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Faith Travel 101 — How to make trips memorable


What is the secret to making trips memorable?

Throughout their lifetimes, the travelers in your church will likely take dozens or even hundreds of trips. Some of the trips will be quite routine; others will be extraordinary. As a group travel planner, you want to make sure your journeys are among their best travel experiences. To do that, you’ll have to do some things to make your tours extra special.

There are all sorts of ways to make trips memorable, among them traveling to far-flung places and arranging high-end luxury experiences. But memorable trips don’t have to come with big price tags. Creativity and strategic thinking can turn any trip into a journey your group will be talking about long after its return home.

Here are some ways you can make your group’s trips memorable.

1) Include some surprises.
Sometimes what makes trips memorable are the unexpected things that happen along the way. Although some itinerary items seem almost compulsory in some destinations — visiting the Statue of Liberty in New York or the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, for instance — most destinations offer much more just below the surface.

Create memorable experiences for your travelers by surprising them while they’re on the road. Take them on an outdoor adventure they weren’t expecting or treat them to a show or a concert that is in town for one night only. You can maximize the effect by keeping some of your best experiences off the published itinerary, so that they truly surprise your group when the right time arrives.

Travel is often most enjoyable when we have experiences that aren’t available to us at home, so look for activities that are unique to the places you’re visiting. People will always remember “that one time” they did a certain activity that isn’t available anywhere else.

2) Splurge from time to time.
Historically, group travel has been associated with low cost. There are economies of scale that help groups get good prices when they travel, and many travel planners have used those good prices to attract cost-conscious customers for decades. But ultracheap trips don’t always make memorable experiences.

To change that, find a few ways to splurge when planning a trip for your group. Little indulgences can make a modest trip sparkle. Include one dinner at a gourmet restaurant instead of a typical buffet. If you’re using various hotels in one trip, stay a night or two at a more upscale property as part of the mix. Treat your travelers to a minimassage, a drink or a surprise dessert. Arrange to have a VIP visit to a museum or an attraction.

Splurging doesn’t have to be super expensive — church groups are often traveling on a tight budget, after all — but it should inject a moment of luxury into a trip that will excite people and make them feel special. If you are able to deliver a few upscale experiences while keeping the cost of your trip reasonable, people will remember the value you created for them.

3) Make connections. 
One of the most powerful elements of travel is its ability to make connections among people of different places, backgrounds and traditions. Those human connections can often give us the memories that endure from a tour, which means that great trips require great personal touches.

To establish deep connections, you need to extend the circle of people your travelers will encounter beyond the tourism and hospitality industry. Hotel employees and tour guides are integral to the success of a trip, but sometimes our interactions with them can seem less than personal. Your travelers crave opportunities to connect with the real-life residents of the places they’re visiting, and you’re the one who can give that to them.

Church groups have some of the best opportunities to connect with locals. You can plan to have social visits with groups from similar churches in the areas that you visit. If your group is mission-minded, arrange to spend an afternoon volunteering to help a good cause in the area. And don’t forget to help foster relationship building among the members of your group as well.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.