Since 2017, Molly Golden has shared her passion for travel and lifestyle pro tips through her blog, Golden Girl Travel. Whatever your reason for traveling in a large group—extended family vacations, bachelor or bachelorette parties, holiday gatherings, you name it—you want fun to be first and foremost. So, we sat down with Golden for her golden rules on a type of travel where fun can easily slide into frustrating: group trips.
Know Your Dynamic
Golden says one of her favorite group trips is a yearly one to Breckenridge, Colorado, with a group of close friends. Here, her key to success is group chemistry.
“Having the right group is so important,” Golden says. “I know it’s hard to say no sometimes but having a strong group of people that really get along—there’s no drama.”
Pick A Leader
“[Have] someone that’s in charge; that’s going to keep everything organized and keep track of things, which I think is huge when you’re traveling in a group,” Golden says. While this leader shouldn’t have to come up with all the ideas, centralizing all the reservations under one person will help keep your trip on track.
Leadership can take on a couple of different looks, depending on the group. From someone who’s naturally gregarious and good at communication to an enthusiastic and detail-oriented planner, it’s important to find someone who wants to take the role. If divvying up different aspects between two people works better for your group, that’s great, too, as long as all your logistics are accounted for.
Once you have your leader picked out, it’s time to start planning. “If you have a group, it’s much more important to plan in advance,” Golden says. Restaurants will sometimes require call-in reservations for large groups rather than an online booking, and activities might fill up if you wait too long.
But while early reservations are important to ensure the restaurant or activity can accommodate your group, there are also some fun perks to traveling in a group. “Sometimes you’ll find interesting group experiences at restaurants and wineries,” Golden says. There may also be group discounts for tours and other activities.
Golden says to plan as far ahead as you can. Her favorite reservation and planning apps are Open Table and Resy. “I’m a big planner on reservations, so I like to have those in my pocket just in case,” she says, explaining that if she overbooks, it’s easy to cull some reservations in advance rather than make new ones last-minute.
There are also some great apps for booking activities. Golden says Eventbrite and StubHub are great places for event tickets, but there are some outdoor-related ones too. “I just started using AllTrails,” she says. “The app has different hiking trails which you can like and organize in folders; you can tell what hikes you did where, and you can keep notes on them.”
Explore Your Options
Getting ideas for what you and your group will do during your trip can be one of the highlights of the planning process. If you plan on staying in a hotel, Golden recommends contacting the concierge once you’ve booked your reservation.
“The concierge might have some insider knowledge that I don’t know about,” she says. “They’ve sent me packets of information, they’ve booked me things I never would’ve thought of doing, so that’s another pro tip I’ve found.”
Another method is searching online travel blogs, like her own. “Usually, I’ll go online and just type in the city I’m going to [with] ‘travel guide’ [or] ‘blogger,’ and usually a few things will come up, and I’ll read through their blogs. That’s one of the best things I think I can do,” Golden says.
Set A Budget
Once you’ve brainstormed a few options—and heard some ideas from the rest of the group—it’s a good idea to take stock of your budget as a group and what each individual is willing to spend.
“Knowing what peoples’ budgets are is so important, because otherwise you’re going to get so many yes’ and no’s,” Golden says. Giving people options is also a great way to sidestep budgetary restraints. If one or a few people want to do an activity that’s out of budget for others, this can give the rest of the group space to do their own thing.
Choose Your Lodging
What kind of accommodations are right for your group and the kind of trip you’re planning? It depends on where you plan on staying, as a trip to the same city can take on many different styles. “I’m a lover of hotels and resorts,” Golden says. “So, if there’s a brand-new resort somewhere, I immediately put it on my list because I love being in a hotel. I love having restaurants and bars at my fingertips.” Hotels and resorts are a good way to stay at the heart of the action if you plan on visiting a big city or an out-of-the-way ski resort. But Airbnb spots can have their charms, too.
“I’m a little new to Airbnb,” Golden says. “I’ve done it a few times, [and] I must admit, I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve found some really cool properties.” Whereas hotels are a good way to separate at the end of a long day, short-term rental properties are a good way to create a communal atmosphere.
“Sometimes I do want that house experience, and I want to make dinners,” Golden says. “Especially if I’m in a group, I would say I do enjoy having a home; it’s good to have a house you can all hang out in at the end of the day and just relax.”
Traveling with a group tends to compound the pressures of planning a vacation in general. Golden says the key to everyone having a good time is flexibility. “I like planning out things, but I also like leaving room for spontaneous things that are going to happen,” she says.
“I feel like every time you go on a trip, you run into someone, or something happens, and you have the opportunity to do something that you didn’t plan on. I always end up canceling things if I’ve booked too much stuff or because I get tired or burnt out,” she says. “I would definitely leave some open areas because you might be walking down a beach and see a parasailer and be like, ‘Wow, I want to do that.’ Having that flexibility is important.”
Help your trip go smoothly with innovative, functional travel accessories.
By Amy Overgaard
Having the right bags and travel accessories can go a long way in keeping you organized (and stress-free) while traveling. Michael Ames, store manager of Tumi, a luggage store in the Galleria, shares his top product picks to keep you calm and collected when you hit the road.
Packing cubes are a great way to create a sense of organization within the larger compartments of your suitcase. Ames says Tumi’s basic packing cube can hold four days’ worth of T-shirts, socks and underwear. And you can even use them when you’re not traveling. “We made this to specifically fit in a briefcase, a work tote or backpack,” says Ames. “So, if you’re going out after work, a pair of pants and a top can easily go in [the packing cube], and it can live in your work bag.”
Split Travel Kit
The right toiletries bag will not only keep your bathroom essentials organized—it will also make your life easier. “The Split Travel Kit has a clear window for our friends at the TSA,” says Ames. “But we also made it—because efficiency is what we’re after—as a ‘puzzle piece’ to fit in
the front pocket of our carry-ons.”
International Expandable Four-Wheeled Carry-On
Looking for one suitcase that can meet all your needs? Ames says Tumi is all about smart solutions to common travel issues. “Our designers and engineers are always trying to find ways to make things efficient, so you don’t have to bring multiple [bags] to solve [common] travel issues.” He highlighted one of their best-selling carry-ons, which, beyond the expected features, has a built-in USB port for charging your devices on the go, plus hanger brackets and a crease bar in the garment section of the suitcase. Made for efficiency, this means you can hang pants, skirts and shirts on the hanger in your suitcase, then transfer them straight to a closet when you get to your destination, minimizing wrinkles and creases.
TUMI Accents Kit
Remove the stress of scanning for your suitcase at baggage claim among a sea of identical bags by adding a pop of color. Ames suggests Tumi’s Accent Kits, which come in several different colorways. “It’s a luggage tag, a colored patch for the front of your bag, a handle wrap in color, and ties that you put on all the [zipper] pulls. So, it’s just a pop of color to catch your eye [at baggage claim].”
Not sure what products are best for your specific travel needs? Ames says, at Tumi, “We try to ask people about where they’re going and who they are, so we can learn a bit about them and help steer them to the right products for their needs.”