Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Group travel: save a buck and make a friend

Last weekend, I went skiing in Vermont with a group from the Appalachian Mountain Club. In January, I spent a week diving in Honduras with a group from scuba club Oceanblue Divers. Before moving to the East Coast, I frequently traveled on weekend camping excursions with adventure club Total Escape. Come to think of it, many of my travels over the years have been with groups. Why is that?

Save. You can save time, hassle and money. For people like me, researching new destinations and planning a trip is part of the fun. But it takes time, and sometimes it's a hassle. Booking a spot on a group trip makes it as easy as point, click, buy and travel. Typically, group trips also build in an economy of scale, bringing the cost down lower than if you booked individually. And if you're a solo traveler, you avoid those pesky single supplements.

Do. You can do things you might not be able to do as an individual. On some of my dive trips, we've done optional activities like shark dives. Often, such excursions require a minimum number of people, so if you're on your own, you might not be able to make them happen. The leader of a group trip might also be able to make special arrangements to see sights that aren't typically open to individual travelers.

Meet. For me, meeting new people and making new friends has always been the best reason for group travel. In 2002, I moved back to my hometown of San Diego after an extended absence. In 2005, I relocated again, this time to the East Coast. In both instances, I had to recreate my circle of friends, so I did it the quickest way possible: finding clubs and organizations that catered to my hobbies, and signing up for their group trips. Show me a group of strangers who travel together—even just for a weekend getaway—and I'll show you a group of fast friends. Many of my closest friends (and even my girlfriend) are people I've met on group trips.

Sometimes, traveling solo gives you a great deal of freedom and flexibility to get the most out of your trip. I'm overdue myself for such independent travel. But if you just want to go have some fun without breaking the bank or spending a lot of time planning, or if you are new to your area or want to make some new friends, go on a group trip!

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