People frequently want to know secret hints for a successful trip. Here’s a baker’s dozen ideas to set you on the right track

1.Start your plans early enough. Most major international (and some USA) trips need a one‐year lead time. Short local trips may be planned closer in. Expensive trips may require an extended budgeting time frame.

2.Consider a survey. Don’t assume you necessarily know where customers would like to go or what will sell. Just because you would love to go to China doesn’t mean past travelers want to go there or can afford it. Consider surveying the membership with a variety of free tools like Survey Monkey.

3.Look at your travel program as a spread across several year If appealing to the same travelers n year-after-year, don’t repeat trips to the same destination too close in. Plan on at least a three‐year rotation.

4.Pick your suppliers with great care. Cheap is not necessarily best. You want value for what you’re paying If buying from a tour operator, be sure the tour product is compatible with your group, their insurance is adequate and they comply with all rules and regulations.

5.Consider hub and spoke‐type itineraries where you settle in to one or two sites and then run day trips in and out. This way, hassles of multi‐hotel check‐ins and checkouts every day are

6.Schedule activities well. Plan daily sightseeing, social events and travel time so that you do not tire your participants. If you’ve planned a morning and evening activity, give them the afternoon free for shopping, personal interests or hanging out by the pool.

7.Include something personal, non‐touristy. It could be a private get‐together with locals, tickets to a hard‐to‐get play or special entree to an off‐limits room at the muse In short, include features that make your group feel special – things they couldn’t do on their own will make them appreciate the trip that much more.

8.Vary trip activities. Most trips designed for the general public do best with a broad‐brush approach – a little of this, a little of that. Try to include some history, some art, some music, etc., rather than placing an over‐emphasis on just one type of activity.

9.Get it all confirmed in writing. All of your trip components should be confirmed in writing with prices before you establish your trip price and announce it. There’s nothing more unprofessional than having to change the name of the hotel, move the dates or increase the price after you’ve published.

10.Handle monies properly. You won’t have access to clients’ monies at the outset so verify what deposits you’ll need to outlay for airlines, hotels, etc., and dates they’re due. Arrange for a line of credit if deposits are hefty and adjust your customer deposit schedule accordingly so you’re not too far out on a limb.

11.Be super organized. Keep a master calendar of important dates: deposits to suppliers, final rooming lists, billing date, reviews with suppliers at 90‐60‐30 days prior to departure The surprises you get here are not good ones.

12.Say hello and good‐bye with flair. Start your trip with a bang‐up welcome reception or dinner complete with introductions, festivities and a few well‐chosen words on your rules of the road Likewise, on the last night, include an unforgettable farewell event so you send them home happy and eager to travel with you again.

13.Be the best leader you can. A leader with good social and organizational skills can make the trip even if other operational details go awry.

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