Is it possible to have great solo travel experiences in the midst of a group trip?
Put yourself in the shoes of a new customer in your travel organization. She’s signed up for her first group tour. She’ll be traveling with a large group of people for a week. She’s excited about the sights she will see and interested in meeting new people. But she assumes the best parts of the solo travel experience won’t be available on this trip.
Is she right?
Traveling in a group has many benefits. There’s security in numbers. Passengers can relax without worry because they have someone to drive them everywhere and to manage the trip details. And if you do your job as a travel planner, you can still make sure they have some fulfilling time alone.
For travelers to have a few moments on their own during group travel is important. It allows them to pursue independent experiences and leaves them feeling refreshed. Solo time helps travelers appreciate their packaged trips even more.
Many times, though, travelers who crave individual experiences on group tours aren’t sure how to get them. That’s where you come in. As an experienced travel leader, you can help guide your customers to the kinds of on-their-own adventures they’re seeking.
Here are some key pieces of advice you can give your group members to help them maximize solo experiences on the road. You might even find these tricks useful for enjoying some free time on the road yourself.
1) Read between the itinerary lines.
When you first get a group tour itinerary, you probably gloss over it, and it all looks great. It has the significant attractions you wanted to see. But little things you wanted to do, like grabbing a coffee and watching the sun rise or stopping in a local bakery for a pastry, aren’t on the itinerary, right? Actually, they are — they’re just hidden between the lines. Read that itinerary again, and this time don’t gloss over it. Check for all the moments where there’s a bit of extra time, free time or, as many travel companies put it, “on your own” time. Know your itinerary well and be aware of when you’ll have the best opportunity to slip away and pursue your own interests.
2) Scout locations in advance.
When you know you’re going to have free time, research the locations in advance and know when you’ll need to take action to have your solo experience. If day three has you exploring a town on your own for a couple of hours, decide in advance which bakery you will visit. Research how to get to a bakery in time for that delicious cream horn you’ve been dreaming about. Check a map or get directions online before you depart for your trip. Planning your independent time ensures that you’ll have the solo experiences you want.
3) Observe the ground rules.
You’re now on your trip. You know your itinerary and have an action plan to maximize your solo experience. You’re ready to go, right? Wait: It’s important to remember some ground rules when traveling in a group: Be flexible, notify your tour director of your plan, and make sure you have enough time to get back to the meeting point on schedule. Flexibility is especially important. If your group is running behind, you may have to try a different bakery closer to the drop-off point to avoid being late. Be prepared to accept itinerary changes, and adjust your plans accordingly. Don’t allow changing details to get in the way of your solo experience.
4) Set it and forget it.
You’ve made it to the bakery. You’re sitting outside eating your pastry at a table built for two, but you’re having trouble enjoying it because you’re worried about returning on time. You keep looking at your watch, thinking “Maybe I should get back.” Before the hands of time steal your joy, change strategies. Set the alarm on your phone before grabbing that pastry. Make sure you know what time you need to leave to get back to the meeting point on time. If you know this before buying your pastry, it will help you enjoy yourself without worrying or watching the clock.
5) Savor the freedom.
Now, with all the legwork behind you, it’s time to enjoy the pastry or whatever solo experience you want to have. Sometimes, that simply means exploring the neighborhood. Just remember to allow yourself plenty of time to get back to the meeting point. And keep your trip leader’s phone number on hand in case an unexpected problem arises.
Having solo moments during jammed-packed group tours will give you and your travelers long-lasting memories and help enhance the overall travel experience.