I’m a huge fan of group tours. Literally, I can’t get enough of them and have already ticked off 8 or 9 in my short lifespan. But recently, as the number of candles on my birthday cake slowly increases, I’ve started to realise the anticipation and nerves before joining a group tour have also started to grow.
With my next group tour just around the corner (Best of Canada with Geckos Adventures, thanks for asking), I’ve realised that I’m probably not alone and that there must be plenty of introverts out there that might also be concerned that maybe a group tour isn’t for them. Or maybe, there are an increasing number of extroverted travellers out there who are becoming more introverted like myself. In tours past, I’d rock up on day one without any doubts or nerves but now I can’t help but fret over the small things and ask myself what will the group be like or will I make any friends among other crazy thoughts that run through my mind.
Here’s the thing: group tours are for everyone regardless whether you are a self-proclaimed introverted traveller, extroverted adventurer or somewhere in between.
If you’re worried about travelling with a group of strangers and nervous with anticipation, I’ve rounded up a few tips to create an introvert’s guide to group travel with insights from fellow introverts, ex-tour guides and a few bonus tips from yours truly.
1. Prepare for the first day
Let’s start from the very beginning – you’re about to explore a whole new part of the world or maybe even revisit your favourite destination on a group tour. Above anything else, as long as you can contain that excitement and keep that at the front of your mind then you’re off to a great start to reduce any nerves.
Try to channel your apprehension and convert those uneasy feelings into excitement. To make the start of your journey easier, consider packing a few items that remind you of home. Having something familiar to rely on can be comforting when or if you begin to feel overwhelmed by the disruption to your routine. Consider carrying a journal to write down your thoughts and take the time to reflect on everything that is going on around you. Books and headphones are both handy items to keep nearby so that you can enjoy some alone time. After all, talking with your tour mates can get as exhausting as it is rewarding so don’t be afraid to take a break as needed and bury your nose in a book.
To help better prepare you for the first day of your tour, it might be worth arriving the day before and booking a private room in a hostel or hotel. This will help make the day you meet everyone less overwhelming as you can settle into a new city at your own pace and in your own time.
If you want to get in touch with travellers on your tour before you meet on day one, many operators have some form of pre-tour group communication that you can join or even forums online to speak with your fellow travel buddies. It might be a small thing but can definitely help to put your mind at ease.
Group tours make me feel comfortable and accepted, while also allowing me to completely push my own boundaries in the most satisfying way. As fun and exciting as I can be once you get to know me, I’m shy and awkward at first. As scary as it can be, forcing yourself to go up to a stranger on day 1, to make a buddy and start building that friendship, is the best way to start out your group tour. As soon as I’ve made one friend, I feel instantly more comfortable making more with someone by my side. – Liz, TourRadar team member
2. Your tour will only be as good as you make it
A group tour is bound to be an incredible experience with little to no effort. But, if you want to elevate the experience, meet new travellers and make lifelong friends then you’ll need to prepare yourself to put in more effort.
This will involve stepping out of your comfort zone to try new things but when you do, you’ll thank yourself later. Oh and by the way, trying new things doesn’t have to mean bungee jumping over rapids. Instead, simply try speaking up in a group conversation when you’d normally stay quiet.
You should also consider researching your destination as much as possible before your departure to ensure you don’t miss anything you would have considered essential if only you had known about it before. Find some hotspots that fit around your itinerary for when you’re looking for some alone time away from the group. No one will be mad if you want to visit a place solo. Naturally, introverts prefer to take in the environment and watch the world go as by compared to extroverts who are more interested in being involved with the group and all the activities. Whichever way you go, just take it at your own pace.
Group tours have taught me the importance of stepping outside of my comfort zone. While on tour and faced with a daunting decision or asked to do something I might normally shy away from, I always try to remind myself that everyone is here for the same reason – to have an epic time. Instead of worrying about what others may think I try to remember to live it up a little bit with a ‘YOLO’ attitude rather than overthinking everything – Sama, TourRadar team member
3. Dive into the first night
Day one of your tour is likely to be the best and worst day all at once. The emotions can sometimes be overwhelming and include everything from excitement over the beginning of your adventure, closely followed by an unavoidable wave of nerves.
Just embrace it, because day one is where everyone will all be in the same boat.
Don’t forget to introduce yourself, come prepared with a few small talk questions to ask your new travel pals and come armed with a few ‘two truths and a lie’ to answer the classic icebreaker questions that your tour guide will use to integrate the group (typically applicable on youth tours).
Try to arrive a day earlier so you can be your freshest, most-on-the-ball self.
I promise, everyone is just as scared as you are, so just go for it! You won’t regret it and your travel friends will soon become your best friends in the world. It’s worth those first few hours of feeling completely out of your element to gain your travel family! – Liz, TourRadar team member
4. Fake it ‘till you make it
You might be feeling a little out of your depth on day one, but unless you scream it to the world no one else will probably know how nervous you really are.
At this stage, your travel pals don’t know you and by the end of the tour when you confess ‘I was so nervous on day one’, they’ll likely say that they had no idea.
If you’re looking for extra support, make sure you pack a camera which is a great way to interact with your tour group – minus the small talk which can often be challenging for introverts.
5. Fake it ‘till you make it, but don’t forget to be honest
To contradict point 4, don’t fake it ‘till you make it to the point where you’re uncomfortable and lying to yourself. If you want to be real with the group and say ‘Hey, I’m actually terrified and way out of my comfort zone’, then go for it! Humble honesty is one of the best ways to relate to others.
Try to schedule some downtime for yourself every day. Whether it’s a quick solo coffee or time at night reading, don’t forget to enjoy your own space and time. Yes, FOMO might hit but you’ll be much better off knowing that you’ve had a chance to recharge and recuperate in preparation for the next day. Take time to figure out what helps you recharge – maybe it’s your favourite playlist, a book, Sodoku puzzles or crosswords.
6. Remember, 98% of your group will be as apprehensive as you are
We’re all humans and we all feel similar emotions which means that at least one person in your group will feel as nervous as you do. As long as you keep that in mind then you’ll be off to a great start.
My first group tour was an island hopping tour in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. I had no clue what to expect and was nervous everyone would already be friends with each other. I awkwardly introduced myself to the group and was instantly welcomed with open arms. There were so many people in the same boat as me – literally in the same boat as it was an island hopping tour! By the end of the 4-Day tour snorkelling, camping and exploring my group had bonded so much and I completely forgot that these new friends were strangers just a few days earlier! – Julianne, TourRadar team member
7. Get familiar with your travel buddies in small doses
Large group situations can be daunting, but if you make the most of getting to know your travel buddies during the optional activities or on the coach or minivan when you’re sitting next to each other. If you have a free night, why not suggest going out for dinner with a few touring buddies as this will be much less overwhelming than larger group settings.
8. Your tour guide will become your best friend
Aside from being a local expert on where to go and what to do within each of the cities on your tour, your tour guide is also a professional friendship maker.
Fact: no tour guide wants to travel for 10 days with a group who doesn’t get along or know each other, so just keep that in mind. They want you to enjoy yourself and have worked for years at becoming someone people like you can rely on.
9. It’s okay to sneak off and enjoy your alone time
Anyone who has ever travelled on a group tour before will appreciate that sometimes you just need a moment of silence or solitude to enjoy your own time. If you’re worried if the group would be offended by your actions of wanting to spend an afternoon alone, then don’t be.
See Also: 5 Tours You Need to Take in Your 20s
Don’t lie by saying ‘I want to take a nap’, then sneak off to your favourite museum – it just doesn’t work. Instead, just tell your travel buddies you want to see the Louvre by yourself in your own time and they’ll respect your decision.
10. Consider travelling in the off-season
If a group of 48 people on a coach makes you shudder, consider booking a departure in the autumn or spring months (known as the shoulder season for some tours). This is when departures are less likely to be full, meaning a tour that would normally cater for 48 travellers might only be at 70% capacity which can help reduce feels of being overwhelmed.
Important note: group tours, just like people come in all shapes and sizes. Some might have 4 people on tour, some might have 48 or more. Both are guaranteed to be enriching; so make sure you spend time finding the right tour for you and your travel preferences.
11. Believe it or not, group tours were made for introverts
Aside from taking note of all of the above points, keep in mind that group tours are built around forging relationships with like-minded travellers – it’s the best part!
Think about it: out of the millions of tours and departures you could have selected among thousands of tour operators, everyone in your group selected your exact tour for whatever reason. Admittedly, some travellers might be there for the wrong reasons, but 99% of travellers are there to become immersed in unique, local experiences, to learn a thing or two from the tour guide (aka, walking, talking guidebooks), and to have a great time while connecting with new people from across the globe.
We’re not saying introverts shouldn’t travel solo, but if you’re weighing up the logistics of booking your own accommodation, navigating your way through foreign cities and meeting people on your own, considering a group tour as a hassle-free (and rewarding) way to travel makes the most sense.
Overall, just remember that being an introvert, or an extrovert-turned-introvert or other doesn’t mean you have to miss out on group travel. Focus on your experience and making memories to last a lifetime. Everything else falls into place on its own.
Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert traveller? Share your thoughts in the comments!