I have the good fortune to be married to a man who LOVES to travel. He has given me two children who LOVE to travel. It seems we are in a perpetual state of planning travel! We learned long ago that the key to a successful trip is planning on a timeline. The same applies to planning your group travel. The fundamental success of your adventure lies in laying it out ahead of time (kind of like packing your suitcase!)
Planning Your Travel Timeline
If you are a seasoned group tour planner or striking out on your own for the first time, you’ll have lots of questions to answer, lots of details to check off your list, and lots of deadlines to meet. Below are some GENERAL guidelines to follow as you prepare for your departure date. Depending on the unique needs of your group, not all of these checkpoints will apply. For example, some music or band festivals must be booked more than two years in advance or certain museums require reservations more than a year out. Again, think in terms of benchmarks, not specifics!
18 Months Prior to Departure
- Create your attendance list.
- Determine the approximate length and dates of the trip
- Begin researching your chosen destination to find out what attractions, museums, theme parks, outdoor adventures, water parks, etc. you would like to attend and the costs associated with each.
- Begin researching transportation, hotels, vacation homes, dining and shopping (if applicable) and the costs associated with each.
- If this is a school trip, request approval from your administration
10 to 12 Months Prior to Departure
- Set firm dates.
- If you plan to fly, final pricing may not be available until 10 months prior to departure. Also, arrange transportation to and from the airport once you have secured your flights.
- Motorcoach/minibus companies also work 10 months in advance. If traveling by motorcoach or minibus, you should begin requesting pricing (called quotes) and book your transportation company.
- Begin searching for hotel/vacation homes and request prices. Once you find a price you like, book it!
- If you decide to include meals in your trip, you’ll want to remember to choose a group-friendly restaurant or dinner show. Ask for their best group pricing and then book it before the space is gone.
- If shopping is on your itinerary, this is a good time to request a meet and greet with the shopping center or store and secure discounts for your group.
- If you are traveling with students, determine who will help chaperone the trip. Parents, teachers, sponsors, etc. need time to plan as well!
- Finalize your itinerary.
- Project the estimated/approximate cost per person.
- Begin promoting your trip (including the cost per person) via email, flyers, posters, website, social media, newsletters, etc.
- Set up a deposit and payment schedule for each member in your group as they sign up.
- If participating in a music/dance/theatre festival, fill out all paperwork and submit.
- If you will offer travel protection (it’s strongly encouraged), now is the time to research, fill out paperwork and submit.
6 to 9 Months Prior to Departure
- Continue spreading the word about your trip via newsletters, social media, emails, meetings, etc., keeping interest alive with those who have signed up and possibly attracting a few more to participants.
- If you are a school group, scouting troop, youth group etc., now is the time to fundraise.
- If your trip is educational, research and create the curriculum to support your goals.
- Distribute a copy of the itinerary to all members of your group. (meetings, association, youth group, scouting, religious, reunion, etc.)
- Participants should be signed up and deposits paid.
- Confirm all reservations including hotel/vacation homes, transportation, attractions, dining, shopping and travel insurance.
4 Months Prior to Departure
- Continue promoting the trip and contact anyone who has shown an interest but still has not committed.
- Continue fundraising, if needed.
- Collect payments per your payment schedule.
3 Months Prior to Departure
- Final payments should be paid.
- Finalize lists of all participants and choose roommates for hotels (if applicable), seating arrangements on the motorcoach (if applicable), and/or seating arrangements on your flight if flying.
- Purchase all theme park, attraction, water park and dinner show tickets and begin making final payments to your chosen hotel/vacation homes, restaurants, transportation companies, etc.
1 Month Prior to Departure
- Schedule a final meeting to confirm the details of your trip including packing lists, travel tips and any last-minute information.
- Gather emergency contact, medical and allergy information from each traveler.
- Be sure you have all completed permission forms, travel insurance forms, etc.
While this timeline may seem a bit cumbersome, it’s a great tool for organizing your thoughts and details of the trip. Just as we always manage to get our bags packed and out the door on time, a little pre-planning will help guide you smoothly to your departure date as well!
Next in the Series – Finding Stuff To Do!