When it comes to traveling with friends and family, there’s always that one person who steps up to assume the role of the planner. Armed with color-coded spreadsheets and extensive itineraries, the planner launches the trip with the skill and finesse of racecar pit crew. That is — until the group chat gets out of hand. Sidebar conversations, complaints about the hotel and the constant refrain of “dude, let’s hit the clubs!” can swiftly sideline any planner’s best intentions. Thankfully, there are tools out there that can help you reign everyone in and start planning the best. trip. ever. Here are the 10 tools you need to be confident when you plan a group trip.
1. KAYAK Trip Huddle.
Yeah, we’re starting with our own. Trip Huddle is a tool that lets you, as the planner, start organizing your trip. Simply invite people into a “Huddle” and they can begin nominating and voting on destinations, travel dates and hotels or vacation rentals. By giving everyone an equal say, you can avoid passive-aggressive emails from that friend who clearly thinks Miami is a bad choice. Plus, as the planner, you get to control the flow and monitor who has voted, so you can send reminders to that one friend who takes forever to respond. Once all votes are in, you have a plan that everyone can get on board with. And better yet, it takes the pressure off of you as the “decision-maker” (in case the Critic in your group wants to complain about the selection).
2. The KAYAK App.
Once the decision is made in Trip Huddle, it’s time to start booking. Our app can help you find the right flights and hotels at the best price. Since you know where the group wants to go and when they want to travel, you can immediately start a search. Using our filters, you can further narrow down your search so that you’re finding the options that are best for your group. Have time before you need to book? Set a Price Alert for the flight or hotel you want. We’ll track prices and let you know when they change. Also, an added benefit of using our app is unlocking mobile-only hotel deals — the deals that hotels typically don’t offer on their websites. It can be a great way to save on your room.
The app that has saved us from countless “I forgot cash” happy hours has a great application for group trips. Namely, it’s a great way to start a “budget pool.” Depending on your destination and length of stay, determine how much you think everyone should expect to spend on the trip. Then, ask them to Venmo you the money in advance, so that you — as planner — can take over as “Treasurer” for the group. Once you’re at your destination, it’ll be your responsibility to pay for transportation, activities, meals and refreshments. No itemizing receipts, no waiting for everyone to figure out exchange rates. Plus if you have money left over on your last day, you can decide whether to go all out or just Venmo it back.
We love Evernote because it lets you clip articles and ideas from all over the web, and organize them in one place. This will be invaluable to help you organize all the “hey we should check this out” links that your group is bound to send. Plus, you can set it for offline viewing so even if your destination has patchy reception, you can still access the name of that souvenir shop you wanted to check out. Even better, collect all your ideas in Evernote then add them to your KAYAK Trips itinerary so you keep an organized schedule of your vacation’s day-to-day.
Of course, the best part of any group trip are the meals you’ll share together. OpenTable is a great way to explore restaurants in your destination and lets you easily make reservations on the fly. Plus, with their points system, you can rack up enough to cash in for things like gift cards. Get your crew to pick at least one night of your trip for an extra-special meal, so you can take that bonding time to the dinner table.
6. KAYAK Trips
Once you’ve got your flight, hotel or vacation rental, activity and restaurant reservations all planned out, KAYAK Trips can help you organize them into an all-in-one itinerary. This free tool lets you either connect your Inbox or forward booking confirmations to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can access your Trips in offline mode (when WiFi is patchy) and we’ll also show you your Trip Stats. Find out how far you’re going on your travels, from times around the Earth to nights spent away from home. Compare with your friends, and whoever has gone the farthest gets to buy a round.
We all have that friend whose needs are a little… extra. If you’re worried about them complaining about their seat on the plane, SeatGuru is a great resource. Find out which section has the most comfortable seats, above average legroom or is super close to the flight attendants, so they can schmooze an extra ginger ale from the bar cart.
Specifically for the friend that needs the luxe treatment when they travel, LoungeBuddy will clue you into what VIP lounges are available, organized by airport. You can check out reviews, amenities and even book spots in available lounges on their site and app.
If you decide against creating a budget pool, or just need to split a bill while you’re away, the Tab app makes splitting the bill a breeze. Simply upload your receipt and break it down among your friends. So no more having to hear complaints from the Super Saver in your group that they don’t think it’s fair to split the bill when they only ordered salad and water.
10. A Color Story or Flytographer
When you’re on the trip itself, you and your friends are sure to ‘gram it. A Color Story has fun filters and effects that can amp up your photos to get those likes. Or, if you want to go the extra mile, Flytographer is a Canadian company that will connect you with a photographer in your destination so that you can schedule a one-hour photoshoot. So go full-cheese and catch that special moment with your group so that you have memories of more than #foodstagrams.
And there you have it. Ten tools that can help any planner breathe a sigh of relief. Learn more about how we’re making group trips great again with the MVP (Most Valuable Planner) leading the way.