Booking for a group can be traumatising, but these tips can help keep your sanity.
Whether it's just a weekend away or a big backpacking trip through Thailand, organising a holiday on behalf of your friends or extended family can be a harrowing experience.
Only those who love to plan will ever volunteer to organise a trip for their group of friends or family, and even then the chaos that is human nature will drive anyone to give up and do a staycation.
But if you push through you'll end up with a treasure trove of memories with the most important people in your life.
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Here are a few tips to keep your sanity when organising a trip for a big squad.
Create a WhatsApp group
WhatsApp groups may have originated in the ninth circle of hell, but they remain the most practical way of organising yourself and others, including during the trip if you're separated from your crew for whatever reason. You can also create a Facebook messenger group or email thread, but these don't work so well if you need immediate answers from people.
You can try to enact discipline in the group, but know it will eventually succumb to a flurry of gifs and memes eventually.
Nominate a second-in-command
Every organiser needs a minion, and no one is Wonder Woman. This person can help follow up on bookings and researching accommodation and activity options. They're also an extra pair of eyes to double check everything in case a wrong date creeps in.
They can also prop you up if everything goes down in flames.
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Look up three options for each place
Firstly, determine what the max is that everyone wants to pay, and then work within the parameters of the lowest number. Get at least three options - two on the budget and one that's slightly more but offers either a unique setting, luxury or is well-placed in the area. Sometimes people are willing to spend a little more if it's worth it.
Also try a variety of accommodation options - backpackers, chalets, house rentals, hotels - and if you're city/town hopping a variety of accommodation options can create different experiences. Going cheap in one spot means you can splurge in another.
Book accommodation that has enough beds - no one wants to sleep on the couch
Don't fall for the trap that if a rental has 6 beds but you're 8 people and you think, 'Oh two people can sleep on the couch or on a blow-up mattress.' Just don't do it. No one wants to sleep on the floor, and it will result in one or two people being grumpy for the whole weekend.
Rather camp than skimp on one person's good night sleep.
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Make everyone send you a copy of their passports
If you're organising flight tickets, make everyone send a copy of their passports. You'll be certain of the spelling of their name and birth dates, and it's also a good way to make sure no one's passport is expiring in six months time without harassing them to check. Also remind everyone that they must have at least two pages open for stamps.
This might seem a bit pedantic, but it's better than having to turn around at the border because one person's passport isn't on point.
But don't organise people's visas for them
If you volunteered to organise everything, you're also going to be tempted to organise everyone's visas if it's needed, but for the love of your sanity make everyone else do it. What you can do is collect all the information to apply and send to everyone (via the Whatsapp group where there's hopefully not too many cat memes yet) as well as the itinerary documentation they need for their application.
Beyond that, they need to sort themselves out, or if everyone's willing to pay can all chip in for a visa company to do it for everyone together.
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Create a spreadsheet for costs and dates
If you're making all the bookings, keep track of what you're paying, who owes you and who has already paid what. Rather than doing it in bits, book everything you are able to and make everyone pay big lump sums, preferably before you make all the bookings so that your bank account doesn't suffer overdrafts.
If you're only two people it's easy to try to pay only half up front and have the other person pay when you get there, but in big groups rather pay for everything in advance so you don't have to suddenly try and remember who owes what when an annoyed check-in clerk stares at you.
Work out who's driving early on
If you're road tripping, take a similar approach as the accommodation - if not everyone can sit comfortably, then take another car. With the petrol prices squeezing everyone, make sure you take the cars that are the most fuel efficient and then let the people driving in the cars sort out the petrol themselves.
The trick to planning a trip for a large group is to know when to step back from organising everything yourself.
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Plan a meetup time at the boarding gate
If you're flying, organise a time to meet at the boarding gate rather than at the check-in counter. Trying to herd everyone together through security and sticking together will give you a headache before your holiday even starts. Instead everyone can make their way through at their own pace without stressing others out.
Everyone can also team up with a travel buddy to do the whole check-in together and make sure no one is left behind, especially when going through hectic airports like OR Tambo during the chaos of the December period.
Don't become a travel agent
The most important thing to remember is that this is your holiday as well - you just need to get everyone to their destination. After that the organiser gets kicked to the curb as soon as the first rays of the beach sunshine on your perfectly sunscreened face.
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