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Secrets of Great Youth Group Trips

Here’s a secret about youth group travel: It isn’t all about the destination.

Don’t get me wrong — the destination matters. There’s a reason that student groups flock to Washington, D.C., and that church youth groups head to camp at the beach every summer. A trip destination with a lot of sizzle will probably help you attract more travelers than one that seems more mundane. But in the end, the success of a youth group trip depends on much more than just destination appeal.

Although every youth leader may dream of taking their students to Orlando for a week, those kinds of trips aren’t possible for everyone. Many factors go into planning youth group travel: Leaders must consider the purpose of the trip, the time available to travel, the cost of the trip, the ages of their travelers and the kinds of activities they’re interested in doing. This means that each youth group trip can look very different from the next.

In light of this, our story “Youth Travel, Revisited” is intended to give you a variety of ideas about places you can take your youth group. We’ve picked five diverse destinations in various parts of the country that offer starkly different opportunities and experiences for youth groups.

And that brings me back to my introductory point: Destination is only one part of the equation in putting together a great youth group trip. Although the “where” is important, a good youth group trip also depends on having the right “who,” “what” and “why.”

Knowing your travelers — the “who” — is always important. Some groups of students may be able to handle a trip with a lot of free time and flexibility built in. Others will do better with constant programming and supervision. It all depends on their personalities.

Picking the right activities for a trip — the “what” — is just as important as picking the right destination. Students will do a lot that adults won’t do, and vice versa. A trip to a great city can be sullied by an itinerary full of boring activities. An invigorating and creative itinerary, on the other hand, can elevate even the most humble destination.

But perhaps the most important factor of all is the “why.” What is the purpose of the trip? Is it a performance tour for a youth choir? Is it a camp or retreat aimed at discipleship and spiritual growth? Is it a volunteer or mission trip that will give travelers an opportunity to serve? Is it a fellowship vacation designed to strengthen bonds of friendship and brotherhood among travelers?

Understanding the core reason for your trip will help you make other key decisions that contribute to the success of the experience. Taking the right people to the right place to do the right things for the right reasons is the best recipe for success in youth travel.

For that matter, it’s the best recipe for success in any travel.

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.