Group travel
Travel Hacks

How to Travel with Friends & Plan a Group Trip

Plan a group, travel trip without going insane.

How TO know which friends make the best travel companions. How to plan an epic friends trip and which personalities make the perfect mix for group trips.

Aren’t friends the best? Some friends will battle work life together, others make the best housemates (or neighbors). Many lend a hand on moving day, or an ear when needing a good vent fest. And many support you in times of crises and raise a glass in life celebrations.

So, why not take all that goodness and go on group travel adventures together?

Why travel with friends?

  • Share experiences.
  • Safety in numbers.
  • Share the budget.
  • Turn Selfies into Usies.
  • Share being lost together.
  • Forget something? Sharing is caring.
  • Make memories.
  • Make layovers a bit more bearable.
  • Making airports more bearable.
  • A witness (to everything).
  • You learn more about your friends and yourself.
  • Lastly, because you love your friends and travel. Fuse them together.

I’ve been fortunate enough to plan and be part of many friend trips. They have been international trips, domestic ones, road trips (also international & domestic), outdoorsy – hiking trips and traveling to compete in athletic event trips.

No matter what style the trip is, they all have one thing in common. They all create long term happiness.

Sarah Emery Ragnar San Diego

No matter whatever the reason is to go, it’s always a memorable adventure with friends.

3 Reasons why should you figure out your travel tribe.

I’m all about living life fearlessly and figuring it out on the go, but there are times when it’s prudent to take calculated risks. And this is one of them.

It’s time to select your wolf pack and here’s why:

  • Because you value your friendships and it’s best to mitigate any potential issues and prevent placing yourself in a position of point of no return (friendship status wise speaking).
  • If creating a really good travel group is truly your thing, more friends will want to be part of your travel tribe. Resulting in more and more trips.
  • Experiences and creating memories with friends brings life long happiness and satisfaction (that no tangible item can provide).
Sarah Emery and Tim Unsell with goats

7 Ways to Figure out Your Travel Tribe.

Like most group activities, there’s a balance of open and honest communication, listening, patience and compromise for a successful group trip. And that’s just the behavioral portion to it. It’s a cocktail of personalities, priorities and levels of deepening the friendships.

The goal of a group travel is to have fun (of course), limit stress and share experiences. The best way to avoid conflict, resentment and or worse, end relationships. Is to go through a pre-check list, to figure out if the travel personalities are aligned.

I’ve created a list of topics to talk through with your potential travel tribe. It’s not a bomb proof list that will 100% guarantee there will be no issues on your trip. But it will highlight any potential land mines that may ultimately lead to issues or friend break ups BEFORE going.

1. Set up time to talk it out.

Organize a date and time to talk it all out in person. Make sure enough time is allocated to discuss the below topics. Everyone who is part of the trip is part of the conversation. Also, does everyone who is going, know each other?

Nothing is worse than dragging out an important conversation over text/ emails. A simple in-person conversation is best. Tonality can get lost in digital communication.

2. Review what you want in a travel buddy and do not want.

It will give a clear vision of expectations while eliminating assumptions.

For me, I prefer to journey with someone who has the same traveling interests. Simultaneously, I gravitate toward those who I can learn from, laugh with, wants to try new adventures, can challenge my travel comforts and suggest activities.

I find it exhausting to travel with the non-proactive. My biggest pet peeve is hearing, “I don’t care, I don’t know and sure, whatever,” when asking, “What do you want to do?” I mean, C’mon! You have a heartbeat and a brain, please don’t waste it.

I am fully aware that my style of travel is not for everyone. Which is why it’s important to discuss what you want and what you do not want.

And that’s what I love about travel! It comes in all shapes and sizes that can meet everyone’s style.

3. Well traveled, newbie or somewhere in between?

Sometimes, being polar opposites with travel experiences, is not necessarily a bad match. Mixing in patience, compromise and empathy can make a strong bond in friendships.

And sometimes…. it ALL works out 🙂

Some seasoned travelers are willing AND have a marathon pace of patience, for an entire trip when showing a newbie the ropes.

For others, they just simply don’t have the consistent patience. Which usually results in subtle grumblings and eye rolls.

No matter which end of the travel experience you fall in. It’s best to start talking about where each person can pull their weight & contribute. Rather than someone ending up pulling out their hair. Check out at the end of the post, the types of personalities that mix best in a group.

If you’re going overseas, talk about levels of cultural experience and comfort. This could go hand in hand with 7# on this list.

Being aware of each other’s patience and pace is key. Traveling in a pack combines all types of traveling levels making the dynamic a learning curve for all.

4. Discuss other group trips you have done.

Other group trips could be a destination wedding, family reunion, bachelor / bachelorette parties, music festivals, camping, educational trips, volunteer programs and or traveled to a compete athletically.

Review what you liked and could have done without.

5. How is everyone’s health and happiness?

Just like understanding traveling experiences and levels of various degrees, it’s good to understand where everyone is in life.

It’s best to venture with a clear and open mind.

For some, traveling with those who have a lot of drama is a lot. A LOT for some to take on. It could be a vampire energy suck of positivism.

It has the potential of hijacking the trip by infecting the tone. Subsequently, changing the experience for all around (whether they are directly involved or not).

Talk about, where you are in personal relationships (good or bad). Are you or others using this trip to take a break from a troubled life experience? No judgement, it’s just good to know what you are potentially adding or jumping into.

Errrr…… No gracias.

Be forthcoming about medication and or allergies.

Be ready to discuss what to do in case of an emergency. Just like drama, no one wants a sneak attack and not know what to do. True friends don’t care about the medication, they just want to know how to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Talk about travel anxiety or anxiety in general.

And don’t forget to talk about work life. If you can absolutely NOT turn off from work, allow your travel partners know and what that means.

6. What’s the conflict resolution style and problem solving skills?

Traveling comes with mishaps. We all know, $h*it happens. Missed flights, lost luggage, accommodation mix up, stolen wallets, canceled flights, food poisoning, lost phones, traveling scams, etc. There are many types of traveling woes and how one responds can alter the journey.

Ask your potential travel partner(s) their conflict resolution style and their experience dealing with travel mishaps.

Also, the ability or past experiences on how to turn travel mishaps into an opportunity, is always great to share.

Sarah Tim and Roger Philippines Tough Mudder
Friends and I traveled to the Philippines for the 1st Tough Mudder in Asia

Another way to gauge conflict resolution and problem solving. Examine how your friend confides in you about an argument with their life partner, work colleague, family member or another friend.

  • How do they respond?
  • What decisions did they take that lead them to the argument?
  • What’s their conflict resolution style? How did they react?
  • From the above, do they have a long list of terminated friendships?

Think about the personality traits in conflict as well:

  • Passive aggressive (giving the silent treatment).
  • All out yelling fits of rage with hurtful statements & name calling.
  • Bulldozing over everything.
  • Takes the defensive approach – deflects by making excuses or change the subject (it’s never their fault and never apologizes).
  • Storms out without ending the argument.

Be mindful of those responses and what it took to get there.

7. What are the eating and drinking habits?

I highly doubt it will be discovered whilst on your trip, your friend is a vegan, gluten-free or -enter here- any other food restriction / allergy. But never say, never, right?

So, what does the meal plan look like? Are you aware about your friend’s food and drink nuances? For example:

Did you know your friend can be an ultra hangry HULK who needs nutrition every 2 hours? And if you didn’t feed the beast, you might not realize you’ll be in a real-life Snickers Hangry commercial.

Or did you know how much of a creature of habit your friend is, in terms of food? They only eat certain foods. And no, they don’t want to try the eat the local food -it looks weird.

Meanwhile, you’re on the other spectrum of the weirder the better, street meat – get it in my mouF! Or…..Ooohhh….. I can’t get that at home – give me all of it and or That’s different, I’ll try anything at least once.

And what about the adult beverages? Will day drinking turn into all night benders then parlay into hair of the dog drinks and repeat…. for the whole entire trip? OR does your friend not drink at all.

It’s also a good idea to figure out what food allergies are in play and where that epi-pen is kept.

Talk about what the daily meal plan looks like and if it affects (or not) the meals together.

If any answers to the above did not raise any Red Flags AND did not have you running for the hills.

Congratulations! It’s time to plan that epic trip!

Sequoia Sarah Emery
Road trip to Sequoia National Park

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9 Steps on how to plan a group trip.

1) Same as above – Set aside enough time to fully discuss.

Just like step 1 of ensuring all parties are a travel match. Again, set up time to review the below.

2) Whose part of the travel tribe?

Is it just a party of 2? Fantastic. Is there a bigger group? Kids, dogs, a plus one or a plus four? Everyone who is part of the trip should be part of the conversation.

Sarah Emery Russian River Girls Trip
A girl’s road trip & relaxing in the river

3) What’s the destination and travel dates?

Where and when is the travel tribe going?

Need some travel inspiration? Look to Fodor’s Travel best seller’s books to be your traveling guide. Once you know where you’re traveling to. Check for your specific destination with Fodor’s Travel books.

Beach, countryside, city life, wine country, camping, volunteer program, island hopping, outdoor adventures? Sipping pina coladas in the sun and sand, or packing up coconut water and hiking gear for outdoor trekking?

What’s the destination?

4) What’s the budget?

What’s the overall budget for the trip? Lay down the budget to ensure your traveling needs, transportation, entertainment, food, accommodations are in line. Not everyone can afford luxury travel nor does everyone want to stay in hostels.

Align the budget.

Hiking in Switzerland with family and friends

5) What’s the plan in the destination(s)?

Certain landmarks, activities, shopping, beaches, outdoor activities, certain food, festivals, etc.

Make opportunities to split up the group, if need be. Remember: It’s everyone’s holiday. Splitting up to accomplish what they want, is not a bad thing.

Not everyone is going to want to shop or hike a mountain. Have options for everyone and divide the plan that’s fairly flexible.

Based on the points of interest and planned events. It will also give an idea of what area to stay for your accommodations.

6) Booking and splitting funds

How to split up the bills?
Booking flights, transportation, and accommodation can all be done prior to going. And all online. Most likely flights will be booked individually.

If sharing transportation and accommodation, then organize mobile payment (Venmo, Paypal, etc.) and pay back promptly. Side note: Consider that some peeps put charges on credit. Be respectful and make the paybacks payments asap.

Group fund?

The best and easiest way is to bring cash. Everyone contributes to a group fund (cash) that is used for group meals, groceries, dining out, snacks, gas money, transportation, etc.

Splitwise App
Download the Splitwise APP. It’s a free App to track shared expenses. Gas, transportation fees, group meals, groceries, group snacks, etc.

Things to consider: Taking a road trip? Who’s car is being used and who’s the driver? Consider the majority of the gas be paid by the passengers. Since the owner of the car is putting miles on their car and most likely did a check-up prior to going as well.

7) Give opportunities of downtime (to be alone).

Not everyone enjoys being constantly on the go.

Sarah Emery and Ronda Gregorio in Hawaii
Traveling with a favorite gal pal in Hawaii

If you know you need a bit of downtime take the time for it. Some may need their own room (which should be discussed when talking about the budget).

After spending a lot of time and space together. It’s not uncommon (nor rude) to sit away from each other on planes / trains. It’s a great opportunity to find your own space.

Going to see a movie, having a spa treatment, go for a run or to the gym, or take walk, or find a yoga class, chill at a cafe, or pool to sit and read. Are all chances to unwind separately as well.

Don’t depend on the bathroom to find serenity 🙂 You’re occupying a much needed and often used room. You’ll find yourself being interrupted more frequently rather than sitting on a porch with noise canceling headphones on and a Kindle in hand. Noise canceling headphones are very much worth the investment!!

The key is to communicate. There’s no need to suffer in silence, create awkward moments and unnecessary tension. Adult up and talk about when you need moments of silence or downtime.

8) Sharing is caring.

There’s no need to be taking 2 of items that can be shared. E.g. a travel blue tooth music speaker, curling iron. Share the weight and distribute evenly.

Read 52 Savvy Travel Hacks to ensure your traveling goes smoothly and comfortably as possible.

Sharing the data for numerous types of Travel Apps should also be considered. There’s no reason to use up data that’s duplicated in Apps. Figure out what the destinations local travel app are (shared driving apps, eating apps, google translate, etc) and divvy up the downloads.

9) Encourage the leaders to be leaders.

This is my favorite part.

Once all of the above is settled, you can let people’s strengths take over. It’s truly amazing to see a potluck of personalities fuse into an amazing traveling tribe. Everyone has their strengths, so let them shine in it.

Here are 9 type of personalities that are fantastic for group travel:

  • The Bank: This person is the accountant, who can take over Splitwise App, or be organizer the group fund account. They will keep you in budget and most likely have an emergency cash fund stashed on their person, too.
  • The Organizer. This is most likely the project manager of the group. They plan, research and usually have a plan B and C up their sleeves. They know what flight number you’re on, what’s the name of the road your hotel is on, can tell you EVERYTHING about the destination you’re going to and keeps the agenda going.
  • The Do’er. This is the action oriented and results oriented person. This person doesn’t hesitate when asking strangers for directions. They feel comfortable being lost because they instinctively start figuring it out. They are adventurous, willing to explore all new things and up for a challenge.
  • The Human GPS. This person always has an idea of where they are. Their inner compass internally knows which direction is north, can easily read a bus map, and can find their way out of a labyrinth of malls, casinos and confusing subway systems without panic.
  • The Scout. They have earned a badge for everything. They are always prepared and know what to do when in a jam. Hand these people a toothpick, a tire and some wire and they will turn it into a unicycle (somehow – I don’t know how, because they’re Macgyver’s and you will want them part of your travel tribe).
  • The Linguist. These people are truly amazing. They have a way with words, globally. If they don’t know the language, give them time on a flight and they will learn all the basics to guide you through your destination.
  • The Foodie. Never be in the not knowing where to eat and what to try. The foodie will have all the answers to your gastronomic needs or will help you to figure them out. Most likely they can whip up a good meal too.
  • The Photographer. Not only to document in picture form, but to level up your Instagram profile. Just make sure you give them photo credit.
  • The DJ. No more awkward moments of silence. Bring on the music. They will make it a priority that good tunes are playing in the background on a good portable speaker.

5 Fun Extra Tips to Make an Epic Journey

  • Create a hashtag # to use on all social sites that define your trip and specific to your group.
  • If you are staying with a friend or family for accommodations. Don’t forget the arrival host gift & treat them out to a nice dinner for their hospitality.
  • Group t-shirts or onesies are always fun. It’s a great way to make it feel like a more of a group trip, lighthearted and fun.
  • Anyone celebrating a life win during the trip (birthday, anniversary, job promotion)? Go out and celebrate that person.
  • If someone took the reigns and exuded a lot of extra energy that created extra value to the trip. Not only express your appreciation by saying thank you but treat that person to a drink, a dessert, dinner and or excursion to show the group’s gratitude.
  • Think like a travel group influencer / destination wedding planner when booking a big group for excursions and accommodations. ASK FOR DISCOUNTS. When traveling with a group of 10 or more and going out on excursions: Ask for discount group fee. Search for accommodations that will provide a free stay for those bringing a big group.

A successful group trip should always end with,

“When and where is our next adventure?”

Outdoor enthusiast thriving in the expatriate traveling lifestyle. Looking to connect with your sense of adventure.


  • Roamy

    I usually travel alone, after saving hard for months so as to relax, I dont like having to compromise on where to go or what to do, I want to do it or leave it when I`m on vacation and the best way”in my opinion”to do that is to vacation alone.
    But having read your post, maybe I`m missing out, will try and vacation with frinds and see how it goes.

    • Sarah Emery

      Yes, compromise Roamy is a big difference when traveling within a group. As someone who travels solo & in groups, I will say I laugh a TON more within a group. And that right there, is all worth it 🙂 Happy trails and thanks for the read and comment – Cheers!

  • Josh

    God! This is somewhat stressing me out just reading this. It’s probably because I had to plan a trip for 8 people by myself and no one wants to make time to talk it out as you mentioned. I’m starting to think this is not the travel tribe for me…with only a few exceptions. I already told my best friend, that is also going on the trip, that I’m NEVER doing this again unless I can go with people that are on the same wavelength as us. These are all great tips though since group trip planning is for sure an eye opening experience especially for someone that is normally a solo traveler.

    • Sarah Emery

      Oh no! I hope I didn’t stress you out too much! Yes, solo traveling vs group traveling is VERY different. I’ve learned I’m not the best person to do all the planning – to me it’s like herding ill-tempered cats – ha! But I’ve also learned that I laugh a lot more whilst on group trips 🙂

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