Organising group ski holidays - top tips
Organising a group ski holiday doesn't have to be daunting. If you have been elected as this winter's party leader for your group ski holiday don't panic! We have been helping party leaders arrange their ski holidays since 1992 - we have held plenty of hands through this process and can ensure that organising your ski holiday goes easily and smoothly.
See our top tips below to get a head start in the planning process. Some party leaders like to do all the hard work themselves and that's fine too but don't forget that we are here to take the strain. We love to help our party leaders and there is nothing we would like more than helping you organise your group ski holiday.
Our top tips for organising a group ski holiday
1. Hotel or chalet?There are advantages and disadvantages for both accommodation types but generally you will find more choice and will save money if you book a group ski chalet which you can take for exclusive use. There are some hotels that we work with which are very happy to take group bookings and we recommend these for alpine conferences and corporate trips. However, most hotels will turn away group bookings as they fear their individual guests may not approve. Furthermore, tour operators which offer good value packaged holidays (charter flights and shared transfers included) do not have large allocations of rooms at hotels. This means that if you do wish to stay in a hotel we need to put together a bespoke holiday for you by booking direct with the hotel and with scheduled flights and private transfers added - all this is very do-able and would be financially protected under our ATOL licence. However, a bespoke booking will add to the holiday cost.
2. Arrange a budgetThis may seem obvious but it's important to set the budget or at least an approximation of one early on. You can't please all the people all the time but you know your group and what comforts they expect from their holiday. Larger ski areas will command higher prices when it comes to accommodation so maybe look at smaller resorts. Your budget will go a lot further, and for the same price you will be able to book far more comfortable accommodation with better food and service. Chalets and hotels which are located near to the resort centre or the lifts/pistes will also carry a high price tarrif. Ski convenience is important and if you are a group that likes to party being close to the centre of resort maybe a priority but don't forget that many chalets and hotels have a driver service for accessing the skiing and many resorts have an efficient free bus service which runs till late at night. For greater value look at properties that are further from the resort centre and lifts/pistes. As a rule of thumb a group of 12+ people will benefit from group discounts. In a chalet these discounts are typically 10% from the advertised basic per person rate. So, a chalet holiday advertised at £1,100 per person might cost £990 after the group discount has been applied. However, when presenting costs to your group it is always better to 'under promise and over deliver'. The price of a group holiday is a slightly fluid thing. As the numbers in your party rise and fall the size and per person share of group discounts will change. Furthermore you might encounter 'empty bed' supplements if you have drop outs after the initial booking and deposit payment has been made. Therefore we recommend you ask the group for a commitment based on a slightly higher price than you think the holiday will cost. Later on when the group has been finalised and all costs are known you can give the group the good news and let them know the price has actually come down. This is much easier than under estimating the price and asking for more money from the group at a later date.
3. When to go?The winter ski season is divided into low, mid and high season periods. We recommend that you avoid the high season periods (Christmas, New Year, February Half Term and Easter) unless you are a family group; have teachers in your party or want to party hard at New Year. High season prices are very high and group discounts unlikely. The low season periods of early December, mid January, mid March or late April will give you the best prices with maximum group discounts. However, you will need to choose your resort carefully if considering early December or late April - snow cover is likely to be an issue so aim for high altitude resorts.
4. Go it aloneIt's tempting to have a committee of friends to help. After all you could bounce ideas off them and discuss which resorts, accommodation options weeks would be best to go. Our advice is to make the decision making process largely your own - designing by committee is fraught with confusion and you may find you simply go round and round. Taken to an extreme these time delays might mean you lose accommodation options which get booked by other parties who are more decisive. You might also find that heated discussions with the committee fracture the group to the point where plans completely fall apart. Our advice is to 'go it alone' (but with our help of course).
5. Use a specialist agent and use them wellSpecialist ski travel agencies (like Alpine Answers) have a wide range of accommodation options, a wealth of experience, advice on ski hire and ski schools and their booking service is absolutely free. There are lots and lots of reasons to use a specialist ski agency. At Alpine Answers our product range is wider than most and we are totally independent. This means we always recommend the holiday we believe is right for our client and not the holiday our shareholders are demanding we sell. Alpine Answers is ABTA and ATOL bonded for your financial security and when chalet companies do not offer their own guest financial protection (and there are plenty of them) we include our own financial protection which is built into your holiday booking. In these days of fake websites and holiday bookings which are not financially protected you should be very careful with your group's money. Every year we have quite a few clients who come to us after they and their group have been burnt. When you are a party leader you are often paying large sums of money on your group's behalf. Make sure the agent or holiday company you are using and booking with offer financial protection and are who they say they are. Caveat Emptor! If you have elected to use a specialist ski travel agent to help you there is one golden rule...
Choose one agent only and trust them to do their job! Don't think it's a great idea to use multiple agents thinking that you will get more choice and could potentially use one agent against another to drive the price down. At best you will get in a real muddle with all the options flooding in and who is offering what, and at worst you will annoy both agents who will then not offer you their best service.