Back in the early-to-mid 1990s, Joe and I were both members of a theme parks-themed message group on the long-extinct online service called Prodigy (anybody? Beuller? Beuller?).
There were several hundred of us, mostly Disney World fans, in the group and after a few years of writing back and forth, we decided to have a get together that we called “The Gathering” (for you Disney fans out there, it was YEARS before “Disney’s Magical Gatherings,” when they were promoting big groups, and it had nothing to do with “Magic: The Gathering,” either). About 100 of us came to Walt Disney World at the same time and finally got to meet each other in person. It’s also, BTW, when I first met Joe (who was nothing – and I mean NOTHING – like I expected. This was before you could really post photos on the internet and I was expecting some middle-aged dude with a wife, kids and a white picket fence around his house. He turned out to be an unattached college student. Go figure.).
Anyway, the 100 of us spent the week going on the attractions together, eating meals together, etc. And that Gathering, and the ones we went to afterward (we had about a half dozen over the course of almost 10 years), taught me a WHOLE LOT about traveling with medium and large-sized groups.
This has got to be the biggest waste of precious vacation time when you’re traveling with a group:
Person A: What do you want to do?
Person B: I dunno, what do you want to do?
Person A: Wanna do this?
Person C: OMG, I hate this! Let’s do that instead.
Person B: No, I don’t wanna do that.
Person D: Well, how about we do the other thing, instead?
Person E: I’m not in the mood for the other thing.
Person F: Well, we could always do such and such.
Persons A and C: No, I’m allergic to such and such.
Person B: Well then, how about this thing?
Person G: Ewwwww, no!
Person H: I’m with Person C – let’s do that!
Person I: Are you crazy? No, let’s just do that thing.
Person J: Noooooo!
Person K: Look, you guys just go figure something out. I’m gonna go sit on that bench over there. Let me know when you’ve made up your minds.
Person L: Oh, for crying out loud. Can’t anybody here make a decision? We’re doing such and such now.
Persons A and C: But we’re allergic to such and such!
Person L: Well, do you have a better idea? No. So we’re doing such and such.
Persons A, B, C and H: We’re not doing that. See you later.
Person F to Person K: Hey, do you want to do such and such?
Person K: Such and such? Really? REALLY?
Person L: We’re going to do such and such. NOW! End of discussion.
Person G to person J: I hate when he does that. Jerk.
Sound familiar? You can literally stand in one place for 30 minutes, with a bunch of people trying to figure out what you’re going to do next. And more often than not, the person with the biggest personality (or the biggest voice) makes the decision and at least one person in the group will have a chip in his/her shoulder for the rest of the trip because of it.
Here are some ways to avoid it:
Have a plan
Don’t say you’re going to go to whatever place and will figure it out when you get there, because you’ll waste a whole lot of what’s supposed to be a “good time” figuring out what your agenda is going to be. If nothing else, plan where you’re going to be on what day(s) and have a rough idea of what you’ll do. Not necessarily minute by minute, but have that walking tour all set up ahead of time, know when and where you’re going to eat lunch, etc.
Everybody takes a turn
This works especially well in theme parks and amusement parks. Once you’re done whatever ride/attraction that Person A has chosen, then Person B gets to choose. Then Person C, etc. That way everyone gets to choose something, and those who don’t want to go on whatever can all wait at the end of the ride and hopefully take part in whatever Person D chooses.
Have some things set in stone, but allow free reign, too
Sometimes it’s best to have set times for some things, say meals, or 8am to 10am at the hotel pool, or start walking on that trail at 11am sharp, or all get Fast Passes for Haunted Mansion for 3pm, but agree to spend the rest of the time in smaller groups, family groups, alone, or whatever. It allows you to all have “together” time, but also some “me” time, or time with people you’d most like to spend time with.
About having set plans and latecomers
When we would have our Gatherings, we used the “have things set in stone, but allow free reign,” way of traveling. The rule for latecomers was that whatever time the event was, we would wait 15 minutes and if they still hadn’t shown up, well, “it sucks to be you” (except I don’t think that term had been invented in 1993) and the event would start without them. Seriously, we all know that person who’s habitually late and when you’re on vacation with that person and an entire group, too, his/her lateness affects a whole lot of people. So set limits and stick to them. Either (s)he’ll learn, or (s)he’ll miss out. And that’s theirs to work on, not yours to miss out on because of (hooray for the lousiest use of the English language EVER!).
Agree that you don’t always have to be attached at the hip
This goes right up there with allowing free reign – unless you’re talking about children and chaperones, or other specialized situations, no one says that a group has to be together 24/7. People will get on each other’s nerves. So have a mutually agreed upon decision that you can separate here and there, for everyone’s sanity.
If, for whatever reason, you *have* to stay in a large or medium-sized group, or it’s just the time when you had set plans to get together as one big group, please be considerate.
- If you’re all going on the same ride at the same time, make sure your entire group is together, and if you get split up, either stay separated and deal with it, or the people in the group who got on the queue first should go further back in the queue to meet up with the ones who got on later, instead of the latecomers jumping the line to meet up with their friends.
- If you’re going to eat a meal together, consider going at an “off” time so (A) there’s more chance of you sitting near/with each other and (B) it doesn’t have as much of an effect on the people who have to share server(s) with your big table.
- Think of when you’ve seen big groups in your travels and the things they’ve done that annoy you. Don’t be those people 😉
Traveling in a big group can be a whole lot of fun, or it can not. Hopefully you’ll be able to develop some ground rules with your group so the fun never ends.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary