It was something that had never been done before. It was a daring plan. A crazy idea. But it was now. Or never. Seven sisters (yes, all from the same mother) were going on an epic trip. Together. Oh, and let’s add in two unsuspecting friends for good measure!
It all started when a younger sister came into disposable income after paying her last school bill. Her first destination? England. Years ago, she had spent the night (another story for another day) in Heathrow and came to the fair conclusion that she could not possibly cross England off her bucket list until she had seen it properly. Somehow Ireland got thrown into the mix too.
Now, who to go with? Being that her two eldest sisters were seasoned travelers, it was a given they would come along for the journey. The baby sister was not to be left out either. That left three other sisters. One is single and somewhat free to travel. The other two are married with families. They have not traveled internationally since those life-changing events occurred. Could they be convinced to come along to make this an epic sister trip?
Surprisingly enough, one of the married sisters was the easiest sell. The single sister jumped on board pretty quickly as well. That left one last sister to convince. Which in the end was not hard at all. How difficult could it be to choose to travel with your six sisters to destinations like London and Dublin? And who wants to be forever known as the epic party pooper? That’s right. No one.
Everyone was on board. Yikes! Now what? Seven wasn’t enough. Let’s invite two friends!
With a large group of independent women and mostly family members at that, you might think this was a recipe for disaster. And you might have been right. Except that we were also aware of this because we know ourselves pretty well. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses though so we put in motion a plan to enhance the strengths and curb the weaknesses.
A planning meeting was scheduled 3.5 months before our trip. Everyone was present for this initial meeting and not only did we lay a strong foundation from which to work, it was a fun time and created an exciting anticipation for the trip.
Something serendipitous happened during this first planning meeting. In the flurry of researching that night, someone discovered that Seven Sisters is a THING in London and England!!! What?? That immediately precipitated the need for a t-shirt. And a plan to find the signs that said “Seven Sisters” so that we could get our picture taken with it. What were the odds? How could we not?
3 Group Travel Planning Tips
1 – Break Up the Group. The first thing we decided was that even though we were going to the same destinations as a group and lodging in the same place, it did not mean we would travel everywhere en mass. Each of us had different agendas and goals for this trip and traveling with a herd mentality would not accomplish anything but frustration and disappointment. This freed anyone from feeling obligated to “the group.”
2 – Plan Ahead. The second thing we acknowledged right away was the need for a plan. Two planning meetings were held prior to the trip. We are known for our “flying by the seat of our pants” mentality in many regards, including travel; however, with a group this large, it was imperative that we have some sort of itinerary.
3 – Have Realistic Expectations. The third thing we understood was that there was no way to see everything in London and Dublin within our time limitations. Everyone was going to be seeing different things and we would have to be content with our personal choices and enjoy each other’s pictures of the places and activities in which we may not have participated.
All in all the trip was a success, however, there are some things I would do differently next time.
5 tips for successful group travel
1- Plan and Take Notes
If you want to fully appreciate what you do on a trip, research, and plan at least a little bit. Or take good notes while you are there so you can follow up when you get home. Also, find a travel planning website/ app to use from the beginning stages to keep your group on the same page and easily organized. Facebook messenger is too clunky!
2 – Pack Lightly
If you are relying on public transportation, pack lightly – not just clothes but with skincare and haircare products as well as shoes. A little truly goes a long way!
Pinterest posts for a travel wardrobe were sent around. It actually helped some in packing appropriately. Meanwhile, others overpacked and regretted it as soon as we encountered the first of many, many stairs in London.
3 – Know Your Traveling Style
If you like to take your time in a place and fully appreciate it, definitely focus on one destination day trips. If you want to see as much as possible (especially if you have no plans of returning to that area) and do not care if you have time to “soak it all in”, the multi-destination day tours are your best bet.
Between all of us we did a total of 7-8 day trips. The trips that focused on one thing (for example, a group of 3 went to visit all of the Downton Abbey sites) were relaxing and enjoyable. The other trips that had 3 or more stops had mixed reviews amongst our group.
4 – Make Sure to Rest
Do not attend a show or performance on your arrival day! And if you travel fast paced like we do, make sure you have some activities planned that allow you to rest and sit for a bit. These may include boat rides (we did one down the Thames), day trips, enjoying a performance on a day other than arrival day or spending an afternoon people-watching in a park.
5- Do Your Research
None of us remembered the lack of elevators/ escalators in London. Nine women with luggage made for interesting moments navigating public transport in both cities but the lugging of heavy suitcases up and down stairs in London was not fun.
Upon our arrival in Dublin, we discovered transport from the ferry to the city was scarce and all of it required cash – in Euros. Having just come from England, we only had Pounds on us.
Overall, the trip exceeded our expectations and there is very little we would change if we had to plan the exact trip again. Contributing to the success of the trip was lowered expectations regarding what one can feasibly accomplish in a week, the decision to not travel as a herd and holding the planning meetings. Realizing we seven sisters were part of something really unique made every moment of the trip special and our memories all the more sweeter!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – SARAH FLUEGGE
I have been blessed to travel extensively over the past 25 years visiting 31 countries. This travel has come about through living overseas, personal vacations, church mission trips as well as visiting family who were living abroad.
I do not limit myself to only discovering the far flung regions of the world. I am just as excited about finding out what is in my own backyard as I am about what I uncover an eight hour plane ride away. Some of the best kept secrets are hidden right under our noses.
Every year finds me traveling internationally at least once and then there are multiple trips taken to nearby attractions in the Washington D.C. area as well as along the East Coast. Last year also found me in the Southwest. I am pretty much up for any trip, anywhere, any time.
That passion for travel and discovery has never diminished and when my experiences inspire others to travel and see their world – near or far away – it brings me great satisfaction.