Travel clubs offer group fun for all ages
Whether you're doing it as a business or you plan to arrange group travel for friends and relatives, agreeing to create a travel club is going to call for all of the ingenuity and organizational skills you're able to muster. Taking responsibility for club trips means you'll spend as much time originating ideas as tying up loose ends, but by the very nature of the word "club," your biggest job will be to make members feel a sense of belonging as you herd them through the planning and execution of adventures they might have missed had it not been for you.
Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
Things You'll Need:
- Transportation schedules (air, train, bus, ship)
Travel literature and guides
Membership information sheets
- Transportation schedules (air, train, bus, ship)
- Travel literature and guides
- Membership information sheets
- Recruitment ads/announcements
Pick a catchy name for your club and choose the audience you seek to serve. For example, launch a travel club exclusively for women seeking unusual experiences in challenging environments or conceive a grandparent club that gives seniors the chance to travel with their grandchildren. Educational travel clubs attract a variety of people. Make the concept highly targeted and you'll know exactly where to go to find members.
Decide how financial matters will be handled. Make arrangements for members and then let them pick up their own financial tabs. Alternately, collect trip money up front--a method that works well if you're marking up services to make your profit margin. Either way, you'll need a dues collection system and a bank account. Finally, you'll need a policy to cover dropouts and members who fail to pay their share of trip expenses. Take a tip from other travel club organizers: Selling or transferring a membership to a new member is an easy way to handle this possibility.
Recruit members. Use your organization's goals as a conduit for reaching the audience you seek. Think of places your target traveler frequents and make it a broad sweep: the Internet, fitness clubs, senior clubs, churches, professional organizations, newspaper ads, bulletin boards at schools and supermarkets. Encourage word-of-mouth referrals by offering an incentive to anyone bringing a buddy when they join.
Decide if your venture is going to obtain sponsorships (e.g., a hotel chains, airlines and other types of travel-related necessities) so the club always has dependable resources on speed dial. By sticking to certain hotel chains or airlines, for instance, you'll be assigned a sales representative to help coordinate travel arrangements, and you'll get deep discounts in return for your patronage. If your club plans on international travel, affiliate with such enterprises only if they have a global presence.
Schedule a club meeting. Explain the rules of membership so members know what they're getting into. That accomplished, set about choosing a destination for your first trip. Clubs launched with no immediate action plans tend to fail early because they don't take advantage of the enthusiasm members exhibit when they first join. Survey the group and get consensus. Advise members of financial terms. Whether it's a pay-as-you-go or a pay-before-you-go plan, make certain everyone is on the same page.
Collect data from all members for purposes of communication and information: Name, address, phone, email, emergency contacts, food or other allergies plus other relevant data relating to destination preferences. Leave room on the information sheet for personal travel restrictions (e.g., won't travel to countries on the U.S. State Department's watch list), lodging preferences (single or double accommodations preferred) and method of payment for trip expenses. As coordinator of the club, the more information you collect about your members, the better your preparations will be. Have each member sign the sheet confirming that they fully understand the obligations of membership and are willing to abide by the conditions.
Draft a trip itinerary and present it to the membership for a vote. Make adjustments as necessary and start making financial arrangements for the journey. If the group agreed upon a monthly assessment, begin collecting funds. If you've opted for payment upon billing, use the member's information to draw the money via Pay Pal, personal check, or charge card as invoices arrive. Coordinate packing lists, share sightseeing ideas and dates and become the travel club's cheerleader as the date of your first trip approaches.
Oversee the travel club's first group trip. Before the end of the trip, ask members to complete an anonymous survey so each can rate the experience. Query them on planning, logistics, services, lodgings, sites, pricing, overall organization and satisfaction or disappointment. Use information gleaned from the survey to tweak your operational plan so good times are replicated and future problems are averted. Share photos via email to remind members of their shared journey, and use the club's post-travel euphoria to encourage everyone to start thinking about the next adventure.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.