Who doesn’t love piling into a bus with a big group of friends to travel to an event? Road trips can be a great way to build a community within your alumni chapter. I talk to club leaders who would like to plan one but are a little hesitant. I understand. There’s a lot to think about. But these don’t have to be difficult to plan if you break up the planning into small pieces and get a volunteer or 2 to help. In the spirit of breaking things up, I’m breaking this topic into 3 parts. Part 1, this one, will discuss how to start your planning. Part 2 will get you through the nitty gritty of negotiating and committing to contracts with your vendors. The last topic, A Smooth Ride, handles the details for getting your group ready to go on their adventure.
Start The Planning Early
There’s a lot of problems you can avoid or manage if you start your planning early. Know what you want to do and when so you can build in enough time to have a smooth event. For most road trips, a 3-4 month head start should do but if this is a once in a lifetime kind of event – an international trip, a national championship – your lead time should be longer. Getting an early start can help to avoid added costs that may be incurred if you put things together at the last minute.
Create Your Itinerary
When starting your itinerary plan, begin with the end in mind. For example, ask yourself:
- What day and time is your main event?
- What’s the travel time to your destination?
- Will you provide food and beverage as part of the trip?
- Will you need accommodations at your destination?
- Is there time for other activities while on your trip?
Once you’ve identified these pieces, lay out your timeline and what you’ll do on the road trip so you can research vendors. Start a list of vendors, their contact info and the questions you’ll have for them.
But before you get too far into your planning preparation, don’t forget to set a target price for your road trip. Personally, I think the magic number per person is around $100 (more for an overnight trip). If you’re going to offer a number of items – a ticket, tailgate and bus trip – price the package as efficiently as possible but make it the “premium” version. Meaning, make this the most attractive price. You can then offer other packages that are pieces and parts of the premium package that will still encourage alumni to join for the fun. Just make sure that the collection of the parts isn’t a better deal than the premium package.
Can your university offer any alumni member discounts or benefits? Make sure to ask. Sometimes the alumni association has funds earmarked for this very purpose. Being able to offer a $20 discount on a $75 road trip package can make the deal sweeter and show your alumni association members the value they get for their membership.
Last, if your club does any fundraising, a road trip can be a great opportunity to raise money for your cause. Just make sure you include language in your promotional materials that indicates that a portion of the proceeds will go towards your fundraising goal.
Liability Insurance. Will you Need It?
Well, that depends. The short answer is you probably won’t. Usually transportation companies, restaurants, and the event venue will have the appropriate insurance. Just keep an eye out for any activities you may want to plan that are not provided by a vendor. Those could require some type of coverage. It’s best to go over the plans with your alumni group coordinator to determine if you should have some insurance. If so, the university may be able to provide you with a policy through their carrier or, more likely, they might recommend changes to your itinerary to avoid the need for insurance.
Start Your Promotion Early Too
Start your road trip promotion early but not too early. Make sure you are absolutely doing the road trip before you start promoting it (guilty!). I recommend starting with a Save the Date campaign as soon as you’ve locked down your date and have enough information to know you’re committing to the trip.
At the point where you have some details post them. This is where your website, email lists and social media can be great assets to get the word out. I get a Facebook event posted and shared and I start to plan and schedule Facebook posts promoting the event. Generating interest early can help you fill that bus, buy up your tickets and get your group talking about the good times they’ll have!
Promotion doesn’t just have to be online. I also recommend printing up some flyers (PicMonkey comes in handy here) and having those available at any functions you hold in advance of your road trip. The flyers should include trip details, costs and contact info.
So by the end of this preparation stage you should have:
- the date of your road trip
- the draft itinerary
- the list of possible vendors and their contact info
- the per person budget set for your premium road trip package
- confirmation that you will or will not need liability insurance
- a Save the Date campaign started
Not a bad start! In the next post, I’ll go through how to contact those vendors and start negotiating the details of your big day!