Tips for Successful Large-Group Vacations
Large-group vacations are a fantastic opportunity to get away with your family, friends, and loved ones. Family members who live far apart can reconnect and friends can get away from the daily grind to enjoy one another’s company. Don’t let the generation gap get in the way, though – it is possible to plan a large group vacation that appeals to everyone, from the very young to retirees. Make sure no one feels left out, no one gets bored, and everyone stays engaged in the fun with these tips.
The first step is getting to your vacation destination! Planning for a large group can feel daunting, but you can actually use your large number to your advantage. When booking a hotel or family reunion venue or renting cars, always ask for group rates. Many destinations are happy to know they can count on the revenue from a large group, and they will reward you with a discount. Remember, booking a large group at a restaurant, tour, or all-inclusive resort can require a pre-set gratuity amount, often 15–20%.
Traveling with a large group does mean you need to book far in advance when possible. A good rule of thumb is to book at least a few months longer in advance than you would for a small family unit. At popular vacation destinations with limited lodging, book at least 9–12 months in advance. Ask to speak to the hotel’s large-group booking agent or marketing director for the best service and to get the most accurate, timely answers to your questions.
If you’re planning a trip with a lot of moving parts, such as a city vacation with multiple tours and dining reservations or an international trip with multiple flights, vehicle rentals, and hotel rooms, consider using a travel agent. A good agent’s expertise will come in handy when seeking group discounts and talking with travel professionals.
While it helps to book most aspects of your trip as a group, airfare can be more affordable in smaller groups since seats on a plane are grouped into tiered pricing. For example, if five seats are available in the price category you desire and you ask for eight, the reservation system will often show no seats available in your category (even though you could get five of the eight for your price). Instead, book airfare in smaller family configurations to ensure that family members sit together but you still get the lowest possible fare.
Once you arrive at your group family vacation destination, the generation gap can become evident. Baby boomers in the family may want to take in a show or visit a museum at a city destination, or they may not have the necessary mobility to hike a challenging trail at a mountain destination. Generation Xers and millennials, on the other hand, have the energy to explore the outdoors or a cityscape aggressively, but they may have younger children who need childcare or extra attention. Generation Yers may want a destination with lots of nightlife options, while their parents long for peace and quiet.
You can bridge the gap by finding a destination that offers multiple activity choices within the same general area so family members can still meet up each day for a meal or a group activity. If your destination or resort does not meet this need, plan your activities with everyone’s needs in mind. Visit museums that have mobility options for elderly family members and the interactive displays children crave. Patronize restaurants with outdoor seating areas where young kids can play or stretch their legs while the adults visit. Pick tours with shorter durations to keep younger family members’ attention and avoid tiring out elderly members.
So what destinations will fit the bill? If your group vacation will take place in a specific city, such as for a family reunion or group event (like a wedding or sporting event), look for a hotel with conference center facilities – these will be best equipped to accommodate your group. If you’re more flexible about your destination, consider a cruise if everyone wants to see as much as possible or an all-inclusive resort if everyone would rather stay put and relax.
Dude ranches and river-rafting trips may not seem like the best vacations for a wide span of ages, but they can be magical provided all the family members have some mobility and enjoy being outdoors. At dude ranches with a variety of offerings, grandparents can watch grandchildren ride horseback before settling by the pool or lake, and parents can get a break at dinner or happy hour while school-aged kids engage in wrangler-led activities. River-rafting trips provide families and friends with ready-made quality time together, but baby boomers can relax in a raft while the younger generations man their own kayaks.
Whichever type of vacation destination families choose, flexibility is key to a successful large-group trip. Offer several choices of activity each day, opt for a take-out pizza instead of a lengthy sit-down dinner a few times, and be ready to travel at someone else’s pace. Have a great vacation!