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Ten Ways to Survive Traveling With Strangers

My G Adventures Group in China–I’m on the far left, in the back.

I hate to travel alone.

Over the years, this has meant I haven’t traveled nearly as much as I’d like, as my friends or significant others haven’t always had the same means, time off, or desire.

I’ve also traveled to places I wasn’t overly interested in because someone I knew was going, and hell, it was a chance to go somewhere.

So when the opportunity to go to China arose, I decided to take the plunge and do something I’d never done before–sign up for a tour with a bunch of strangers.

I was nervous, but I consoled myself with the fact that we’d all have at least one thing in common–we wanted to see China so much that we’d signed up for this crazy tour.

If you’ve read my past two posts, you already know that I had a fabulous time and met some amazing people, some of whom I hope will be lifelong friends.

BUT that doesn’t mean there were no bumps along the road. If you’re considering joining a tour, here’s some helpful tips for surviving travel with a group of strangers.

1) Be Friendly With Everyone, Dependent on No one: If you’ve traveled with a friend, or even a spouse, you know there’s that point in the trip when you start to get on each other’s nerves. The great thing about a larger group is that this never has to happen, because you can vary who you spend time with and who you talk to. If you spend all your time with one or two people, you miss out on the chance of getting to know others in the group, whom you may have just as much fun with. If you’re friendly with everyone, you won’t wind up having to do things by yourself when your chosen buddy doesn’t feel like going out.

2) Be Prepared to Share: One of the great things about my G Adventures group was that it didn’t feel like sixteen people traveling on their own—it felt like sixteen people pooling their resources. If someone got a blister, a headache, a cold, lost their luggage, or just didn’t get to the store to buy provisions, they had about fifteen offers of help. It was pretty awesome how everyone pitched in for the good of the group.

3) Be Careful What You Say: There were some “uh-oh” moments when people said things assuming that those they were talking to agreed with them. Whether these were racist comments or slamming people of a certain age, best not to say anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable announcing to the entire group. Especially if you don’t know the ethnicity or age of the person you’re talking to! Appearances can be deceiving.

4) Be Considerate: If you join a group like this on your own, you’re most likely going to be paired with a same-sex roommate, so a little consideration is in order. As long as you’re always mindful that you’re not living alone and that the other person has as much right to the space as you do, you’re on your way to being a great roommate.

5) At All Costs, Avoid Drama: The guys on the tour managed to avoid drama. How? They didn’t take things personally, they were friendly with everyone but attached to no one, and they didn’t take things personally. Did I mention they didn’t take things personally?

6) If You Can’t Avoid Drama, Don’t Let It Ruin Your Trip: Of course it would be ideal if everyone in the group functioned like one big happy family all the time, but that’s not realistic. Travel–especially strenuous, adventure travel–puts a strain on everyone, and emotions can be heightened. But always remember it’s your trip, and you paid good money to be there. Don’t let petty drama ruin even one day of your vacation, or you’ll regret it later. Shrug it off and suck it up as much as possible. You’ll feel better the next day.

7) Be Prepared to Get Sick: When you’re traveling with a group, someone is bound to get sick. And once one person gets a cold or a flu, almost everyone else will come down with it as well. Bring an arsenal of cold and flu medication, just in case, especially cough drops, which can be hard to find in some countries. If you end up not needing them, you can give them to the person who does.

8) Be Inclusive: Maybe you’ve really hit it off with a few people, but see that person who’s always alone? Why not invite him or her to join you for dinner? When it comes to traveling in a group, the more, the merrier. Whenever I expanded my horizons, I never regretted it.

9) Realize It Might Just Be A Moment In Time: Traveling like this really bonds a group of people. Promises are made–to keep in touch regularly, or to visit each other. Maybe to travel together as a group again. And these things might happen, but they can seem like a fantasy when everyone returns to their real lives. Enjoy your group as much as you can in the moment, because no matter how close you are, the sad fact of the matter is that coming home can (and often does) change everything. It’s nothing personal.

10) Be Positive. The very best advice I can give is to be positive. If you’re generally cheerful, encouraging, and can make people laugh now and then, you’ll get along just fine.

Have you ever traveled with a tour group before, or if not, have you ever considered it? What are your best travel tips?

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  1. Andrew

    Really good advice, Holli. I especially agree with your observation that you should not allow your dream holiday to be ruined by someone else. You are the only one who loses in that scenario.

    You forgot to mention that in the unlikely event that you do find cough drops, they may taste like an old man’s socks…

    • Holli Moncrieff

      That’s the great thing about travel friends—they can always remind you of the things you’d rather forget. 😉 Those lozenges were left in a hotel room in Hong Kong, funnily enough…by accident, I’m sure.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Stephanie Faris

    I watched as a bus full of seniors exited into our local mall earlier this week and was thinking about your blog and how you took a group trip (although not a senior one!) My mom said they now have singles cabins on cruise ships for people traveling alone and I said it seems like it would be better to go as a group because everyone joins together. On a cruise, if you’re alone you’re the odd person out but if you go on a trip with a group, you all join together.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Funny you mention that, Stephanie. Because of the way the numbers ended up working out, two people in the group had their own rooms throughout the trip. I’m not sure how the guy felt, but the woman didn’t like it. People missed out on so much without a roommate. A roommate is definitely the better option with a trip like this.

  3. Susan Scott

    What sage advice Holli thank you! Your trip sounds super – and well done for taking the plunge! I’ve not done a tour group travel but I have friends who have and they’ve said it’s been such fun in foreign fields ..
    It sounds as if kindness and consideration are the most NB factors – and be prepared for the unexpected I would add eg upset tummy flu etc ..

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Susan! It was an amazing trip–I almost wish I could do it all over again.

      I was prepared for every kind of sickness but the one I got. Go figure. 😉

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Crystal Collier

    I used to head out all the time when I was single. So many awesome memories, but now that I have a family, I just go with my family. One day I’ll get back to the adventure, but for now, it’s a different adventure.

    Awesome tips!

    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Crystal. And I completely understand! I have a friend who travels with two small children, but I have no idea how she manages. For me, it’s enough to handle myself!

  5. Mia Hayson

    These are great tips! I hate being sick but if I have to be ill it’s fun to do it on holiday in some ways, so long as you’re not so sick you can’t go do things!


    • Holli Moncrieff

      Thanks, Mia, and welcome to my blog! I personally hate being sick when I’m away from home. When I’m ill, I just want my bed, my bathtub, and my cats. 🙂

  6. Steven

    Never done the group travel thing, but I’ve always had people to go along on any big adventures. Having grown up in a tourist area and living in another for a while, can I tell you that acting like a damn tourist really doesn’t score points with the locals? In this day and age of the Internet, it doesn’t take much effort to learn a thing or two about where you’re going and what the local customs are. Also, showing up and acting like you own the whole place just because you’re on vacation gets really old for the people who live there. I even experience that here during ski season, as the people go on and on about whatever bigger city they’re from, like I even care. If tourists are nice and respectful, they will be treated much better by the locals and might even be privy to some insider info, so there’s my $0.02.

    • Holli Moncrieff

      You’re lucky you’ve always had people to go with you. If I travel as much as I want to, and don’t want to go alone, I’m afraid group tours are the only option. I’m just glad I found such a fantastic company for them.

      I can’t imagine acting like I own any place on vacation. I always feel like a fish out of water at first, and am so grateful for any new experience or anything a local wants to show or teach me.

      I have bumped into the occasional obnoxious tourist, but thankfully they’ve been few and far between. Everyone in our group was great.

      Thanks for commenting!


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