Tour experts weigh in on some of the best icebreakers to help group socialize and to promote camaraderie

Getting a diverse mix of tour members to start talking with each other may require some behind-the-scenes maneuvering on the part of the tour director. We asked Leisure Group Travel readers what works for them when it comes to the best icebreakers. Below are their answers to the questions: How do you get a busload of strangers to mix and socialize? What are your techniques for promoting group camaraderie on tours?

I find it best to have what I call a “pre-party” for our bus trips that are more than one day. It’s at these get-togethers where people meet and mingle best, and we can include some fun icebreakers. Of course, refreshments are always served.

Judy Hoppie
Brigham City Community Hospital
Brigham City, UT

Getting a busload of strangers to mix and socialize has always been easy for me. Once we have loaded on our bus I welcome each one and ask for any new travelers to raise their hand. Next I ask all of our regular guests to introduce themselves during the trip. After this I introduce myself and most of the time my grandson goes on our trips so I introduce him. He knows what he needs to do. He will intermingle with each guest and before long everyone is just having a great time and laughing and much more. Just before we leave I have a word of prayer. I continually thank them for being here today and for their fellowship. Also have a group saying. Mine is “Let’s Have Fun in the Sun.”

Joseph Yokshas
Papa Joe Will Travel
Winter Haven, FL

Sometimes I like to break the ice on a tour by randomly handing out name tags shortly after departure. When the passengers inevitably say “this isn’t mine,” I ask them to humor me and put it on anyway. Then, at the first rest stop everybody has to find the person wearing their name tag. It’s a great way to break the ice right off the bat!

Bob Roth
Lakeland Bus Lines, Inc.
Dover, NJ

These are my guidelines for creating a busload of happy people:

1. Be a warm gentle person.
2. Treat each guest as a guest in your home.
3. Try to address them by name.
4. Prior to the tour check to see from where the people come – try to introduce them to other people from their area.
5. If you know a couple of the people have the same interest or hobby, introduce them.
6. Have games as icebreakers that help them intermingle or start conversing.
7. Start the tour with a quotation, poem, proverb, etc. so they will relax and respond.
8. Talk about future tours and ask for their interest in them.
9. Get the coach driver involved, so he or she will respond.
10. Before you depart for the tour, walk through the coach greeting the people, and if possible tell individuals about anyone who may live near them, or something to get them conversing.

I believe if you sincerely enjoy people and what you are doing, you will automatically have the people enjoying one another and the tour.

Esther M. Scott
Assistant Vice President
Hinsdale Bank & Trust
Hinsdale, IL

I start at the front and pass around a roll of toilet paper and tell everyone to take only what they will need. When it comes back to the front, I start with the last person and we go around and tell first their name and where they are from. Then with their toilet paper sheets they have to tell one interesting thing about themselves for every sheet they tore off. We have a lot of fun with it!

Shirley Howie-Garrett
Sunshine Travel
Lancaster, SC

On all overnight trips we prepare name tags that are worn for the duration of the trip—this helps people get to know each other’s names. We make everyone feel welcome by passing out a bottle of water and a small treat. Seats are rotated each day so people are sitting near new people and they get to know each other. We try early on an overnight trip to play a game whereby people have to quiz each other to obtain the answers—this helps everyone mix. We have a joke-telling period on all trips which helps people enjoy themselves with a laugh or two. I believe it is human nature to feel wanted and appreciated, and this is our main goal in helping to make trips successful.

Eunice Morrow
Torrance-South Bay YMCA
Torrance, CA

At the first stop for a meal, you have everyone at the table tell three things about themselves. One thing must be the truth and the other two things have to be a tall tale or something they dreamed of doing but never did. You go around the table and start with the first person who has three things ready to tell. No one is allowed to ask questions or make comments. Then the first person to their left has to state which of the three statements is true. The person who told the three things does not say either way whether it is true or false until everyone has made a guess. Then you see how many people you can stump with your three things. Then you go on to the next person and do it all over again. You learn so much about each other with these icebreakers and it’s loads of fun and laughs! Everyone seems to loosen up and talk among themselves after that.

Dianna Turner
Rutherfordton, NC

One of our favorite icebreakers is to make a list of questions, such as who speaks French or who has met a president. The wilder the question the better but stay in good taste!

Another game: Take an index card and list three things about yourself and one of them must be a lie. Put your name on it and then let the tour director read off the name and three things. The people on the bus must select the lie.

Brenda Tidwell
Leisure Time Charters & Tours
Emerson, GA

If the group is truly a mixture of areas, we always have everyone introduce themselves as well as play a game-type activity in the beginning that requires folks to match with another person through birth date, cards we have passed out or a few other things. Also, at our first stop we do a “mix” that involves everyone meeting other folks and when we get back on the bus they talk about what they found out. By the time we are through the group, we are well down the road and they don’t realize how long they have been riding.

Jackie Stempfer
Like Gold Tours
Murrysville, PA

Once all the pick-ups are finished, I like to serve a snack and chat with the passengers. While chatting with one couple, I will ask a question of the couple across the aisle to include them in the conversation. Once the two couples are chatting with each other, I casually move along to let them get further acquainted. If they already know each other or are traveling together, then I add in the couples in front or in back of them. Soon, everyone is talking with each other and adding other passengers into the conversation as well. At each stop, (coffee, lunch, etc.) I rotate the seats. I ask the passengers to leave something in their seat, on the aisle seat so that once move them they will know where to sit. I move each passenger’s belongings back two seats, putting the items on the window seat so that I don’t get mixed up with whom I have moved. By doing this, on a three-day tour, passengers will circle the whole bus before the trip is completed.

By the second day, every one is talking without my help and enjoying meeting and getting acquainted with new people at each change. If we are staying local the next day, I give them new seats when they get on (using the same rotation) in the morning and at lunch only. This method has always worked very well for me. By the time the trip is finished, no one wants to say goodbye to all the fun they had on the tour while getting to know each other along the way.

Linda Dickinson
Wrong Bus Holidays
Manchester, NH

One of the things I do for icebreakers is to hold a trivia contest. It relates to the neighborhood we are touring and gets people involved. An inexpensive trinket can be offered as a prize.

Susan Birnbaum
SusanSez NYC Walkabouts
New York, NY

Every morning after everyone is on the bus we sing “Good morning to you, good morning to you, we’re all in our places with sunshiney faces, Oh what a way to start a new day.”

Then we sing “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made, we will rejoice, we will rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it, This is the day that the Lord has made, We will be glad and rejoice in it, This is the day, this is the day that Lord has made.”

It’s hard to be grumpy after all that.

We rotate seats mornings and noon. The driver’s side moves forward and the door side moves back. That way people can get acquainted.

Ruth Duncan
Granger Roadrunner Travel Club
Texarkana, AR

Try put some of these icebreakers to use on your next group outing! For more group travel planning advice, be sure to check out the Expert Advice section.