MBA Trips and Tips: Naoko
Continuing with our MBA Trips and Tips series, we have a new blog post, courtesy of Naoko, who is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. This week, she shares her experience planning a group trip to Yacht Week, the problems that she faced, and her advice for anyone looking to plan a group trip soon!
Q. Tell us a little bit more about your experiences organizing group trips.
A. I helped plan a group trip to Europe (Barcelona, Croatia, and Prague) during the summer of 2013. This was a particularly unique trip because most of our time in Croatia was with the Yacht Week (TYW). After deciding to do Yacht Week, the next step was to figure out where else in Europe we wanted to go to – we tried to balance cost with personal preference and landed on Barcelona and Prague.
Like most people our age, we used a Google spreadsheet to organize ourselves – flights, lodging, packing lists, etc. Thankfully, TYW already had an itinerary for us, but we used the spreadsheet to list out our plans for Barcelona and Prague.
We also used PayPal to reimburse whichever member of our party paid for something (in our case, it was typically related to TYW expenses). This part became difficult at times because there were many different costs involved and people were constantly asking the group to pay for different things that were purchased at different times.
While I did not lead a trek during business school, I do recall the trek leader always used email and a Google Doc to communicate with the group, and it was difficult at times to keep track of everything that was happening.
What do you enjoy about group travel?
I love exploring new places, and what better way to do it than with your friends? With a large enough (but not too large) group, it allows for flexibility because there’s less pressure to stick together. People can explore their own interests as they wish. Additionally, group travel has been great because you get to know people better, and everyone usually knows something different/new about the destination(s) so there’s plenty to learn!
What are some of the issues that you faced while planning your group trip and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges with planning a group trip is communication. Certainly, some pre-trip banter and such are perfectly fine to read via email or group text. However, group travel often requires all members engaging via email or whatever medium the group uses; typically, there’s at least a couple of people who respond sparingly to email, WhatsApp, SMS, etc. In the past, my groups have had in-person meetings or conference calls to alleviate that problem, but both are inconvenient or nearly impossible to schedule. Eventually, searching through your info for a particular email or piece of information becomes a pain. Even pulling up the Google Doc can be a challenge – if the author didn’t formally invite you to view/edit and, rather, just copy/pasted the link in an email – good luck! I have rarely successfully found a Google doc this way and usually end up asking someone to resend me the link.
WeTravel helps fix this problem since most, if not all, of the important information (and then some) is already on the trip page. If you have an organized trip leader, you can bet that everything you might want can be found on WeTravel.
Another thing is itinerary: most people don’t think about the itinerary until just a few days before leaving for the trip in my experience. Then all of a sudden everyone is asking about when you’re arriving somewhere, or leaving for the next place, or when you might have some free time to do your own exploration. With WeTravel, you just have to look at the itinerary on the trip page and you’re done! Amazing.
If you could travel to any place in the world with anyone, where would you go and who would join you? (Don’t worry about the budget and feel free to take someone famous along with you!)
Such a tough question! Without a doubt, I would pick Anthony Bourdain to travel with me. The man has been everywhere, is open to pretty much everything, and has an incredible appreciation for different cultures (and foods!). A location is tough to pick – I’ve been very lucky to have visited many places already. I’m going to cheat and pick an an entire region – Southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola, South Africa, Madagascar). I’ve never been to Africa and would love to see a part of the world that, I think, is so different from what I am accustomed to. Also, the region boasts so many natural sites.
Lastly, do you have any tips for people who are starting to organize their own group trips?
Get early buy-in from traveling members. Encourage everyone to look into specific activities they are interested in. If you plan on visiting multiple places, assign cities to each of your group members and ask them to come up with a comprehensive list of possible activities that the group can choose from later. Also, have a right-hand (wo)man to help you out with bookings, communications, or really anything you would want support on. Planning a trip in general is hard work and there’s no need for one person to carry that entire burden.
Most importantly – HAVE FUN! Too many times I’ve seen a group travel leader end up with so many responsibilities that planning feels like a chore rather than something they want to do. I’m a pretty independent person, so it’s easy for me to say: “I’m going to do these activities, you can join or do any of these other amazing things available in this city.” Group travel leaders don’t need to hand-hold their travel mates – it’s your vacation too, so take advantage of it!
We hope that you enjoyed this blog post and found it useful. Make sure to come back next week for our third installment of MBA Trips and Tips with Brian! And if you liked this series, check out our Travel Influencer series, which features interviews with other seasoned travelers.
Featured Image Source: Erika Bertolini