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So you’ve reached the decision to visit Ocho Rios, Jamaica with your family and friends. Awesome choice! The only thing is you have no idea on what to do next in order to get the word about your group trip. One other problem is, you’ll need to figure out how much time will everyone need in order to pay for their trip and who will be responsible for taking payments since you’ve come to the conclusion that, although  you’re the group’s organizer, you simply won’t touch no one else’s money. Believe me; I hear these exact questions at least 4 times a week. Worry no more! I’m going to walk you through and offer tips and advice on how to plan your family and group’s vacation so that you can be worry free and everyone is happy. If you follow the tips below, be prepared for nothing but a sweet reward upon arrival!

Tip #1 -Host A Travel Party

Yup! Everyone loves gathering for family & friends social outings so why not gather with a focus on vacation? Host a travel party! Recommended time to host the party is at least 12 months prior to departure. For instance, if you’re planning to travel in November 2013, it’s a good idea to present the idea to your family and group in November 2012. Why? First, as mentioned, you want to engage everyone to your idea and how you think it would be nice for everyone to vacation together. Also, this will open the floor for additional suggestions and ideas. Sooooo, host a party with a theme. If you chose the Caribbean and you are interested in Jamaica, have your party set on the theme of Reggae music, Caribbean vibe and have some authentic Jamaica food to go with it. You can even decorate your house or venue with beach attire to represent the beautiful white sandy beaches that are home to the island. This will set the tone for your vacation idea and help pull in the “Yes! I’m in!”

Tip #2-Invite Your Travel Professional

You read correcto! After the first meeting and you have a solid commitment from all who are going on the trip, set the date no later than 45 days after the first meeting for an info session on the destination of choice. But this time, invite your special guest, your Travel Agency. Depending on who you are working with, they may be willing to come out and help you with the party. Since they’ll bring brochures of your destination this will go over well with your guests because it will add more excitement and a tease. Plus, if you invite your Travel Professional, you can leave all the talking and Q&A session to them. BAM! You win again. Told you this will go smooth!

*Suggestion* If your Travel Agency is not available for your event, simply let them know what you are doing. Although they may not be able to attend the info session, they may be willing to call during the event and you can place them on speaker so that everyone can listen in. Also, ask if you can stop by to grab some brochures for your guests.

Tip #3-Face 2 Face With Your Travel Professional

After the info session, arrange a date to meet face to face with your Travel professional. Be sure to make this appointment no later than 10 days after the info session. Remember, time is everything in the travel industry. And, with the travel party and the info session now over, those who are committed are ready to book! The last thing you want is a delayed process and people backing out. Once you and your Travel Agency have discussed what you are looking for, they will draw a Travel Request Form detailing your group’s information, destination and what’s included in your package. It will resemble that of a contract. Once this is all finalized, you are ready to go. At the meeting, be sure to ask all the questions that were raised during your party and info session. Especially those questions that you are still not clear on. Once your questions have been answered and you are satisfied with the rates, dates, and package amenities, you can make your official announcement on where your group will vacation at in 2013!

Tip #4 -Deposits Dates& Payments

Be sure you leave your Travel Professional’s office with a clear understanding of how paying for your vacation will work. This is especially important when working with groups. Remember, if you don’t ask, it’s assumed you already know. Key questions to ask are what are our payment options? Can we pay over the phone? Do you accept PayPal? How will I receive an invoice? Are passports required?

Once you’ve asked these questions it’s time to move on to the next and final step of the group travel process. Your Travel Professional will help you create a customized payment plan for your group. You will NOT have to be concerned with hunting anyone down for payments. That’s our job! On the flyer will be a detailed payment plan including the final date to make initial deposits, future payment dates and amounts of all payments. Below is an actual plan for a group trip taking place during Mother’s Day Weekend 2013 with a Travel & Social Club here in Philadelphia. My agency detailed the payment plan so that payments would be affordable and not over whelming. Take a look…

“Deposit Deadline 09/01/2012

Initial Dep of $150 Per Person Due by September 1, 2012 (No Extension Date)

Min Per Person Dep of $100 Due by October 1, 2013

Min Per Person Dep of $100 due by November 1, 2013

Min Per Person Dep of $100 Due by December 1, 2013

Min Per Person Dep of $100 Due by January 3, 2013

Min Per Person Dep of $100 Due By Feb 1, 2013

Final Payment Due No later Than March 25, 2013”

Notice that it looks almost like a uniform in that all payments except January and the final payment are due on the same day but different months. This is important because not only is it a repeat, but your group will treat this almost like a “good” credit card bill. Although the trip isn’t taking place until May, we created the plan to accept the final payment in March. While the point of a payment plan is to alleviate the stress of having to pay for your trip upfront, it also becomes boring having to keep paying!   double. Because our clients make monthly payments on their trip, when their final payment is due and if

Overall, this can take every bit of 6 – 10 months planning. But don’t stress. It’s all worth the hassle! Well planned vacations are often the best ones. Your group will be happy that you’ve taken the time to put this together. And honestly so will any Travel Professional! At Wallet Happy Vacations we work with families and groups all the time. I can’t stress enough how many people I’ve spoken to intended to back out or cancel their “idea” of bringing family and friends together through travel prior to calling us. My suggestion is this, don’t ever back out before you’ve asked all the questions. While this is a very dedicated task indeed, it’s also very rewarding to any Group Leader. Oh, did I mention that Group Leaders travel for FREE?! Of course there are stipulations. But, after all of the hard work, I’m sure you’ll qualify!

So, go ahead and get planning for 2013. Your family and friends are waiting to see where it is they will be traveling to next year!

Anitra R. Byers

Travel Professinal/Owner

Wallet Happy Vacations

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