They say you learn more about someone when you travel with them; based on experience, I’ve learned a lot about my own friends and family just planning a trip with them. On too many occasions, my own barkada and I went from getting really excited to giving up real quick! Our plans to go on a trip together were over before they truly even started. Recently, however, we decided to work a little harder — and all the effort we put into it was worth it, because our dream barkada trip finally came to life!
Below are a few tips to help make your group trip planning experience easier (and much less of a headache).
1. Choose your destination
Most of us have a travel bucket list of our own — why not try to tick one place off our lists together, right? Sometimes, this is much easier said than done. If your wish lists don’t overlap at any point, you may have to compromise. Some of you might also want to revisit somewhere you really enjoyed in the past, or haven’t seen enough of yet. You may also want to explore TripZilla.ph for more travel inspiration — the possibilities are endless!
You also have a few other matters to take into consideration: How much does it generally cost to go there? Will you need your passports? Are your passports still valid? Does your desired destination require a visa? Do you all have that visa? Is everyone willing to go through the application process? Best to get these matters out of the way as early as possible!
Lucky for my friends and I, it was almost a no-brainer: we all wanted to go to Siargao. More than half of us had not yet been, while two of my friends were itching to go back. (And fortunately, we didn’t need to worry about passports or visas). Definitely a win for all of us!
2. Decide on the dates
For many of us, one of the biggest challenges of group trip planning is deciding on specific travel dates, given that everyone has different schedules. My barkada, especially: three of us work 9-6 jobs, one is a law student (with Saturday classes!), and another is a flight attendant (she has the most unpredictable schedule of us all). On more than one occasion, the trial and error method failed us — it seemed impossible to find a set of dates that would work for the whole group. Needless to say, we let go of our plans several times.
Nearly a year after we gave up (yes, it took us that long to be inspired again!), we firmly resolved to make this trip happen. Narrowing down a date became much easier when we were able to block out our available dates on a single calendar. An online survey tool like When2Meet or Doodle is a great help — you can skip the trouble of throwing out dates back and forth until you finally find the one.
Starting your plan early would also be really helpful. This way, all the members of the group can set aside the dates for the trip — no double booking! Personally, my friends and I scheduled our very first trip together about three months in advance. We appreciated the reasonable amount of time we had to save up for all the inevitable spending — and the extra time we had to diet and get in shape (it was a beach trip, after all)!
3. Agree on a budget
A group trip where individuals all have different budgets can quickly fall apart! It would be wise to find out early on if everyone’s on the same page, or if some of you will have to compromise.
In my experience, agreeing on how much you are all willing to spend will definitely be a big help, especially if you’re on the lookout for more wallet-friendly options. Watch out for seat sales, or get easy access to flight deals by joining groups like our Flight Deals page on Facebook.
My barkada and I opted for flights departing from Clark instead of Manila, as these were more in line with our budget. We were also better able to narrow down our hotel choices in terms of price range, find an island hopping package we were all comfortable with, and work out how much spending money we were going to bring on our trip.
Settling a budget will also help you decide on what kind of trip this is going to be. Will this be a relaxed trip? An active sightseeing trip? A food trip? A shopping trip? Decide on just one goal for the trip, or opt to split into smaller groups at some points in your itinerary if you have multiple objectives. This will give you all a better idea of how to plan your daily activities.
4. Set a deadline for flight bookings
If you’re anything like me, then you probably hold back on getting excited about a trip before it’s booked and paid for. It just happened way too many times before — my barkada and I finally chose a date, a destination, even a flight. I got really excited! And then… People slowly started backing out.
Travel plans with friends usually stay up in the air because not everyone is 100% sure if important matters will fall on the agreed upon dates. Because of this, a lot of us have trouble getting around to the next stage. A tip for better group trip planning? Set a deadline for booking your flights, then schedule a reminder that each of you will receive on that date and time. You can do this on Facebook Messenger or Google Calendar.
Once your flights are booked, you’ll smoothly move on to taking care of your accommodation and transportation. (You can finally rejoice!)
5. Select a leader, but delegate tasks across the group
Let this be a reminder: Don’t dump it all on one person! More often than not, placing all the responsibility on a single person is a large part of why your barkada travel plans don’t come to fruition. (Trust me, I’ve been there.) You can, however, choose a team “leader” — someone who will remind the group of their tasks and deadlines. Tasks to accomplish include booking your flights, arranging ground transportation, settling your accommodation, and crafting your itinerary.
To plan out your itinerary, you’ll also want each member of the group to do their research. This way, you can all pinpoint what you want to do on your trip. In my experience, a quick scroll through Instagram is already a big help!
A good practice would be to have each person come up with a list of places they want to go, complete with the addresses and costing (public transportation expenses and entrance fees, for example). Then, put together everyone’s lists. The goal, of course, is to accommodate as much as possible, and come up with an organised itinerary. For group trip planning, a travel app like Travefy is really useful: it allows all members of the group to access and edit your everyday itinerary.
When planning our Siargao trip, my friends and I had our own lists of restaurants we wanted to try! After factoring in when we would check out the island’s tourist spots, we mapped out a schedule that would accommodate our foodie wish lists: from breakfast, lunch, merienda, to dinner.
6. Meet as a group to finalise all the details
When it comes to group trip planning, the objective is for everyone to be happy. Make sure to meet in order to tie up all the details and make the final decisions on all your bookings. Everybody should be in attendance, so each member’s voice is heard!
Because of our aforementioned busy schedules, my barkada and I had to meet and settle everything over our group chat on Telegram. The app’s built-in poll function helped us make democratic decisions; you can also create polls on Facebook group pages.
Once we agreed on everything and made all our bookings, it suddenly felt so real. Our trip was finally, finally going to happen!
7. Make sure everyone pays their share
Since we book most of our flights and accommodations online, we often need to make card payments or one-time bank deposits. In my barkada’s experience, one of us usually steps up and covers the group’s expenses for the time being. (For example, different persons took care of our flights, accommodations, and island hopping fees).
This being said, travelling with a group often requires a lot of keeping track of how much everybody owes, and who they should be paying. You can do this in an organised manner through apps like Splitwise, Tab, or Divvy. They’ll also save you the trouble of nagging your friends by sending notifications to remind them to pay their share!
Well, are you ready to start planning? Putting your next barkada trip together might still be a challenge, but we’re certain it’ll be worth it. Hopefully, we’ve made things a little bit easier!