Traveling with family and friends should be fun, right? 


Sure, no trip is ever perfect no matter how well-planned, but mistakes and mishaps – though par for the course – can be minimised.

Let’s assume you’ve all agreed on an itinerary, budget, how to get around, and have now made your way to the starting point of your journey. Then what? How do you spend the next few days or weeks traveling together without wanting to kill one another by the end of the trip?

Each group’s dynamics is different, but here are a few things you can do, which I learned from travels overseas with extended family.

1. Designate a Tour Leader.

This person doesn’t necessarily decide on everything. He or she is just the point person who everyone coordinates with – drivers, accommodations, local guides, other members of the group assigned to perform specific tasks. This person, though, should have a really good grasp of the itinerary, must be able to set the pace for each day, and propose options or changes, if necessary.

2. Agree on a petty cash fund to pay for common expenses, clearly define what items the fund covers, and assign someone to handle it.

This is the kitty everyone contributes equally to to pay for things like meals (for sharing and not individual servings), tips, entrance fees, local guides, etc. This task can be done by the Tour Leader, but for bigger groups, it’s best to share the burden and assign the handling of the fund to someone else.

3. Avoid traveling in the summer if you can.

It’s hot, it’s crowded everywhere you go, lines are longer, everything’s more expensive, the locals aren’t as accommodating because they’re harassed by demanding tourists, tempers rise. Ayayay! Summer travel’s really got a built-in recipe for disaster.

But I know, if not the summer, when else can everyone get together? I realise this tip might not be realistic for everyone, so for a trip that coincides with the summer season in the US and Europe, plan early. My family’s decision to travel within Italy in the summer (read about it here) was made only 3 months before our trip and by then, I felt that options for our group of 16 had been greatly limited.

Regardless of when you decide to travel, however, remember to always use sunscreen. Cities like Rome can be extremely hot in the summer but the sun is just as damaging up in the Alps even in the cooler months.

4. Be ready with options or activities to spice things up, break the monotony, or give everyone a breather.

During long bus rides, for instance. Rather than fill each and every waking moment with stuff to do, sometimes peace and quiet is exactly what everyone needs for a chance to catch up on rest.

When shopping in or exploring a big city, a short break from one another can do wonders. You don’t have to do every single thing together as a group. And agree on this before your trip so no one gets offended in the rare times you decide to veer off on your own.

5. Assign someone to regularly check headcount.

Kids are tired, parents are tired. Anything can happen, believe me. We “lost” three kids in our group in spite of a buddy system. Nevertheless, it was the buddy system that helped us realise that someone was unaccounted for. So checking headcount would be a back-up to the buddy system in case the latter fails.

6. Decide with your travel mates how the daily meal ordering will be handled. 

For instance, will it be to each his own (from ordering to paying)? Or when eating family-style, will it make more sense for specific people in the group to take turns taking down everyone’s orders then placing these orders at the counter or with the wait staff?

Personally, I find this meal ordering bit the most stressful part of any trip, so I’d happily pass on this task to someone else.

7. Assign foodies to check out good places to eat that offer the best value.

Each one’s budget will be different, so bearing this in mind, the group must choose and decide together among the options presented by the foodies. This should be coordinated with the tour leader, who can then check how each dining option will affect the day’s itinerary.

And while we’re on the subject of food, make sure people bring snacks. Drive the hunger and crankiness away!

Snacks, anyone?

8. Have a First Aid Kit on hand.

My mom and sisters are walking pharmacies. You name it – balms, sprays, meds – they’ve got it. So whenever traveling with them, I don’t have to worry about this part too much. But do consider this on trips. And make sure everyone has good travel health insurance.

9. Designate someone who’ll make sure the family has a group photo.

I didn’t say designate a “photographer” because then that person won’t make it in many, if not all, of the important photos. But having someone who’ll consistently get everyone together for important photos (and get trustworthy-looking fellow tourists to take them) would ensure travel memories are well-documented. This isn’t usually a problem among pinoy travelers, though. My dad somehow always found a way to make sure we had photos of the entire family.

10. Chill!

If you don’t get to see everything you wanted to see or do everything you planned to do, this just gives you a great excuse to return!