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How To Plan Trips on a Budget

People travel for all sorts of reasons: great food, adventure, learning opportunities, relaxation, etc. But almost everyone who takes a trip is in search of one critical component: a good price.

As a group travel planner, you can put together amazing trips, but if the prices are too high, you will probably find that few people will sign up. This is especially true for churches, where the inclusive mission of a travel program makes it important for trips to be affordable to as many people in the congregation as possible.

Much of the cost of tours is tied up in transportation and hotels, as well as fees charged by tour operators. There’s only so much you can do to change these numbers. But even given the inherent costs involved in travel, there are plenty of strategies you can employ to keep your trips on budget.

1. Travel close to home.

Trips to marquee destinations like New York City or the Holy Land may seem appealing, but that kind of travel can be expensive. If you’re on a limited budget, and especially if you’re just starting your travel program, you can save considerable money by taking trips to interesting destinations close to home. Day trips save you the cost of overnight accommodations, and two- or three-night trips to places within driving distance can help you build community and create fellowship in your church group without racking up significant travel expenses.

2. Use smaller vehicles.

Traditionally, group travel has employed full-size motorcoaches, which can seat up to 55 passengers. This is a comfortable and convenient way to move a group but can come at a high price, sometimes $1,500 per day or more. If your group is smaller than 30 or 40 people, consider renting an executive coach, a shuttle bus or even a 15-passenger van to transport them. Your travelers may miss the luxury of the larger, more spacious coach, but they will appreciate the cost savings.

3. Travel offseason.

Many popular destinations have predictable demand cycles that dictate their high and low seasons — such as ski resorts in winter and beach destinations in summer. Visiting these areas in peak season will bring high hotel prices. But taking tours to those same places during the slower seasons can result in significant savings on hotel rates. As long as your group is prepared for less-than-ideal weather, you can save significant money and, as a bonus, avoid the crowds.

4. Aim for slow days. 

You can also find cost savings by visiting destinations on slower days of the week. In some cities that get a lot of Monday-through-Friday business travel, weekend hotel prices can be much lower. Many destinations that thrive on weekend leisure travel offer discounts to groups that will fill otherwise empty rooms during the week.

5. Target hotel value. 

Nothing else affects the price of a trip more than hotel rates, and the price you pay for rooms can vary dramatically based on location and amenities. You should have a list of which features are important to your group — perhaps free breakfast and interior corridors — and which are not, such as a pool or a fitness center. Target your hotel searches to properties that offer the most of what you need and the least of what you don’t. And keep in mind that you can often save significantly on hotels if you’re willing to sacrifice on location, staying in the suburbs, near an airport or away from the city center.

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.