6 Tips to Surviving Group-Tour Travel

The prospect of a group tour makes a lot of us uneasy. Given that you are touring a place on someone else's watch, many find the planned schedules restrictive. Plus, there's the group of strangers one may or may not like, and the large group that screams "tourist." But group tours are not always a bad thing; in fact, they may just surprise you and offer some truly memorable, and unique, experiences. Here are useful tips to help you and your family make the most of your experience traveling with a large group.

1. Think about your comfort first. When you are booking your group tour, think about the things that make you happy when you're traveling. Do you typically like to split the family up into two different hotel rooms? Do you prefer for the rooms to be next door to each other so that everyone can walk in and out of each other's spaces easily? Is it absolutely necessary for your son or daughter to have a window seat on all flights? These are all things the tour operator should know at the time of booking. It would be a disaster to start off your trip in a bad mood because you didn't make the small provisions you need for your own comfort. Stay pretty as well as comfortable with these great travel beauty tools.

2. Carefully study the day-by-day itinerary provided. One of the most important things you can do is to review the trip schedule provided by the tour operator. Knowing the places you'll be visiting will help you determine everything from what to wear in certain places to other essentials, like bottled water or snacks, you might want to pack for a day of sightseeing where lunchtime is a bit later than you are used to. If your itinerary includes visits to churches or other religious buildings, plan for covering your shoulders or removing your shoes as a form of reverence and respect. Another reason for reviewing the itinerary is to determine if there are any attractions not on the agenda that you'd like to fit in while on your trip. Try these vacations the whole family can enjoy.

3. Your tour guide can work around your needs. Just because you are traveling with a group, that doesn't mean you have to be tied to them every second of your trip. If there's a morning where you'd like to sleep in a little bit late and skip a specific sightseeing trip, let your tour guide know in advance. Or, if you don't want to miss a thing, use these strategies to feel rested on a small amount of sleep.

4. Make friends with your group members. Who doesn't like meeting new people? Sure, there's a chance that there will be someone in the group who drives you nuts, but there is also the likelihood of some interesting people, maybe even future friends. You have to be on the bus with them, so you might as well make it enjoyable. It's not as tough as you might think to make friends when you're no longer a kid.

5. Keep your eyes open. When you're on the bus making new friends, don't forget to take in the scenery and get a good feel for all the places you're visiting. A window seat on the bus is a perfect place for getting great photos, so take advantage of the fact that you aren't the one who has to navigate. And don't forget to maintain your health on vacation.

6. Ask for what you want. Usually tour guides give you a limited amount of time at each site just so they can fit in as much into your day as possible. If you need more time to explore a specific site, don't hesitate to let your guide know. The other people in your group are probably feeling the same way and you want to be sure you get your money's worth. Still not convinced group travel is your thing? Try these fun last-minute getaways instead.

Get more travel tips from pro traveler Lisa Ling

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.