By Marie Bindeman
“You travel with five other women?” is the most common question I receive when attempting to explain the “travel club.” Yes, it’s true, I do travel with five other women.
As my fellow librarians began to retire, we talked of our future and the joys of travel. Single friends noted how difficult it is to find travel partners, while the married among us noted how busy husbands have become uncomfortable traveling. We were casually talking at a meeting one day when the idea was expressed that we could travel together.
I don’t know who first suggested it, but all of us quickly agreed to participate. In the ensuing years, we’ve traveled to Vermont, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Spain, Italy, Montreal, Quebec City, the Canadian Maritimes and Bermuda.
I’d like to share what we’ve learned in a list of suggestions for those considering group travel.
First, schedule a short weekend away together to determine if the group can plan, organize, implement, talk, eat and play together in harmony. We learned a most important lesson on our weekend away – a shared sense of humor and a willingness to compromise are essential traits for successful group travel.
Even numbers are best so that you can double up when staying in hotels. If you’re traveling with up to six, rent a vehicle large enough to not only include all of the people but with enough capacity for luggage. Remember, even though it costs more to rent a larger vehicle or even a larger villa, you’re dividing all costs between six people.
Everyone needs to be involved in planning the trip. We get together on a regular basis to catch up on our personal lives but also to plan for the next destination. It is essential to compromise, so if you have definite ideas on where and when you can travel, it’s best to seek one willing partner rather than a larger group.
We quickly discovered that each person in the group has her own set of skills and interests, so we use them! One of us does most of the driving (and she has driven through Spain and Italy). Another sits shotgun to give the driver step-by-step directions. Another cooks when needed and assists as a scout in planning out day-by-day activities. Another is the caregiver who keeps track of all personal needs. Another person acts as our shepherd, making sure the wanderers and shoppers don’t get lost.
The easiest way to meet daily expenses is to pool money. One of our capable (and courageous) participants acts as a banker. If expenses involve all six people, it is best to use a collected pot of money. On our first few trips, our banker would request $50 at a time from each person and use the bank to pay for meals, admission fees, etc., incurred by all six people. Eventually our banker set up a club credit card in her name. All mutual expenses are now placed on that credit card and then the total cost is divided evenly between the six of us at the end of the trip. We don’t worry about minor differences in meal expenses.
Tolerance for individual interests and needs is essential. We allocate enough time to satisfy the shoppers as well as the history buffs. We often huddle to confer in the middle of busy sidewalks, but eventually decisions are made.
If we divide up, we set meeting times and places and always have our cellphones enabled in case of trouble or changes in plans. We have learned to communicate our needs in a gracious and considerate way.
We’ve weathered much together and our “trials by fire” have strengthened our ties. We have many wonderful memories, which greatly outnumber the challenges, and we look forward to creating many more.