Making group travel a happy experience
We recently came across a post on Lonely Planet about Hostel rules to follow to make the dorm sharing experience a pleasant one for all. (Post link here)
The advice in the post is valid not only for dorms and hostels but for any number of people sharing a space, especially strangers. This situation arises on group tours where you may share a room or an SUV with a friend or with someone you have met on the tour itself. These basic pointers go a long way in avoiding friction and hurt feelings and in making the trip a memorable one in a good way for all concerned. :-)
We thought we'd add a few more thoughts to this blog post based on our past experiences with group travel.
1. Try to be on time - Group tours have to follow a schedule based on the itinerary so that the entire group gets to make the best of their time at any destination. These schedules and itineraries are carefully planned to maximise rest and sightseeing time and should therefore be adhered to. It is essential to be on time and not hold up the group as it is unfair to people who have risen early to avoid inconvenience to others.
We understand it can be unavoidable at times but to keep up the camaraderie, it is best to keep tardiness to a minimum and always apologise if you hold up the group.
2. Avoid smoking or drinking within the group - It is best to move away from the group if you wish to smoke. Passive smoking is known to be a health hazard and one should avoid subjecting co-travellers to it. We do not permit alcohol on treks and short trips. On long tours and rides too we discourage it, however, it remains at the discretion of the travellers as they are free to order any beverages / food they wish to as part of room service. It is advisable to keep these to a minimum as they cause dehydration and may cause one to lose focus on the drive the following day. It is also advisable to maintain decorum and avoid disturbing fellow travellers.
3. Keep loud noises to a minimum - Our trips to unique places take us to areas that are serene and peaceful, like the Himalayan mountain region. Loud noises, playing of loud music, etc. disturbs the serenity of the space and also offends fellow travellers who may have come on the trip with precisely this serenity as an objective.
4. Trade places in the SUV - On a road trip in an SUV, we recommend rotation of seats so that everyone gets to equally share in the front middle and rear seat experiences. Respecting this will go a long way in maintaining fairness and a cordial atmosphere for all co-travellers.
5. Ensure children are safe and polite - On any trip, having children along can be a joy but also a responsibility. We advise parents to keep a close eye on their children to avoid them wandering off and causing a panic. We also recommend that parents ensure the children are not inconveniencing other guests.
6. Make sure your ride is tuned and serviced - Breakdowns en route can cause a loss of time and lead to unnecessary anxiety on road trips. While some of these are unavoidable and are never begrudged, we recommend all riders to ensure service checks of the bikes a week before commencing a trip and as often as possible en route.
7. Follow the formation - On some long or difficult stretches, riders may be asked to ride in formation. Respecting this request ensures safety and well-being of the entire group and in case of a breakdown or some other problem, help is always at hand. Plus it makes for beautiful pics of a long line of bikes, riding in perfect tandem. ;-)
8. Fuel up - On long stretches, especially in regions like Ladakh, fuel may not be available for many hundred kilometers; which means that fuel has to be carried along for refuelling purpose. Ensure you are familiar with the mileage of your bike and that you are carrying sufficient fuel for your own needs. Co-travellers may not be able to help you if you run out as they will be carrying sufficient fuel only for their own needs.
9. Follow the list - If the group leader has provided you with a list of essentials for the trip, make sure you get these stocked up before the trip. These lists are prepared after careful study of weather and facilities available on the trip. Discovering that you have left out some essential items will lead you to spend time searching for these at your destination leading to waste of precious sightseeing time.
10. Travel light - Having said that, it is also essential to stress the need to travel light. Take only what you need and plan for contingencies based on the advice of your group leader only. Carry extra food only if you are asked to prepare for emergency rations. If not, rest assured you will get food everywhere. :-) This will save time on packing and unpacking and will also save on airline baggage fees.
11. Click photographs and post them on social media with permission of the people in the photographs. On the flip-side, to ensure privacy, activate tagging previews on social media so that tagged images show up on your social media with your permission. Respect privacy of fellow travellers.
12. Last but not the least, follow your instincts, treat others as you would have them treat you, show respect, go crazy, smile and enjoy yourself. Be part of the group, learn new things, share stories and experiences and everyone will come away with a most rewarding experience and a wonderful set of happy memories. :-)