If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium. WOW! Most of us have had group travel experiences, from Brownie camps to hockey team travels. Maybe, you've spent a month in a tour bus with fifty flapping blue hairs and husbands in full Clevelands (white shoes, white belt), or, on a cruise, with a thousand others. As you think back, your memories must spark at least a few happy experiences. Maybe, to this day, you are still friends with some of the strangers you met in the group. But deep down in memory lane, you must have some travel experiences that deserve only the delete key. How do we avoid those negatives and latch on to the winners? On the other hand, there are some people you just can't avoid traveling with. Hhhhmmm. When is the next family cruise with the mother- and father-in-law? With careful planning, you can enhance the positive and probably negate many of the negative aspects that go with group travel.
Clarify your objectives. If your aim is to give your mom, aunt, grandparent a holiday, review your experience with them and plan to avoid those activities which you find annoying. Smile. If you are with friends, this is group time, so even if you still want to browse in the store, fit into the group. Come back another time on your own.
Agree on the itinerary. Go over your itinerary and see if you are satisfied. If there are other places you may want to see and other things you may want to do, make sure you present this clearly to the group. You may take time out one day and not go with them to a place you've already seen. Go explore. Don't insist that they change for you. But if the aim is to be with the group to share the experience, then button up and fit in.
Be flexible. Even if you have agreed on the itinerary, understand that with groups, many things can happen. There will be changes you need to accommodate. Being the tour grump is not your objective. If it becomes too much for you, rest. Take time off. You can just stay put in your hotel room and back out of the morning schedule. There are other possibilities to manage your exhaustion. Don't dump it on the others.
Be punctual. Unless you can't really help it, be on time. Ask for a wake up call. Be there early for breakfast so you easily find a table you like and the food has not been ravaged. You can also choose your place in the bus or the boat. Moreover, you get to be on schedule. Be mindful of the time and the location of the meeting point when you are out on your own. Don't get into the habit of letting forty other people wait for you because you just had to buy that chocolate and enjoy your cup of coffee or just need to be the center of attention. This also includes lining up as quickly as possible for your check in or check out of hotels. When you are punctual, chances are you don't get caught up in long lines and grumpy staff.
Plan individual time. When you are on a cruise, or in a city, decide to go off on your own and just meet the gang for dinner. Each one can go and enjoy whatever they want to do and not wait for each other to finish whatever business they have. It is a bit difficult if you have a schedule to follow as in a bus tour. Still, even in these ones, you can take time off. They usually give you an hour free to browse around. There are lots of other people to talk with so you are not stuck with the unpleasant ones or the ones you don't care for.
Be positive, or travel alone. When you decide to travel in a group, leave behind your negative baggage. If you can't do this, do NOT travel with a group. You have committed yourself to be with a group so you must hone your social skills and contribute to the group's positive quotient. And if you are one of those who only see things to complain about, for heaven's sake, stay home or go solo. There is nothing more unpleasant than someone stunting about this and that and saying all the time, "One would have thought....blah, blah, blah." If you are one of these, travel solo so you don't impact anyone.
Go out of your way to help. There are always suitcases to be carried, pictures to be taken, people who are shy to talk or are not able to speak the language. Give more than your share to the group and don't forget, enjoy yourself. The more you give, the more will come back.
Experiences always seem to expand when shared. Try going solo and talk to yourself when you are in awe of a view in front of you. Talk about a lonely echo! So, if group travel is the answer, sort out your attitude and get a self-management plan in place before you go.