Group Travel Tips for Direct Groups: Part 2 – Planning Your Trip Timeline

Now that you have decided on the purpose of your group trip, where you want to travel and what time of the year, you will now be faced with the task of planning your group tour. There will be many questions to answer, lots of details to complete and numerous deadlines to meet. Knowing what to tackle first, what decisions to make and what support you will need throughout both the planning period and on the trip will help make the process run smoothly. The key is to plan far in advance.The planning all begins with a timeline. Following are some general guidelines for mapping out the period from when the seed is planted until the departure date. Note: This timeline may differ depending upon your type of group, what destination you have chosen and when you may be traveling.18 Months Prior to DepartureWho will be invited to participate?
Determine the approximate length and dates of the trip.
Begin researching your chosen destination to find out what attractions, museums, theme parks, outdoor adventures, water parks, etc. you would like to attend and the costs associated with each.
Begin researching transportation, hotels, vacation homes, dining and shopping (if applicable) and the costs associated with each.
If this is a school trip, talk with the school principal and/or administration to receive their approval.10 to 12 Months Prior to DepartureSet firm dates.
If flying, final pricing may not be available until 10 months prior to departure. Also, arrange transportation to and from the airport when you have secured your flights.
Motorcoach/minibus companies also work 10 months in advance. If traveling by motorcoach or minibus, you should begin the quoting/booking process now and choose a transportation company.
If you are traveling by van(s) from your hometown, then begin the quoting/booking process from van rental companies.
Begin the hotel/vacation home resort quoting/booking process. After receiving the quotes, choose a hotel/vacation home resort and book it!
If you have decided to include meals in the trip, begin the group-friendly restaurant, dinner show quoting/booking process. After receiving the quotes, choose which restaurants your group desires and book them!
If shopping is important to your group, this will be a good time to request a meet/greet to obtain discounts from the shopping center/retail store.
If you are a youth group, determine who your chaperones will be which may include parents, teachers, sponsors, etc.
Project the estimated/approximate cost per person.
Announce the tour including the cost per person and start promoting it by means of email, flyers, posters, website, social media, newsletters, etc.
Set up a deposit and payment schedule for each member in your group as they sign up.
If participating in a music/dance/theatre festival, fill out all paperwork and submit.
If you desire travel insurance, now is the time to research, fill out paperwork and submit.6 to 9 Months Prior to DepartureContinue promoting the trip via newsletters, social media, emails, meetings, etc., keeping interest alive in those who have signed up and possibly attracting a few more to sign up.
If you are a school group, scouting troop, youth group etc., begin fundraising activities if needed.
If your trip is an educational tour, create a list of reading materials or study exercises to prepare students for the trip
Distribute a copy of the itinerary to all members of your group (meetings, association, youth group, scouting, religious, reunion, etc.)
Participants should be signed up with deposits paid.
Confirm all reservations including hotel/vacation homes, transportation, attractions, dining, shopping, travel insurance and anything else.4 Months Prior to DepartureContinue promoting the trip via newsletters, social media, emails, meetings, etc., keeping interest alive in those who have signed up and possibly attracting a few more to sign up.
Contact anyone who has shown an interest but still has not committed.
Continue fundraising if needed.
Collect payments per your payment schedule.3 Months Prior to DepartureFinal payments are due from those who have paid deposits, made payments, etc.
Finalize lists of all participants and choose roommates for hotels (if applicable), seating arrangements on the motorcoach (if applicable), and/or seating arrangements on your flight if flying
Purchase all theme park, attraction, water park and dinner show tickets and begin making final payments to your chosen hotel/vacation homes, restaurants, transportation companies, etc.1 Month Prior to DepartureSchedule a final meeting to confirm the details of your trip including packing lists, travel tips and any last-minute information.
Make sure you obtain emergency contact, medical and allergy information from each traveler.
If you are a youth group, make sure parents have your emergency contact information.
Make sure all permission forms, travel insurance forms, etc. are completed for each traveler.As previously stated, the above timeline is a general guide and can differ depending upon your type of group, what destination you have chosen and when you may be traveling. Use this timeline as a guide to map out your trip from the start of planning to the departure date. By employing this step-by-step process, you will be able to successfully plan each stage of your group trip resulting in a smooth tour without any surprises.

Branding: A Brand Is More Than a Logo

What is Branding?

Let’s face it, brands are everywhere. A brand is how we identify products, services, people, places and religions. Everything can be “branded,” however, a brand is more than just a logo or identity; it represents a symbolic construct created within the minds of people that consists of all the information, expectations and personality associated with a company, product or service. It can symbolize confidence, passion, belonging, or a set of unique values. A brand is an experience.

Branding has been around for more than 5,000 years. Historically, branding was used as a way for farmers to stamp their livestock, a way of saying, “that’s mine.” By the 20th century, it had evolved into more than just a way for farmers to mark their property; the industrial revolution introduced mass-produced goods and the need for companies to sell their products to a wider market. By applying branding to packaged goods, the manufacturers could increase the consumer’s familiarity with their products in an effort to build trust and loyalty. Campbell Soup, Juicy Fruit Gum and Quaker Oats were among the first products to be ‘branded.’

In the 1900′s, companies adopted slogans, mascots and jingles that began to appear on radio and television. Marketers soon began to recognize the way in which consumers were developing relationships with brands in a social and psychological sense, and over time learned to develop their brand’s identity and personality traits; such as youthfulness, luxury or fun. Branding became more personal. This evolved into the practice we now know as “branding” today, where the consumers buy “the brand” instead of the product. This trend continued to the 1980s, and is often quantified in concepts such as brand value and brand equity.

In today’s modern digital age, the Internet and social media have had major impacts on branding in a very short time. Brands are now more connected to consumers than ever before across numerous “touch points”-websites, blogs, social media, videos, television, magazines, mobile phones, applications, games, events and even art installations are all common channels where brands are engaging consumers. Unlike 20th century practices where consumers were passive receivers of messages, today’s successful branding campaigns involve multidimensional, two-way communication where consumers participate, share, and interact with a brand. Branding has become a physical, social and psychological experience.

The “brand experience” is the concept that a company’s identity and design evoke certain sensations, feelings and cognitions for the consumer. Several dimensions can distinguish the brand experience: sensory, affective, intellectual, and behavioral. Such stimuli appear as part of a brand’s design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments. Prime examples of some of the most experiential brands are Victoria’s Secret, Apple and Starbucks. Not only is branding about the individual’s awareness of the brand, but the experience the brand brings to the individual; the prospect that the individual moves from awareness of the product to consideration, to loyalty, to advocate. Hewlett Packard CEO, Meg Whitman, says, “When people use your brand as a verb, that’s remarkable.” For example, “Google it,” “Skype date?” or “Photoshop that picture!”

A strong brand is a critical marketing asset, as important to your business as the product itself. In our rapidly changing and increasingly complex world, technology and human interaction are intersecting in new ways, creating an experience economy where trust, conversation and brand portability are crucial to remaining relevant. Big will no longer beat the small. It will be the fast beating the slow.

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