As short-term, faculty-led programs increase in popularity, many professors bringing a group of students abroad 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. Managing the associated logistics can be a daunting task.
From putting together the itinerary to booking air travel and accommodations to finalizing the group size and coordinating payment, it can be enough to deter some faculty from signing up to lead the trip. Professors do have resources they can leverage to help manage this, and many engage a travel agent to book group travel.
How Group Travel Works
Group travel typically involves 10+ travelers on the same itinerary. One method of booking travel would be a faculty member sharing the itinerary with the students and having them book it on their own. Or the faculty member could book the travel on behalf of the group and be reimbursed (not as common). Neither of these options would involve utilizing a third party to handle the booking.
The faculty member also can work with a travel agency or tour operator who coordinates the booking for the group and negotiates directly with the travel providers (such as 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 his or her own. Additional discounts are sometimes offered to the faculty member as well. Many airlines are willing to give discounts to student/youth travelers to help fill planes and routes. By providing specialty pricing to a small demographic, they don’t have to drop their pricing across the board, but can fill the “back of the plane” and start building relationships with the business travelers of tomorrow.
When group travel is booked with airlines, seats can be reserved 11 months in advance and the group leader would have the ability to choose the flight and whether they want to add travel insurance.
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.
The Benefits of Using an Agency for Group Travel
While one of the biggest benefits to booking group travel through an agency is to save the faculty member e time and hassle, there are several other benefits:
- While each airline has different terms and conditions, typically with group travel bookings:
- The seat count can be reduced with no penalty charge (as long as the group remains at 10+ passengers). This is true whether a group leader books with a travel agent or through an airlines group department directly.If a group is less than 10, 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).
- The travel is flexible until 90 days in advance.
- Deposits paid to the airline providers are refundable.
- Your group will work with a dedicated agent for personalized service. This agent is a direct contact, someone who knows the industry and can work on your reservation should any questions or complications arise.
- Many agents travel on the routes they book and try the tours themselves, so they can speak to suggestions for your booking from experience.
- Some agencies (like StudentUniverse) allow for payment pages to be utilized by the group. This offers the group leader the ability to have students log into the agency’s portal and make the reservation directly (versus the faculty member collecting the money and making a lump sum payment to the agency).
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. 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. The agency also provides a report to the group leader showing which students have booked at any given time.
Not having to deal with coordinating payments for their group’s bookings is the number one reason trip leaders cite for choosing to work with an agency. To learn more about making group travel easier, visit the StudentUniverse group travel page: http://www.studentuniverse.com/travel-services or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contributed by StudentUniverse, the world’s leading travel booking site for students and youth.