What makes a successful group trip?
As a group leader for over twenty years, I have stuck to these five group ground rules:
- Limit the group size to 16-24 people and accompany this group.
- Establish activity and mobility parameters before promoting the group.
- Focus on the affinity which brings this group together and don’t encourage “outsiders” to sign up who don’t match the key group dynamics.
- Plan pre and post-tour social and educational opportunities.
- Provide frequent pre and post- tour communications.
Collette offers a small group program called “Explorations” which limits total participation to 24 people. I blocked group space with them on their Costa Rica: A World of Nature tour 18 months in advance. I wanted to travel during the coldest time in the Midwest and pick the ideal time in country to avoid excessive rain, humidity and heat. Our tour dates were Jan 15-25, 2017.
In January of 2016, I reached out to past travelers who enjoyed natural resources, hiking, swimming, international cultural experiences and invited them to a Costa Rica Travelogue in early February. It was cold and blustery outside and that was exactly what I wanted. Who wouldn’t melt when seeing images of tropical gardens, sea turtles and colorful birds in Tortuguero National Park, swimming in the Pacific Ocean at Manuel Antonia National Park, zip lining across tree tops, gazing upon the Tenorio Volcano, visiting coffee and cocoa plantations, boating and river rafting to see to see wildlife close up, and enjoying the sunset by a pool with a cold “Imperial” beer? That first night, I accepted 10 deposits, so I knew I had a core group with an “affinity” for adventure travel.
Those 10 people reached out to their friends who shared similar interests and I offered a second travelogue later in the year. My group blossomed to 18 very congenial people. In the three months prior to the trip I concentrated on offering social get-togethers combined with videos on our destination, conversations of what to pack, and plenty of time for questions and answers. One of my favorite “get-to-know you” group mixer games is called, “two truths and one lie”. We go around the room and introduce ourselves and share 3 short bits of information about ourselves— two are very true and quite unique and one being a lie. The group then needs to guess what the lie is. Some of the truths are amazing, and group members really enjoy learning about their fellow group members!
One whole evening was devoted to some of the optional activities offered by Collette which included an evening natural hike, a flora and food source tour, and a Titi Canopy zip line tour in Manuel Antonio National Park. For this particular destination, the group was most focused on ZIP LINING. Those who had previously tried the sport shared their personal experiences and encouraged others to “give it a try”.
While on tour I always ask the group if they want to get together in a month or two to share photos and memories. Usually a group member steps forward to offer their home for pot luck dinner. We set a date while still on our trip, and I send SAVE THE DATE reminders. This was no exception and one of our members who was an amateur photographer offered to serve as host. We were treated to a spectacular photo show of wildlife, sunsets, hikes, dining, and most importantly friends enjoying traveling together.