Planning a group trip on a budget

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Table of Contents

Chapter

Page

1. Introduction 3 2. Getting Organized 6

3. Saving Money on Hotels and other Lodging 11

4. Saving Money on Flights 15

5. Road Trips on a Budget 19

6. Money Saving Tips at your Destination 23

What is Travefy? 26

About Travefy

Group Travel is complicated! Travefy makes it easy.

Travefy is a tool that solves the coordination headaches of group travel. Through Travefy users can collaborate on trip itineraries, book travel deals, and manage shared expenses. Learn more at Travefy.com!

About the Authors

Derek Wiedenfeld is the author of Planning a group trip on a budget. Derek is a passionate traveller and member of the Travefy team, as well as a business administration graduate from the the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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Introduction

“I have found out that there ain't no surer way to find

out whether you like people or hate them than to

travel with them.”

- Mark Twain

Everybody loves to travel! There is nothing more gratifying than spending time away with close friends and family to explore new destinations or revisit old favorites. Travel can make your dreams come true by taking you to new worlds.

The natural desire to travel is real and people love to explore new cultures – the food, the sites, and everything imaginable that is different from one’s home. Whether it’s a family reunion, spring break adventure, or the dream trip you’ve been planning for years, everyone takes group trips for a multitude of reasons.

Summer Travel Soars; Many Americans to Spend More." Summer Travel Soars; Many Americans to Spend More. N.p., 04 June 2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

There are so many reasons why group travel is an amazing way to explore the world. Beyond the size factors such as safety in numbers and shared responsibility, group

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travel builds strong bonds with friends and family and creates unmatched shared memories.

Despite the love of group travel, most people can’t simply drop everything at a

moment’s notice to take a trip. Family, financial, and other obligations require serious coordination and budgeting to make your dream trip come true.

There are two main pain points when it comes to group travel: 1. Getting organized is difficult.

Everyone loves to travel. However, pain points exist when coordinating with groups. Finding where to go, when to go, and who to go with can be extremely difficult. Everyone avoids the role of trip organizer who has to deal with dozens of emails and slow, scattered responses. These coordination headaches detract from the joy one typically experiences from the mere act of planning a trip1. 2. Travel can be expensive.

Travel can be extremely expensive and many individuals save for well over a year to take that dream vacation, no matter how elaborate. According to survey data, 31% of all U.S. travelers plan to spend more than $1,000 per person on their summer adventures. This is up from 27% in 2012.2 For this reason, many don’t ever travel far and in many instances avoid trips with friends and family all together.

The great news is that these pain points – coordination and price – can be overcome and should never stop you from taking that wonderful trip with friends and family. You deserve the experience and memories!

This book is a guide with tips for getting organized and saving money on hotels, flights, road trips, and more for your next group trip.

1 Tara Parker-Pope, “How Vacations Affect Your Happiness”, The New York Times, February 18, 2010. 2 Summer Travel Soars; Many Americans to Spend More." Summer Travel Soars; Many Americans to

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Getting Organized

Getting organized in advance of a trip is essential and can save you a lot of stress down the road. Key tips for organization include:

 Pick a leader

 Firm up numbers and needs like hotel rooms and cars  Estimate budgets and leave nothing to chance

 Plan. Plan. Plan.  Build an itinerary Pick a Leader.

No matter how large of a group that you are traveling with, it is always best to get organized and choose a group leader. The bigger the group, the more important it is to choose a ringleader who can be your point person. Everybody will have their input on where they want to go and how much they want to spend, but the group leader will collate all that information. The leader will also likely do the lion’s share of the planning work, so make sure to pick the friend who would both enjoy the task and would follow through on everything.

Firm up numbers and needs.

As a group and trip organizer, there are lots of tasks you can do in advance to make the trip go more smoothly. As a group leader you need to find out who is going on the trip as well as where and when you are travelling if that is not already set.

Unfortunately there are always curve balls – like a friend who drops out last minute – nonetheless firm numbers or even rules for these situations can aid in the planning process. These numbers will assist planning and potentially save you money. For instance, it lets you decide how many rooms you’re going to need and depending on how big the group is you might be able to get a group discount.

Estimate budgets.

After you find out who is all going then you can move on to the next part of planning - determining how much everybody is willing to spend. It is hard to please everybody in the group because everyone chooses to spend their money differently as well as have different constraints. Some will want to stay in the best hotels while others would rather save money on a cheaper one. Depending on your trip there might also be additional cost considerations. For instance, you might be able to offer a discount to one of the group members if they offer to drive most of the way of if they are willing to babysit the kids (if applicable).

General trip expenses are a difficult thing to plan for, but it is worth estimating as much as possible. Things such as your hotel and flight will be pre-set, but deciding how to split

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meals and gas can be confusing. Make sure you keep track of all the expenses and have a designated point person - Just don’t get too worried about them on the trip. One tip is to determine in advance of your trip whether expenses like meals will be split evenly or by the actual cost per person. Your friend who always orders the most

expensive thing on the menu might not like the outcome, but it is always best to have all information up front! This avoids awkwardness and potential fights down the road. Plan. Plan. Plan.

Once you know how much people are willing to spend, you can then best choose where you want to go for your vacation. We recommend listening to everyone’s opinion to source suggestions before taking a vote to decide a location (and/or dates).

You may also want to look on the Internet or read a book in advance to research the area. What are the best things about that location? Which restaurants have the best food? Where are you going to stay? And our favorite, what makes that vacation unique? With a group, budget, and location in mind, the next step is to your book your travel. As a general rule, the further out in advance you book flights and hotels, the higher the savings, so you should book flights and hotels as far in advance as possible.

One tip when booking a destination is to focus on the “experience” and not the “location” to save money. For instance, when planning your dream Hawaii vacation you might find appreciable price differences between flying to Maui vs. Honolulu. If all that was

important was a Hawaiian beach, then go with the cheapest and save that money for other fun travel experiences.

As a part of this planning, we suggest you build an itinerary for the whole group as this gives everybody a sense of direction. The times don’t have to be exact for everything (or anything for that matter), but a rough estimation of a day’s activities is extremely helpful.

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Remember that everything you do in advance is one less thing to do while on your vacation. It is always easier to go back and change existing plans than to try and make a new plan once you get to your destination. Unless you love spontaneity, plan as much

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as you can in advance. It is better to know which restaurant you are going to eat at that night instead of wasting two hours fighting about where you want to go!

Lastly, since the planning was hard work, it might be a good idea to designate a new leader once you are actually on the trip. This gives everybody an opportunity to relax at some point and just enjoy the vacation.

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Saving Money on Hotels and other Lodging

Hotels (and other types of lodging) can be expensive and typically consume a large portion of a trip’s total cost. To conserve some of your budget there are several important strategies to follow.

Source: Hotel Price Index (Hotels.com) as of 11/24/2013

Hotel Savings Tips

On the whole, hotel prices are rising, and increased by 2% in the first half of 20133. The U.S. has increased the most (by 5% since 2010) which is the largest in recent memory4. Conversely, Europe is experience a slight dip in hotel prices, so it may be the right time for a European adventure.

3 Roche, David. "Introduction." Hotel-Price-Index.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. 4 Roche, David. "Introduction." Hotel-Price-Index.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

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Generally, hotel prices have many factors and vary depending on season, location, and hotel availability among others. Taking these factors into account, here are some tips. Book early to save!

If you know what location you are traveling to months in advance, then it is wise to try and book a hotel as well. The earlier you book, the lower price you are bound to get. Obviously you want to book as soon as you know, but the general rule is to book at least a month in advance to ensure room availability. You don’t want to be driving around the first night you get somewhere and have to worry about which hotel you’re going to stay at. Another way to plan for this is to look up any large events (sporting, concerts, etc.) that could decrease availability and increase prices.

Sometimes if you wait until the last minute, however, you can get lucky with a

discounted price because hotel managers hate empty rooms – but don’t count it. For every manager who discounts, there are more hotels that no matter how many empty hotel rooms there are, won’t drop below their published room rate. If everybody knows they offer a last minute discounted price then people won’t book in advance which will cost the hotel money.

Factor in all additional fees. When estimating the price of a hotel, make sure to factor in all additional fees. Even though that 5-star downtown hotel might seem like a good price for $100, you might find is a $30 parking fee and $20 fee to use the Wi-Fi. Always look for these amenities and if you don’t find clear answers, call the hotel.

Seasons matter. You should also factor in which seasons offer the best rates. For instance, Fox Business reports, “If you want to go to a luxury hotel in the Caribbean, it’ll cost you a lot more if you go in February than if you go in June”5 and others report that London offers cheaper hotels in the winter as opposed to the summer months, which is typical European vacation season.

There are also general red-flags to avoid like the winter holiday season in which all hotel rates go up because they assume more people will be traveling. And our favorite family trend - family destinations will have lower pricing when the kids are supposed to be in school.

Days of the week matter. You need to choose your days wisely when booking a hotel as well. If you choose a destination where there is a lot of business travel such as Chicago, then the rates may be lower on weekends. The opposite is true for places like Miami or Los Angeles since most people travel there on weekends for leisure. Their

5 Murad, Andrea. "How to Get the Lowest Rate on Your Hotel Room." Fox Business. N.p., 10 June 2013.

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rates will more than likely be higher during the weekends since people are just going there to have a good time.6

Exploring Vacation Rentals

If you are traveling with family or a larger group of people, then a vacation rental might be a great idea. Vacation rentals are helpful if you are planning on being at a destination for an extended period (like a week or even longer). By some accounts, a vacation rental can save up to 65% as compared to two hotel rooms.7

The perks of a vacation rental typically include a kitchen, which could save you money instead of eating out every night, more living space, and a “homey” atmosphere since you are staying in an actual house. The cons are the lack of typical amenities provided by hotels like maid service, gyms, and pools. You really can’t go wrong when choosing between a hotel or vacation rental, just know yourself and your priorities. If you factor in the cost for transportation and food then that will help determine which is best for your group.

The Power of Groups for Hotel Discounts

In general, when you are looking to book a hotel with a larger group, they offer special discounts or benefits to that group. Group discounts are real, but a lot of it depends on how large of a group you are traveling with. The magical number is usually 10 rooms. Hotels typically don’t offer much flexibility from rooms one through nine. When it gets to that tenth room, however, a lot of hotels have the power to offer massive discounts and perks.

Large groups can sometimes net you lower rates, and it is also easier if you are trying to negotiate other terms in the deal. If you aren’t actually sure how many rooms you will need then it is best to choose on the conservative side otherwise you may get stuck paying for the over-estimated rooms. It is also best to try to be flexible when booking with a hotel. If you are able to change which days you are there, then the hotel owner will be more willing to throw in some extras.

Loyalty counts!

One of the biggest money-saving tips that can be offered is to make sure you have good history with a hotel. In addition to strength in numbers, hotels love repeat

customers and will discount for it. If you have contracted a large block with a hotel in the past, there is trust and it's less risky for the hotel to contract with you again.

In a similar vein - be cautious. Hotel owners know which groups have been good to them in the past and which ones haven’t. Your event history is more than just

6 McBride, Bill. "Calculated Risk: Hotel Occupancy Rate above Pre-recession Levels."Calculated Risk:

Hotel Occupancy Rate above Pre-recession Levels. N.p., 02 Sept. 2012. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

7 Murad, Andrea. "How to Get the Lowest Rate on Your Hotel Room." Fox Business. N.p., 10 June 2013.

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attendance numbers and room nights consumed. If you can show how much business your group historically brings to the hotel and other businesses in the area then you'll continue to increase your leverage with the hotel. A lot of places also offer a loyalty plan especially if you plan on visiting there again and again.

Saving Money on Flights

The price of a flight has a huge impact on one’s travel budget and can be a major driver in determining what destination a group can afford. There are likely many destinations you’d love to visit that are simply not possible based on cost.

The good news is that there are tips you can use find the best deals on flights. The key is to understand how airline tickets are priced, which is very complicated and somewhat counterintuitive.

Ticket Pricing & Tips

Airline ticket pricing is about maximizing revenue per flight. To accomplish this, airlines don’t have flat pricing for tickets (e.g., all tickets from New York City to Boston are not priced the same). Instead they try to maximize each individual’s willingness to pay for a ticket.8 As a result, there could be up to 50 different prices for tickets on a 150-seat airplane.9

To ensure you can purchase the cheapest of these tickets offered there are several things you can do.

Know how far in advance to buy your tickets.

It is best to book tickets approximately six weeks in advance. An ARC study reports that those who booked six weeks in advance saved close to six percent.10 This robust study followed over 140 million transactions and ~$80 billion in ticket sales.

The time of day matters.

Many airlines post a very small amount of tickets at reduced prices at night, so if you get up early in the morning (or stay up late) then you might be able to snag a ticket. Most of them sell out throughout the day so you have to look as early as possible.

8 Bortz, Daniel. “8 Insider Secrets to Booking Cheap Airfare.” U.S. News. 18 April 2012. Web. 20 Nov.

2013.

9 Bortz, Daniel. “8 Insider Secrets to Booking Cheap Airfare.” U.S. News. 18 April 2012. Web. 20 Nov.

2013.

10 Abzug, Peter. “ARC Reports Lowest-Priced Air Tickets are Purchased Six Weeks Before Flight.” ARC.

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Aside from late-night deals, other patterns emerge. According to a study by FareCompare the best time to buy a plane ticket is Tuesday at 3p.m. Eastern.11 Be aware of fees.

There are also a lot of extra fees you should look for when choosing between tickets. These include fees for luggage, food and others. 12

When you fly can save you money

Day of the week is a factor. A study from FareCompare found that most discounted prices are rolled back Thursdays.13 So, if you are buying tickets over the weekend, then you are probably paying too much. If you do have flexibility to fly during the week, you should.

The same study notes that the cheapest day to fly is

Wednesdays followed by

Tuesdays and Saturdays.14 The earliest flight of the day also most often the cheapest. If you’re looking to save some money, this might mean that you need to get up 4 a.m. though.

Conversely, the most expensive days to fly are Friday and

Sunday. It is best if you have some flexibility to avoid those “weekend” trips. It’s also more difficult to find discounts for these weekend flights even if you are booking far in advance. As a general rule, remember that cheapest days to flight tend to be mid-week - Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Be aware of expensive seasons for specific locations.

The cheapest times of the year to fly are called “dead zones”. These dead zones vary,

11 Seaney, Rick. "Cheapest Days to Fly and Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets."FareCompare. N.p., 05 July

2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

12 "Consumer Reports Magazine: June 2011." Airline Fees, Consumer Reports. N.p., June 2011. Web. 20

Nov. 2013.

13 Seaney, Rick. "Cheapest Days to Fly and Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets."FareCompare. N.p., 05 July

2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

14 Seaney, Rick. "Cheapest Days to Fly and Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets."FareCompare. N.p., 05 July

2011. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.

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but are defined as generally unpopular periods of the year to travel. If you fly during these times you can find some of the lowest rates possible.

Overall dead zone periods tend to be times surrounding big travel periods. This includes the month of January (after New Year’s), the first few weeks of December, and early Spring. Beyond discounted airfare, these periods also have uncrowded airports and typically correlate with cheaper hotel rooms.

Research your routes.

You can also unlock discounts by knowing your routes and airlines. If you know where you’re travelling, look up which airlines have a hub there or at other connecting airports. There might be that one flight that will take you straight there but is possibly more

expensive than jumping between a few different hubs.

You will have to do the research to see if you can save some money by switching

between a few different airlines, but if you’re willing to dedicate the time, you can unlock some savings.

The group purchasing myth

Unlike hotels which reward groups with discounts and perks, group discounts for flights don’t exist! Even though you might be traveling with a group, you should book your airplane tickets alone or in smaller groups. If you try booking with all of your friends it is extremely likely that you will actually end up paying more than you should.

As noted earlier, there might be 50 different prices for a 150 person flight. If you book groups fares, all of those tickets are typically charged the highest of those tickets prices as opposed to the lowest.

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Road trips on a budget

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk

again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the

road is life.”

- Jack Kerouac

Whether it’s a trip in the family station-wagon across the country or a multi-state drive with friends, there is nothing like a road trip to create shared memories.

Road trips in many ways offer built in savings by using someone’s car and the ability to drive to cheaper accommodations. Nonetheless there is one expensive and volatile cost for road trips – gas. To help you through the gas dilemma, here are some money saving tips.

Money saving gas tips

Conserve how much gas you use.

There are things you can do on the road to use less gas. One simple way is to turn off the air conditioner in your car. Not all climates are conducive to this, but if you are traveling in town and going less than 35 mph then give rolling down your windows a shot.

Other simple things that conserve gas include:  Ease off the pedal well before a stop sign.

 Keep your tires inflated to the max. No matter the road conditions, you always want your tires inflated to the maximum possible. A simple way to do this is to keep a tire gauge in your glove compartment.

 Don’t speed. Speeding not only burns unnecessary gas, but can also cost you an expensive speeding ticket (and increase in insurance prices).

Choose a car with the best gas mileage.

When you are taking a road trip with your friends, you obviously want to try to take the vehicle with the best mileage. There are other factors like size of the vehicle which will matter if you have a large group or lots of luggage, nonetheless, all things equal you should use whichever of your vehicles is the most efficient.15

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Source: “NewsRoom.” Gas Prices

Buy the cheapest gas available.

Gas prices vary from gas station to gas station, however, the biggest variations in prices tend to exist from state to state. As a result, when taking a road trip, definitely be aware of which states have the cheapest gas and plan your fill-ups accordingly.16

Source: “NewsRoom.” Gas Prices

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Map out the shortest route.

If you are taking a road trip then it is a good idea to look up the best way to get to your destination. Obviously you want to hit all of the sites and friends you hope to see, but otherwise you can save on gas by mapping out the shortest route

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Money Saving Tips at your Destination

Organization and simple tips can help you save money on flights and hotels, but there are other simple things that can save you serious cash at your destination.

Two simple ways to save money on the ground is a plan for transportation and with food budgeting.

Plan for ground transportation

Make sure that you plan ground transportation, if not you will waste a lot of extra money on cabs. The simplest one is to plan in advance how you will get from the airport to your hotel. Most people simply rely on cabs, but if you have a large group there might be some serious savings with shuttle services.

Also be aware of public transportation options. Many cities have amazing public transportation that is not only cheaper, but quicker than private options. 17

U.S. News list the 10 U.S. cities with the best combination of public transportation investment, ridership, and safety as:18

17 Kurtzleben, Danielle. "10 Best Cities for Public Transportation." US News. U.S.News & World Report,

08 Feb. 2011. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.

18 Kurtzleben, Danielle. "10 Best Cities for Public Transportation." US News. U.S.News & World Report,

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Kurtzleben, Danielle. "10 Best Cities for Public Transportation." US News. U.S.News & World Report

The importance of food budgeting

Food can be a very expensive part of your vacation that a lot of people don’t plan for or realize. It might be nice to eat at a luxury restaurant, but you don’t want to do that every night or your bank account will suffer.

Plan ahead to save money when unnecessary. For instance, Airports food and drinks are very expensive, so eat in advance or pack a (non-liquid) snack. Buy food from a grocery store for breakfast and snacks. Ultimately, this will save some money and allow you to explore the restaurants you really want to eat at.

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References

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