Seven of us, lifelong friends, were turning 50, and we decided to do something big to celebrate. And so, starting out from California, Nevada, Texas, and New Jersey, we descended on Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and rented Indian motorcycles. We spent the next six days roaring down country roads, slaloming along the twisting asphalt ribbons that thread the Smoky Mountains, stopping only to down tequila shots and shoot pool in roadside dives, and bedding down in cheap, funky motels.
We felt like renegades. But in at least one respect, we were about as mainstream as they come: These days, more Americans than ever are traveling in packs.
A survey last year by the travel marketing company MMGY Global found that more than a third of all U.S. vacationers are hitting the road en masse. And it’s not just bro-cations. Travel agents report a jump in multigenerational family trips, including grandparents and even great- grandparents, and several nuclear families traveling together.
Gallivanting as a group deepens relation- ships with the people you care about most. But if the payoff of group travel is big, so are the risks. For one thing, it can be a logistical nightmare. (Just getting all my buddies to agree on where to eat dinner required rounds of debate.) And that’s not to mention the friction that can ensue when varied personalities are in close quarters for days at a time. A rotten vacation is bad enough, but when a group trip goes off the rails, long-standing relationships can get seriously frayed.
The key here is preproduction, trouble-shooting your trip long before you’re waiting in security. In the pages that follow, we’ll look at the three most common types of group travel, with tips from veteran pack rats, smart strategies for dodging common mistakes, and suggestions that will not only get the gang itching to go but will also ensure they have a blast once they do.