Group travel can certainly be a challenge, and that can be doubly true when you’re bringing a group that’s there to compete. Adrenaline is running high, and it can be hard to strike a balance between a fun, relaxing vacation, and the opportunity to compete away from home. Let’s take a look at a few do’s and don’ts of planning a sports team getaway to Orlando.
Do: Consider all your accommodation options
Depending on the size of your group and what your plans are while visiting Orlando, you may find it beneficial to rent a block of hotel rooms, or you may find rental homes to be more accommodating. There are a few advantages to renting vacation homes:
- You can book homes with up to 6 bedrooms each.
- You’ll have several bathrooms in each home.
- Full kitchens allow you to prepare snacks and meals for special dietary needs.
- Homes have private pools.
- The privacy offered can help your team get into the zone.
- It’s much easier for chaperons to keep an eye on the athletes when they’re staying in the same home.
- Separate living and sleeping areas make it easy to accommodate night owls with early risers.
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Depending on your school’s rules, and the rules for the competition you’re coming to Orlando for, there are likely some documents that you’ll need to have on hand for every athlete. These may include physicals, proof of insurance, parent’s consent for medical treatment, or various other waivers. Keep these forms together in a safe place and be sure you have all the documents you need well before the day of the trip.
It can be difficult to change travel plans a few weeks before the trip. A common mistake group coordinators make is to request final payment form the athletes a day or two before the final payment is due to the hotel or vacation home rental. Inevitably some will need a few extra days, or checks will get lost in the mail. Give yourself a cushion and insist on hard deadlines well before the payment is actually due.
If you have a group of 10 or more, then it’s likely you’ll have access on special pricing for everything from meals to park tickets to accommodations. In some cases you may have already found the lowest possible prices, and there won’t be group discounts available, but it never hurts to ask.
Don’t assume that your athletes are passing all the information on to their parents. While you’ll likely be in touch more frequently with the students who are actually traveling, don’t forget to keep the parents in the loop, too – especially when it comes to payment information. Get an email list together and send updates out as important travel deadlines approach.
Of course you want to get the best rates you can – but at what cost? Some coordinators get caught up in the rush of getting a great deal and fail to see the forest for the trees. Sure, it’s great to save a few bucks by booking a show on a weekday versus a weekend, but if the difference is only a few dollars more, and the drawback is having to rearrange a dozen other plans, then it may be time to bite the bullet and pay a slighter higher price for a lot more convenience.
You may find options to bundle together numerous tickets, attractions, etc., and in some cases these can result in fantastic discounts for your sports group. On the other hand, many bundles contain one thing you wouldn’t have paid for otherwise. While you may be getting a discount overall, if you subtracted the cost of this “extra” ticket, you may find it cheaper to pay full value for the things you really want to do.
In many cases, airfare can be the single largest expense of the entire trip. Chartering a bus to take the team down may not be cheap, but it could be cheaper than flying. Of course you’ll have to compare the convenience and speed of flying to be sure the tradeoff is worth it.
If you’re coming to Orlando to take part in a competition, then you may not have a lot of flexibility around your dates. However, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are typically the least expensive days for group travel. In fact, you may find such significant discounts on group flights that you’d be able to pay for another night in your vacation home or hotel.
There are literally dozens and dozens of things to do in Orlando, but crowd levels can have a significant impact on your ability to get it all done. If you’re traveling in the middle of summer then you should anticipate and plan for plenty of time spent waiting in lines. On the other hand, your trip in the middle of January will likely have few crowds and will allow for a much more vigorous itinerary.
The first step in planning your itinerary is to find out when you’re expected to be at the competition spot, and to plan your added activities around that. While it can be tempting to play it by ear when you’re planning for a large group with diverse interests, this will generally lead to a lot of arguments and hours wasted as every decision is contemplated.
A better option is to create a survey before the trip. Find out what tops everyone’s “to-do” list and pick the attractions, shows, theme parks, and experiences that are most popular. Then create a detailed itinerary of where you’ll be every day – and share it with the group! Don’t wait until the day you take off to let them know how the days will pan out. Surely some will not see their favorite activities on the list, but with some time to get used to it they can come around and have a great time. If you wait until the day of travel, you may be dealing with some pouting athletes.