As I began the daunting adventure of writing this blog, I first thought of what are some of the challenges groups have while planning a trip. It occurred to me that the best way to help is to start at the beginning. No trip can begin without knowing WHERE to go. And more often than not, with multiple personalities involved with the planning and choosing, there are disagreements. If you are the group leader, you are probably being given opinions, whether you want them or not. Now anyone can go online and find the top "things to do" in any given city. So, I think I'd like to offer advice based on our experiences. The number one U.S. destination for group travel is New York City. So let's start there.
NEW YORK CITY
There are alot of things to do in New York City. Visiting the Empire State Building is one such thing. But have you ever seen the line to get to the top? It can be a 2-3 hour wait, even at night. An alternative is to visit Top of the Rock. Although it is slightly more expensive, the views are amazing, and the wait is much shorter. There is more room to walk around and view the different angles of the city. And it saves time the group can use to see other sights.
Keeping your group together during your visit can be a real challenge. There are hundreds of thousands of people on the streets at any time. Breaking the group up into smaller groups, and assigning a leader of each smaller group is wise. Especially if you are a student group. Having a chaperone keep track of a few kids each helps. Having a guide that knows the city is also vital. If you are taking a motorcoach, making sure you have a driver that knows the city will save you alot of wasted time trying to figure out the city streets. I have seen inexperienced drivers get lost and frustrated, making the trip a stressful one.
Staying outside the city, in New Jersey for example, can save you lots of money. It is often $75-100 less per night. If it is worth the 20-30 minute drive in each day, it's a great alternative. Hotel room rates will be increasing in 2011 in New York. So this will be a viable option for alot of groups now.You do want to make sure you are staying in a safe area. The hotels will often tell you it is safe to get your business, even when it's not. This is where a good tour operator comes in handy.
More often than not, you would have an itinerary for the group before you go. We have found that you need alot of flexibility in your plans. Leaving one day open to a loose schedule has been an option alot of groups have enjoyed. This could be someone's first and only visit to the city. There are things they will want to see and do. Using those smaller groups I mentioned before, you can make a meeting place and time (i.e. Time Square Broadway ticket booth at 4pm), and let the groups vote on what they want to do. Let them explore and meet up later, and make sure everyone has a map (given away free at any subway station) and phone numbers. More often than not, it was the favorite day of most of our groups.
With careful planning and a good tour guide, New York can be an amazing experience. There have been dramatic improvements in safety and the city is much cleaner than it was in decades past. For suggestions on things to do while here, view the destinations tab on our website, and click on New York. Next stop.......Orlando!