The stories you’ll tell, the experiences you’ll share, and the memories you’ll make on a group trip all start with a thoughtful and thorough group vacation itinerary. Use this guide to create a group travel itinerary that harnesses your travel inspiration while balancing group members’ expectations. Be sure to get input from the group, whether it’s your family, friends, or coworkers throughout the planning process. And consider hiring a group travel advisor who can help optimize your group travel experience and ensure your travel companions’ travel needs and wants are fully accounted for.
1. Decide Who’s Going on the Trip
It’s tempting to label this first step “0” because before you start planning you must consider who your itinerary is designed for. After all, group trips include vacations, reunions, and even work trips like destination team-building experiences for close friends, family members, or colleagues.
These groups have different needs and preferences, each desiring something different from travel. The same destinations can have radically different itineraries if, say, children and elderly individuals require more rest and downtime to comfortably accompany you on a group trip.
2. Choose a Destination
Perhaps you’ve already planned on taking a trip and want to choose an enticing destination to encourage friends or family to join you. Or maybe your friends from work or school have decided to travel together but haven’t chosen a destination yet. You’ll want to nail down your destination early in the itinerary process to get a sense of what sort of sights, activities, attractions, accommodations, and transportation options are on offer.
Consider the weather, the season, and any major events coinciding with your itinerary when choosing a destination. Remember that the seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres are opposite. So when planning a group trip to say, Argentina, remember winter in the US is actually South America’s summer.
3. Set the Schedule
Another big step to creating a thorough and enticing group itinerary is the schedule. You’ll need to put some thought into which days are most convenient for your group to arrive and depart from your chosen destination.
Adding a schedule to your group trip itinerary will ensure everyone knows where to be and when so you don’t miss a moment together. Some questions to consider as you build your itinerary’s schedule include:
- When is everyone in your group available for a trip?
- What season of the year is best for visiting your preferred destination (and why)?
- How long is your ideal vacation?
- Are there other factors that impact the date the group arrives to your destination?
- Does your prospective vacation include more than one destination or mode of transportation (e.g. a three to seven day cruise with onshore excursions)?
- Are there any events or seasonal activities happening at the destination your group would be interested in attending?
The best time to visit a location may be during its offseason, especially for large groups. Without sacrificing fun, costs can be lower and the destination easier to navigate during its offseason.
4. Set Expectations
Every trip has a goal and it is important everyone understands what that goal is. Goals can be general, such as to relax or experience something new. Or, maybe, in the case of multigenerational travel, your vacation is to foster strong bonds between family members. It isn’t just about what is listed in the itinerary, but whether the itinerary captures what a destination offers. A more rigorous, detailed itinerary may not be received well if your travel companions don’t understand its design. Maybe you have to balance competing interests among group members. Even if parts of your itinerary don’t appeal to everyone, be transparent with disgruntled individuals about your choices.
5. Set a Budget
The most common group vacation expenses include these items. Keep in mind that fees and/or taxes may be attached to each.
- Lodging and accommodations
- Transportation to the destination
- Transportation within the destination
- Foods and drinks such as meals, snacks, and eating as vacation activity (e.g. stopping at street food vendors on a group foodie vacation)
- Entrance fees or tickets to activities, events, or sites
- Potential emergencies or need for medical care
- Travel insurance
- Any apps or digital experiences that simplify or enhance the group trip experience
Having a clear idea of what your group can comfortably afford goes a long way to prioritizing activities and accommodations.
When budgeting, keep these ideas top of mind:
- Is the emphasis of your group vacation luxury, affordability, or something in between?
- How important is cultural immersion and how can it be achieved at a chosen destination?
- Do you expect to take advantage of any discounts through airline or credit card points programs, travel agents, travel apps, or a destination’s tourism authorities?
- Are there alternatives to traditional lodging options that could lower the cost of a group stay, such as hostels or short-term rentals?
- If traveling internationally, what is the currency exchange rate?
- How important is staying within budget? Is the budget a general guideline or a hard ceiling?
- Should budgets be established by the group, individual group members, or families? If more than one person is overseeing vacation spending, how do you ensure control over the budget?
6. Schedule Activities
Now, for the fun part of itinerary building: choosing the activities and experiences that will comprise the bulk of your trip.
Work out the details like the day and the time as well as an estimated head count to prepare for each activity. Make advanced reservations for the activities that require it or you expect to be crowded. The time of year, type of group, and preferences of individual group members will all impact the types of vacation activities and attractions you choose.
Activities can be:
- Enjoyed indoors or outdoors.
- Thrilling, relaxing, or something in between.
- Familiar or wholly new to your group.
- Intended to immerse or entertain.
- Popular and well-known or off the beaten path.
- Slower-paced, like sightseeing, or faster-paced, such as deep-sea diving.
- Inspired by nature, history, culture, food, or romance.
- Spontaneous or planned.
- Designed for children, adults, or those who live with a disability.
Examples of common group activities are:
- Iconic sites and natural wonders
- Sporting events
- Tours by land and sea
- Boating or fishing
- Adult gaming
- Unique eating experiences such as themed restaurants
- Escape rooms
- Plays or concerts
7. Choose Accommodations
The modern travel environment offers group travelers plenty of accommodation options that combine spacious, comfortable lodgings with affordability. Depending on the destination and the type of trip, accommodations may be a central attraction —as in an all inclusive resort getaway—or simply serve as a layover before diving into the next activity.
When choosing accommodations or lodgings there are a few factors to consider:
- Type: Modern lodging options are varied. They can include hotels, motels, vacation rentals, short-term rentals, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and resorts.
- Location: The location of your group’s accommodations could include urban centers or destination outskirts. Beachside hotels, alpine lodgings, and casino hotels are all examples of how accommodation settings can add to the group vacation experience.
- Price: Cost will be a major factor in your choice of accommodation. Group vacationers have more options than ever to access affordable accommodations.
- Ratings and recommendations: This one’s self-explanatory; a higher customer rating usually means a better experience.
- Amenities: Free WiFi, breakfast, and exercise rooms are common amenities you should look out for. Luxury amenities include towel warmers, full kitchens, and plush bathrobes.
- Special offers, discounts, or rewards programs: that can be applied to your stay.
8. Arrange Transportation
Transportation includes both reaching and departing as well as any mobility needs you’ll have while at your destination. If traveling by air with a large group, you’ll want to encourage travelers to arrive at the airport early. When booking flights, consider the time zones you’ll pass through, how they will affect your arrival time, and any jet lag group members could experience.
For vacations that include multiple destinations or a lot of travel within a destination, consider a vehicle rental. The right vehicle can greatly simplify your travel experience and help you see and do more. Cover more ground while hauling the gear necessary to enjoy hiking, swimming, or skiing.
If your destination has reliable public transportation, consider a bus, train, or subway pass. These are sometimes available online through apps or your destination’s tourism website. Organizing rentals or transportation passes for you and your group are just one of the many perks of using a travel advisor.
9. Reserve or Pre-Plan Meals
Meals can be tricky on group vacations, especially if your group includes picky eaters or you are headed to a remote or unusual destination where the food options are unfamiliar. To avoid breakdowns at mealtimes by kids (or adults), investigate possibilities beforehand. Ensure that the restaurants you choose have something for everyone and have the seating and staff to serve large groups.