It’s always been your dream to take a walking tour of Europe. You imagined yourself wearing a beret atop the twinkling Eiffel Tower, riding mopeds through the streets of Rome, and clinking steins full of frothy beer with newfound friends in Berlin. But now that you’re actually here, your tour has taken a turn for the worst.
Instead of the cute co-eds you imagined becoming besties with, you’re surrounded by a gang of geriatrics. And while Rose’s commentary about Pompeii was educational, you’re starting to get the feeling that perhaps she lived through the famous eruption. To make matters worse, your favorite pair of Vans® sneakers have gaping holes in them after the first expedition. Goodbye, sweet, checkered slip-ons. Before you blow up yourself, take a step back and breathe. You’re all here to take in the sights of a new city and have some fun. Allow yourself to get in the right state of mind to really enjoy yourself, and be tolerable for those in your company. So when your toured travels find you in a sticky situation, remember these three tips and tricks for successfully exploring with a group.
You, Overachiever, You
Nobody likes a mooch (“Can I borrow your camera?”), and there’s no way you’re going to get the most out of your tour if you’re unprepared. Do a little research ahead of time to find out what the weather is going to be like during your travels. Is it going to be blazing hot? Bring a refillable water bottle, sunscreen, and a goofy floppy hat for sun protection. Are you going to be braving arctic winds? Sounds like the perfect time to do some parka shopping–faux fur is so your style. No matter what the weather forecast predicts, chances are you’re going to be doing a bit of walking. Buy comfortable shoes several weeks before departure and break those puppies in, because hiking the fjords in Norway is going to be a lot more pleasant without blisters the size of kjøttkakers!
As Flexible as a Gymnast
Fanny pack? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Looks like you’re all set to meet up with the rest of the group for the scheduled 10 a.m. tour of the Colosseum, and you’re so excited that you even arrive a little bit early to the meeting spot. But, alas, as the clock slowly ticks from 9:46 a.m. to 10 a.m., the majority of your group still hasn’t shown up. And when the minute hand flirts dangerously with 10:20 a.m., you start to think you might never make it to the iconic ruins! Although your initial reaction might be to overreact and have steam blow out of your ears in the style of Yosemite Sam, calm down. When you’re traveling with a big group of people, there is always going to be someone who is perpetually late. Call your tour company ahead of time and check out their policies on lollygaggers, and book with one who leaves at the designated time no matter what! That way, you always get to see your desired destination and don’t have to deal with other people slowing you down. If the problem persists, bring a book with you to kill time or taste your way through the city by hunting for the best sangria.
More Flies with Honey
Have you ever heard the saying, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar?” It’s totally true. Be approachable and social when traveling with a group and you’re bound to have a good time, even if things don’t pan out how you thought they would. Be open to making conversation with people you might not normally run into back home. Offer to snap a picture of a fellow tourist in front of that cool street mural you passed by. Or just work on being positive and friendly in general. That might sound too hippie-dippie for you, but it might be just the trick to help you survive on the tour group from hell. Breathe deeply. And besides, what better way to preserve your travels than with a new pen pal? Making unlikely friends is all part of the fun of exploring the world, and whether you connect with a retired couple from Tennessee or a gaggle of college students from Japan, you now have people to reminisce with about that time in Switzerland when you laughed so hard hot cocoa shot out your nose. You still have the third degree sinus burns to prove it. And hopefully if you ever travel to their neck of the woods, you’ll have a free place to stay. Wink wink.
Ultimately, traveling with a tour group should take the stress out of planning your vacation, not add to it. Do your research ahead of time and make sure you’re not the whiner on the tour constantly complaining about all the walking you’re doing. That last minute run to the shoe store really worked out. Guided tours are a great way to explore foreign areas and hopefully make some amazing memories in the process. And remember, as cheesy as it sounds, the best thing to pack with you on any journey is an open mind. Traveling rarely goes according to plan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a blast while navigating through the mishaps in the meantime.