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The Pros and Cons of Traveling with a Student Group

Grace Lower | Feb 1, 2021

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Student life isn’t always glamorous, but it sure has its travel perks!

You can often find student discounts at popular attractions and special student pricing for rail tickets and airfare, no matter where you’re going. Perhaps the greatest benefit is access to a wide range of group trips exclusive to student travelers. From study abroad providers to university-sponsored programs, to youth mission trips, traveling with a student group can be a practical and cost-effective way to see the world. 

Exploring a new destination with a group of your peers might sound like the adventure of a lifetime. In fact, for many students, it is! But group travel can also have its drawbacks — namely, a lack of independence and limited alone-time. So, as a traveler-to-be, how do you determine whether traveling with a student group is right for you? Here are a few of the key pros and cons to help you decide:

PRO: Built-in friendships

There’s nothing like travel to spark a sense of camaraderie. As a student, group travel uniquely positions you to connect with a cohort of travel companions. You and your group will have a lot in common from the start: you’ll be around the same age, with similar interests, and a shared sense of curiosity. Add in shared living quarters and an occasional misadventure, and you’ve got everything you need to turn a group of strangers into a tight-knit travel crew!
Not sure how you’ll break the ice with your friends-to-be? Fortunately, most group travels come with an itinerary of activities for participants. Whether you’re bonding with your group-mates over a shared meal or swapping stories after an exciting tour, making new friends can be as easy as following a schedule.  

CON: Too much of the same people

In a perfect world, every travel group would be made up of thoughtful, fun, and easy-going people. But in some cases, group travel can mean that you’re in close quarters with some pretty tiresome folks. Even the nicest group of travel companions can get a little exhausting after a long day on the road. If you’re someone who values independence and alone-time, keep those factors in mind before traveling with a  group. 
The best way to create a harmonious experience with your travel companions is to be warm, inviting, and inclusive. Strike up a conversation with the people around you, and make sure to check in on those who look a little left out. Above all, take care of yourself. If spending time with the same group of people is starting to bother you, find ways to create alone-time — whether that means going for a run, listening to some music, or even taking a nap between activities.

PRO: Accountability

Chances are, you’re traveling for a reason. Maybe you want to see more of the world before you start your first full-time job. Perhaps you’re interested in mastering a second language so you can eventually move abroad. It could be you simply want to challenge yourself to break out of your comfort zone. No matter your goal, traveling with a student group can help you reach it. 
By finding a group that’s well-aligned with your goals, you’re choosing to surround yourself with people who can hold you accountable to reach those milestones. That’s why it’s important to choose your group wisely. Think about the objectives of the trip, the rigor of the program, and the types of people it will attract. Then, when you’re on the road, talk to your travel companions about their own goals for the trip. If you develop a plan to check in with your group, you’ll be more likely to chip away at those things you hoped to accomplish during your travels.

CON: “The bubble”

“The bubble” is a phenomenon that occurs when travelers focus more on their group than their destination. If you’ve ever seen a group blocking a sidewalk, talking over a tour guide or docent, or goofing around in a sacred place, you've seen the bubble at work. There’s nothing wrong with forming close bonds with your travel companions, of course, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your travel experience. 
Perhaps the most common example of the bubble is when an English-speaking student studies abroad to master a second language, only to spend the majority of their trip speaking English with people from their travel group. It can be hard to break free from the pack, both socially and logistically, but finding ways to engage with your destination is key. Ask questions when you’re on a tour, strike up conversations with people outside of your group, and seek opportunities to explore at your own pace. 

PRO: Outsourcing your planning

One of the biggest appeals about group travel is the planning, or rather, the lack thereof! In most group trips, the bulk of your planning — whether that comes in the form of coordinating transportation, planning group activities, securing accommodations, or vetting destinations for safety and accessibility — is handled by the organization sponsoring the trip. If you’re new to travel, this can take much of the stress out of the process. 
With that said, avoid the temptation to put all your trust in the hands of your group’s travel coordinators. You’ll want to research your destination thoroughly and understand any risks that you might encounter during your stay. Ask whether you will be required to purchase travel medical insurance or trip cancellation insurance and look into the details of any group plans, if applicable. Even in the most perfectly organized groups, you’ll want to be aware of any policies or protocols in case something goes wrong when you’re on the road. 

CON: Limited independence

Some student travelers are planners at heart. They find joy in scheduling a perfectly customized itinerary for when they’re on the road, and they get a thrill out of researching the ideal spots for leisure and fun. Other student travelers seek spontaneity. They want the flexibility to change their travel plans on the fly or extend their stay at the drop of a hat. For these types of travelers, a group trip has too many limitations. It can’t be meticulously customized and sticking with the group is largely required.
However, if you’re new to the world of travel, or if you’re simply too busy with classes to figure out all the details on your own, traveling with a student group can be an amazing opportunity. As long as you find a group that’s well-aligned with your budget, timing, and goals, you’re bound to have an enlightening experience. Making a few new friends is just an added bonus.

About the Author

Grace Lower

Grace Lower has a love for all things writing and travel. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.

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