Group Tour Etiquette –
How To Enjoy Your Trip and Not Get Kicked Off The Bus!
Group Tour Travel is a world unto itself. I’ve written before that, for the most part, I prefer independent travel to group tours. Still, there are times and circumstances where I have chosen to travel with an organized group. I’ve traveled with Trafalgar on several occasions and with Overseas Adventure Travel more recently. Both provided good value and an efficient way to make the most of my travel time. Each year millions of travelers head out to explore the world as part of an organized group. Recently a friend suggested that it might be helpful to write an article about Group Tour Etiquette. As I think about it now, this is a person I met when I was traveling on a group tour. I wonder why she was suggesting this topic to me? Certainly it couldn’t mean my fellow traveler thought I needed to brush up on my tour etiquette. Hmmmmm. But I digress.
Travel is truly an awesome experience. Planning your group travel adventure can be almost as much fun as the trip – researching your destination, selecting your wardrobe, getting your gear in top shape. Nothing wrong with focusing on the fun. But if you are going to be traveling with a group you might want to take a moment or two and prepare yourself to be a great travel companion by reviewing Group Tour Etiquette.
Group Travel is very different from independent travel. You are going to be sharing your visits to wonderful sights and venues with a number of other travelers. You are also going to be sharing other things including meals, buses, guides, itineraries, and schedules. Group Travel means sharing. So before you head out for a group travel experience it is best to brush up on your sharing skills – you know, some of the basics like you learned in kindergarten.
After giving some thought to this topic, it occurred to me that a successful group travel can use two of the same techniques that I am writing about in my Travel Stress Management Series. ACCEPT the fact that not everything is going smoothly or the way you would like. (related Acceptance article). Be AWARE of what is going on around you and with your group ( related Awareness article). (Some of you may detect a slight linking here to Buddhist thinking.)
So, these three basic concepts will help set you up for a more enjoyable group travel experience: Accept the fact that problems will arise, Be Aware of what is going on with you and those around you, and Share like you learned in kindergarten.
Now let’s talk about specifics. Here are some ideas about group travel etiquette to help you be a good group traveler and remain in good graces with your fellow group members. (You don’t want to be “voted off the bus” do you?)
TIME MANAGEMENT – Perhaps the most important key to being a good group traveler, Time Management comes into play in group travel in many, many ways. Your guide or tour director is going to give you lots of instructions regarding time. “Have your bags outside your room by …… tomorrow morning.” “Dinner will be at …..” Be back to the bus at ……..” “Explore on your own and we will all meet back here at ……..” You get the idea. A travel group moves smoothly and effectively as a unit. And to be a unit, everyone needs to be present. You might try to use this mantra for the group traveler : Be late and you make everyone wait.
You are not going to be a popular group member if you make everyone wait. So set your watch, alarm, smartphone or sundial and synchronize it with your tour guides timepiece. Then build in a “cushion” for deadlines. Always try to be five minutes early.
COMMUNICATE – On a group trip it’s a good idea to communicate with your fellow travelers as well as your travel guide. Even the most introverted traveler will enjoy the trip more if they socialize a bit. And remember, communication is a two way process. Share your own ideas, opinions, observations, etc and also LISTEN to those of others (it’s that Sharing, Acceptance, Awareness thing again) Communication with your guide is especially important. So get acquainted and establish a relationship (while not monopolizing their time – a delicate balance / sharing thing) If you travel with a mobil phone, get your guide’s phone number and program it into your phone. Then, if you have a problem, get lost, or are going to be late you can Communicate and solve the problem. Finally, it’s really important to pay attention and listen when the guide is giving out directions. Mantra number two: Miss the directions – miss the bus. For me, I find it generally is not a good idea to trust my memory. I write this stuff down.
MONEY ISSUES – Financial issues can stress relationships. This applies to relationships with your fellow travelers in your group. The easiest way to avoid hurt feelings or misunderstandings is to be prepared to always pay your own way or your own share. That way things never get out of balance. But sometimes situations arise. You might need to borrow an extra 25 Euros from a travel companion to buy that “oh so special” item. Or somebody might pick up the tab for a round of drinks on a cruise. What do you do then? Simple – just like anywhere else. Make mental note and pay it back – the sooner the better. Don’t let things get out of balance.
Tipping is a financial issue which always arises on group tours. As far as I am aware, every tour company suggests that you tip various people that they contract with for service – tour guides, bus drivers, city guides, etc. Often the company will suggest an amount to tip. This tipping thing is a very sensitive issue. Some travelers tip automatically in a huge way, Some refuse to tip at all. And some vary their tip according to the service and the situation. The decision about tipping is very personal and I’m not about to advise you about what to tip. I will say that personally, whenever I travel, be it independently or with a group, I research the tipping customs and expectations of the location I am going to visit. Then I develop a tipping strategy accordingly. So come up with your own tipping plan. Be prepared to provide tips according to your plan (without having to “borrow” from a fellow traveler at the last minute) and provide your tips personally and discretely. Don’t be pressured into tipping beyond your comfort level and don’t “flash your cash.” Tip as you prefer and move on.
BE ORGANIZED – It’s always a good idea to be a well organized traveler. It’s especially important when you travel with a group. Organization starts before you leave home. Don’t pack too many things. Mantra number three: If in doubt – leave it out. Only take what you can comfortably carry or manage on your own. And once the tour starts – stay organized. Know what you have and where it is and keep track of it. As you leave a location – hotel, bus, restaurant, whatever – turn around, look back, and take a quick inventory. Got everything? Okay – move on. And if you happen to notice that someone else left something behind – grab it and give it to the owner or your guide. You don’t want to have the entire tour group wait while you and / or your tour guide run back to look for a missing item.
BE CONSIDERATE – This is not rocket science / it’s the Golden Rule. Be thoughtful and respectful. Be aware of the needs and interests of others as well as your own. Take turns, share, be friendly and kind. You know – just be your own typical charming self!
HAVE FUN – After all, that is why you travel isn’t it? Relax, Enjoy and make new Friends!
Travel Softly ……………….. And Enjoy The Adventure!
Dr.B, The Photo Trekker
Many thanks to Ms. Karen Helland who collaborated on this article. Check out a previous article (here) written by Karen.
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