Music lessons: The key to sanity when roaming with 100
After their China trip, Choral Arts members submitted tips for group travel, and the suggestions below have been collated and edited from their advice.
Don’t hold up the group. Set two alarms, make sure to check for any updates to the daily itinerary and try not to be the last one on the bus. Part of the joy of group travel is handing over the minutiae to someone else, but the deal is that participants have to take seriously the logistics that someone has carefully planned.
Go with the flow. Pace yourself to the group and save individual speed (zipping ahead or stopping to shop) for individual tours. Understand that everything takes longer in a group, glitches will occur, and try to have a sense of humor about it. After all, most glitches are small things. If they aren’t, you’ll just have a better story later.
Make time for yourself. Plan to break ranks and take care of yourself by scheduling dinner for one or simply wandering the city. This might mean paying for something that has already been covered in your group fee, but it’s worth it to maintain sanity. Learn the basics needed to venture out alone: the closest subway stop, elementary phrases in the local language and your hotel name written down to show a taxi driver.
Find your peeps. Even if you’re gung-ho about group travel, hanging with 100 people simply isn’t possible. Make a smaller group within the big group so that you have a nimble three- or foursome for dinners and attractions.
Meet new peeps. Interact with other group members and locals whenever possible. Even if you’re just gesturing or communicating with pictures, these human connections will be most memorable. Don’t forget that exploring new cultures is one of the reasons you left home.
Be kind to each other. Even the best-prepared tour leader can’t anticipate every problem, so keep criticisms to yourself. Look after fellow travelers — some are more vulnerable to aggressive street vendors or extreme conditions. If you’re a helper-type, carry PeptoBismol (someone will need it) and extra cash to lend when merchants don’t take credit. If you’re prone to snoring or hogging the bathroom, spring for the cost of your own room rather than saving money with a roommate.
Be kind to locals. Recognize the effect that a large group can have on the population you’re visiting. Be sensitive to that, and embrace the local way of life and traditions.
Let go. Many Type A Washingtonians are used to being in charge, sharing opinions, micromanaging schedules and troubleshooting. Leave it at home; you’re not in charge. Be a team player and trust that the coach has your best interest in mind. Relax, understand that you’ll be ushered from place to place and, as much as possible, live in the moment.