Yesterday, I got home from a sixteen day journey throughout Europe. We galavanted through Greece, Italy, France, and England in search of culture, cathedrals, and cute boys. The trip was incredible, but it wasn’t a free-spirited whirlwind by any means. I traveled with a group of fellow art history students from my high school on an EF (Education First) run tour. As you can imagine, traveling in a group of 30 is VERY different than traveling with your family or studying abroad alone!
Here’s what I’ve learned about traveling with EF or any other large group…
DO bring an extra purse. Especially if you’re traveling with EF, you are notgoing to want to carry around a backpack everyday! The EF backpacks are incredibly conspicuous, difficult to organize, uncomfortable to wear, and open to pickpockets. Don’t believe how horrendous they are? Click here. Any smart traveler should bring a small cross-body purse to store valuables in a way that wards off pickpockets. If you don’t want to carry a purse because you’re a guy or simply because it’s not your style, there are many travel-safe wallets to keep your belongings from being stolen.
DON’T rely on good Wi-Fi. Some hotels will have it, some won’t. Even if all you want to do is text your mom and check the weather (and maybe post an Instagram photo), don’t expect to be able to do that every day. Appreciate the wifi when you can, but don’t mourn its loss when you don’t have it. The internet can wait a few days, and your parents will understand.
DO bring church-ready outfits. My tour was an art history trip, so we visited a LOT of churches. When I packed for the trip, I only thought I needed to have a church-appropriate outfit for the Vatican…turns out, we needed to have clothes to cover both our shoulders and knees for four different days on the trip! Have a plan for any time a church appears on your agenda. And, to be safe, it’s always wise to carry around a scarf for your shoulders in case you’re wandering a city and want to enter a sacred space. I missed out on a beautiful church in Rome because I was wearing a tank top!
DON’T count on regular meals. Some days, you’ll have a delicious breakfast, lunch, and dinner at completely reasonable times. Other days? Not so much. When schedules get shoved around due to delays or changes of plans, lunch breaks can sometimes be the first thing to suffer. One day, we were fed breakfast around 6:30am and not given the opportunity to eat lunch until 4pm that afternoon. This was the worst of our gaps without food, but it was not the only occasion.
DO bond with your group. The first few days of the trip, things may be a little awkward. Some friend groups exist, but not everyone knows each other. Before our trip started, I didn’t even know anyone’s name! Even if you have good friends on the trip, make some efforts to branch out and meet other people. I became friends with a few people who I never would have known otherwise, even though we were from the same high school!
DON’T expect a perfect guide. If you’re traveling with EF, I’m referring to the Tour Director. Ours was mildly creepy, smelled kind of weird, and had a lot of issues with transportation. Whether or not you’re EF, you’re likely to have local tour guides in many locations. Many will be mediocre, and there will be a few you love and a few you hate. One of ours had such a strong accent that none of us could understand him; consequently, he put us all to sleep. Don’t let things like this bother you…just sit tight and cross your fingers that the next guide will be better.
DO bring snacks. Like I previously mentioned about the irregular mealtimes, when you’re hungry on the trip will not always align with when you are fed. I brought some granola bars and almond packs from home to keep in my purse and eat if too many house came between meals. If you can, try some delicious snack food from the country you’re visiting!
DON’T be negative. Sometimes, things are going to suck. You’re going to be exhausted. Your feet are going to hurt. You’re going to miss out on something. Instead of focusing on all the things that are going wrong, try to remember all the incredible things you’re getting to do! Sure, maybe you got 4.5 hours of sleep the night before, and your feet are about to fall off, but you’re on vacation in an incredible place, so keep that chin up. If you’re about to have a breakdown and need ten minutes of space so nobody can talk your ear off, take that ten minutes. It will make everyone a lot happier.
DO be prepared. When it comes to hygiene and health, packing light is not always your best option. Pack anything and everything you need for the time you’ll be gone! A few essentials that should be ineveryone’ssuitcases: bandaids, neosporin, pain reliever, sunscreen, water bottle. I also took an umbrella, Febreeze, a Tide pen, cough drops, wet wipes, sleeping pills, and earplugs. And I used nearly everything I brought!
DON’T expect perfection. You’re traveling with a plan. Therefore, things can and will go wrong; it’s inevitable. On my trip, we experienced missing passports, misplaced people, power outages, a stolen wallet, a bus malfunction, subway shenanigans, broken AC, and two multiple-hour train delays. These things will be inconvenient, but not world-ending.
Good luck with your group trip, and remember, travel is supposed to be fun, not stressful!