What is the best advice when it comes to group travel in Iceland? What are the different travel options available for groups, and what are the benefits and drawbacks over travelling solo? How can you enjoy your holiday if you and your group fail to see eye-to-eye? Find out more with our 7 Crucial Trips for (surviving) Group Travel in Iceland.
Tim Cahill, founding editor of the impressive travel publication, Outside Magazine, once wrote the now widely circulated phrase-
“A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles”.
Here, Cahill was alluding to the bonds we share as travellers, the human connection and stories that arise effortlessly with shared experience. In other words, it is the people we meet on our respective journey that truly quantify the journey's value....
...Welcome to the world of Group Travel!
Photo From: Solheimajokull Ice Climbing & Glacier Hike.
Group Travel has been defined a lot of ways by those in the tourism industry. Booking agents will usually consider more discounts and customisations for groups that exceed ten people, though it is common practice in our jet-setting age for groups to reach triple figures, thus requiring further attention. To put it another way, Group Travel is something of a broad term.
For those who are used to travelling as an individual or, perhaps, with one significant other, group travel connotates much smaller parties. For example, I would consider it correct that if your travelling party can fit into one or even two vehicles—say a family of five or a group of six friends—this would still fit under the classification of group travel. You will be in one another's company, regardless.
Photo From: Solheimajokull Ice Climbing & Glacier Hike.
So, this article is mainly directed to those who will be visiting Iceland in smaller groups, offering some handy advice on how best to enjoy, and even survive, one another's company over the period of one or two weeks.
After all, to experience Iceland to the fullest, as one should, travelling parties will have to be able to keep calm, collected and agreeable in one another's company. You will be spending a lot of time together in the car, on the hillsides, in the hot pools and hotel bar... let's hope you like one another as much as you think you do!
Group Travel has become one of the most exciting means of discovering a country, allowing large parties to venture out and, together, unravel the hidden secrets of this newfound destination. The collective experience is an integral part of that attraction, not only during the holiday itself but also in the planning stages, the counting down the days beforehand and in the memories that are left after.
Header Photo: Skaftafell Glacier Hike | Medium Difficulty.
Iceland, of course, is one of the most awe-inspiring countries on planet Earth, a fact that has been readily picked up on in the last 10 years.
With unique and dramatic nature, a friendly, local population with great command of the English language and a never-ending stream of exciting activities, events and cultural exhibitions, this land could not be any more suited to group travel.
But what are some of the best tips for avoiding any of the unnecessary stress often associated with group travel?
Let's start with that oh-so-mature concept; patience. Those who have experienced one of Iceland's greatest natural attractions, the Northern Lights, know all too well how important maintaining a cool head is during your holiday.
Trips abroad have just as much potential to be stressful as they do stress-free, especially if members of your party are impatient with one another.
And what's the right move in a situation like that... Take a deep breath. Breathe. And let it go.
Whether you’re travelling with friends, family or business associates, one thing is guaranteed; over the space of your holiday, you will be annoyed, at least once, by another member of your party.
Let's face facts here, you will be sharing nearly every waking moment with them... eating with them, sleeping (near)/with them, driving with them, hiking with them, sightseeing with them, talking with them, snorkelling with them...
Unless a conscious decision to split up is taken beforehand, you best get used to the people you're with until your departure flight home (even then, they'll probably be sitting next to you on the plane.)
As the party enlarges, you will find yourself competing to be heard, offering up your ideas as to where you want to stay, what you want to do and what attractions you would like to see.
Understand that everyone in the group will have their own ideal itinerary to follow, but compromise is healthy, practical and, frankly, the only way forward unless you’d like to be ditched by the roadside for whining.
If not with family, but certainly in the case of friends and colleagues, you will likely find yourself noticing habits that can be a touch irritating in those around you. Perhaps, not, but after five intimate days in a vehicle with those you normally spend a limited amount of time with, it is best to accept that tempers and tensions may flare at certain points.
To celebrate our company’s growing popularity as Iceland’s go-to information provider on everything ice and fire, 2017 saw Guide To Iceland take a week’s trip to Morocco, with a one-night stopover in the city of love, Paris. Together, we would experience firsthand the ups and downs of travelling as a party, just one of the many benefits that come with working in this sector.
Personally, this was the first time I have taken an overseas trip with my place of employment, and the experience was one I shall forever cherish. This was not only due to the incredible beauty we found at such place, but also the group dynamic; it was the fact that we did it together that topped the cherry on the cake. It is why I feel confident in providing some authentic advice as to the advantages of pitfalls of group travel as a concept.
I was one of the luckier group members who held little (..to none, I'll be honest) responsibility for the trip, but I was still keenly aware of how much preparation and legwork such a journey needed.
With nearly 30 staff-members queuing in airport lines, boarding buses and checking into their hotels, one of the major concerns, almost immediately, was how to keep the group together (at which point, I should say, our trip organiser did a fantastic job.)
Because we are a well-behaved bunch, this tightness allowed for conversation between members of the team who, otherwise, would rarely encounter one another in the office, strengthening not only our personal relationships but the spirit and drive within our company.
This is not to mention the bond we now share over the various activities undertaken throughout the trip; riding camels through the Sahara, exploring Marrakech market, tackling the Atlas mountains... now, with such collective experience under our belt, I for one feel more comfortable and loyal to those around me, a peculiar thought to write out, but true nonetheless.
Travelling in a large group to Iceland is sure to provide a similar, unifying feeling. Alone, it is impossible to share and revel in the grandeur of this land’s dramatic nature, be it the glacial ice giants that creep down the mountainsides, to the rumbling volcanoes that dominate its horizon line.
With a nearly endless plethora of activities available here, you too will find yourself laughing, cheering and hugging in joy those who, only a short time ago, felt like a stranger.
Imagine, for instance, sharing in the joy as a pod of Orcas swim alongside your whale watching vessel, somewhere off the mountainous fjords of Akureyri.
Imagine the sense of conjoined adrenaline you would both feel after participating in a snorkelling tour in the glacial spring, Silfra Fissure.
Imagine the thrill, adventure and memories to be on a 2-person snowmobiling ride over Eyjafjallajökull.
Photo from: Affordable Golden Circle & Snowmobiling Day Tour
Whatever it is you and your group discover here together will be what binds you in the long-term, even opening the doors to friendships or romance you could never have once believed existed.
It is unlikely, given the nature of group travel, that your party will not have an itinerary pre-arranged before your arrival in the country.
This, really, is a matter of common sense; if you do find that, together, you've arrived at Keflavik Terminal with no real understanding of how or why you got there, and with no clear direction as to the next steps, I would reconsider your aptitude for overseas travel in the first place.
Organising group travel is one of the key areas that Guide To Iceland prides itself on, providing not only pre-arranged activities that capture the very best attractions and activities in the country but also a 24/7 customer service guarantee, meaning your group never need be left in the dark as to the possibilities at hand.
Another major point about organising your trip beforehand is the potential discounts that are available to large groups. Naturally, the groups will have to be quite large in order to secure said discount, making this a more likely option for wedding parties or work groups.
What I'm discussing here is not the peer pressure associated with that being pushed toward a night downtown in Reykjavík City (that is, entirely up to you), but rather, being knowingly aware of behaving in a manner that is incongruent to a respectful time in the country. This covers many things, from littering in the countryside, driving off-road or carving out names and words into the fragile Icelandic moss.
It also might be something as simple as a friend asking you to take a picture of them after they have climbed over safety barriers to get closer to natural attractions. One recent example was a man scaling the wet rocks beside Gullfoss Waterfall in order to achieve what I imagine he considered to be the "Ultimate Selfie".
Well, unfortunately for him, a number of others visitors at Gullfoss that day also chose to snapshot his behaviour, sending in their photos to various media outlets around the country. Unsurprisingly, such an action was met with immediate condemnation.
Another example is the group who became stranded at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon after collectively agreeing that picnicking on an iceberg was a clever idea. Let's be clear here; this was, though I'm only speculating, probably down to one individual offering his two cents as to how they could make their time at the lagoon special... I wonder how much persuasion it his fellow travellers? Either way, as the above picture shows, the picnic very quickly transformed into a rescue.
Of course, it doesn't help when global icons such as Justin Bieber choose to film themselves behaving in this manner in their wildly popular and influential music videos. I'm sorry Justin, I am, but it's on tape. It's on photograph. It's in gif format...
Those who have seen the video for "I'll Show You" will be aware of the above scene (...Justin attempts to escape the shame of his own musicianship by pointlessly rolling over some Icelandic moss), as well as a later moment where he steps, half nude, from the glacial lake, Jökulsárlón (undoubtedly a tad smaller in mass than a few seconds previously).
Either way, Justin and his group chose to find themselves above the law whilst in Iceland, no doubt impressing one another with their hilarious, albeit environmentally damaging antics. You know what's really cool? Being yourself... not emulating Captain Bashhearth over here.
Now, this doesn't mean taking on all of the responsibilities yourself; such an outlook can only lead to an enormous level of stress on your part, complemented by resentment towards the other members of your party.
A far wiser idea is to allow members of your group to work to their own experience. This way, your group will benefit from the strengths that only certain individuals can bring without feeling hampered by those inept few attempting too much.
When considering how to best divide activities, it is always good to fall back on the old saying, "too many cooks spoil the broth...". In other words, if your group lacks a natural leader, someone will have to step up to the plate and begin delegating.
For instance, if you are choosing to undertake a Self-Drive tour, it is likely that the vehicle will be insured under the driver's name alone. If it is decided beforehand that there will be a number of people driving throughout the trip, this will have to be specified with the rental company before taking possession of the vehicle.
In most cases, however, this means that one member of your group will be doing the majority of the driving throughout the duration of your holiday, a mentally tiring experience in itself. In light of that, other members of the group should take it upon themselves to fulfil the other obligations, be it figuring out the correct routes to attractions, preparing meals in the morning or even washing damp clothes.
In short, anything to help lessen the burden on individuals as a whole and, instead, share out the duties equally amongst you, is by far the recommended method when dealing with group travel.
Stepping on one another's toes, aka; "getting in each other's space" can be one of the most difficult points of group travel given the fact that, by default, you are in Iceland in order to spend time together. One point, to refer back to "Patience Is A Virtue", is the notion that, sometimes... just sometimes... the impatient individual is in the right.
This, without maliciousness, can occur where people feel trapped, enclosed together and craving the internal privacy with which they are used to.
Let's face facts, we're all human, we're all squabbling for attention. Well, that's one minute; the very next, our mood shifts like the wind and, without even realising it, we need a few moments of internal reflection, a few quiet moments of peacefulness. Then, when that doesn't work, we find ourselves in a bad mood. At which point, a little tension between the group is expected...
Travellers who are deliberately antagonistic within the group, those whose delight in the trivial annoyance of others, would do best to pack it in throughout the duration of your trip; otherwise, expect to find yourself experiencing group travel as the loneliest traveller in the country.
When travelling in a group, be wary of other's people's emotions, allowing them plenty of space and understanding should they begin to simmer. No one likes tension, and sometimes, the best course of action is to simply keep quiet and leave them alone.
Travelling with children, naturally, leaves the majority of the organisation to the adults within the group, with arrangements normally being made to satisfy both age brackets. Fortuitous as I am, the aspect of my childhood for which I am most thankful is the opportunity to travel alongside my parents and siblings, a trend that has continued into my later years.
Together, we experienced corners of the earth I would have otherwise never seen, nor perhaps had much inclination to do so, and yet having been pressed into travel either way (before 17, I was, pretty much, warrant to the parental impulse), it has come to sculpt an enormous part of my identity. It is in the DNA, somehow, and I would have it no other way.
Father and daughter in a glacier replica - Photo courtesy of Perlan Museum
Though I visited Iceland many years after I flew the domestic coup, I am captivated by how this place might have sculpted me then, rather than now. Whenever I receive an email from a parent enquiring as to whether Iceland suits kids, young or old, I reply with a resounding “YES”.
And yet, when travelling with friends or colleagues, it is just as important to keep aware that this experience is not just yours and yours alone. As aforementioned, it is by far the best course of action to decide beforehand exactly what each member of the group is looking to see, do and experience prior to the beginning of the holiday if only to avoid reliving scenes from 'The Notebook.' By granting one another space to highlight what each of you is looking to get out of the holiday experience, you minimise unhappy disagreements later on, when it really matters. It also allows the group time to ponder on one another's choices, deciding whether they would like to join for certain attractions and activities, or if they'd rather spend the time alone doing something different.
Remember, just because you're travelling as a group doesn't mean you can't split into smaller sub-sections. This is one of the easier ways to respect those you are travelling with, not taking it as an affront should they wish to undertake different experiences to you.
Did you enjoy our article "7 Crucial Tips For Group Travel In Iceland"? How did you experience travelling in the group in the country, and what were some of the advantages and disadvantages that you came across? Make sure to leave your comments and queries in the Facebook comment's box below.