Solo Travel Vs. Family Travel

by Gray Cargill on May 4, 2010

Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun

Last weekend, I did something unusual for me:  Instead of traveling solo, I went on a group road trip with members of my family.  My oldest niece turned 21 and wanted to celebrate with the family at the Mohegan Sun. Everyone has been there before but me.  Last year, we pooled our money and funded a Mohegan trip for my parents to celebrate a milestone anniversary with the family.  But the only way they would go is if someone would dog-sit for them, since they won’t kennel their dog or hire a professional.  No one else was volunteering to stay behind, so I fell on my sword and watched my furry little brother while everyone else went down to gamble and swill over-sized alcoholic beverages.

Fast forward to this year, and I finally got to see what all the fuss was about.  (More on the Mohegan Sun in a future blog post.) What stands out most for me from this trip is the reaffirmation of just how different group travel is from solo travel.  The more people you add to the equation, the more complicated it gets.

Scheduling the date itself was problematic. The 21 year-old niece had to change the date of the celebration three times because of work.  Every time my brother sent an email with the subject heading “Mohegan Sun”, collective groans of “Not again!” were heard throughout New England. These things don’t happen when you travel solo.  You pick a date, you go.

Group travel is a hassle for whoever does the booking. My sister-in-law was able to score insanely cheap room rates for us, because her father is a high roller at the Mohegan.  But it was frustrating for her and my brother because right up until the last minute, they didn’t know exactly how many people were coming, so they didn’t know how many rooms would be needed (or how many beds in each room).  When you travel alone, you only have to worry about your own reservation.

Pulling a group together is like herding cats. Breakfast on Sunday was impossible to coordinate, since so many of us had different schedules.  We finally agreed to meet at 9am for breakfast, after part of the group went to church and before my niece and sister-in-law went off to a scheduled massage, but that plan fell apart like soggy bread.  My cousin and his girlfriend had to leave early because she needed to be at work; my aunt and uncle got up early to have breakfast with them and see them off.  Three of us decided we were starving and couldn’t wait until 9am, so headed off to breakfast on our own.  The whole group never got together in one place on Sunday before we had to leave.

Still, there were some positive things about traveling with a group:

  • I didn’t eat a single meal alone (unless you count that chocolate croissant I scarfed down in my room at midnight).
  • My family is spread out around New England now–Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Vermont (and soon, some will be in New York).  We don’t get to see each other as often as we would like.  This was a great excuse for us all to get together. We’re independent enough, though, that I was still able to have my necessary “alone time” when we split up to gamble after dinner and during a Sunday morning walk around the public areas of the resort.  As the only non-coupled person on the trip, I also had my own room to retreat to.
  • I got to wear a silly balloon hat made by the stiltwalker at Margaritaville, which is something I would never do if I were traveling alone. That’s the sort of thing that’s only fun when you’re part of a group.
  • I managed to avoid a long, lonely solo drive to Connecticut by carpooling with the other Vermont family members.

In other words, it totally worked for me. Now, I’m not saying I want to travel like this all the time.  I still prefer solo travel.  But this was a fun weekend.  Just as we travel to get out of the ruts we’re in at home in our everyday lives, I think we sometimes get into travel ruts, too.  Doing things the same way all the time can be comforting in its familiarity, but after this trip, I would like to advocate shaking up your travel routine.  See how the other half lives once in awhile.

Emily Sims October 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I like the point you made in the last paragraph–we do get into travel ruts sometimes. It’s good to try a new way every now and then 🙂

SoloFriendly May 6, 2010 at 11:12 pm

Oh yes, it's fun to meet up with people on the road, not so much fun to plan group travel for a bunch of people yourself.

Simon May 6, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Lovely post, funny and so true! I'm also a fan of solo travels (or at most traveling with a very good friend) and the few times I had a journey with a group it was… uhm… not that great fun. Instead, I had awesome experiences with people I met on the road and with whom I shared a piece of the journey. That's the 'no solo' traveling I like!

Simon
http://www.wild-about-travel.com

SoloFriendly May 5, 2010 at 11:09 am

I wonder how many people are driven to solo travel for the same reason? 🙂

Emily @ Maiden Voyage May 5, 2010 at 12:51 am

You are SO right — planning group travel can feel impossible! Last summer, I was in charge of planning a vacation for a relative and I. It took countless hours of research, phone calls, back and forth emails, etc…it literally took months to sort everything out. We were going to many cities in two countries over a period of two weeks, and it was a logistical nightmare! While we did have quite a lot of fun, part of me wanted to make sure my next trip was solo, so I only had to worry about my schedule, comfort level, and needs/wants!

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