7 February, 2019

Worried about the etiquette of group holidays? Fear not, from snoring to boring, we give expert tips on being the perfect travel companion

Thinking of going on a group holiday with a bunch of people you don’t know? Got a slightly uncomfortable feeling in your bowels?

As someone with a doctorate in nerves from the University of Pooingyourself, I can assure you that there’s nothing wrong with you (though, if the uncomfortable feeling persists, or isn’t at all related to your potential trip, please do see a real doctor).

Travelling with strangers can be daunting, especially the first time, and extra especially when one of them is going to be your roommate for the next two weeks.

What if they snore or have chronic wind? What if you snore or have chronic wind? What if you both snore and have chronic wind? (In this case, you really do need to see a doctor.)

The good news is, group travel will enhance your life. It will enhance your life even more if you and everyone around you show a bit of awareness, courtesy and willingness to generally not be an arse.

None of us is perfect, but that’s no reason not to aspire to be the perfect travel companion.

As they say, if you aim for the moon, you might just hit the ceiling. Or something like that. So here are some expert travel etiquette tips, topped up by Flash Pack staff and you, our extremely considerate and worldly-wise community of Flashpackers. They’ll make your group travel experience — and that of your companions — a great deal more pleasurable.

Make a good first impression

First impressions do indeed last. Greet your new roommate and fellow travellers with a string of critiques on their dress sense, or a finger up the nose followed by a handshake, and it’s going to take most of the trip for them to forget that opening gambit, and if you’re in a small group it’ll be even worse.

Instead, be nice, be politely inquisitive, remember names and — I mean this in the nicest sense possible — think about buying their affection, by getting that round in or shouting that cab ride.

Expert tip:

“When packing, think of your roommate. If you’re packing some snacks, why not pack a little something for your roommate-to-be – it’s a great hello and ice-breaker.” – Nicola, Flash Pack HQ.

Know your own mind, but be careful how you express it

No matter what your heartfelt opinions, when you meet strangers, try to judge the room.

Nobody wants you to be all vanilla and boring and not have a take on anything – but just ask yourself, “Are my views on men with top knots going to go down well with my travel partners, and if not, is it worth souring the atmosphere just to get said views off my chest.” And really don’t try to be ‘amusingly controversial’.

You’re not Jeremy Clarkson and nor do you want to be.

Try to avoid conflict

I mean, really. It’s bloody obvious, isn’t it? See above.

Just say yes

Really, this is what a Flash Pack trip is all about.

You’ve said ‘yes’ to going, you’re keen to meet new friends, so why stop there with the positive decisions? That’s like buying a sports car and only using it for supermarket runs (trust me, I once did this). This experience can change your life and only for the better, so no more ‘not yets’, say yes all the way.

Expert tips:

“The most important part of going on a Flash Pack trip is starting with an open mind. Get to know your group and push yourself to try new things. The people on your trip will make it extra special as long as you are open to it. Learn from them and laugh with them. They can become lifetime friends.” – Samantha Mader, Flashpacker in Norway

“Travelling with strangers helps push you to do things you normally wouldn’t do. When I abseiled down Table Mountain in South Africa, I was scared to death. I’m sure if I’d been with my mates, I would have chickened out. But because I was with a group of people I didn’t really know, I didn’t want to be seen as a wuss. I did it, and it was the most amazing experience.”– Radha Vyas, Flash Pack co-founder

“Say ‘yes’ unless you absolutely cannot. It’s how you meet people and find yourself in fun, unexpected and exciting situations. No good story ever began with, ‘Someone said do you want to go to X, and I said no…’” – Patrick, Flash Pack HQ

Do unto others as they would like to be done to

A slight twist on the traditional biblical advice this.

Yes, it’s good to think how you’d feel if someone used your toothbrush, but it’s better to think—even ask—how the other person feels about something. Your idea of where underwear should be hung to dry might differ greatly from theirs.

If you’re male, be aware of how you or a situation make a female travel companion feel. Be tidy, not tardy. Good manners cost nothing. Insert your own aphorism here.

Expert tips:

“Be considerate if only one key, make sure you leave it at reception so it gives you both the freedom to come and go.” – Nicola, Flash Pack HQ

“Keep your stuff organised in your room – there’s nothing worse than falling over someone else’s stuff every time you get out of bed.” – Charlotte, Flash Pack HQ

“Definitely always try and be the first to rise and first to arrive – when you travel with people you have to be considerate of everyone’s times!” – Lucy C, Flash Pack HQ

Be honest about your snoring

This is probably the number one fear of any Flashpacker heading off on a solo trip, no matter how experienced they are.

This isn’t your partner or friend doing an unconscious, nasal impression of Sepultura, it’s a stranger, so kicking them is not the done thing. You know if you’re a snorer, so be honest, be apologetic, and do whatever you can to ease the pain.

And if your roommate snores and they haven’t told you, don’t get angry – it could be the new bed, the booze or altitude. Just politely explain the situation, with a smile (even if it’s a tired one).

Expert tips:

“If you snore – bring a snore blocker for your nose” – Charlotte, Flash Pack HQ

“If you’re a snorer, bring earplugs for your roommate!” – Nicola, Flash Pack HQ

Be yourself, but don’t be too individual

As we have been reminded ad nauseam for the last two years, we live in a democracy. This applies to group travel, too. Ok, you might not want to eat in that particular restaurant on that particular evening, or have that one last beer, or climb a temple or stop for a swim, but if you let go of any innate control-freakery, you’ll have a much better time.

This doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the things that you want to do—be flexible, be open, and your travel companions will be more likely to listen to your suggestions of things to do, and your concerns about stuff you’re really not comfortable with.

(Oh, and don’t be that guy who gets his calculator out when the bill arrives. Pay your share and trust others to do the same.)

Expert tips:

“You can just be yourself at whatever confidence level you find yourself on at the time of travel. All of us Flashpackers had different personalities, expectations and life experiences, but we all bought our own individuality to the tour and, in turn, created a group memory.” – Bella Stevenson, Flashpacker in Sri Lanka

“I’ve travelled solo with a tour group before, and I didn’t have the greatest time. I felt we had a hard time connecting to each other; often, days were full of silence and loneliness. I was confident the Flash Pack trip would be better. Our group connected instantly! We were all super-comfortable being ourselves, letting each other in, and sharing life stories. Everyone came on the trip for a different reason, yet we all bonded over the excitement of the adventure.” – Alex Yee, Flashpacker in Morocco

Ditch the digital

It’s a fairly safe bet to suggest that you like solo travel for one or more of the following reasons: to meet people, to experience new things, to make friends, to see the world, to take some excellent photos, to get away from the daily grind.

Absolutely none of these will happen if you’re constantly on Twitter or video chatting with your mum. And not only will it ruin your holiday, it’ll cheese off your lovely companions.

Expert tip:

“Don’t spend loads of time on your phone – it’s annoying if you’re constantly looking for the wifi spots! Bring cards and learn a few card tricks for rainy days. Also, bring a pen and paper. This is often overlooked, but the key to evening games and fun.” – Charlotte, Flash Pack HQ

Less drinky, more thinky

Full disclosure: many Flash Pack trips involve alcohol.

Now, by your age, you should know how your brain and body react to the drink, so I strongly suggest using all the data that’s been built up over the years and acting accordingly, perhaps on the side of caution.

Your friends might understand your propensity to get naked and chase stray dogs after a bottle of white wine, but your new friends will be less prepared.

Embrace your travel buddy (not literally, unless permission is expressly given)

Fact: you and your roommate are going to be spending a lot of time together, so why not make it quality time?

Get to know each other, indulge in some harmless in-jokes, maybe flattering nicknames for each other. And share stuff. It’s nice to share. Pretty soon you’ll be good friends: the Ant and Dec of the gang (back when things were going well).

Expert tips:

“Take a first day and last day selfie with your roomie. It’s fun looking back at the beginning after the adventure. Carry hand sanitiser: it’s a joy when your travelling companion brings out the hand sanitiser on a mucky activity. Bring an earphone splitter, too. Sharing music on a journey is the best.” – Charlotte, Flash Pack HQ

Give space, get space

It’s a group trip, it’s a social event, but that doesn’t mean you’re some kind of human Rat King (only click on the link if you have a strong stomach). We all need some alone time, so take it. Nothing wrong with that. But also be aware that others, including your roommate, would like some, too, so give and you shall receive.

Expert tip:

“Flashpackers I’ve spoken to often bring up the importance of having your own space – and how it’s possible to do that even when you’re travelling with a group. So, not feeling the pressure to be constantly switched on/sociable (as I think some people assume that’s what group travel is about)” – Anna Brech, Flashpack writer

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