Thursday, July 7, 2011

Group Travel Strategies

Group discounts: the holy grail of travel. Everyone wants one, and groups as small as six often assume they're entitled to 'em.

But not so fast. Traveling en masse is not necessarily a money saver, as a recent piece in the New York Times pointed out. Airfares, for example, don't go down if you try to pack the plane with your relatives. And the rules governing who gets pricing help and who doesn't are strict.

Here are some other tips, culled from that article (plus some of my own):

Cruises

  • A minimum of 16 adults traveling together is needed for a discount
  • Discounts will average between $20-$50 per person off the price of the cruise, but often there are other perks involved which raise the value of booking together.
  • Early birds win! Some lines, such as NCL do not allow group bookings 120 days or less before a sailing. And for all, you're more likely to be able to snag group space at a discount if you book 9 months to a year in advance.
Pauline's tip: You're more likely to get even more perks if you book with a cruise specialist rather than directly with the cruiseline. That's because those agencies that move a lot of inventory are rewarded with perks--free upgrades, onboard ship credits, etc--which they can then pass on to their customers. A few sources among the many to look at for these extra perks: CruiseCompete.com, CruisesOnly.com, Cruise.com, VacationsToGo.com, CruiseBrothers.com, CruiseStar.com, CruiseLocator.com

Hotels
  • A site called HotelPlanner.com specializes in group discounts and even services the needs of Travelocity. It works with 40,000 hotels to get discounts for its users and they can be significant.
  • A minimum of 10 rooms is the standard for group discounts on hotel rooms, but sometimes hotels will bargain with smaller groups. Ask.
Pauline's tip: Think beyond hotels when you're traveling with a group. Often renting one or two very large houses with multiple bedrooms will be much more cost effective. And your group will have common space--living rooms, kitchens, yards--to socialize in.

Convention and Visitors Bureaus
  • The traveling groups' best friend. Many will create and send out specialized packets of information to each member of your group; help with restaurant bookings; and even set up personalized websites so the gang can plan together.
Obviously there are more tips than these for group travel. I once interviewed a gentleman who put together his own bike tour each year for his family and 20 of their cycling buddies. It cost less than going with an established company and he enjoyed the process of researching and setting up the rides. I've also known people to use dude ranches and national park campgrounds for group getaways. Really, anywhere individual travelers can go, groups can, too. You just need some poor sap in charge, doing all the gruntwork. (Sigh: usually that's me in these sorts of situations). 

4 comments:

  1. Interesting idea. I can recommend this strategy to everyone!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Paulina, for traveling in groups, I would also suggest SpotMe, an iPhone that helps you track split bills in groups and lending to and borrowing from friends. The app also makes it easy to settle up with friends and groups with just one click.

    SpotMe was just featured by Apple in the Featured apps of the iTunes store. Here is the app store link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/spotme-payments/id443369076?mt=8

    There are Android and desktop versions at http://www.getspotme.com.

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