How to Plan a Trip with a Group from Scratch: 5 Steps Guide

This summer when the pandemic is finally over, and the borders are open, my friends and I decided to plan a trip to Europe. I have done my first solo trip last year to Barcelona and arranged small group trips during my Erasmus time in 2018 so I had a slight experience with organizing a trip. And this was going to be my first ever time arranging everything from visa to flight tickets to Airbnb to train tickets for a 10 days trip.

My route was Lyon-Besançon-Paris-Geneva-Milan-Florence-Rome. (So many cities I know right?!) First of all, let me tell you, it is definitely a stressful job if it is your first time to do all of these arrangements and if you are the only experienced person in your group but do not worry nothing is impossible!

  1. The first thing to do is define dates of travel and take your visa appointment!
  2. Then the hardest part comes, which is arranging flight tickets and accommodations. This one gets a bit complex when you have a route of multiple cities which we actually had. But for the visa do not think about it so much. Find some refundable and reasonable accommodations and just buy or reserve refundable flight tickets then the rest of the trip is definitely way easier. When things get more certain, And then you can dive into choosing Booking.com or Airbnb which are the two most helpful websites we used for our accommodations. Make sure to book places with reviews and think about the locations of each of them, making it closer to the city center or closer to the train station. Think about which is more beneficial for you. For big cities like Paris, it is hard to find affordable places in the center so you can think about places close to metro stations.
  3. Preparing Visa documents, if you don’t require a visa for the EU you can just skip this :D Visa documents actually seem super hard and give us lots of stress but in fact, you can prepare all those documents within 1–2 days. It is not as hard as you think it might be. Do not stress yourself. Just start preparing for them and make sure to check every requirement to not get caught off guard in the appointment.
  4. Once your visa is out and confirmed, you can now start buying intercities transportation like train tickets, bus tickets whatever you are planning to use. I would highly recommend using the Trainline app for Europe and choose train as transportation because it is comfortable and The app also tells you about delays which sometimes saves you especially if you accidentally went to the other train station which happened to us and we just trusted the delayed information and took a cab to another train station to catch our train and guess what it was a big success and the biggest fear we have lived during our trip. When it comes to buses I must say bus journeys are not super comfy in Europe if I compare it with Türkiye where I am from. because the main transportation is the bus here so our busses are actually quite comfortable and they even give you snacks here so I was surprised about busses in Europe.
  5. Now it’s time to prepare the remaining stuff. I highly recommend you download offline maps on Google maps and also in me or other offline map apps you have been using. Also downloading the language in the Google translate app helps a lot when it comes to translating stuff. You can live without the internet if you have these with you but don’t worry it is quite easy to find the internet everywhere nowadays.

Another tip I can give is if you do not want to buy a sim card maybe you can try Esim if your phone is capable of it, it is a really nice alternative. Download the Airalo app and buy the Esim hat that fits your destination and activate it with a wifi connection maybe when you are in the airport. That is super helpful. And here are more advice to help your trip.

About the museum tickets, I feel like do not rush to buy them online, trips are full of surprises sometimes you just do not feel like doing it so you can just buy them when you enter the country. For example, for the Louvre museum, we split into two, and one group didn’t want to visit, meanwhile, the others just wanted to visit it and bought the ticket from the museum which was cheaper than the online one.

Be flexible! You can never know what expects of you. so do not force yourself to see everything, do everything. Don’t be harsh on your body and remind yourself that nothing is more important than your health. I am saying this because I actually caught a cold during our trip and that really changed my plans about visiting some museums and places. I just didn’t push myself much and took it lightly when I was feeling exhausted. I just rested. So make sure to not let these spoil you because anything can happen during a trip, you would never know! I just took some time to heal for a few days and rested enough then felt better and our trip was still great!

About traveling with a group, keep in mind that if you are in a crowded group, there is no way that every time you will share the same opinion. When it is the case that you have different opinions in the group, just be open to splitting up and let everyone enjoy the things they prefer to do. You can not always make everyone happy. So if you are traveling with a group sometimes everybody needs to compromise. Just make sure your friends are open and tolerant so you can travel in harmony. I was quite lucky with this because even though we were 6 people, we split up when needed and didn’t have any problems, everyone had a great time on their own.

Sometimes the group needs a certain someone to direct them, in these times let one person be in charge so it does not get so complex. And while choosing a location to go or eat please remind yourself that not everything you see on Instagram is real. Make sure to check google reviews of that place also so you don’t waste your time.

Sometimes make sure to do your research earlier for big cities like Paris and beware of the situations you need to know about. And sometimes just go with the flow and enjoy discovering an unknown land without a single clue. Be open to everything these trips will bring you. And my favorite part of traveling is meeting new people, and locals and discovering new places.

Additionally, sometimes planning a travel destination including so many cities is not the best thing because for me the limit was 7 days, after 7 days I was tired of changing cities every day and moving to another Airbnb. Now I am thinking maybe it is better to choose a city as your base location and make day trips from that city or change maybe 1–2 cities in one trip. Otherwise, the journey is making you exhausted so better to keep that in your mind.

Organizing your own trip is definitely a hard job to do especially if you are organizing it for a group as well but it makes you learn lots of essential traveling information and lets you grow as a person.

And lastly, let me briefly mention my trip. I took the flight to Lyon and took a train from Lyon to Besançon and the train had delayed so I arrived very late luckily I had a friend over there she hosted me and we had an amazing weekend together, very chill no stress at all. She showed me around and that was super nice.

Then I took the train to Paris and at that time I started feeling sick and cold so I made it to the hotel and rested. Then my friends came from Türkiye and we spent 4 days in Paris which was amazing, we all loved it there so much. On the final day in the early morning, we took a train to Geneva and on the same day, we had a bus from Geneva to Milan in the evening so that day was super tiring! Then we stayed one day in Milan and went to Florence the other day, and in Florence the house we were staying in was awesome so we stayed there 2 nights and went to Rome and stayed there 2 nights then took the flight and came back to Türkiye.

The weather change also hits differently. Paris was cold, Geneva was super humid. Italy was super hot that we could only go out in the early mornings or after sunset. My personal opinion is it is easier to travel during the autumn season even in winter or cold weather than on hot summer days.

If you came here to read my story, I hope you had a great time and the information was useful for you! I can’t wait to travel to whole different locations and meet some NomadHers!

🙍‍♀️Ayse Koker from Turkey is a digital artist who loves to travel. Meeting new people and learning about cultures are her passions. Her dream countries are South Korea, Portugal, and Japan. (Instagram: @maleuglena)

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