Anyone who has been in charge of coordinating a group travel trip has undoubtedly been charged with a huge responsibility. Whether it be planning a group high school trip, university group trip, or a corporate or private group trip, it can be intimidating and quite frustrating to figure out where to start. Here are some tips to help you begin the process.
Stay Away From Agencies!
I cannot emphasize this enough! As someone who has worked with an agency, I can tell you, they skim a lot of money off the top, and they do literally nothing for the clients other than put them in touch with the projects they are working with. The agency I worked for would literally take over 50% of what they would charge the group and stick it right in their pocket. Yep, thats right, over 50%!! That meant whatever meager amount that was left over, was doled out to the people that were running the project (the ground crew) to figure out how to make the project function for the participants. Now, I’m not saying all agencies do this, but honestly, why not go direct and book with the people that are living and working in the country where you are looking to go? You end up knowing exactly where your money is going and more of it will go to ensuring you have a great experience. How do you know who the agencies are? If they have a ton of projects all over the place (I.e. the world), they are an agency. Do some web searches and try to go direct with local country run projects. Many local travel providers will work with a wide variety of projects in one area of a country, the whole country, or a few countries in the same area.
The Devil is in the Details
I just worked with a university group who told me that before she worked with us, she had a bad feeling about an agency that she was talking to. She said they were vague with details, when she was having problems with getting her students signed up they were not available to help, she got so many red flags but unfortunately, it was too late for her to back out. If you aren’t getting the attention you need and questions answered during your planning process - don’t expect it to be any better when you arrive at your project. Details about your trip should be provided without prompting and information should be clear and you should be able to speak with organizers easily to address any questions and concerns during the planning stage. Also, do some research online and check out reviews about the organization you plan on working with. See too many negative reviews, look for another provider.
Know What Questions to Ask
Keep in mind what kind of group trip you are planning. Are you planning a high school group trip? Being in a remote location may not be the best choice in the event of an emergency. Are you accompanying a university group trip? Make sure that they will be close to fun activities outside of their volunteer work. A group travel provider will specialize with group trips and help you cover all aspects of the trip, they will also likely know what questions to ask YOU to help make your trip a success.
Be Open to Suggestions and Be Flexible
An experienced group travel provider may be able to help you plan a better trip if you are open to some suggestions and can be a little flexible. They are the experts who know the country, the people, and the projects, so be open to working with them and listen to any advice they may have to offer about making your group trip the best it can be.
Research Research Research!
Did I mention research? Right, so back to that. If you have Google ( and I know you do ) there is no excuse to end up with a bad experience. Take some time to talk to your potential provider, provide them with plenty of details, ask a lot of questions, then stalk them, I mean research them on the internet to see what others have said about their group experiences.
A little homework on your part will go a long way to make your group travel experience successful!