To Plan a Vacation with Friends, Set Expectations Well in Advance

This photo shows three women jumping up together at the beach

When sitting down to plan a vacation, choose your travel companions wisely.

A colleague recently returned from a much-anticipated vacation, and on her return, I asked if she enjoyed her time off. She paused a little too long before her reply, and weighed her words carefully.

“It was just ok,” she admitted. “The hotel was gorgeous and the setting was really beautiful. But … my friends and I really got on each other’s nerves. By the end of the trip, I was so ready to leave.”

Her post-trip report got me thinking – it’s awful to have a vacation feel like wasted time (and, not to mention, wasted money). And in my many years writing about travel, I’ve heard about so many vacations going sour because the group of travelers hadn’t quite gelled as anticipated. In addition, with Americans getting such limited time off each year compared to our global counterparts, it’s imperative that we make the absolute most of our downtime for overall satisfaction, rejuvenation, and well-being.

Part of doing so is choosing the right group of people to accompany us on our vacations – and if we can’t choose all of our companions, then we can still make sure that we communicate trip plans and expectations with the whole group well in advance. In this case, honesty isn’t just the best policy – it’s also an excellent way to manage assumptions, curtail miscommunications, and minimize disappointments – thus preserving your vacation time and money spent (and maybe even your friendships in the process).

The next time you plan a vacation with friends and/or family, here are three check points to address well in advance:

1. Discuss Logistics

When sitting down to discuss the upcoming trip, be sure to outline what’s needed from the get-go. For the actual travel, coordinate times of arrival and any required pick-ups/drop-offs from the airport, train stations, etc. If you’re renting a vacation home, for example, who will be responsible for getting the keys and check-out? For meals, will you divvy up grocery runs and cooking duties? Not everything has to be set in stone, of course (this is your vacation, after all), but a high-level understanding of the group dynamic right from the get-go can keep assumptions in check.

2. Outline the Budget

The budget—and miscommunications around it—may be the most contentious point of a group vacation. Among your friends, discuss in advance what everyone has budgeted for the trip, and then tailor your itinerary appropriately. You may have your heart set on a luxury hotel, for example, that won’t be feasible for several of your friends; the airfare from your home city may be prohibitively expensive to the area you want to visit; the original first-choice dates for the trip are affordable for only two out of the five friends traveling together. Get the numbers out of the way for both the actual travel and the once-we’re-there activities, and everyone will be much happier.

 3. Acknowledge–and Respect–Different Interests

The quickest way to get on one’s nerves is to have mismatched ways of traveling and conflicting interests. If you’re a plop on the beach type of traveler, don’t agree to go on a vacation with your adventurous buddies who love to skydive; if you’re a night owl who loves clubbing, don’t get irritated when your early-to-bed/early-to-rise traveling friends decline to come along with you. During the time you plan a vacation, open and honest communications on what everyone wants to do are a huge help – with an understanding of everyone’s interests, must-haves, nice-to-haves, and what can be avoided/skipped, you can make the most of your time together once you arrive, and give everyone the space and freedom needed to truly enjoy their respective vacations.

When you’ve planned a vacation with friends, what gets discussed in advance? Leave a comment and share what’s worked well for you!

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Photo courtesy Parapluie via Flickr Creative Commons