12 Tips for Planning A Trip With Friends

12 Tips for Planning A Trip With Friends - How to Plan Vacations with Friends Spring Break // eyeliner wings & pretty things

I’m a huge fan of planning. The idea of color-coded Google Sheets makes me swoon and having a printed out list of places to visit is incredibly exciting. That being said, not everyone is like that and most friend groups are not made up of people like that (it’d probably be a little too much if everyone had the same Type A personality).

Detailed plans or not, traveling with friends is always a great experience. Though the experience is great, the actual planning can oftentimes be a lot more stressful than planning a solo trip or a trip with family. Here are some tips for planning a trip with friends that will help you minimize stress and maximize fun.

1. Make a Google Sheet!

love Google Sheets, especially for groups. Though you probably use these for group projects in college and this might cause a few traumatic flashbacks, it can be really helpful in planning a trip with friends. I suggest making separate pages for a few different categories:

  • Transportation/Flights – Flight information (time, airport locations), transportation information (shuttle from airport, trains, buses), booking info and prices
  • Hotel/Air BnB – Location, details, who’s staying in which room, cost, anything included in hotel (ie: continental breakfast, indoor pool)
  • Overall Budget – How much each person will pay (and for what), hotel prices, transportation prices, estimated excursion prices
  • Restaurants – Places you’d like to eat, price range of place, type of menu in the place, location of the place, famous dishes at the place
    • Divided by breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack/specialty
  • Bars – Location, notes found on Yelp!, specialty drinks, any special deals, live music or events
  • Fun Things – Museums, tours, places to shop or explore, booking information, ticket prices, special group discounts
  • Calendar/Itinerary  – A small map of the trip, times things are booked for, estimated timelines, arrival and departure

This is something that can easily be shared with friends and friends can add their own ideas or places they discover to the list as well. Alyssa J Freitas has a great post that includes more tips here!

If you’re a little extra, like me, you can color code everything to go with the location or type of place it is. I suggest sorting excursions, bars and restaurants by the location so you can group things together and actually plan your days. For example, if you’re in the French Quarter on Tuesday you can hit up the places you found that are nearby rather than spanning them out across your trip and having to pay more for gas and Uber.

2. Book as much as possible in advance.

Buying tickets in advance is often cheaper and you can often ensure you’ll get to do something if you have it booked. Be sure to check cancellation policies! Also, take note of any package deals or group discounts.

Once again, you can make note of this in your Google Sheet with things such as “Can’t book in advance”  or “Use Groupon Code.”

3. Create plenty of options.

Come up with long lists of things to do, places to eat and potential hotels. Sometimes certain places might not work out or could be booked so it’s important to have back-ups. Always find some food options near where you’ll be staying in case of extreme tiredness and hunger and find backup bad weather day activities in case it rains.

Compare prices, put the links to menus and take notes on your Google sheet so when the trip arrives you’ll have plenty of options. If there are non-negotiable MUST visit places, mark that off as well.

4. Ask others about their experiences.

My friends and I are headed to New Orleans next year so I asked bloggers, friends who’ve gone before and even comedians from NOLA that visited my school for recommendations! We got plenty. Don’t be afraid to reach out–people love talking about their hometown and their travels.

Psst, if you’re traveling to NYC don’t be afraid to send me a message! I’d love to share some recommendations and tips. 

5. Compare prices for hotels and flights.

While comparing also be sure to compare the ratings of the hotels. It’s good to get an inexpensive hotel but you also want to ensure the reviews are decent. There are a lot of websites that can make comparisons for you and get you great deals, but oftentimes those come with no cancellation policies, so be cautious and read the fine print when booking.

6. Make sure everyone can actually go on the trip.

There’s a difference between “Oh my god! Yeah, we should totally go to Hawaii” and “I can go to Hawaii with you in July.” You don’t need contracts, but you do need your friends to really lock in their answers when it comes to this trip.

Before booking our hotel, I made sure all of my friends knew the cost of the trip and had the ability to definitely attend. I also made sure we all had those days free (we did because it’s spring break!).

7. Start saving $$$.

Keep in mind that you’ll need additional money for food, drinks, souvenirs and any other travel expenses once you reach your destination and budget accordingly. You might also want to buy a new swimsuit or pair of hiking boots depending on where you’re headed.

Travelling can easily become expensive, so start setting aside money as soon as possible. It might be helpful to make a budget by dividing up what you save into different categories such as food, transportation, souvenirs and airfare.

8. Make notes as you research.

As I’ve been mentioning throughout the post, taking notes is key! These notes can go on your Google Sheets. Take note of any helpful Yelp! tips, things restaurants are famous for, the best times to go, discount codes and more.

For example, we found a cool carousel bar in New Orleans but Yelp! users all suggested arriving there in the afternoon because the nights are too crowded. This is the perfect thing to add in the notes section. Some restaurants had famous dishes or were closed on Tuesdays, so I took notes of that as well.

9. Save important e-mails and receipts.

This is important when it comes to splitting the bill or confirming any plans. I typically star the e-mails in my inbox and make a note in my Google Sheets that I have a confirmation e-mail, but you can also create a special folder in your e-mail for it.

10. Be (or designate) a head planner.

Obviously, the planner is no dictator and does not control the whole trip but they might be the one responsible for creating the Google Sheet and finalizing plans. If you’re super Type A (like I am), you might want to step up. Just be careful to include everyone and to not totally take over.

This planner would be the one responsible for collecting the money from everyone, booking flights and hotels and generally keeping everything organized. It can be hard to round up groups, but having one planner will ensure everything moves along in a timely manner.

11. Search Pinterest, YouTube, Bloggers, Yelp! & Instagram.

Searching terms such as “PLACE Travel Guide,” “Must See Places in PLACE” or “Best Views in PLACE” will yield tons of results. I always check Yelp! because of their incredibly helpful reviews.

Although you might not think of Instagram and YouTube as the places to find travel recommendations, I found a lot of cool places through searching YouTube travel diaries and also by searching “#PLACEeats” on Instagram. Get creative with your search!

12. Stay spontaneous

Even though I made this all planned AF, it is important to keep the trip fun and to have a little spontaneity. Avoid planning every minute of the day and use your plans as a guide, not as the end all be all of your trip.

All in all, the best-laid plans often go awry but it never hurts to be prepared!

What are your tips for planning a trip with friends?

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  • Abbie Katrina

    Great ideas! I have happy memories from a trip to Chicago with my sorority sisters after we graduated. http://www.thepinkpaperdoll.com

    • I’ve always wanted to go to Chicago! That sounds so fun 🙂

  • Great post! Thanks for linking to my tips as well 🙂

  • nataliejharms

    Pinned this!! Currently planning a trip with SEVEN other girls. Wish me luck, haha!
    -Natalie from itsnothouitsme.com

    • Now THAT is a group trip haha, wishing you all of the luck! I’m sure it’ll be super fun, albeit a bit of a hassle to put together 🙂

  • I love this post! I’m trying to plan a Summer trip with my boyfriend and even though it’s just the two of us, it’s still so frustrating to try and get everything settled. I’m definitely pinning this to come back and read through it again later.

    I also LOVE how you emphasized that making sure people go is important. I can’t count how many times my friends have bailed on me the week of (or even the day of!) because they didn’t realize it was a serious thing!

    • Thank you! I totally feel that, I hope to plan a trip with my boyfriend this summer as well but just thinking about the planning is so stressful haha.

      YES! I hate when people bail, so I always crack down with that part about giving me the explicit, 100% guarantee someone can go haha

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