Educational travel blog
September 18, 2018
By Kathleen Mueller
1. Advertise or announce your trip in your local print or online newspaper
This never works. Basically, you are advertising to strangers who might want to join your tour group. Think about it, do you really want a complete stranger (or two or three) to join your school, church or yoga class group that is planning to travel to Europe? I doubt your current group members would feel comfortable. Not only that, but these ads and announcements never spark much interest in the trip. I can’t tell you the number of times inexperienced group organizers have said they would just place an ad or announcement, only to be disappointed at the lack of response or interest. A waste of time. Don’t do it.
2. Offer the trip to a non-captive audience
On the same idea as number one, if you offer your trip to folks you don’t see all the time, you probably won’t get much of a commitment, if any. If you have a “captive” audience (people who attend your class regularly, or folks you see in church) they are more likely to make a true commitment based on the fact that they have to face you and the other group members all the time! Aunt Betsy and her best friend may tell you they’re interested in joining your genealogy tour to Ireland and Scotland, but you only see her on the holidays, and you see her friend even more infrequently. Chances are she’s just showing you encouragement over your really cool idea, but she isn’t going to sign on to your trip when it comes right down to it.
3. Plan the trip too close to departure (or at the last minute)
This is a common error, and one that few understand. Of course I feel more excited about a trip “now” than I will if I have to plan it for a year or longer. However, when you’re dealing with a group, it’s easier and more affordable to plan the trip way far in advance of the actual travel dates. Companies like Passports and other group tour companies are set up to start many months in advance of the actual tour. This is especially true of educational tour companies, because most of our travelers are teenage children and the families have to come up with the money to pay for the trip. We are able to get great rates and better services, flights, and accommodations if we have the time to prepare each tour. Signing up early makes for a bigger group, and makes the trips more affordable for the families, because they can jump on our EZ-Pay payment plan, or our Convenience Billing plan. This enables them to make smaller payments, over time -- sort of like financing the trip on credit, in a way. More families can do this, and that creates a larger group. Planning your trip at the last minute, or very close to departure (within 6 months) basically just leads to disappointment, usually because the locations, sights and accommodations are booked up and not available. So, plan early, to avoid disappointment!
4. Keeping your group too small (or too large)
Everybody likes to travel with a small group of one or two friends, but doing this with an educational group tour company like Passports is a no-no. We operate our programs based on a certain number of travelers per tour. It’s just not feasible for us to book so-called “individual” travel arrangements for two or three people. We have done it, but in our experience, it almost always leads to disappointment (and, believe it or not, it’s actually more difficult for us to book individual arrangements, vs. group bookings!). That’s why we tell our group leaders to recruit 20-25 travelers, or more. The ideal group size is about 35, plus the group leader and co-leaders/chaperones. Don’t forget that we do combine groups together on our traditional itineraries, so that’s where a smaller group (6-10 people) can work with our product. However, be flexible about the tour features, and open to meeting new people, because you’re going to spend a week or longer in their company!
Similarly, a too-large group can have its drawbacks, too. While we love large groups, it can be a challenge mainly because motorcoaches hold about 50 passengers, maximum, and airplanes get booked up, and hotel rooms and restaurants are small in Europe, generally speaking. Be prepared, if your group is large, to be flexible -- you may have more than one “bus” following along in tandem. This can be exciting and fun, so we never turn our backs on the idea. Far from it! We run super-large tours all the time…. but unless you are a highly experienced or gregarious group leader, we wouldn’t recommend this for your first European trip!
Finally, we have the “Do It Yourselfer”! Oh, dear. Do you really want to deal with handling all that money, opening a special bank account, talking to the airlines, coach companies, restaurants and hotels, finding a qualified tour guide (unless you’re going to do THAT yourself, too)?... and we haven’t even talked about liability, insurance, cancellations, refunds, and all the “what-ifs” that go along with a group consisting of several personalities, and their parents! No. Just. No. That’s what Passports is for. You “hire” us, and it’s pretty much smooth sailing! We already have the bank accounts, we already talk to the airlines, hotels, and other suppliers of services, we HAVE qualified professional tour directors on staff ready and eager to guide your tour! We have the liability coverage, and we have been doing educational group tours for decades. We are the experts on group travel. We’ll talk to the parents, and even attend your parent meeting in person or by Skype, Zoom or Facetime. Do it yourself? Forgetaboutit!
We hope this list of “don’ts” has assuaged your apprehensions (if you had any!) about organizing an educational tour.
Want more info?
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Category: Travel Inspiration
passports Educational Group Travel partners with teachers across the United States to provide high-quality educational travel experiences to their students. Educational tours visit destinations around the world - primarily France, Italy, England, Spain and Costa Rica - at low, guaranteed prices.
7 Midstate Drive Suite 102
Auburn, MA 01501