The term 'group holiday' doesn't typically invite the most glamorous of visions. Silhouettes of barely 17-year-olds passed out on the bustling, boozy strip of Magaluf come to mind. Flashbacks to tortuous episodes of Coach Trip and images of 'organised fun for the elderly' aren't the most enticing either. Sometimes you neither want to spend a week indulging in competitive binge drinking, risk bus eviction at the hands of Brendan Sheerin nor wait until retirement to go on holiday with likeminded people. Sometimes, you simply want to go on vacation, experience new places and meet new people. And no, it's not too much to ask.
Group travel exists in a form that can be orientated to your needs much more than you might think. As an overbearingly skeptical young woman who is still far from mastering the art of making friends as an adult, I can report that I tried it and I'd do it again without hesitation.
Topdeck Travel run trips that specifically cater to the 18-30 something age bracket. What they do is far from the 'Club 18-30' package holidays of the of 2000s which, since their demise (Thomas Cook have announced they might be ditching the 20-year-old brand), has left travel hungry millennials with a bitter aftertaste of what holidaying at our age is meant to look like. Visiting places on the other side of the world, experiencing those one-of-a-kind (yes, Instagram-friendly) moments and doing those bucket list things which, if left to your own devices, you'd never pluck up the courage to do? That's what grown up group travel is meant to look like.
To those of us on the wrong side of the Atlantic, a holiday in Florida screams one word: families. Home to Disney and Universal studio resorts, if you overhear someone in the office talking about visiting to Orlando, it'd be fair to assume that it involves a couple of kids, a too-cool-for-this teenager and a few teary-eyed rides on 'Its A Small World'. Topdeck's Florida Calling tour however, is far from it. Although that said, I did go on the 'Its A Small World' ride and came out the other side a little emotionally fragile.
Disney World is where it all started: a day in the magic kingdom where early bonds are forged with the rest of the unsuspecting group of travelers over mutual fears of rollercoasters and the spectacle Festival of Fantasy parade. The most magical place on earth was made even more magical by the freedom of being in an adult-only group. The bathroom pitstop was a smoother affair, too.
As with the majority of meals on this sort of trip, dinner was prearranged. A night in one of their budget-friendly hotels was followed by another full-on visit to Universal Studios before hitting the road for a drive down to Miami.
We can all agree making friends - and I mean real friends in the old school sense, no romantic, career or social media driven attachments involved - as an adult is really hard. But I'll never fail to be surprised by how quickly bonds are formed between strangers when you pop them on a coach and give them a couple of activities to do. The journey down to Miami was briefly interrupted with an airboat experience at an alligator swamp, however I won't deny that those initial glimmers of friendship were solidified over tapas (shared food is a real test) and poolside drinks at the trendy Freehand Miami Hotel where we stayed for a couple of nights.
The real variety on offer is boasted mid-trip. Traipsing off to Miami Beach, roaming around the famous Wynwood art district and a taste for the Miami nightlife were all on the cards and to be taken at a pace of your choice. Don't expect to be pressured onto a speed boat adventure along Star Island if that's not your thing, but equally do expect to tick off another thing that you didn't even realise was on your bucket list. The power of insightfully planned organised fun, eh? Who knew.
Another stint on the coach led us down to Florida Keys, the southernmost point in the United States. We're talking snorkelling, parasailing and jet-skiing complimented by pool-side meandering and exploring the idilic town of Key West's pastel painted houses. In short, a week long tour of Florida, not as I knew it.
I'm sure anyone who's gone through the administrative torture of organising a hen party, girls' holiday or even Friday night drinks with more than one other person will be with me as I reluctantly look back on the painful frustration of it all. The cyclical group chat conversations without getting anywhere. That all too familiar feeling of wanting to go on holiday but not wanting to wait until your friends and family can make a decision on the destination turns out to have an answer. The solution is to go it alone, with a group of strangers.
Turns out group travel as a grown-up doesn't have to fulfill the cliches that have haunted your memories of post-A-level summer breaks, nor the stale package holidays that cater to everyone but the young lone traveller. We can go beyond the Balearic Island without having to call it a gap year and, dare I say it, make an adult mate outside of the office in the process. Group travel, we've found, can be exactly what you want it to be, without the hassle of having to plan it yourself.
Find out more about Topdeck's Eight-Day Florida Calling tour, and other destinations _on their website****__._
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