Booking Group Travel
There is no question that the unique shared experience of traveling can be one of the most rewarding, as well as bonding, events that a group of people can do.
Whether it is a guys’ weekend at a ranch, a ski trip in December, or working with orphans in Romania, many of the relationships I have built and solidified on these trips, I consider to be life-long. I could never replicate in my hometown what leaving the city limits has done for my relationships.
Air pricing, on the other hand, can be a nightmare. The way airfare is priced really is a moving target. The days of “buy late” for a “deal” are gone, unless of course you buy on Tuesday for only two people to a domestic destination (sarcasm intended). The following are a few tips to help save some heartache when buying airline tickets
The Internet is great for finding flights when a) you know where you are going, b) it’s not a group (10 or more people), c) and you intend to pay today. If you are flying to a domestic location by yourself or with a group, the Internet probably has the best prices around.
Don’t waste your time shopping all of the different sites that say they are the cheapest. Kayak.com is one of the quickest ways to shop all of those sites at once.
Group and international flights are where things get tricky. With both of these types of airfare, there are ways to save money and ways to stay flexible. However, those don’t always go hand in hand.
With most airlines, if you have 10 or more people traveling from the same city on the same dates, you can make a group reservation up to 300 days prior to travel with a deposit of $50-100 per person.
This deposit is normally 100% refundable up to 90 days before the trip, so if you can afford the deposit, there is little risk to making a group reservation early and adjusting your total number of travelers three months before the trip. Passenger information and full payment is typically not due until 60 days from travel.
When booking group travel, you usually don’t have to submit names and payment for ticketing immediately. That benefit is what makes group airfare so attractive.
However, there is one big warning that needs to go along with group airfare: fuel surcharges and taxes are subject to change. It is a great benefit to be able to hold seats until you have all of your names and money together.
The flip side of this is that the airlines don’t know the price of fuel until you actually ticket, so they reserve the right to raise (and rarely lower) the fuel and taxes on a ticket. In other words, the base fare is locked in, but the price could still go up.
When planning your trip using group fares, make sure you “pad” the price you use for your participants by at least 10%. This will save you the heartache of having to go back and ask for more money.
Group fares are not always cheaper. In the airline world, groups are not always seen as attractive in the same way they are when buying tickets to a baseball game or a theme park. The airlines see groups as possibly eating up seats that they could charge more for.
This is known as revenue management. It is often thought by the consumer that the bigger the group, the better. The airlines, however, know how much they charge for the seats as the plane fills up. If a group takes 100 seats, the airlines calculate what they would have charged and divide that price by 100. This usually results in seats more expensive than the Internet price for individual seats.
Remember when you book travel for your group, ask about the rules. How much does it cost if someone cancels? Can that ticket be refunded or used by someone else? How much would it cost to change the name on a ticket? What happens if we have fewer people sign up than what we booked? Does that price include taxes and surcharges?
Traveling with a group is one of the most rewarding experiences I know of and can be one of the most frustrating, as well.
Asking the right questions and planning early can make the booking process much more enjoyable. I would also always recommend using the expertise of a travel agent to help you with group or international travel.
This article is courtesy of High Point 963, a resource for ministries on the go, www.highpoint963.com.