by Jonathan Vatner | October 01, 2004

Girl with ice cream cone

A triple scoop at Hershey Park

Tim Bruins, a specialist in travel programs for insurance and financial companies, uses a trick to improve performance for one of his longtime clients. When planning an incentive trip, he sends the brightly colored promotional materials to the employees’ homes, so their kids will see the potential for a vacation and start pestering immediately.
    Bruins, senior account executive for St. Louis-based Maritz Travel, sees a trend in incentive trips for the whole family. As the demands placed on workers multiply, time spent with loved ones is at a premium. Insurance companies specifically are at the forefront of this development, and they are perhaps the most family-friendly among companies that offer incentives, argues Caren Bigelow, manager of travel planning for Atlanta-based U.S. Motivation.
    “Making the trip a reward for the whole family is a general philosophy for sales incentives, but insurance companies have been a little more warm and fuzzy toward families than most,” she says.
    What follows is a discussion of issues to consider, along with some tips to remember, when planning incentive trips with family involved.

Initial considerations
When structuring the invitation, keep the following in mind.
    Age range. For trips to family oriented destinations such as theme parks, all ages should be welcome. For journeys to more exotic locales, limit guests to age 10 and up, suggests Tamara Nored, CITE, vice president for sales and marketing at the Houston-based Griffin Meetings and Incentives. In general, babies should be welcome only if a spouse can take care of the infant.
    Family emphasis. The company should decide whether the program will be billed as a family trip or as a trip where children are welcome. The former would include extensive children’s programming and might even pay for a limited number of kids. The latter would simply permit their presence, with an additional charge if children attend meal functions.
    This doesn’t have to be decided when sending out the promotional collateral, says Caren Bigelow at U.S. Motivation. Final decisions on the scope of the children’s program can wait until registration forms are sent out.
    Covering costs. A contest can be tiered, so that higher achievers can bring children at no charge, and those on a lower tier must pay for their children to attend, says Nored. However, Bigelow warns it can get messy if the rules vary for different levels of winners. Best to keep different tiers on separate trips if attendance rules will be different.
    The cost of inviting children can be divided into three components: airfare, accommodations and programming (which includes food). Based on budget, the company can choose which aspects of the children’s trip to pay for, and how many children to cover. Chances are, regardless of such details, parents will appreciate the opportunity to take their children. Here’s some greater detail on those three components of the cost:
    Airfare. While a few companies buy flights for an unlimited number of children, most will either cover only two kids or ask parents to pick up this cost. Some don’t even pay for the spouse’s or significant other’s flight.
    Accommodations. Generally, planners block exactly enough (or just a few extra) rooms so that each family gets one room. This decreases the chance of overbooking. If a family wants additional connecting rooms, they can be booked on a case-by-case basis, to be paid for by the participant. If a hotel doesn’t have extra rooms available, planners might need to accommodate the whole family at a nearby property, which would likely diminish the attendee’s experience.
    Note that very high-end resorts often don’t have connecting rooms. Of course, that isn’t as much a consideration if you pick an all-suite property or put everyone in villas, says Lisa Boston, account manager for Carlson Marketing Group, based in Minneapolis.
    Programming. Some companies can afford to pay for the food, activities and local transportation for more than two children. If not, then charge the family a fee to cover these costs for each participating child.