Not gonna lie, I had a lot of misconceptions about group travel. And, when I found out I was hopping on an LA to the Bay Contiki for work, I had a bunch of people firing questions my way.
Aren’t you too old? What if you don’t feel like partying the night away? What if you hate the people in your group?
All very, very valid questions that I’ve got to admit, I was thinking too. My whole family laughs about how horrible I am to travel with, so how in the world would I cope with strangers?
As it happens, I coped pretty damn well and learnt a heap about what Contiki is really like.
It’s not all 18-year-olds
This was by far my biggest misconception. At 27 years old, I thought I was ‘past my prime’ for a Contiki. It sounds dramatic but I’d genuinely been worried about young’uns not hanging out with me.
Looking around the hotel lobby on my first morning, I was relieved to see the group varied in age. And in fact, as I later learned, a fair few were 30 and over. There were even two married couples!
You feel safe
Admittedly, there are way more ‘dangerous’ countries on my travel to-do list than the USA. But, as a woman, I have to be diligent about my safety. Being in a group, instead of travelling solo, took a huge chunk of the mental load away. I didn’t have to be ‘on guard’ the whole time. I could actually relax a little bit.
You can be an introvert
Now, I’m a chatty Cathy, so I wasn’t too nervous about yapping away with randoms on the trip. But, I know a fair few of the others were quite naturally shy and introverted.
One of my trip besties, Jennie, is a self-proclaimed introvert and was a bit scared to go on the trip.
“I am and always have been an introvert, so I was wondering whether I was gonna enjoy myself while being around people 24/7. I was pondering A LOT before finally booking the trip,” she says. “Right on the very first day I met such amazing people and all of my worries were washed away within just a few hours. Most people were solo travellers themselves. Everyone was so incredibly inclusive which really made it easy to come out of my shell.”
It helps that the schedule isn’t all go-go-go.
“I had evenings on which I would join my new friends at the club in Vegas, but I also had the time and freedom to go on long walks by myself or to have chill nights in with my newfound friends,” says Jennie.
Even as an extrovert, I relished the times where I could recoup and fill up my social cup for the next big night out, or even just skip activities if I needed to.
Which leads me to…
You don’t have to party
I’d always thought group travel was a non-stop bender (again, probs because I pictured 18-year-olds). But, it’s not like your hands are shackled and you’re forced to enter a bar. Everyone can yeet out of there whenever they please.
There are so many different people together on these trips that there is always a mix of folks both going out and staying in. So you can join whichever group you feel like!
In Vegas, I literally dipped half an hour before Diplo came out on stage. Stupid? Maybe. But that was my stupid choice to make with my gal Jennie.
Good ol’ group bookings
I’ll admit, this one is a double-edged sword. Sometimes you’ll be having lunch with 11 of your closest pals from the group and it becomes a bill-splitting nightmare.
But in other scenarios, your trip manager can hook you up with discounts or shortcuts because you’ve got a huge bunch of you. We saw Zedd and (…some of us) saw Diplo in Vegas and both times, we could hop long-ass lines and avoid hefty cover charges because of the Big Group.
You make friends
I’m gonna get all saccharine and mushy for a minute because it’s true what they say about making friends on a group trip. On the final night I cried in the pub saying goodbye (classic) to my new Canadian pals, and then my Welsh friend gave me a ‘cwtch’ (AKA a special Welsh hug to make it all better). I think there’s a little something in my eye right now, actually…
Our trip wrapped up two weeks ago and the group chat is still pumping — so much so that I sometimes need to mute it (soz fam). And I guarantee I’ll be hitting some of these friends up when I travel to Europe, Canada and New Zealand.
I’m well aware the post-trip glow will slow down, and some of us will lose touch but right now, it still feels special. And whatever happens, I know my memories of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, Yosemite, Las Vegas and Bass Lake will always be tied to the wonderful people I experienced them with.
No thoughts needed
I will warn you, the pace of a group trip is quick — we stayed for one or two nights max everywhere we went. Be prepared to never really unpack and catch up on sleep on the coach (if you can). I’d also recommend adding a night in a hotel before and after the trip so you can be horizontal for a hot sec.
The payoff for the pace? You can arrive at every hotel and hop on the coach each morning with a completely blank mind. Nothing needs to be in that noggin except for the time you have to rock up somewhere. It’s very freeing — especially if you’ve taken a holiday because you have a whole two brain cells left and need to chill the hell out.
If you wanna try a group trip for yourself, you can check out what’s on offer, here. Bon voyage!