But organized travel via a group tour, whether domestically (a biking tour of the New England coast, a bus tour to National Parks) or internationally (a walking tour of Italy, a train trip across Europe), doesn't come cheap. Some travelers, however, still prefer group vacations for the camaraderie, safety and ease of planning.
If you desire a group vacation, there are ways to save money on the bottom-line cost of the trip. Use these tips to save several hundred dollars—and possibly more—off your group travel tour price:
1. Pay early
In group travel situations, early bird registrants are often rewarded. If you know a grand group tour is in your future, plan ahead—and pay, if possible, all at once to take advantage of discounts. Sometimes, individual tour directors will offer an early registration discount (like $100 off the price of a tour); other times, the coordinating company will extend the discount (like 10 percent off the entire tour package) to help secure enough travelers for the tour.
2. Find a roommate
Even if you are traveling solo, consider rooming with someone else on the tour. A double-occupancy room (or even three people to a room) is much cheaper than staying single-occupancy. If you don't know anyone on the tour personally, ask the tour director (or the company customer service representative) about the possibility of finding a bunk mate. This small sacrifice of space can yield big savings over the duration of your trip.
3. Deny an upgrade
When on a group vacation, days are usually jam-packed with activities morning through night, so you won't be spending much time in your hotel room. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to splurge on a suite with a balcony. Opting for the most cost-efficient room available (such as an interior cabin on a cruise, a ground floor hotel room or non-ocean view beachside quarters) can result in immediate bottom-line savings of several-hundred dollars.
4. Choose optional excursions carefully
Spa massage? Off-shore snorkeling? Sunset dinner on a catamaran? They all sound divine—but they all come at a cost. Resist the temptation to purchase all the optional excursions available on a group trip. Having a quiet night alone to stroll the boardwalk on the beach or visit a laid-back café where locals go instead of a pricey tourist restaurant can be just as fun at a fraction of the cost.
5. Opt out of insurance
In the name of an emergency, it can be tempting to say "yes" to the optional travel, cancellation, life or luggage insurance policies offered on a group trip. And while there might be certain life situations or certain individuals for whom these would be important purchases, the large majority of travelers don’t ever cash in on these policies. If you are in general good health, pack sensibly and have personally committed to a large vacation, forgo the costly triple-digit insurance policies, some of which may even offer the same protection you already have through your own existing policies via your credit card, airline carrier or family life insurance policy.
6. Ask about a special event
Are you marking a birthday while on vacation? Celebrating being cancer free? If you have a special event, bring it to the attention of the tour director or company travel counselor. You might get a free excursion, a free cake or a free local keepsake while on tour in order to remember the special day.
7. Refer others or lead a group
If you have traveled before and are in a position to refer others to a company or lead a group of students or like-minded adult travelers, you could have the cost of your own trip covered. This can be a great way to curb the cost of your travel while introducing others to the joys of group vacationing.
Group travel does not have to be an expensive, out-of-reach option. Using these tips, you'll be able to travel sensibly but well for your next exciting destination experience.