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Group Travel 101: Plan Your First Trip

You’ve got a group of friends eager to travel together. So how do you get started on your first trip?

It comes down to three essential elements: Picking a destination, building an itinerary and planning the price.

Where to Go?

You might be tempted to swing for the fences on your first group trip, eyeing high-profile destinations like Ireland or Hawaii. And while a lot of  your friends may be eager to go there, they may have some reservations about taking such a big — and expensive — trip with you on your first time out as a travel planner.

As a result, most beginning travel planners start their efforts with a relatively inexpensive one- to three-day trip. This could feature anything from a special show, event or festival to a weekend getaway in a major city.

It would be easy to chose the destination for your first trip based solely on where you want to go. But before you jump the gun, do some research: Talk with your friends and potential travel buddies to see what trips might interest them. It is important to also allow as much lead time as possible — several months or longer to recruit a good group of travelers — rather than plan something at the last minute that could be difficult to execute.

What to Do

When it comes to planning a trip, you need more than the Internet to make sure you’re finding the best opportunities and experiences for your friends. There’s no substitute for firsthand experience, so if you haven’t visited a place yourself, you might consider enlisting some experts who have.

Most destinations have marketing organizations such as tourist boards, convention and visitors bureaus or chambers of commerce that can provide extremely valuable travel advice. And if you’re going abroad, consider using the services of a professional tour operator, who will know the ins and outs of the destinations and can help you plan a trip much better than what you could put together on your own.

Regardless of how you go about planning an itinerary, remembering that “variety is the spice of life,” You’ll want to include as many diverse attractions and activities as possible to create a satisfying travel experience. This will go beyond a list of museums to visit to include things like spa visits, golf outings, walking tours, outdoor adventures and, of course, some great local food.

Picking a Price

Price always matters, and the way you price your trips will have a big impact on how many people you can get to come with you. You’ll need to balance value against cost, and make sure that you have covered all your bases so that you don’t get left having to come out of pocket to pay for unforeseen travel expenses after the fact.

First, there are the per-capita expenses: Admissions, hotel accommodations, meals, etc., that will be the same regardless of the number of people traveling with you. However, the per-person share of fixed costs, such as a rented vehicle, can vary substantially depending on the number of tour guests.

As a result, it’s important to have a good idea of how many travelers you can reasonably expect to join you, as well as how many people constitute the “break even” point for your venture.  Fixed costs can include such items as the motorcoach charter, driver accommodations, tour director compensation and/or expenses, step-on guides, expenses for any “complimentary” fares, and “per coach” fees such as parking, tolls or National Park admissions.

Other items that need to be considered somewhere in the equation include things like desired profit margin (if any) and the costs of promoting your trip. You should also budget for miscellaneous expenses or unexpected cost increases. 

As you go through the pricing process, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on the the cost of similar trips being offered by travel agents or tour operators. This will give you an idea of where the market is pricing these travel experiences and what your travelers might be willing to pay. They may not want to travel with you if they think they can get a better deal somewhere else.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.