How to not be the group tour douche bag
A group tour with Contiki, Topdeck or Busabout is one of the biggest and loosest parties we're legally allowed to experience. It can also be tough to handle. All the drinking, sightseeing, travel and promiscuous encounters day after day for weeks at a time would test even Pitbull's party stamina. You'll notice people slipping, treading close to the 'Douche Bag Zone'. This is a crumbling path paved with misadventures, oversleeping, cultural ignorance, flaccid priorities and more douchebaggery. You don't want to look back on your group tour and realise the douche bag was you. Recognise hints along the way (Contiki punishes douchebaggery with silly hats and public singing) and follow these dos and don'ts.
Do: Make yourself comfortable
The travel days can be long and those bus seats aren't First Class material. Make life easier with a few creature comforts such as a neck pillow, blanket and loose-fitting clothing. Snacks and water are also good for not getting 'hangry' a few hours out from your next stop.
Don't: Be the bus' Poo Bandit
No one wants this title, so save your number 2s for when you're not on the bus. It stinks out the coach and wafts around long after you've flushed thanks to the air-conditioning. A Spew Bandit is no better. Just keep your bodily fluids still unless you're heading out after pre-drinks.
Do: Take vitamins
With people getting drunk, wearing their bodies out and ingesting foreign foods and climates, someone is certain to get sick. Add in the close proximity and all that recycled air on the bus and there's good reason to fear an epidemic. Stock up on vitamins and make sure you're popping those pills every day.
Don't: Just hang out with your mates
Travel is one of the best experiences to share with good friends, but it's also a rare opportunity to connect with new people you might've never met (and not just in the biblical sense). Balance your friends with getting to know the rest of your touring group. You'll soon notice the two parties naturally merging.
Do: Make an effort to meet people outside of the tour group
That said, your group is merely a speck compared to the range of people you can meet in the cities and towns. You can make plenty of friends on the bus, but do you want to return home knowing your only other interactions were with bartenders? Cultural immersion is one of the most rewarding aspects of travel. The locals provide a very different taste of the world than your tour group and might even entice you to make a detour on your way home.
Don't: Shack up with your "future" wife or husband
On average, about 20 to 50 people will be on a tour. What's the chance of finding your future wife or husband? Very slim. It could happen (if it does, I'll marry you myself!), but is a slim-to-none chance worth spending three precious weeks overseas blowing kisses and playing footsies with someone you might never see again? No one will call you out for doing this – most of us have been there – but we don't need to. You'll be branding douche bag on your own butt cheek a few months later.
More group travel inspiration
Do: Catch up on sleep during longer bus rides
A tired you is a douchey you. Don't expect to get much sleep in your hotel; the bus leaves early and big nights out are the norm. But those bus rides, especially the longer trips, are great for catching up. However, you don't want to turn your back to your bus buddy and leave them hanging in the vortex of your intermittent snoring. Try to balance sleep with socialising and if it all goes to shit take some No-Doz and keep charging son! You can sleep when you get back to mum and dad's.
Don't: Be ignorant of other country's cultures and rules
If you succeed at any of these, please let it be this one. Ignorance is despised around the world and it won't be tolerated by your group or the locals. You won't be forgotten either. One traveller, many years after her tour, still remembers the group douche: "This guy on my bus tour was a pompous tool who didn't practise personal hygiene, kept cheese in his bag across borders and made remarks about harbouring Nazis in the Argentinian airport."
Do: Look after your hygiene
Personal hygiene separates us from the animals. No one wants to be stuck on a 10-hour bus ride next to a filthy animal who hasn't showered after spending the previous night dancing in a sweaty club and refilling his body's water with rum and coke. You will develop a reputation. It won't be flattering.
Don't: Oversleep and make everyone wait
Oversleeping can result in not showering and becoming a rotten trash bag. It can also result in making everyone wait for your pitiful presence and miss out on one or more of the promised experiences. Tour leaders will do their best to wake you, but if you can't be contacted, you will be left behind.
Do: Balance big nights with big days
It's hard not to party while on a group tour, but you need to balance the nights out with sightseeing the next day. Couch tours move quickly, ticking off multiple destinations, but also giving you little time to experience each one. Don't get too hungover or tired that you let one or more cities go unseen.
Cheers to all the Contiki, Topdeck and Busabout legends who lended their thoughts, experiences and mistakes in helping create this list.
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