My past experiences booking travel with friends have ranged from straightforward to hopeless. At times entire itineraries have been aborted with me left questioning whether it is possible to plan a trip with friends without ruining a friendship.
I’ve seen the organisation of several trips fail quite spectacularly including the three times groups of friends have attempted to organise sail tours in Croatia via Facebook. Typically everyone had their own opinions on what dates to go, which operator to go with and what the budget should be. People added random friends to the group, others left due to lack of interest and there was no grasp on how many people were seriously interested in attending until suddenly, a deposit was due and the ringleader was scrambling to obtain order.
I’m currently in the midst of planning a rapid multi-destination summer trip in Europe with my London-based bestie Renee. This time I believe we have the right tools in place to successfully plan a trip with a friend without ruining a friendship.
Be flexible on where you’re going and when
Initially our intention was a New Years break somewhere between Wellington and London. But we both had limited amounts of annual leave available and flights were extortionate for at least one of us wherever we went.
Even with accommodation on offer in Hong Kong it made sense to wait six months, take a longer break, and for one of us to travel further.
Each of us wrote a list of cities we wanted to go to, parallels were drawn, destinations narrowed down and a route was found.
Get commitment early on when you plan a trip with friends
In this case I had to book return flights to Europe from New Zealand so I was all in. I booked these at the same time Renee started booking our transport around Europe.
If your friends tend to be a bit flakey I recommend agreeing a date at which people are either in or out. Collecting a non-refundable ‘deposit’ amount before booking so people are less inclined to bail and leave others with unexpected additional costs is also worth considering.
Determine budgets and nonnegotiables up front
Budgets vary between people and it’s important to understand what everyone expects to spend on flights, accommodation and attractions. Research what the full trip will cost before bookings are made so everyone is aware upfront to prevent upsets and awkwardness later.
In terms of travel nonnegotiables, for me a hotel has to have decent WiFi, for others it might be AirCon, free parking or breakfast.
Document what’s been booked in Google Docs (or similar) for version control
Renee started an excel document with dates and locations for us to populate booking information for transport and accommodation in as we went. With the number of cities we’re visiting it’d be a disaster without it.
It’s all very well having a spreadsheet but emailing it back and forward as we booked things soon resulted in version control issues.
I converted it to a Google Doc so we had a single, live document and we could both have visibility.
Assign jobs but have someone organised overseeing things
It’s a massive and financially challenging task for one person to take responsibility for booking an entire trip.
If you’re splitting the booking of flights, accommodation, transport and activities among a group it still pays to have someone organised keeping an eye on everything.
I’m quite happy to sit back and let someone else take the lead. A small payoff such as first choice in bed or roommate might provide enough of an incentive someone to take on this role.
Have you got any additional tips to plan a trip with friends without ruining a friendship? Any dramatic stories of past experiences?