If you have ever been to a team development meeting you may have come across the terms “Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing”. I know, I know…. If you are anything like me when you have to attend these meetings it’s with exaggerated eye rolls and under threat of being fired if you don’t attend. BUT –  what is boring when applied to a bunch of work mates you have no vested interest in and what is really handy to know when travelling are two different things.

If, after reading my previous articles about group travel and having taken me up on the offer of a free call (shameless business plug) you decide that booking a group trip is for you then you will need to know the stages of group development. I have had my fair share of personality clashes on group trips, one of which even included a death threat in China (a story for another day), so I know what I am talking about when it comes to harmonious tour group development.

The first stage is Forming –

This is when you first meet your fellow travel buddies and are still trying to figure out where everybody is from and remember their names. It’s the time you might feel the most anxious and uncertain about your decision to book a group trip and wonder what you are doing with all these strangers. Chances are they feel exactly the same so everyone is on their best behaviour so they will be “accepted” by the herd. This is usually the time everyone avoids talking about politics, religion or anything controversial and focuses on talking about the weather instead.

This is also an interesting time to people watch and see their personality traits shining through. Are they overly chatty and friendly to compensate for lack of self confidence, are they reserved and stand off-ish waiting until they feel more comfortable in the group, are they trying to dominate conversation and direct the group already even though they are not the tour leader? It can be an interesting time in group development if you are paying attention.

This is an important stage for the Tour leader to work through as it’s here that discussions about purpose, expected behaviour, responsibilities on tour etc are discussed and when people are paying the most attention.

Next comes Storming –

This is when people are feeling comfortable around each other and start pushing the boundaries set in the forming stage. It’s most easily recognised when there is conflict and competition amongst group members. People understand enough of the tour group dynamics and the personalities within it to start pushing their weight around and expressing some of their more controversial opinions or traits.

It can be as open as death threats like I experienced in China or as subtle as back stabbing and sulking in the back seat of the bus. Some groups never make it out of this stage if the Tour leader does not recognise it and address the issues.

Norming –

Eventually most groups will move into the norming stage. This is when people start to resolve their differences, accept that they are stuck with this person for the duration of the tour and appreciate their talents, skills and experience even if they still don’t like them personally. Now that the tour group knows more about each other their is a greater sense of trust and conversations are free flowing and everyone feels part of a cohesive unit with a sense of community.

Sadly then comes Adjourning –

After spending an intense period of time together sharing some incredible experiences it can be sad to say goodbye. Thoughts of home, work and the life you just escaped from can creep back in and affect your moods on the final few days of tour. People will promise to keep in touch and share photos and they will friend you on social media but eventually you will only stay in contact with a select few, if any, from the tour as people adjust back into their daily lives.

This stage doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom though as you can be thankful for the people you shared those amazing experiences with and you will make some lasting friendships. You may even feel relief that you no longer have to spend time with those people you didn’t bond with like I did in China.

So there you have it – the 4 stages of a tour group. I wish someone had told me about these natural stages before I went on a group trip and while it won’t mean you get on with everyone you will at least now be able to recognise the natural stages and be more willing to move through them.

Safe travels wanderers and as always –

Carry On,


I’m Anna Kernohan, an Adventure Consultant. I use my 17 years of travel experience and my background in Paramedics and Safety to provide professional advice and travel companion services to those wanting to travel but not in a tour group or alone. You’ll never have to worry about being alone in a foreign country again.

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