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Speedy Group Reservation Secrets

Want to speed things along when blocking off rooms or booking group flight reservations for a wedding, family reunion, or special occasion with friends? Believe it or not, so do the group reservation agents. Plan ahead with these basic steps, so the group reps can speed things along.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the benefits of group booking such as same rates for every member of your party, potential room upgrades, and more, so you know what to expect.
  2. Know the myths of getting a discount so you can better plan the timing of your trip, etc.
  3. Educate yourself about some basic hotel group policies so the questions you ask are more specific and tailored down to your group's needs.
  4. Educate yourself about standard airline deposit terms and lingo so you're as prepared as possible when it comes time to make a group reservation.
  5. Use the "who's coming" (RSVP/invite) feature of TripHub to correctly estimate the number of group passengers who will travel will help avoid penalties for falling below the minimum number needed for a group rate. Give the group representative a number as close to accurate as you can.
  6. Flexibility on dates and times is key. If your group can travel at different times or on different dates, this will assist the group desk in finding the best rates.
  7. Discuss alternative airports or destinations with your group and give that information (in comment fields on online forms) to the group reservation desk. This could result in additional savings for the trip.

Air and Hotel Group Reservation Benefits

When traveling with friends and family, you may qualify for group reservations. Hotels often require a 10-room minimum (of double occupancy which equals 20 people) and airlines typically require a 10-passenger minimum. If your group fits into those criteria, the booking process differs from booking reservations as individuals. And while there are a few cons to booking this way (including some discount myths), there are also numerous benefits.

  1. You get a real human helping you out through the process.
  2. You get the fairness of everyone paying the same rate.
  3. You get the benefit of being able to get rooms at the same place and seats on the same flight.
  4. If your group is only a little bigger than the number of units (seats/rooms) available at a low price, the supplier (or a good group representative) may open up a few more in order to ensure they get the group booking.
  5. Full price isn't due until (usually) 30 days prior to departure. By booking air reservations in bulk (and often hotels as well), you'll be able to make a deposit and pay the remainder as you get closer to traveling. This helps with planning so you can send reminders to people, do fundraising activities, and folks don't have to pay for big expenses too far in advance.
  6. Some hotels will offer additional amenities such as morning papers, room upgrades, or fruit baskets when booking a big block of rooms.
  7. Special requests: These can often (but not always) be accommodated, including making sure the entire group has rooms/seats near each other or on the same floor of a hotel.
  8. Locking in availability: Hotels and airlines have their room/seat inventory management down to a science and their goal is to maximize profitability. By booking in bulk, you can lock in a certain rate and ensure you have enough space for your group. Group room/seat availability varies by hotel/flight; just plan early (several months in advance).

Remember, hoteliers want to put heads in beds just as much as airlines want butts in seats. The same goes for cruise lines and activity operators. A half-full ship sailing to the Caribbean is a sad ship sailing to the Caribbean in the supplier's mind. Groups are the industry's way of helping manage their inventory and ensuring they meet their sales numbers.

Group reservations may not work for every group trip, but if it's good to know the rules of engagement and some of the pros and cons to expect.


Group Discount Myths

Everyone wants to save a few dollars, even a few hundred dollars when traveling. Travel deals, airfare sales, hotel specials (3rd night free, kids stay free) all entice us to vacation with saving money. But is it really cheaper to book in bulk? Sometimes. But not always.

There are numerous group reservation benefits. But here are common myths:

Myth #1: Groups discounts are commonly defined across the travel industry
Airlines generally define a group as 10 or more passengers. Hotels tend to define a group as 10 or more rooms of double occupancy (20 people). Cruises and activity operators have their own criteria for groups. Restaurants vary on whether or not they can accept group reservations, and if they do, less likely to offer discounts unless you have a coupons already. Many activity operators (snorkeling tours, river rafting, etc.) can accept groups, but the number of people varies widely depending on vehicle occupancy, type of tour, etc. You get the idea. Your group may qualify for a discount at a theater (7 girls on a getaway weekend), but not for a block of rooms at the hotel closest to a friend's wedding.

Myth #2: If a group has fewer than 10 people, it is not a group
Not true. What about the group of 7 guys who goes golfing for a weekend? Or 9 girls on a spa getaway? Or an extended family traveling together: parents, kids, grandparents, aunt/uncle? They are absolutely groups. Groups don't have to be industry-defined to travel together. Friends and family travel in groups all the time and aren't necessarily considered traditional groups by the travel industry. See more on what defines a group.

Myth #3: Seasonality doesn't affect group reservations
Travel industry prices are highly tuned into the seasons, regardless of how many people in the party. Caribbean is cheaper than ever in the Spring and Fall (during hurricane-prone seasons), while Hawaii is most expensive during the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. It doesn't matter how big your group is, you'll pay more for a European summer trip than you would in a lower season month (such as October). And the same applies to other destinations and their peak seasons. Planning well in advance can help, you aren't immune from the seasonal pricing fluctuations. Seasonal rates apply to airlines, hotels, activity, cruises, and tour operators.

Myth #4: Black-out dates don't apply to groups
Groups can travel any time, but all travel is subject to peak times and black-out dates (which vary by destination). Fares are higher, deadlines for things like deposits are more restrictive, and space is more limited not just for peak travel, but also for black-out dates, such as major holidays. While destinations and suppliers vary for black-out dates, U.S.holidays are when availability is most limited for the majority of suppliers including airlines, hotels, restaurants, theaters, and many activity companies.

Myth #5: Booking group reservations guarantees a discount
First, the number of units (seats/rooms) your group needs may exceed the number available at the cheapest rate, so even with a discount off the lowest rate available for your group, at least some members of your group could find a lower price by booking individually.

Second, prices do not necessarily go up as you get closer to the travel date, so contracting early enough to ensure that there's enough space available for you puts you at risk of missing out a potential lower price later. Just as with individual purchases, deciding when to buy is a trade-off between price and availability, and a bit of a bet.

Myth #6: Deposits for group flights and hotel rooms are fully refundable
Restrictions occur (and vary) for any group reservation. Normally, if people cancel and the total number of passengers falls below 90% of your original estimated number of passengers, you'll lose the deposit for those passengers. If the final number of people who go on the trip is below the pre-set minimum, all existing tickets/rooms must be reissued and penalties may apply (such as flight change fees).

Armed with this reality check of group discounts, go forth and travel the world together. Discounts do exist. They just aren't as easy to secure as we'd all like to believe, and it does take a little vigilance to manage a group contract. Just be sure to ask the group reservation representative, as they're usually willing to be helpful to make sure your group is accommodated.


Boating, the Great Urban Escape

Ah, cities with water. Whether its lakefront, oceanfront, bayfront, or riverfront, living in or visiting a city with water access can be bliss in the sultry summer months.

Dangling my toes from the bow, I went on a boat ride this past weekend with a few others. A potpourri group of friends and family. This activity is highly group-oriented, especially in a city known for having the highest number of boats per capita. Seattle waterways were jam-packed on Sunday with kayakers, power boaters, wooden boaters, canoers, rowers, floaters, pedalers, sailors, wake-boarders, water skiers, and the list goes on.

Watching other boats pass our boat, I noticed that regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status (believe me, you can tell a lot by someone's boat), everyone had a perma-grin. Water can be the great equalizer. People on boats of all shapes and sizes (passengers to match) waved and smiled as they floated by each other.

With so many people crowding the waterways, I felt privileged to help the skipper navigate by yelling, "Canoers on the port side!" and other super official-sounding lingo. I was luckiest girl in the world, for the day. Warm breeze, water splashing, scrumptious food and drinks, all in good company.

I highly recommend some form of a boating this summer, kicking your feet up, and letting the wake be your guide. Even within city limits, you can be miles away.


Groups Flock to Las Vegas

With Las Vegas dubbed the Entertainment Capital of the World, it's no wonder that our research at TripHub shows more groups planning trips to Las Vegas than any other destination.

Las_vegas_group_travel2_1Surprised? Don't be. Las Vegas has long been popular for bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, weekend gambling getaways (and gawking) for guys, easy-bake wedding ceremonies or full-blown weddings, and a launch pad for visiting the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and other area attractions. And when conventioneers converge there, attendees often extend their stay and invite family or friends to join them.

Vegas continues to evolve, offering world-class shows (think Cirque du Soleil's Mystere, O, Zumanity, plus a bevy of Broadway, magic, and variety shows that thrill 'til dawn), concerts by renowned music artists, and more high-rolling resort casinos than anywhere else on Earth.

Even the anti-glitz travelers (ahem, like myself) who prefer tamer, more au naturale vacations, often admit that Las Vegas is good for entertaining and best enjoyed with a group of friends when you can double dare them to keep betting on the roulette table or give them a dollar bill to tip the dancer (that would be for the guys). The sweeping view from the top of Mandalay Bay is worth seeing, the Bellagio waterworks display dazzling, a massage at any of the luxury hotel spas relaxing, and other activities can fill your every waking moment. Sleep when you return home.

Planning a trip to Las Vegas with family or friends? Here are ideas to get you started:

  • Las_vegas_group_travel_2Plan a weekend getaway with friends, bachelor(ette) party, family vacation, or wedding using TripHub by setting up a home page for your group, inviting guests, discussing hotels, sharing itinerary information, and more
  • Book a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip
  • Soar above Las Vegas on a helicopter night flight
  • Hover over the Grand Canyon by air, helicopter, or tour via bus
  • Tour Hoover Dam, engineering masterpiece
  • Catch Las Vegas shows from Splash to Blue Man Group
  • Las Vegas wedding chapels and locations
  • Fremont Street Experience


Photos provided by Las Vegas News Bureau


Romance Via Traveling

I'm not sure if it's the thrill of traveling, alcohol shared among friends, a romantic new setting, or the free feeling of being away from home and responsibilities. My guess is it's a combination of all that can convert travelers to accidental romantics, leading to travel trysts and even some long-lasting relationships.

But be careful. Traveling can also raise toxic levels of flirtation. Enough to make any travel companion gag.

How can group trips increase your chances of meeting that Mr. or Ms. Right Now (or, better yet, that special someone for longer)?

  1. Meeting up for drinks or activities with other like-minded travelers is a great benefit of traveling when you're still single. When traveling solo (especially as a woman), it's not necessarily as easy to meet someone (or safe). However, when with a group of family or friends, you can meet other travelers, knowing you're in the safe comfort of traveling with those you trust.
  2. Destination weddings are naturally themed with romance. Attending a destination wedding as a singleton is a sure fire way to meet at least one eligible bachelor or bachelorette. Be proactive or non-chalant. Ask your friends to introduce you to anyone "special" they know who's attending. Or casually scan the ceremony for singles, and then find yourself next to them in the buffet line at the reception.

    True story: A bride groom and groomsman at a destination wedding of a friend of mine met at the wedding and struck up a long-distance relationship for over a year. They also toured around the destination immediately after the wedding day with other wedding guests. Last I'd heard, after taking a 6-month break, they are back together and may try to live in the same city.
  3. Vacationing with friends opens doors to meeting someone. Whether camping, skiing, road tripping, gambling in Las Vegas, or just doing a weekend getaway, friends of friends usually come well-recommended or at least well-researched.

    True story: A good friend met a woman who was equally as crazy about skiing as he was. Shortly after they met through friends, a big group of them planned a European ski trip in January, where they got closer and have been dating seriously ever since.
  4. Friends serve as "wing men." If you're single and traveling with a group of friends and you meet someone intriguing, chances are your friends will be encouraging. And they'll have your back in case things go awry. This makes it all the more fun to flirt and get to know someone at a bar in a different destination than when at home, you may be more likely to play it safe and stay in your comfort zone of just visiting with friends. If nothing else, you can come home and brag about the best kiss you've ever had while on the London Eye with a saucy Brit you and your friends met while on vacation.

    True story: Being as vague as I possibly can be to protect a friend of mine, let's just say I've heard the Italian Riviera is a great aphrodisiac. Limoncello helps.
  5. Travel where singles travel. Club Med caters to groups such as golf pals, sewing cirlce (many singles, too). Hedonism resorts in the Caribbean have singles activities and welcome groups. And we all know that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Beaches around the world are also laden with possibilities. Plus, ski resorts and towns during the winter months are group gathering meccas and ideal for warming up with a cozy kiss.

In general, when traveling with friends or families, have fun, be yourself, and get into the groove of the trip. Play it safe. And be cool. In no time, the natural relaxation of the destination and comfortable group could lead to a romance of a lifetime.

Any other ways group trips can add a little romantic spice to a trip?


Don't Lodge 12 People in a Single-Room Apartment and Four Other Group Travel Tips

by Pamela Slim, guest blogger

In the follies of my twenties, I co-led a trip to Brazil for 12 martial art students.

I was hot and heavy in the study of Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art.  I had spent three months living in Rio de Janeiro a couple of years earlier, familiarizing myself with the language and country.

A friend and I "organized" (and I use this term lightly) a trip for fellow students who wanted to train Capoeira in its motherland.  I was used to traveling light and without lots of plans, so I didn't imagine that it would be a very big deal. I was wrong.  Participants for the most part were college students with no money, so we wanted to keep things as cheap as possible.

Here's what we did wrong that I encourage you to avoid:

  1. To save money, we lodged 12 people in a single-room apartment for a few nights.  It didn't seem like a very big deal when we arranged it, but it quickly became evident that 12 people had important bathroom needs that could not be met by one commode.  Uncomfortable, to say the least.
  2. We left plans too open and flexible. It is one thing to have no plans when you are travelling alone or in a twosome, it is quite another when you have a gaggle of students.  Imagine the adult equivalent of 12 kids constantly asking "Are we there yet?" and "I'm bored, what are we doing today?" for three weeks straight.  We should have made more concrete plans so our group knew what to expect.
  3. I didn't factor in a charge for my services. I paid the same amount as everyone else, and spent most of the three weeks frantically organizing the next leg of the trip, acting as tour guide and translator and trying to quell student frustrations. I was exhausted by the end and frustrated that people didn't enjoy it more.
  4. We made the trip too long for such a large group of people. We stayed for over two weeks. Tempers started to flare and nerves got raw. If we had provided comfortable rooms where everyone could relax and get away from each other, it would have been different. But our operating on a shoestring with everyone together all the time type of trip dragged on for too long.
  5. We didn't get to the airport early enough for the flight home. The Brazilian airline attendants informed me that there was no way everyone could make it on the flight, even though we had reserved seats. My friend was a native Brazilian with a terrible temper, and he played an excellent "bad cop" to my "good cop."  Finally they pleaded with me "If you can make that man shut up and go away, we will put you all in first class."

On the upside, we did get interviewed by a national Brazilian television station who did a story on our visit to their country to learn a native art form.  They filmed an interview with me in Portuguese, and capped the segment off with footage of us doing the national "booty shaking dance" of Samba. Apparently, I had good hips for a gringa.  At the airport, I got called up to the counter by a pair of serious-looking airline managers.  Fearing visa troubles or more cancelled flights, I solemnly asked what was wrong. One leaned over and whispered to me, "Was that you on television today? Man, you can sure Samba!"

Pamela Slim is a seasoned coach who helps frustrated creatives in corporate jobs break out and start their own business. You can find her at her own blog, Escape from Cubicle Nation. Don't worry, she doesn't lead trips anymore.


Ecotourism, A Convenient Truth

With Al Gore's new documentary on global warming, an inconvenient truth indeed, people are privvy to evidence of this phenomenon known by scientists for years. Even some non-tree huggers admit that we all contribute in some ways to the effect.

Luckily, as travelers, we can help. Think globally, act wherever we plant our feet. That extends to travel destinations. Ecotourism is a growing niche of the travel industry. Costa Rica was a pioneer in building a tourism industry that was founded on sustainability of its flora, fauna, and community.

The International Ecotourism Society offers the following basic principles that help define ecotourism so you can identify companies that practice the principle. This can serve as a checklist to find an ecotourism company or tour/activity when you plan your next trip:

  • Minimize impact
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate
  • Support international human rights and labor agreements

Maui's Pacific Whale Foundation is a snorkeling, whale-watching, and ecotourism organization that serves as a shining example, living up to these criteria.

Of course, it can be hard to travel entirely with ecological matters guiding your vacation decisions. But rather than driving all over Napa Valley, why not consider doing a half-day bike tour? That day of not driving would cut down on CO2 emissions, which will likely save the planet. I'm sure of it. Plus, your vacation will be that much more adventurous.


Best Nude Beaches

Going along with my previous post on the rising nude travel trend, the next logical question is "where are the nude beaches?" since it seems like a natural combination - beach and bare buns. (Unless, of course, the subject makes you uncomfortable as hell and you'd rather go to your happy place and pretend you aren't intrigued. Understandable.)

The Travel Channel has compiled a list of what they call the best beaches for naturalists. Have a look. Then walk, don't run, to plan a trip with friends (even family), if you dare to go bare.

  1. Centre Helio Montalivet in Bordeaux, France
    Best for purists
  2. Couples Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica
    Best for couples or groups of couples new to going nude
  3. Wreck Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia
    Best for young adults
  4. Samurai Beach in Port Stephens, Australia
    Best for anyone
  5. Hedonism II in Negril, Jamaica along the famous 7-mile beach
    Best for hedonists and swinging singles (pun very much intended)
  6. Pinho Beach (Praia do Pinho) in Santa Catarina, Brazil
    Best for anyone
  7. Red Beach in Crete, Greece
    Best for rustic naturists
  8. Haulover Beach near Miami, Florida
    Best for organized group activites such as nude volleyball, nude swimming
  9. Red, White, and Blue Beach in Santa Cruz, California
    Best for groovy, bohemian nudists
  10. Little Beach in Maui, Hawaii
    Best for body surfing in the buff

Any other note-worthy nude beaches? How do y'all feel about nude beach-going?


Chocolate Spas, Heaven on Earth

Don't get me started on the appeal of this massage treatment. It's as if my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fantasy of living amid treats and sweets grew up with me.

If you're in love with chocolate (enough to smother yourself in it), head to The Spa at The Hershey Hotel in Hershey, Pennsylvania for chocolate treatments sure to melt the soul. Perfect for a birthday party celebration or girls getaway (think bachelorette party). Men with chocolate fever can also enjoy spa treatments there as well.

Health benefits of chocolate are good news. Here is more information from Fine Dark Chocolate on wellness attributes such as possibly staving off heart disease, high blood pressure, and helping with anti-aging. Hmm... perhaps there's more to cocoa beans than meets the mouth?

Wine spas. Chocolate spas. What's next? Snickers spas with peanut wraps and nougat facials? Why doesn't the spa industry just splash us with Chardonnay and dip us in dark, dreamy, drippy chocolate syrup until we're so sick of our guilty pleasures that we seek wholesome, back-to-the-basics activities like dinner with the four food groups or jogging.