As short-term faculty-led programs increase in popularity, many professors who may not have a lot of experience booking and coordinating travel are tasked with not only managing the experience abroad, but getting the group there.
Here are 3 tips to make the experience of getting the group from point A to point B a little easier, which will help the group leader focus on what’s important— the experiences in-destination.
You Don’t Have to Manage the Logistics of Air Travel
Many professors managing a group trip of ten or more passengers engage a travel agent to help ease the logistics of planning the trip. The agent can identify flight itineraries, book air travel and accommodations, finalize the group size and coordinate payments. Especially when professors are traveling with students, many airlines are willing to give discounts to student/youth travelers to help fill planes and routes.
With group travel, the travel specialist negotiates directly with the airlines to provide discounts for the members of the group. Many times the agency has access to better rates than the group leader would have on their own. Additional discounts are sometimes offered to the trip leader as well.
Ten is the Magic Number
For groups to have access to the benefits of booking travel as a group (including reducing seat count without a penalty charge, flexible travel until 90 days in advance and paying refundable deposits to the airlines) groups need to be booking a minimum of ten passengers or more on the same itinerary. This is true whether a group leader books with a travel agent or through an airline’s group department directly.
If a group is less than ten, full payment will be due to the airline at the time the flight is booked. In this case, the trip leader could share the itinerary with the students and have them book it on their own or book the travel on behalf of the group and be reimbursed by the students (which can feel a little risky for some trip leaders).
Be Flexible and Plan Ahead
Planning ahead can help groups lock in the fare at the time they deposit and become immune from rate hikes that may occur closer to the time of the trip.
When group travel is booked, seats can be reserved 11 months in advance. The group leader would have the ability to choose the flight (it could be based on the fastest route, cheapest itinerary or with providers that don’t charge cancellation fees) and whether they want to add travel insurance to bookings.
With some travel agents (like StudentUniverse), payment pages can be utilized by the group. The group leader has the ability to have students log into the agency’s portal and make their reservation directly as part of the group. Alternatively, affiliate pages can be utilized. In this case, students are given the information on the dates of the trip and book through the agency directly themselves, but they can book their own flights. This is helpful in cases where students may want to extend the trip beyond when the group is traveling.
Whether travelers use group payment pages, or affiliate pages, the responsibility of making the payment lies with the travelers, versus the group leader. These pages also give the group leader visibility into the progress of the group booking.
Group leaders that don’t want to deal with coordinating payments for their group’s travel bookings is the number one reason trip leaders cite as wanting to work with an agency.
If you want to learn more about making group travel easier, visit StudentUniverse’s group travel page: http://www.studentuniverse.com/travel-services or get in touch with them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by: Evan Becker, Director, Business Development, StudentUniverse
Editor: Andrew Simenson