Traveler BINGO! At my very first pre-departure meeting (what's a pre-departure meeting? click here to find out), I have my students play a strange version of BINGO. It isn't like the actual game of bingo, it is an icebreaker to have them get out of their shell, and talk to the to the others who will be traveling with them on tour. I give each traveler a copy of Traveler BINGO, and tell them that the first person to get five in a row wins a prize, but the game doesn't stop until everyone has five in a row. Another key ingredient to breaking the ice is AFTER the game, and going through each square to see who fit each description. Click here to steal my copy and edit as needed!
This is a fun game that gets your travelers up and moving, and most importantly: interacting with each other!
At the second pre-departure meeting, I like to have my travelers play "the name game." To play the name game, you will need to:
Step 1 - have everyone stand in a circle
Step 2 - tell everyone to think of something that they "like".
Step 3 - explain that you will start the game by saying your name and what you like. Example: My name is Jessica and I like icecream.
Step 4 - The next person to go must repeat what the first person said, and then add their own name and what they like. Example: Your name is Jessica and you like icecream, my name is Jackson and I like to play soccer.
Step 5 - The game will continue on in that fashion, adding a person and their like each time.
Step 6 - You will be the last person to go, and list EVERYONE's name and what they like.
It sounds almost impossible, but if you just pay attention to each person and "practice" in your head with each round, you will find that it only took your group 10-15 minutes to learn everyone's name and something that they like.
Before tour, I like to organize a dinner that reflects the culture of our tour destination. For example, if the tour is going to Italy, we can all meet at an Italian Restaurant, or have a potluck with an Italian theme. I like to go all out and play some Italian music in the background, set the tables to look like a little cafe you where you might dine on tour. Having a dinner encourages everyone to meet together and talk over a meal. This is a very natural way to encourage your group to get to know each other before your tour.
At my third pre-departure meeting, I like to hold a luggage derby. This activity has two purposes: (1) I like for the travelers to gain an understanding of just how heavy and cumbersome their luggage will be when they overpack (2) I also like for the travelers to get to know each other better by working together to win the derby.
Here is how it works:
Before the meeting:
I tell the travelers to bring the suitcase that they are using on tour, and to put 40lbs of anything in it. Most use textbooks, or free weights. I set up the building for the derby by creating signs with arrows pointing the direction that they travelers should follow.. I require them to go to different stations in the building where they will have to successfully pass through "passport control," and then "customs" before they head to "baggage claim" and then look for the "exit." As part of the derby I require them to go up and downstairs with their suit case, and use the elevators (which they find is quite difficult with some many people and their luggage in tow).
At the meeting/before the derby:
When the travelers arrive at the meeting, I divide them up into two teams, and give them a very vague description of what they have to accomplish. They just know that it is a race (and they cannot run!), and the first team who correctly follows the path, and makes it back to the start first, wins.
After the derby:
We have a little debriefing session and discuss the most difficult parts of the activity, and how it might affect their packing.
To be honest, the parents watching from the sidelines really enjoy this the most, because it is quite comical to watch the travelers go through the obstacle course and try to make it back quickly without running. It never hurts to think about how heavy your luggage will feel when it is over packed and you have to carry it it quite a bit on tour.
One week before my tour departs we will have our final pre-departure meeting. My tour is in June, and I live in Texas, so the weather is usually warm enough to swim. I will survey the families of my travelers months in advance to find out who has a pool (very common in TX), and if they might be interested in hosting our group for a final meeting/swim party at their house. I know that this is A LOT to ask. My group sizes have grown over the years, and I now have a full bus! That means that there are 50 travelers, plus at least another parent or family member (possibly hosting a party 100-150 people!). There is usually a family who wants to help out, and doesn't mind hosting our last party at their house.
I will make a signup sheet, and have all the travelers bring food, and we usually cook out. We will start the meeting at around 5pm, and then when the meeting is over the travelers will all stay and swim. This is always a great time, and besides the travelers getting to know each other, the parents of the travelers have a chance to sit around and chat and make connections too.
What ideas do you have for breaking the ice, and making your group a little more social? Let me know in the comments below!