Top Tips for Group Adventures

There’s a lot to consider when you’re going on a group trip — whether you’re planning an adventure with your best friends, a multi-generational getaway with the whole family or you’re embarking on a pre-planned group tour. There are some incredible benefits of sharing experiences with other travelers, but it does take some specialized planning. Here are our top tips for group travel of all kinds:

#1 Make Sure Everyone Is On The Same Page

From big factors like budget, destination, and travel dates, to small details like the number of beds you’ll need. It’s important to start with an open and honest discussion to ensure that everyone’s expectations align.

Do you want to spring for the ultra-luxury hotel with incredible views, pool, and spa — Or is this a more casual trip? Will you splurge on a once-in-a-lifetime experience like snorkeling with whale sharks? You don’t need to nail down exactly where you’re staying or what you’re doing yet.  Just get an idea of what kinds of activities, amenities, and styles everyone envisions for this adventure.

Be upfront about your boundaries, your priorities, and your budget. And allow space for everyone else to express their expectations. Make sure this vacation is a shared vision.

#2 Use Apps

There are a myriad of apps and technology to help keep everyone connected and on the same page. Utilizing things like WhatsApp and Google Docs to stay connected and share itineraries. Tricount or Travelspend will make keeping track of budget and spending so much easier. Make sure you have a plan of what you’ll use to communicate and keep track of costs before you go.

a group stands in front of a large fountain and beautiful vineyards in Napa Valley CA

[Photo Credit: Cailtin White via Shared Adventures — check out their girl’s trip to Napa here]

#3 Balance Free Time & Activities – But always plan food & drinks

When planning a trip for clients, we always try to create the perfect balance between wandering the beautiful streets, relaxing on your own, and pre-planned activities. It’s important to have downtime as well as scheduled activities. Remember, having too many planned activities in a day will leave everyone feeling tired and stressed. Plus, groups take a little longer to get from place to place because there will always be unexpected needs like a coffee, snack, or bathroom. So, leave yourselves breathing room in your schedule.

However, always have a solid dinner plan.  Nothing is worse than trying to decide where to eat when everyone is already hungry and finding that there is a 2hr wait because of your group size. You can always cancel the reservation if you change your mind.

#4 Everyone is good at something

Find the skill sets of the individuals in your group and utilize them! Does someone have a great sense of direction? They are now the navigator. Does someone speak the local language? They are the communicator. Two people with an artistic eye? In charge of photos. This will help spread out the responsibilities and tasks. It ensures that everything that needs doing is being taken care of and gives your vacation a collaborative feel.

Cruise ship group on the small luxury ship

[Photo Credit: Ann via Shared Adventures — check out her group trip aboard a luxury cruise ship here]

#5 Be Flexible & Have Fun

First, agree to have fun. Nobody likes the constant complainer on a trip – this is supposed to be a fun adventure! Entering the trip with a positive mindset from the beginning will ensure you’ll have a good time!

Second, figure out your non-negotiables and communicate them with the rest of the group. Find where you mesh together and where you might need to do your own thing. There will be a little compromise beforehand and some unexpected changes in the moment. So make sure you’re flexible in your plans and expectations.

Above all, remember that the best decision is any decision that gets finalized. Sometimes someone just needs to decide so you can have an experience rather than standing around trying to come to a consensus. Just make sure it’s not always the same person making the call, and remember to step up if no one else has a strong opinion.

Specific Tips for Group Tours

#1 Keep an open mind

On a planned group tour you’ll be in the hands of a trusted guide and might find yourself a little outside your comfort zone – but that’s part of the experience! To be able to do and see things you may never have thought of doing and seeing yourself. Be sure to join these groups with an open mind and willingness to experience new and different things.

#2 Be patient

Everyone travels a little differently – and that’s ok. While each group tour will tend to attract like-minded people, everyone has their travel quirks that you may or may not enjoy. Remember to be patient with others in your group. Especially since moving in a group will take much longer than if you were on your own. A little patience and kindness go a long way in creating a fun group atmosphere.

[Photo Credit: Ann via Shared Adventures – check out her recent adventure to Thailand here!]

#3 Ask Questions

Your tour guide is there to answer all your questions! They often have more in-depth knowledge than just what’s on your itinerary – so be curious! If you start to wonder about something, speak up and ask. Similarly, ask questions of your fellow travelers. Group Tours are a great way to meet interesting people, and make new friends from all walks of life – so indulge in curiosity and ask away!

Specific Tips for Friend Groups

#1 It’s more about the Group than the Destination

The destination is incredible and worth enjoying, but the point of a group vacation is to spend time together! To get away from the day-to-day minutia of life! Carve out time to be in the moment, chat and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t get too hung up on ‘seeing it all’.

#2 Have Some Alone Time

While this adventure is about spending time with your favorite people – sometimes you need a little alone time to be your best self, and that’s ok. You don’t have to do every single thing together.

#3 Establish a leader

Early in the process, pick someone who will be the leader. The organizer, the person who best understands the needs of the group and is willing to take on the final decisions. While it should be an overall democratic process – having someone as the point person for your travel agent or general organizer will be a big help.

[Photo Credit: Ann via Shared Adventures — check out her group trip to the Galapagos here!]

Specific Tips for Multi-Generational Adventures

#1 Cater to Everyone’s Interest

a large family photo in front of the rocky mountains

More often than not, you’ll find that not everyone is interested in seeing the same things – and that’s ok. Make sure to have a balance – a little bit of something for everyone. And a few things that everyone will enjoy.

#2 Schedule time to sit and soak it in

Make sure to schedule frequent breaks and times to just enjoy being together. Whether it’s a long lunch, time to sit in the park, or relaxing together on the beach. Don’t let the vacation zoom by with too many plans and activities.

[Photo Credit: Ginny via Shared Adventures]

#3 Plan for bathroom breaks

The much older and much younger generations tend to need more bathroom breaks and it’s worthwhile to do a little planning ahead of time. Make sure there’s time in the schedule and, if you’re on a road trip or walking around a city – you know where the bathrooms are.

We hope these tips have you feeling ready for your next group adventure! The earlier you start planning the better — so let us know what you have in mind and we can help you every step of the way!

Which Style Cruise is Right For You?

Pin it for Later!

You’re ready to head out onto the water, take the plunge, and take a cruise! But which cruise style is perfect for you? Would you rather enjoy the rolling ocean or a meandering river? Tropical islands, fjords or fascinating European cities? Is your perfect vacation full of activities, adventures, and parties? Or more subdued relaxing, soaking-up-the-sun vibes? You’ve heard of big cruises vs small luxury cruises vs river cruises — but what are the actual differences? Here’s our breakdown of the basics:

Big Mass-Market Cruises

Atmosphere: There’s a sense of excitement aboard the big cruise ships. Whether you’re on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian or a slightly more “premium” line like Celebrity — the name of the game is variety! These floating cities offer more options than some small towns! 

performers onstage during a Cruise Ship live show

There’s always something to do, to see, a wide range of amenities, and countless dining options. The focus here is on entertainment — with huge blockbuster-style live shows, live bands, comedians, art auctions, game shows, casinos, and nightclubs. Often, the cruise ship itself is just as much part of the experience as the destinations. You’ll find skating rinks, surfing simulators, roller coasters and more!

Size: The smallest big cruise ship has around 1,000 guests while the largest in the world holds nearly 7,000. And that doesn’t even include the crew!


  • Huge variety across ships
  • Lots of dining options, entertainment, & nightlife
  • Visits popular destinations with lots of shore excursion options
  • Programs and camps for kids
  • Wide range of cabins to suit all budgets


  • Many, many people – you can sometimes feel like another face in the crowd
  • Lots of walking to get from one end to another
  • Can be difficult to find a sense of seclusion
  • Longer lines and wait times

Perfect For: If you’re traveling with a big group or with younger kids this is a great option. Or, if you’re a night owl and love to enjoy live entertainment, then these big ships are perfect for you! There’s always something to do, eat, and see. With lots of shore excursion options – everyone in the group will find something to love. And for the kids – they’ll never get bored! If you’re left a little bit cold by the idea of sailing with that many people, look into a smaller “ship-within-a-ship” experience like The Haven on Norwegian’s ships.

Small Luxury Cruises

Atmosphere: Smaller luxury cruises like the one Ann recently took with Seabourn offer many similarities to the big cruises. But there are a few key differences. The most noticeable change is the atmosphere.

With fewer people and a more luxurious setting, these cruises strive for a personalized and relaxed vibe. You’ll find a focus on culture and nature with not as much nightlife available. There are still several lounges and restaurants, and some live music, but nothing too big or flashy. The focus here is rest and relaxation.

the realxing Retreat on Seabourn Ovation's caribbean cruise

Size: As few as 100 guests ranging up to around 700 guests for these small luxury cruises.


  • More personal experience – small guest-to-crew ratio
  • Larger cabins
  • Can access smaller harbors and more out-of-the-way destinations
  • Can get you up close to glaciers, whales, waterfalls etc
  • Peaceful and romantic vibes


  • Not as much to do on board
  • Not very much nightlife
  • Higher price tag – can be tough for groups/families
  • Not as many activities for kids

Perfect For: Couples cruises, adventurers, and luxury travelers. Anyone who prefers exploring cool destinations at a leisurely pace on their own. 

River Cruises

Atmosphere: River cruises are all about that slow travel experience. Meandering down the river watching spectacular scenery and quaint villages drift by. River cruises deliver a sense of serenity and peace. Many river cruise ships offer amenities like a small spa, hot tub or plunge pool on the top deck, and lounges for relaxing with a cocktail. But the focus and excitement can be found in the ports. You’ll visit bustling cities, charming towns and villages, and scenic countryside.

River Cruises generally sail in the evenings, unless they’re on a particularly scenic stretch of the river, and you get to spend much of your day exploring fascinating cities like Amsterdam and experiencing new cultures like traditional Bulgarian folk dances. You won’t have many “sea days” where you’re spending the whole day on board.

River cruises are also more all-inclusive. Usually, your drinks, food, wifi, and many of the shore excursions are all included in the cost! 

Size: The smallest cruises on African rivers average just 30 guests while the larger Viking ships reach around 200. 


  • Dock directly in city centers
  • Many tours included in upfront cost
  • More time in ports – practically no ‘sea days’
  • No large crowds
  • More of a local, authentic feel in ports


  • Not much nightlife; onboard entertainment tends to be lectures and local musicians/dancers
  • Fewer dining options
  • Smaller cabins
  • Included tours are often in the mornings, so there’s less opportunity to sleep in

Perfect For: Seeing a lot of different locations in one cruise, older couples, history buffs, those who like city breaks, and those who like exploring different cultures. 

Expedition Cruises

Atmosphere: Expedition Cruises are voyages to hyper-specific far flung destinations. With a huge focus on nature and a sense of adventure. These cruises are smaller and have local experts leading you every step of the way. There’s not much to do onboard the ship itself, but you don’t notice because your days are so full of exciting exploration you sleep soundly each night. 

On expedition cruises, you’ll experience out-of-the-way destinations like the Galapagos, Antarctica, or the Norweigan Fjords. All the guests enjoy a love of adventure activities and totally unique experiences. The focus is on the entire journey and environment in which you are traveling not just the port.

The Queen Beatriz yacht floating between two islands of cacti in the Galapagos

Size: The smaller ships will only hold around 30-40 guests but can go up to 300 for the bigger voyages. 


  • Incredible far-flung destinations
  • Lots of unique experiences
  • Expert guides with you every step
  • Daily activities included in the cost
  • Generally adults only


  • Not as much to do onboard
  • Moderate physical fitness and mobility necessary
  • Not much “beach & relax” time
  • Require an investment (in time and money)

Perfect For: Big adventures and bucket list trips. If there’s a place you’ve always wanted to see or an adventure you’ve always dreamed of experiencing, this is the perfect opportunity. Good to do when you’re younger as the fitness level necessary can be more demanding. 

There are so many choices when it comes to cruising, we hope this little guide helps you decide which style of cruise is the perfect fit for your next vacation!

Planning a Theme Park Vacation

Planning a Theme Park Vacation Pin
Pin it for Later!

Every type of trip has its own set of requirements that need to be thought through in advance. Theme Parks offer many adventures, so there’s definitely some planning and research that needs to be done beforehand. Unlike a tropical beach vacation or roaming in a European city, theme parks serve a unique, particular interest. So, what are some of these things you need to consider before you go?


The first and most important thing to check with any theme park is the number of attractions that your family can participate in.  Rides and attractions come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes, and types — which makes their height restrictions as unique as they are.  It’s important to confirm that your chosen park has enough attractions for your family. This information is typically on the theme parks website. And checking it in advance can ensure your kids are tall enough to ride the attractions they are most excited about.

Height is not the only consideration. It’s also important to take a preview of the rides and discover the ones that your family will enjoy the most. Some people love intense roller coasters and spinning attractions. But, if you have family members who are afraid of specific ride types or get motion sickness in 3D theaters, it’s important to check in advance.

[Photo Credit: Liz via Shared Adventures Travel]

Special Dates

The next thing to check is if there are any special events or holiday functions during your preferred travel dates.  Many parks now feature special events year-round. You can celebrate the seasons, holidays, and special park events with them, and enjoy the added excitement. Or choose a quieter time to visit.  

Whether you visit Disney World in the fall for Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival or Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, these events change the theme park experience. Some events, especially the holiday ones, tend to close the parks early unless you have pre-booked a special ticket. This makes the exciting experience more exclusive but requires a little more advanced planning.

[Photo Credit: Brian Mcgowan via Unsplash]

Whether or not you plan to participate in these special events, it’s very important to know when they will impact the park schedules.  If you aren’t familiar with a specific event, make sure to check the park website. Or ask your travel advisor who can explain the potential changes in the park and experience.


Once you have a feel for the park’s attractions, entertainment, and special events, the next step is to consider the park’s geographic location.  Some parks are open year-round while others are only open during the summer season.  In addition to those general opening dates, the time of year can also affect the availability of specific experiences and attractions. 

For example, many people do not want to ride a river rapids attraction in early May at Hershey Park due to the colder temperatures. However, most people will gladly ride the same attraction at Disney World since it’s much warmer in Florida. Take a look at the geography and general weather averages. Consider how this may affect the parks and attractions, and how you can best enjoy your downtime together.

[Photo Credit: Liz via Shared Adventures Travel]

Don’t forget to consider how you might fill the extra time other than the resort/hotel pool, particularly if it’s cold.  Not everyone is comfortable swimming in a heated outdoor pool when it’s only 60 degrees outside.

Talk to an Advisor

Given the large amount of planning and research that goes into a theme park vacation, we are here to help you navigate through it all. If you like, you can do some basic research on your own prior to planning with your advisor.  Or you can call us right at the starting point, and let us guide you through it.

Remember, theme parks are an exhilarating, unique type of vacation. And they require much more planning before, leading up to, and even during travel.  The good news is we will be by your side every step during the booking process.  We will review the various amenities, offerings, and perks at each theme park destination, and will always make sure you are well-prepared for the trip.  Are you ready to plan your next theme park vacation?

Villa Vacations

all you need to know about renting a villa pin
Pin it for later!

When planning a vacation, the first thing that most people think about is the destination itself. Second only to that, the thing that really makes or breaks a getaway is the accommodations. It sets the tone for the whole trip. You want someplace that provides comfort, relaxation, and a sense of well-being — someplace you’ll enjoy coming back to at the end of a busy day, or relaxing and spending the whole day in. If privacy, space, and a home-like setting are on your wish list, a private villa might be the perfect option. And it’s not just for the rich and famous. Here’s what you need to know:

What is a villa?

an italian style villa against a blue sky and green lawn

When you think of a villa you probably imagine a grand house on a large estate nestled in the rolling hills of Tuscany. And while a villa certainly can mean this Italian “Under the Tuscan Sun” dream, villas have become much more flexible, diverse, and unique.

[Photo Credit: Shaun Gehring via Unsplash]

Initially, the term “villa” was used in ancient Rome to describe an upper-class country house. Someplace luxurious and sprawling where ancient Romans went to get away from it all. Since then the term villa has evolved, ranging from small farming compounds to magnificent mansions on private islands.

a cottage-like villa surrounded by the stunning mountain views

At its core, a villa is a detached house with plenty of space between you and your neighbors. It can range from a cozy and intimate 1-2 bedroom cottage to large estates that can accommodate 20 or more.

[Photo Credit: Pradidpong via Unsplash]

Why Should You Rent A Villa?

a sprawling villa framed by the pink and orange of a beautiful sunset
[Photo Credit: Fran Hogan via Unsplash]

Villas are available pretty much anywhere in the world — the Caribbean, Europe, the US, Mexico and more. They come in different shapes and sizes but they all offer privacy, comfort, and a sense of home. In the Caribbean, it’s very common for the villa to come with staff like cooks or housekeepers, but in other places around the world, it’s easy enough to add them on if you want to.

You can join everyone in the dining room for a delicious breakfast. Then head out to the back deck to enjoy a sun lounger and a good book by your private pool. After spending the morning snorkeling on the nearby beach and exploring the local side of town, you can enjoy a peaceful and relaxing afternoon without other people’s screaming children. You can listen to your friends laughing as they whip up margaritas in the kitchen and then join them for a snack without fear that your sun lounger will be poached by someone else. In the evening you can watch a stunning sunset streaking over the ocean from the deck, before heading into the huge living room to sit on the comfy sofas and play games with the whole group laughing late into the night.

a peaked roof villa in a desert landscape with large glass windows
[ Photo Credit: Nuzha Naashidh via Unsplash]
a pool and back deck surrounded by trees and greenery at a villa in bali
[Photo Credit: Nelbali Photography via Unsplash]

Top 5 Reasons to Rent a Villa

  1. Whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it – A villa lets you be master of your own vacation schedule without any restraints

  2. Privacy & Seclusion – No stress from crowds or queues. A secluded villa allows you to unplug, unwind, and enjoy the company of your friends/family without the intrusion of other vacation goers.

  3. Hotel-like amenities all to yourself! – Many villas come with private pools, spas, and gyms! Everything you love about a hotel or resort, and it’s all yours.

  4. Space – Most hotel rooms have just enough space for two adults. Villas offer everyone a private room, plus comfortable living spaces to gather and enjoy being together without feeling on top of each other

  5. Price– Even the most upscale villas can be more cost-effective than renting multiple hotel rooms. Families, reunions, or even just a couple of couples- the price per person often works out to be equal to a nice hotel or resort.

Top Tips When Renting A Villa

a bright blue pool at the back of a large house in Panama
[Photo Credit: Fran Hogan via Unsplash]
  • Be sure you know what kind of vacation you want. If your idea of relaxing is curling up with a good book, make sure the villa has plenty of nooks where you can get some time to yourself! If you plan to do a lot of cooking, make sure the kitchen is big enough for everyone to roll up their sleeves and help out.
  • What are your staffing needs? Do you want to cook or would you rather have a personal chef? Do you want housekeeping every day? A butler? A bartender? A driver? The possibilities are endless!

  • Choose your group wisely – make sure your expectations are the same and you know that spending a week together under one roof is a good idea!
  • Always think about the specific bedding arrangements that you need, not just the number of bedrooms. Married couples don’t usually want twin beds, and no one wants to get stuck with the bunk bed room.
  • Be clear on location- How far out in the country will you be? Will you need a car to get into town? Is it actually on the beach or is there a road down to the sand?
  • See if the villa allows pets and children. Oftentimes villas can accommodate pets, letting you take your furry family member with you instead of paying for boarding.
  • Remember that many properties have one-week minimums and rent Saturday to Saturday.
  • Plan well in advance so that we can help you get the exact kind of villa you’re looking for with all the amenities you want!

Villas provide more than just a place to sleep while you’re on vacation. They provide a unique backdrop for your getaway, combining an exciting new setting with all the comforts of a home. And in the time of COVID, they provide a safety bubble where you can enjoy a vacation without the concern of being around large groups. No matter what your destination, there’s a perfect villa waiting for you! Let us know and we’ll help you find the perfect size, location, and price for your home away from home.

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)