Do not disparage group travel if you have not tried it

Much can be said about leaving the planning to others

Harriet Cuthbert. Contributed photo
Harriet Cuthbert. Contributed photo

Group vacations: an oxymoron if ever there was one. How can you spend many long months saving for your dream vacation, planning your dream destination and then realizing that the most feasible and economical answer to your dilemma is to take an escorted tour?

Let us say, for example, you want to visit Italy and you want to include major cities, such as Rome and Florence, but you also want to see the stunning Amalfi Coast and maybe Cinque Terra. You have heard all the horror stories about Italian drivers who never have understood the meaning of a red light, a stop sign or a speed limit. Even anticipating an independent trip, with the thought of maybe using local buses and trains, would be harrowing, to say the least. The planning alone could ruin your trip.

And that is exactly where group travel comes in: a welcome means of saving your sanity and letting you experience the vacation you deserve. There are many well-established and reputable travel companies that want your business. It is a very competitive business, but in the end, you and all the others in your group end up traveling to your chosen destination the same way — on a bus. Mind you, it is a big bus — air-conditioned, clean and comfortable — and it might even have a small bathroom “for emergencies only.”

You can find out a lot about people just from their “bus behavior.” Some travelers will fight for the same seat; some are always be late for the departure time for the next destination; and some spend their travel time talking very loudly to their new bus mates across the aisle, ruining quiet time for others.

And let us not forget the concept that all 30 of us (an estimate), are traveling as one, wearing our nametags and following our leader to museums, public squares, wineries and/or beaches. Our minds cannot act on their own in such circumstances; our leader is our thinker.

Many people on group trips do somehow manage to separate into smaller clusters after finding compatible travel companions. I always look for people who laugh a lot because I know they are having a wonderful time and cannot be bothered complaining about minor issues. Who cares if the hosts offered mini croissants at one hotel and larger ones at the next hotel. Who cares if the room is smaller than you expected, or imagined. Rest assured that the food will be provided in a beautiful four-star hotel in a great location, and you will only be sleeping in the structure anyway.

I could offer endless examples of people’s petty problems, realizing the same people would probably complain about these same issues if they were traveling independently.

In the end, the choice is yours: convenience and less stress in a bus as part of a pre-planned trip with a group, or the option of making all your own decisions and being with a lot fewer than 30 companions.

If I had to pick my favorite advantage of a group vacation, it would be airport transfers. There is nothing more welcoming, after a long, long plane ride and another long wait at Immigration, than to see a person at the airport wearing your name on a tag, waiting to escort you to your hotel.

I will take either travel option, depending on my destination. As long as I am going somewhere, let the chips fall as they may. Always remember: Life is an adventure; enjoy the ride.