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Mastering the Art of Preview Parties

Just visualizing yourself on a beach can make you almost as happy as sitting on a beach. A study published in the National Library of Medicine revealed that anticipation boosts happiness for travelers before their vacations even begin.

Take advantage of this knowledge with a pretrip or preview party designed to build excitement for your travelers about their upcoming tour. Longer trips can benefit from an event specifically designed to build excitement for the upcoming trip as well as share important travel information and allow for group members who are strangers to meet.

Find Your Purpose

Many loyalty travel planners use some type of preview party before a longer trip, but depending on the group, the events can look completely different. For example, some planners focus on more informational events by handing out packets of information and going over frequently asked questions.

“We have preparties for our bigger trips,” said Mary Beth Kurasek, travel club director for Busey Bank in Champaign, Illinois. “They will have tips on what to pack and how to prepare for the trip.”

Others will invite not just group members signed up for the trip, but also potential travelers in hopes of persuading them to join the trip. Passion can be contagious, so an enthusiastic travel planner talking face to face with a potential traveler can prove more persuasive than a promotional email.

Determine what ultimate goals you have for your pretrip party, then organize the event accordingly. If the invitation list is limited to booked travelers, you can focus more on ensuring group members meet one another.

Let participants introduce themselves to the group with a little background information and by asking them each one question, such as, what are they most looking forward to on the trip. Food or snacks with built-in time for conversation can also help with introductions.

Many travel planners will also create presentations with pictures of the destination alongside important travel details. When choosing what to cover, emphasize commonly asked questions, such as weather, currency, clothes and final itinerary information.

Print the information you will review for travelers to take home so they don’t have to take notes.

Dress It Up

On a pretrip party for a group tour of Spain, Spanish tapas, beer and wine greeted alumni of LaGrange College for a taste of the delicacies that were to come.

“We always have a party at the president’s home with everyone who is traveling,” said Martha Pirkle, director of alumni and community relations for the LaGrange College Alumni Association. “It’s a pretravel party for the travelers to go over any last-minute travel information, as well as to enjoy food from that region.”

Themed preview parties always add an element of anticipation to an upcoming journey. Try to set the stage for the destinations, whether that entails chocolate and cheese fondue for a trip to Switzerland, or leis, pineapple pork and luau decorations for a trip to Hawaii.

Even nonexotic destinations like Iowa can lend themselves to fun themed gatherings, such as a “Field of Dreams”-themed party with baseball stadium food and decorations.

Pinterest and other party-planning websites can provide inspiration for themed meals and decorations for any destination. Party stores and discount stores can also offer eclectic items that might fit your theme perfectly.

If nothing else, hanging destination photos around the room can instantly set the mood. A running photo slideshow in the background of the party can also serve as its own themed decoration.

Consider Your Audience

Traditional pretrip parties won’t work for every type of group. For example, Vanderbilt University has alumni spread across the country, so a traditional meet-and-greet makes no sense for travelers not located in the same state.

“I set up a conference call one or two weeks before the trip,” said Cary Allyn, director of the Vanderbilt Travel Program. “Everyone calls in, and we can talk through all the questions people may have about the trip. People really like that.”

The average age of your travelers should also factor into pretrip party planning. For example, boomers and younger travelers might not be able to attend a midday event that would typically work well for retired seniors.

Many younger travelers might also not be able to attend a full-length dinner before the trip, so shorter wine-and-cheese get-togethers after work hours might work best for this age group.

Try out various types of events to see which your travelers prefer. Just because your first pretrip party doesn’t work out, don’t assume that any type of event would fail.

Almost every preview party will have some travelers who won’t be able to attend. Give these travelers a call to talk through the travel details, and email the packet of information you gave to the rest of the travelers.

However your pretrip events unfold, you’ll ensure your group will daydream about the upcoming destination for weeks.