? Share your major concerns or your success stories in the comments below.

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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