Learning to navigate personalities is all part of the group travel experience.

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I still recall the cast of obnoxious characters. There was the loudmouth who always had a smart and inappropriate comment, the regular traveller who no matter what great site we visited had seen better, and the whinger who hated the food because it was “too German”.

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An honourable mention goes to the hair-pulling pair who brawled on the bus. We usually took turns in a window seat each day, but that morning one refused to move – and fisticuffs ensued.

The exasperated tour leader one day confided, “We have way too many ‘Peters’ in the group.” When I asked what she meant, the reply came, “No, not a man’s name. It’s actually spelt P-I-T-A. It means ‘pain in the arse!’.”

Fast-forward a decade of almost exclusively solo travel and I recently embarked, initially reluctantly, on two group tours – one to Cambodia, the other to Japan. Both experiences were so wonderful I finally discovered there’s lots to love about group travel.

Despite what went down in Germany all those years ago, one of the main things I found I enjoy about group travel is indeed the cast of characters and camaraderie that emerges as you explore one location after another. It’s all great fun, but it doesn’t mean group travel has become a PITA-free zone. There’s always one or two in every group, as indeed there was on these recent tours.

A decade ago, I spent two weeks travelling around Germany on a group tour. Picture: iStock,

In Cambodia, we had a boastful sex tourist whose seedy antics eventually saw him being asked to leave and, in Japan, a Canadian couple who only wanted hamburgers at each meal.

A group of strangers is always going to be a mixed bag, with some people certain to chafe against each other. But a PITA is usually easy to spot.

They will complain about everything, will tell one loud, obnoxious story after another in language that turns a dark shade of blue, and often “indulge” so heavily that they’re drunk most nights and hungover most mornings.

The PITA also doesn’t like the bus, hotels, restaurants, food, the locals, and is prepared to let everyone know. And is someone who, despite the glories of what you see or experience,is underwhelmed. Worst of all, a PITA is almost guaranteed to be late for every group meeting time and is always last on the bus.

In Cambodia, we had a boastful sex tourist whose seedy antics eventually saw him being asked to leave. Picture: iStock.

When it comes to the dynamics of a travel group, tour leader Christian Closs of Untold Japan says, “There are always roles on any tour – the entertainers and jesters, the shy and curious, and the beacons of calm who sail through it all.

“I advise people to have an idea of your character and how that fits into the group, and play it for the benefit of everyone. Be open-minded and respectful, lead by example and, most importantly, remember that everyone is, the same as you, on holidays. So chill out a little.”

All of which means it pays to do a personal check throughout the tour and whether, after an ill-timed comment or joke that goes terribly wrong, you don’t find yourself as the group PITA!

No matter what, travel tour leader Scotty McRae of The Travelling Guy says, avoid discussing politics and religion.

In Japan, a Canadian couple only wanted hamburgers at each meal. Picture: iStock.

“The number-one lesson is to read the room, take some time to observe the group dynamics and get to know to each person as it unfolds,” he says. “Don’t be in a rush to befriend everyone and command attention, nor be the surly one who always stays in the background.

“Attempt to be positive and engaging about what you’re doing and seeing, and just go with it – that’s what exploring is all about, rather than being negative and always with a snarky comment that brings people down.”

McRae says he’s seen occasions when the group dynamic eventually takes care of the behaviour of a PITA.

“I’ve witnessed an entire group turn on those kinds of people by eventually excluding them, as they’re just too difficult to deal with,” he says, recalling one group participant who, in the early days of a tour, went overboard with a smart mouth that rubbed everyone the wrong way.

Take some time to observe the group dynamics and get to know to each person as the tour unfolds. Picture: iStock.

“By day three, no one would talk to him, so eventually I had a quiet chat and just told him to relax and tone it down. Which he did, and in the long run it ended up being a great tour for everyone.”

Maybe if that kind of resolution had been put into play all those years ago in Germany, I might not have gone so long trying a group tour again. These days, I have resigned myself to the reality there’s probably going to be one or two PITAs on my next tour and I am determined to just roll with it.

And before I go hurling any stones in the glasshouse, I will check myself twice to ensure I am not one of them.

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