Group and Multi-Generation Travel: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Smooth Safari
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They often say that your travel experience is enriched not only by the places you go to but also the people you visit them with.
Throughout the course of your lifetime, it’s likely that you’ll travel with friends, workmates, and family.
Traveling in a group may be the most challenging way one can choose to travel due to so many reasons. Grouping people of different personalities, age groups, or preferences together results in some sort of conflict, disagreement, or misunderstandings along the way.
And when it comes to multi-generation travel, just the thought of everyone from the toddler to grandma wanting something at the same time can “shatter” even the best-laid plans.
That said, with careful planning and lots of tact, the chances of clashes happening can be avoided and minimized.
If you are planning on going on a safari in Africa together with a group of friends or extended family, here are some handy tips to help you plan wisely!
Plan, Plan, Plan and then Plan Some More
When it comes to any vacation, planning for the trip is probably the most crucial process, as it determines the success of the entire trip. When it comes to group travel, planning becomes even more important, with so many elements added to the process.
If before, all you had to account for was yourself, now, you have a group of 10 or more individuals with different needs and interest that you will have to take into consideration.
Keep in mind the dates and time of the year when you plan on traveling and check if those times are favorable in the destination of your choice.
Especially if you choose to travel as an extended family, most travelers prefer to go on a safari during the (Northern Hemisphere) summer – June to August - as the summer break means the kids are out of school and most adults can take longer vacations, too. However, not all destinations would have the same favorable weather that is suited to travel.
Traditional safari destinations such as Kenya and Tanzania provide excellent game viewing from June to August. However, it’s high season, so expect the prices to be on the higher side and the crowds to be present!
In South Africa, from June to August you are like to encounter the worst weather. On the plus side, it’s also the low season, so you will likely benefit from more affordable prices and the lack of crowds.
Before even determining a travel itinerary, find out from the group collectively as to the budget they are willing to set aside. Make sure that everyone is aware of how much they will need to invest, taking into consideration flights, visa applications, accommodation, food, and ground tours.
Find out whether there are extra costs such as tips at the destination aside from the ones you have planned. Once you have set a budget for your trip, be sure to try to stick to it!
Group safari vs private safari
A group safari is when you are part of a group of people who are booked on the same itinerary. It means you don’t have any control over any part of the trip. These are suitable when you travel with a group of friends who are on a budget.
Private safaris, however, give you full control over the itinerary. You decide what you want to do and where you want to stay. They are, without a doubt, the best choice for a multi-generation family. But they do tend to be on the pricier side.
When planning the itinerary, compile a list of must-sees and must-dos from the group, and then pick those that are achievable.
Take into account how many days you travel for, as it’s not ideal to try to cram too many destinations and activities into a short stay. If you do, you’ll end up needing a vacation from your travels.
As a rule of thumb, we’d recommend that you pretend the first day on your safari doesn’t exist! You’d be so jetlagged and tired, chances are you’d only want a bed and a shower.
Don’t forget to ask the safari organizer whether the transfer to/from the airport (or hotel) is included in the safari package. If not, ask if it can be added.
Also, make sure you know what type of safari transportation is available for the game drives. Open safari vehicles are excellent for adults, but young children may not be allowed in them. Depending on the terrain, a converted minivan with a pop-up roof is preferred.
Plus, you still need to deal with getting from home to the airport (and back). The night before departure, decide on the exact hour you need to be at the airport, accounting for security check, passport control, etc.
Most often it may be easier to just take the public transportation available rather than rely on a taxi. And, yes, trains / underground services are always faster than buses.
An often neglected element of travel planning for big groups is communication. Most often, disagreements can be avoided simply by communicating the details to everyone involved.
With a large group, it probably won’t be feasible to have weekly meet-ups or regular coffee breaks to discuss travel plans. Instead, utilize technology by setting up a group chat!
Group chat apps like Whatsapp can help make communication with a large group easier by affording a virtual space in which everyone can stay in touch and receive information. Use the space to share updates regularly and to bounce ideas off each other when it comes to the travel itinerary. It’s also a good opportunity to bond with the group prior to the vacation, and a good platform to share pictures after!
If grandma and grandpa aren’t exactly technology wizards, it’s not a bad idea to schedule phone calls at regular intervals to share and get updates.
Utilize Travel Planning Apps Wisely
Way back when technology was limited to a desktop, a lot of our travel plans were concocted via printed travel guides, brochures and phone calls to travel agents.
Back in 2011, I was still printing out directions to get to a certain location! A year later, smartphone in hand, I was walking through European capitals guided by the calming voice of the GPS.
While taking advantage of the new technologies and apps is certainly very nice, it’s good to remember to still print-out that itinerary. You shouldn’t always rely on internet access, especially if you are heading into the African bush!
At the very least, use an app that also works offline (such as Evernote) to sync your notes, booking numbers, itinerary, contact numbers, etc. And remember that you can save Google Maps for offline use, too!
Also, Google Sheets is great to keep track of planning the expenses and the itinerary. TripIt is useful to keep track of your itinerary. A weather app and currency converter could be helpful, too. And make sure to install the airline’s app so you are on top of any possible flight changes and delays.
Book an entire lodge
Photo credit: Kili Slope Tours and Safaris LTD
One of the most challenging aspects of traveling in a large group is accommodation. More often than not, you will have to book multiple rooms or rooms in multiple safari lodges. The larger your group is, the more difficult booking rooms for everyone will be.
To avoid a headache, try thinking outside the box! Ask the safari organizer if they have villas / guest houses / lodges available that you can rent out as a group.
Another option is to go on a camping safari, where you will get to camp right smack in the middle of the wilderness! Tented camps are a great option as they most often are small camps (5-20 tents). Do make sure to inquire ahead of time to make sure your group can be accommodated.
»Confused about which accommodation to choose on a safari? Read our article on the type of safari accommodation!
Be Attentive to Everyone’s Needs
At some points during your trip, everybody will need something! The larger the age difference between the youngest and the oldest member of the group, the worst this can get.
A child is hungry, the other one got bored, mom wants a coffee, and grandma needs to go to the toilet. All at the same time. So, make sure there are ways to tackle the issues in advance.
Bring packets of mixed nuts for when the munchies strike, some games and entertainment for the little ones, and an insulated bottle full of coffee. And always know where the closest toilet can be found.
Take the Lead or Go with the Majority?
When traveling in a big group, it may be difficult to please everyone when it comes to the travel itinerary. There are two ways to deal with the issue: either someone takes the lead or the disputed decisions go to vote.
If it’s your first vacation as a group and someone has experience planning trips for a group, it’s wise to allow them to take the lead. Alternatively, you can always ask your safari operator to be the “tour lead” for you since they’ll know the destination best.
Don’t Be Afraid to Split Up
Photo credit: Viva Safaris
Extended families and groups of friends bring a kaleidoscope of abilities, needs, and desires. Plus, if you travel with young kids, they won’t have the patience to go on two game drives each day!
Research the activities available through the safari organizer and then split up! Take the kids on a game drive in the morning but you’ll likely be happier with them splashing around the pool in the afternoon. Or, if there are kids club available, they may spend some time there, while you enjoy a romantic dinner.
Similarly, the grandparents may not be keen on doing a walking safari but they’ll probably rejoice at the idea of doing two game drives each day!
In a large group, take into account the fitness level of the individuals when any potentially strenuous activity is planned. Getting out of the comfort zone is amazing but an injury while on a vacation is not!
When it comes to multi-generation travel or group travel, having a variety of activities available is better than if you have a limited choice.
Ready to plan your big group holiday? Go on a spectacular camping safari in Tanzania!