Things You Need to Know When Planning Group Travel
Group travel is very different than individual travel. Successfully moving people as a unit involves precise planning and a lot of organization to ensure a seamless experience. Here is some helpful information to assist you in planning groups.
Utilize Group Air whenever possible
Groups of 10 or more traveling to the same destination qualify for group air. There are many benefits of booking group air, but the primary one is the ability to hold airline seats without the travelers’ names. Particularly for student travel, you often do not have a finalized name list until fairly close to the departure date. On most group air contracts, names are not due until 30 days from travel. (Some airlines will permit even later than that.) Last-minute name changes can also be accommodated, often without any fee. Individual tickets have no such provision.
Another little-known fact about group contracts is that we have the ability to negotiate price. For example, if we quote your group with a few different airlines and you like the route one has but the price is high, we can ask that airline to match another’s price. Often they will or they may counteroffer and meet you in the middle. Certain airlines are more likely to price match.
And finally, we can build a stipulation into a group contract that if the price drops at any time prior to ticketing, we can take advantage of that – something we cannot do with individual fares.
Deviations do not negate the possibility of group air
Sometime, group leaders dismiss group air as a possibility because they have travelers that will be deviating from the itinerary. Group air allows for deviations, although the policies vary among air carriers. For example, some allow unlimited deviations as long as the travelers fly one leg with the group. Others permit deviations on both legs but limit it to a percentage of the group. So if you have known deviations, we can review them with you and try to put the group on a carrier that can accommodate them within their policies and still provide the advantages group air offers.
It’s never too early to book flights
Booking flights should be your first priority when planning a group trip. As soon as you have your departure and return dates set, we can hold seats. Generally, the closer you get to your departure, the fewer seats will be available and the more expensive they’ll be. Although some group organizers are hesitant to book if it causes them to overestimate the number of seats they need, keep in mind that group air contracts permit a certain percentage of seat cancellations. It is also worth noting that even if we do have unutilized seats, the fees are relatively small (usually $100), which is far less than it would cost to try and add a seat to a contract. Airlines have also been known to waive utilization fees.
A day-to-day itinerary is essential
After dates are set and flights are booked, the number one priority becomes a day-to-day itinerary. Knowing where a group is traveling and what they are doing each day allows us to properly source accommodations and bid ground transportation. Particularly if you need an estimated budget for overall group travel, the day-to-day itinerary is paramount to determining total trip cost.
Preplan at least some activities
It is advisable to consider pre-planning major activities, especially if you have a large group or your group is traveling during peak travel season. Some venues require advance booking even for small groups and having train tickets, domestic flights, attractions, and possibly even restaurants booked in advance, allows the group to utilize time efficiently and get the most out of their day.
Whether to use the services of a DMC
A DMC is a destination management company. They are an inbound tour operator that receives your group from the minute you step off the plane and they manage the group the entire time you are in their country. Sometimes, hiring a DMC is the best choice for groups. Other times, one is completely unnecessary. Consider using the services of a DMC in the following situations:
- When you are traveling to a country with a group for the first time
- When you have complex transportation needs or are changing locations frequently, such as a multi-city or multi-country tour
- When you need a driver and vehicle on an all-day basis
- When the destination you are traveling to has a subpar infrastructure
- When your itinerary is subject to change on a daily basis
- When you anticipate needing in-country support or a “fixer” to accompany the group
The importance of rooming lists
One of the most overlooked items in group travel planning is rooming lists. Not all hotels ask for them, but it is always a good idea to provide them. Sending a rooming list to the hotel prior to the group’s arrival accomplishes several things:
- It gives the hotel a head’s up on diet and food allergies, particularly anaphylaxis such as peanuts or tree nuts, and other dietary requirements such as vegetarian, kosher, etc. This is particularly important when the hotel is booked with a meal plan.
- It allows the hotel to pre-assign rooms and room numbers to every person in the group. Especially when there are several hotels in the itinerary, this saves a lot of time at check-ins. When the group arrives, the group leader picks up all the keys and the list of who is in which room, and can distribute them quickly. There is no need for each person to check in individually as all names and passport info is sent ahead of time. It also provides the group leader with a quick reference of where everyone is located.
- When baggage handling is included, it helps ensure everyone gets their bag quickly. Because the room numbers are assigned ahead of time, the hotel can have someone waiting with numbered room tags. When the travelers get off the bus and identify their bags, they put the tag with the room number on the bag and travelers can go right to their rooms – luggage to follow shortly.
We have a standard rooming list template that we can send you, which captures all of the necessary information.
To start planning group travel or discuss a potential group, please contact Susan Godfrey: