Etiquette experts reveal do's and don'ts for traveling with friends

Etiquette experts reveal the ULTIMATE list of do’s and don’ts for traveling with friends… from figuring out budgets for penny-pinching pals to ensuring each person does their fair share of chores

  • Etiquette experts advise people to consider several things in the planning stage
  • Discuss dietary preferences, budget, who else is invited and level of activity
  • Experts also say it’s acceptable to have some alone time, but ‘within reason’

The politics of a group vacation are always hard to navigate.

Despite the excitement of going away on a trip, there might be a small amount of anxiety lurking in the back of your mind.

Dozens of questions may crop up: will everyone get along, will that one stingy friend pay their fair share or will someone’s partner clean up after themselves?

To avoid this group travel friction, FEMAIL has enlisted the help of two etiquette experts Elaine Swann and Jackie Vernon-Thompson to help your vacation go as smoothly as possible – without the risk of losing any friends.

The politics of a group vacation are always hard to navigate. So FEMAIL has asked two etiquette experts to weigh in (stock image)

Is this the right trip for you? Questions to ask before you agree to go on a group vacation

Think before you commit! What to consider before you’re going on a group vacation 

FEMAIL’s etiquette experts have shared a list of things holiday goers should consider before embarking on a trip with friends:

Dietary preferences 

You’ll be eating meals together on your holidays and that really helps bring people together, so remember to discuss this beforehand 

Consider level of activities

How active are your fellow travelers in their personal life? If they’re more a spa person, they’re probably not going to want to go on a hiking trip

What is the budget?

Be mindful of people’s different financial situations, and don’t be afraid to discuss it. Be open and honest

What are the details of your trip? 

Find out what the group has in mind for the vacation – what kind of hotels are they considering, what restaurants will be you be going to – to see if it’s the right fit for you

Who else is invited?

Elaine says it’s ‘absolutely acceptable’ to ask who you will be vacationing with. If you’re the planner, consider will this group get along? ‘There might be some personality that you just cannot take 10 days with,’ she added

Before you even set off, Elaine, who is CEO of The Swann School Of Protocol, advises people to consider a few things during the planning stages and the first is budget.

‘It’s important to keep in mind the demographic and budget of the folks you have invited along,’ she told

‘My recommendation is to try to make sure if you do invite folks who are at different income ranges that you find something that is more of a happy medium. For example, try to avoid too many luxury experiences when you have folks who have a more modest budget.’

The second piece of advice Elaine has is to provide people with a variety of options for each element of the vacation.

‘Maybe you’re going to say, “We’re going on this particular sightseeing excursion, this is the one, but what would you all like to have – do you want the three-hour or the four-hour one?” This is where you keep some control of it, but then give folks options, so it feels like it’s a concerted effort.’

Other things to discuss are dietary preferences, how much activity is happening on the holiday and who else is invited?

Jackie, who is founder of From The Inside-Out School of Etiquette, also recommends finding out what will be expected of you money-wise and have ‘a full understanding of what is needed for the trip’ when it comes to the dress code and what activities will be happening.

She reminded people to have the right travel documents before beginning your journey to avoid any anxiety or disappointment on your part, as well as the group’s.

‘I recall traveling with a group from Florida to England, then to Paris. We arrived in England smoothly. However, after a few days, it was time to travel to Paris. One of our dear friends did not have the proper documents to continue the journey with us,’ Jackie explained.

‘She was forced to return to the States alone. Some were in tears and just disappointed. She was certainly in tears. That reality left the group somewhat down and just confused about the whole ordeal.’

Keeping the peace: When sharing a vacation home or room, be a considerate housemate

Remember proper decorum, Elaine warns, and that includes ‘everything from what we’re lounging around the house in to lovemaking.’

Cleaning up after yourself is also ‘paramount,’ she added, and making sure you’re leaving a ‘small footprint’ in shared spaces.

Before you even set off, Elaine Swann advises people to consider a few things during the planning stages and the first is budget

She said if you’re sharing the living room or the bathroom, keep your belongings together and pick up after yourself.

‘Don’t be afraid to pick up something that needs to be done. Part of it is not only just picking up after ourselves, but also taking pride in the place that you live.

‘So if there is a person who isn’t as a tidy as you are, don’t take a stance and create a silent war by saying I’m not picking up after that person, instead make the environment peaceful and enjoyable.

‘If you have to go the extra step because someone doesn’t have to, then so be it.’

As for who gets first dibs on the bathroom in the morning, Elaine recommends people ‘try and get in sync with the household.’

For example, if everyone tends to get up for breakfast at a certain time integrate it into your routine during the vacation, she said.

Another habit to avoid is ‘not hogging the time in the bathroom or the television.’

‘Keep in mind that you are sharing this space so the time has to be shared as well,’ Elaine added. 

As for splitting the household costs, ‘everyone should certainly carry their weight and pay their fair share.’

Remember proper decorum, Elaine warns, and that includes ‘everything from what we’re lounging around the house in to lovemaking.’ Cleaning up after yourself is also ‘paramount’

‘Find out in advance what’s required of you. If there isn’t anything that’s set in stone then make some sort of offering to equitably take part in the home,’ Elaine said.

‘For example, you might say, “You know what? We’ll handle breakfast today… or either lunch or dinner….” Figure out what type of area you can contribute in if there isn’t a specific thing that’s set aside.

‘You can either contribute to groceries or you can either contribute by covering the cost of the meal for everyone for a particular part of the stay.’

Jackie Vernon-Thompson has also shared her insights to proper etiquette on a group vacation

As for sharing a room, Jackie suggests laying some ground rules with your intended roommate beforehand.

‘Do they prefer the bed closest to the door or the window? Are they a night owl and one who watches TV into the late hours? Find out if they prefer to shower first or last? And don’t be bashful about sharing your preferences as well,’ she told

And on the off chance you’ll be rooming with a stranger, the etiquette expert advises you to contact the person in advance and ‘establish some sort of rapport prior to the event.’

‘That way you will not be total strangers to each other once you arrive at the room,’ Jackie said. 

Also be respectful of people’s time, Jackie added.

‘It is not proper etiquette to be late for any gathering or event while traveling with a group. It is rude to have everyone waiting for you time and time again,’ she said.

‘This situation [can leave] the group agitated, frustrated, and at times, disrespected that you are taking their time for granted. Respecting each other’s time is very important.’

It is a group vacation, but can you spend time by yourself? Yes, but it’s about balance

If you’re going on a group vacation, there is an expectation that you spend time with the people you’re traveling with.

But it is ‘acceptable’ to break away or do an activity on your own ‘on occasion, however, within reason,’ Elaine said.

‘You don’t want to go on this group vacation say hello when you get there and then they don’t see you again until you come together to leave because that defeats the entire purpose of it. So find a balance,’ she added.

‘For example, the group might decide they want to go on an ATV ride or an elephant ride, or something to that effect, and you just don’t have the desire to do so.

‘If there’s something that either you can’t afford or don’t have the desire to do or maybe even too tired to do, opt out of it, but make sure that you put forth the greatest effort to reconnect with the group within a short period of time.’

If you want to dine on your own for a few meals, always communicate this to your group, Jackie added.

‘Discuss with the host if they expect you to dine with them for breakfast, lunch and dinner,’ she said.

‘If you desire, share with the host that you may at times dine elsewhere a couple times. 

‘You don’t want to be a no-show, leaving the host and other guests wondering where you are. Informing the host prior to the experience is always proper etiquette.’

As for splitting the bill during meal times, Jackie said if people had concerns have a meaningful conversation and express your worries.

And when it comes to a mix of singles and couples on a vacation, Elaine reminds planners to make sure the activities they select can be done by both parties.

If the activity requires people to pair up make sure there’s enough in the group to do that, she added.

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