Recently Eric and I traveled to The Great Smoky Mountains for a college reunion with 13 of our friends! We had an absolute blast and we are so glad we were able to arrange for everyone to meet up in such a beautiful place. While traveling with 15 people sounds like fun and games, there are a lot of logistics to be worked out. We have collected our best tips compiled from the lessons we learned from our trip.
1. Settle on a location: With a large group, it can be difficult to decide where to go. We discussed Banff, Glacier, and the Grand Tetons before we landed on The Great Smoky Mountains. Ultimately our decision came down to the most central location, the most variety of activities, and the ease of accommodations. While the other locations would have been equally amazing, we had to weigh what would work best for our group.
2. Look on Airbnb and HomeAway for awesome places to stay: You can find a ton of houses that will sleep large groups. We used Home Away to find our Gatlinburg lodge. We ended up with a beautiful view of the Smoky Mountains, a pool table, and a hot tub. We loved having a central place for everyone to hang out and we saved a ton of money compared to what individual hotel rooms would have cost. Check out our link here to get $40 off your first Airbnb trip!
3. Make a google document: Our google document was a lifesaver! We had a list of everyone’s phone numbers, travel plans, emergency contacts, preferences for activities, and grocery list. It was a great way to keep organized and have a central location for information. Since people were flying in from around the country on different days, it was great to know when everyone would be arriving to arrange for pick ups from the airport.
4. GroupMe: This was another great way to communicate before and during the trip. GroupMe is essentially a group messaging app that provides a way for everyone to touch base before and during the trip. Life Pro Tip- Make the address and key code of your location the name of your GroupMe- that way everyone can easily find that information!
5. Utilize Splitwise, Venmo, and PayPal: With so many different charges from the price of the lodge, day trips, groceries, and rental cars, it was important to us that everyone paid an equal share. Splitwise is a great app to keep track of expenses. You can create a group for your trip and each person can add their expenses. There is a setting called simplify debts that makes it so you are making payments to less people at the end to the trip. Since very few people carry cash or a checkbook anymore, Venmo and PayPal are great apps to send money to people. We made sure our Splitwise was set up before we left for the trip and made sure we settled our debts on the last night. This system was a great way to make sure that the issue of money didn’t put a wrench in any of our fun.
6. Grocery shop and cook: This was crucial to keeping our costs down. Since we had a kitchen in our lodge, it made sense to make large group meals. Grilling, large batches of pasta, slow cooker meals and tacos were all great options to feed the army we had. We would suggest making a chore chart for grocery runs, cooking, and cleaning to make sure there is a plan each day and that everyone contributes equally.
7. Have options for adventures: It’s no secret Eric and I LOVE to hike, but we know that’s not everyone’s thing. It was important to our group that we mix it up and make sure there was an option for everyone. We had a huge variety of activities from strenuous hikes and whitewater rafting, to floating down a lazy river and putt putting. We were also okay with splitting up, that way everyone was able to participate in an activity that made them happy.
8. Clean throughout the trip: If you are staying in a large house, this tip is crucial. It’s so easy to let this fall to the wayside when you are adventuring and having fun but ultimately keeping your space clean will make for a more peaceful trip. It will also make for an easier clean up at the end of the trip. We made sure to clean up after every meal, generally having those who did not cook do the cleaning. We also had a few pretty fun nights, it being a college reunion and all, so we made sure to clean up our mess the next morning before we left the house for the day.
9. Google Photo dump: Between the 15 of us, there were a TON of pictures taken. We will cherish those pictures and memories forever. You can create a shared album through the Google Photos. This was a great way to make sure that everyone had access all of the pictures taken throughout the trip.
10. Have fun! There can be a lot of logistics involved in a large group trip but don’t let that stop you! Hopefully with these few tips, you can get the logistics out of the way so you can focus on the most important part, having a blast with your loved ones!
Our group in front of the park entrance
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Until our next travels,
The Wandering Michiganders