Whether you're backpacking through Europe, cruising the coastline in an RV, or just renting a cabin for the weekend, vacationing with friends, when done right, is often more fulfilling (and fun!) than going it alone. Under the wrong circumstances, however, travel with others can become stressful, leading to tensions and misunderstandings that not only spoil trips, but also have the potential to ruin friendships.
So what's a well-intentioned group traveler to do?
Before you leave, the group should meet at least once to discuss logistics. Go over larger issues such as itinerary, budget, and time frame, but also address specifics. How will you split restaurant bills, particularly if half the group likes expensive wine and the other is content with plonk? If kids are coming, will you hire a baby-sitter for a few nights to provide the parents with some adults-only time?
Elect a group secretary. You need someone to book travel, manage expenses, research locations - or to divvy up these tasks - and, in general, keep everything organized. Usually, there's a detail-oriented person amongst the group who's an obvious choice, but, if not, vote or put everyone's name into a hat. The secretary should stay in touch with the group before the trip. Email is great, but even better is a Web site where you can post weather info, flight times, a list of who needs to bring what, directions, and, after you return, photographs.
Since you and your friends are going to be spending more concentrated time together than you probably ever have before, allowing everyone some breathing room is crucial. If you love to shop all day,but your friends prefer exploring art museums, don't be afraid to head out on your own. Big groups should break up into smaller units. Let the golfers do their putting and the sunbathers get their tans, and come together for breakfast and dinner.
Address conflicts as they arise
When your friend hogs all the hot water or keeps leaving dirty dishes in the shared kitchen, speak up. Letting small frustrations fester will only blow them out of proportion and make things progressively worse.
by Meaghan Clawsie, Elated Escapes (www.elatedescapes.com)