As you may have gathered at this point, we are all in favor of traveling with our little one. Sure at just 11 months she won’t remember any of it. But at a stage when she’s becoming more active every day, we love to watch her interactions while out and about. Plus, we take about a million pictures during our travels so we can show her all the wonderful places she visited as a baby.
Often it is just the three of us traveling, but this trip was a little bit different. What better way is there to get the extended family together than planning a group vacation overseas to Barcelona? We thought it was a great success and wanted to offer up some advice on how to plan a vacation with a large group. We traveled to Spain, but many of these tips can work no matter where you travel.
Gather Input Before Making Plans
You may really want to go on that cool African safari, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the group does. Not everyone’s finances are the same. Not everyone will be comfortable with the location you choose. And not everyone will find different cities or countries appealing. Before selecting a place out of thin air, check with the group for ideas. We picked a few places that we thought would be fun for our group vacation. It included everything from an Alaskan cruise to Tokyo. We eventually landed on (in?) Barcelona. But we did take it to a vote and made sure everyone was comfortable with the decision.
the Role of Travel Supervisor
Ok, but seriously. It sounds super silly, but appoint someone in your group to be the leader. This doesn’t mean this person is responsible for planning every detail down to the minute. But it’s good to have someone lead the charge in planning. And it’s nice to have a point of contact for everyone in the group. That way everyone gets the same information and is on the same page. Having half the group thinking one thing and the other half thinking something else is no way to start off a vacation. Just sayin’.
Book Your “Must See”
Experiences in Advance
This was our only major downfall looking back. We had a large group and thought we would just waltz into anything we wanted right then and there. Well, we quickly found out it doesn’t work that way. We showed up at Sagrada Familia on a Friday (after ensuring we had the proper attire) and found out they were sold out until the following Monday. After our failed mission to Sagrada Familia, we corrected our mistake and made advance reservations to Park Guell. When traveling to a large, popular city, attractions are likely to sell out early. Do yourself a favor and purchase tickets in advance. This applies to both small and large groups.
Make Restaurant Reservations
While we’re on the subject of reservations, if you have more than a couple people in your group, make dining plans before you go. Restaurants in Europe are vastly different than the U.S. (though the same idea can also be applied to U.S. travel destinations if dining at a popular spot). For large groups, you’ll probably need a reservation to avoid a lengthy wait or even not get a table at all. The key here is plan enough that you won’t need to worry about finding a place, but still leave room for flexibility. We used TheFork.com and searched places with available reservations for our dates. This is how you can quickly locate restaurants that will be large enough to seat your group. OpenTable is also a good option if traveling in the U.S. Don’t forget to check TripAdvisor for recommendations and reviews to help you choose the most authentic places. This also helps you avoid getting sucked into tourist traps.
(or Another Vacation Rental Site)
When we were planning our group vacation, finding a place to stay was one of the toughest parts. We had a group of 11. As you can imagine, that was a logistical nightmare when looking at hotels. Plus, you’ll likely want to common space for your group that you can use for downtime. Common space that isn’t the hotel lobby. Airbnb is your best friend. We were able to get a 4 room apartment in a nice neighborhood for much less than we would have paid for multiple hotel rooms. Plus, we had the use of a kitchen, living room, and an awesome back patio where we often spent our evenings. It was the perfect solution for our large group vacation destination. The one caveat is that for popular dates or a trendy location, you’ll want to search for a place well in advance. We had a little trouble finding a place because we traveled over Memorial Day. But we ended up finding the perfect historic apartment.
Two Words: Group Text
You may be a pro at traveling or the idea of planning. Either way, there are a lot of logistics and planning involved. Things like international phone plans, flight arrival and departure times, transportation, and currency. Set up a group chat so you all can share your plans and advice to others in the group. You don’t want to be that one member of the group stranded at the airport because you don’t know where the Airbnb is located and you don’t have access to your phone internationally.
Research Family Friendly Ideas
Going in to our Barcelona trip, we knew a few things. Mainly Sagrada Familia, Gaudi houses, tapas, and sangria. You know, all the important stuff. But since you’re traveling with a group and with kids, do your research up front. Find things that the whole group can enjoy. Barceloneta Beach and Park Guell were easy options for us with a baby. The beach is nice because it has a little of something for everyone. Lunch and seaside drinks. Umbrella rentals for kids on the beach. Shops. People watching. Find things like this that appeal to different ages. Every city has things that your whole group can enjoy. Do your research up front and then sit back and relax when you get to your destination.
Planning a Group Vacation:
Worth all the Effort
These are just a few of the many things to consider when traveling as a group. It’s certainly more work than just hopping in the car and taking off. You want to make sure everyone will have a great time. But in the end, all the work will totally be worth the awesome memories you’ll make!
Feeling inspired? Where is your next group vacation?