Early on, my cousins and I dubbed our family trip for a wedding in Bulgaria last month as National Lampoon meets My Big Fat Greek Wedding. From missed flights to lost luggage to multiple tourist faux pas to closing out the wedding at 8:30 a.m. the next morning – wow, did it live up to expectations!
Thinking of planning an international trip with a group? Here are 5 tips to stay sane and make it back home in one piece.
- Hire a personal guide in advance
A couple of months before our trip, I hired local guides for the two cities we visited, Plovdiv and Sofia, via toursbylocals.com. The tours were affordable and offered both walking-tour, day-trip and multiple-day trip options. Our guide Kamen was amazing (and patient)! We didn’t have a guide for one afternoon and we basically walked in circles. Worth it!
- Book your own room
This was my saving grace! Yes, it’s cheaper to share, but trust me, you will need your downtime…ALONE. When nerves start to show, it’s a blessing to regroup with yourself in the privacy of your own room and then sneak out to explore on your own.
- Have a chat in person to manage expectations
On our trip, most of my family had never traveled to Europe before. Some prepped beforehand to learn a little language (oral and written) and earmark some sites of interest and others didn’t Google a thing. We chatted at the bridal shower to talk about things we wanted to do and then emailed and texted as we made plans. We also checked with the bride to find out when she was comfortable with us going off on our own so that the wedding was always front and center.
- Deputize a co-captain
When traveling with a group, particularly when most are inexperienced travelers, it was really helpful to have another cousin in our group who could navigate the local language, particularly when we needed to split up in taxis. Use the expectation chat above to figure out who’s likely to be the most reliable.
- Drink the free wine on flights. DRINK IT!
Think of this as insurance for many reasons, least of which that you’ll sleep on the overnight flight and be a happier person. Pass your travel book around so the rest of the group can learn about the country you’re visiting and lights out. Cheers!
One thing that is certain when traveling with your grown-up cousins and aunts and uncles, you’ll feel like a kid. I couldn’t help but feel like an angsty teenager sometimes, but at least there wasn’t a kid table at the wedding!
Stay tuned for a recap of fabulous Bulgaria. I think it’s Europe’s best kept secret!
And, if you have hilarious travel tales, please share below. For example, if it looks like everyone in the photos above are wearing the same clothes, it’s because of this: