4 Tips for Planning Drive-To Meetings
Rules of the Road
Fear of flight cancellations, lost baggage and unanticipated overnight airport stays have been on everyone’s radar since air travel became an obstacle with the rise of COVID-19. Following the chaos of 2022’s holiday travel—and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system malfunction—this fear has only increased, causing many to do whatever it takes to avoid air travel altogether.
The meetings and events industry is already feeling the impact, as thousands of delegates leaving PCMA’s Convening Leaders in early January felt the brunt of delayed and cancelled flights due to the FAA’s NOTAM.
After these frustrating experiences, road trips sound a bit more appealing than usual, and driving to meetings makes possible all the benefits of getting together in person without the added stress of rescheduled flights or lengthy delays.
When it comes down to planning drive-to meetings and events, though, the travel checklist looks a little different, as organizing flights for your attendees is no longer a to-do item. Instead, remember to look into each of the following items while planning your next gathering within driving distance to make the event as seamless and convenient as possible.
1. Host in a Drive-To “Hub”
Is your meeting destination considered a drive-to “hub,” centrally located and within driving distance from a majority of your attendees and easy enough for them to travel to via highways and interstates?
In choosing your drive-to destination, ensure the meeting is worth the miles. Choose a bigger city, or a smaller city near a large metro, with new and exciting developments likely already on your attendees’ radars, and be sure there are a number of major interstates and highways from all directions leading to wherever you host.
Some popular drive-to hubs include Chicago, standing as the largest city in the heart of the Midwest; Nashville, offering a scenic route for attendees coming from north or south; and Houston, with top drive markets from Austin and Dallas nearby.
2. Provide Parking
As obvious as ensuring parking is provided seems, it’s so obvious it may be overlooked. Get in touch with your host property to gather information regarding the hotel’s parking policies and options. Many times, parking is covered by the hotel or comped for meeting and event attendees. If not, let your attendees know what their options include. Valet parking? Self-parking and a bit of a walk?
Whatever the case may be, the last thing you want to do is leave parking up to your attendees, many of who may be visiting the destination for the first time or unaware of the best option for where to leave their vehicles. In the rare instance your host property can’t help with your parking needs, research nearby parking garages or lots and provide your attendees with a list of three to five options after looking into them to find the right picks at several price-points.
[Related: 10 Pro Tips for Drive-To Meetings]
3. Give Options for Gas
While your attendees should all be within driving distance from your destination, some may be traveling longer than others, spending more money on gas and cutting more hours from their typical work day to make it in time for your event. Whatever an attendee’s situation may be, they all have tanks to fill, and gas costs a pretty penny.
In planning your drive-to meeting, remember to account for gas in your budget, and decide whether to compensate based on mileage or receipts so you can let your attendees know beforehand which to track for reimbursement later on. If gas won’t be covered or reimbursed, let your attendees know well in advance, as it may impact their decision to attend. You can also encourage attendees living near one another to carpool and arrange a way for them to connect ahead of the event. Not only can carpooling help attendees save money, but it’s more eco-conscious!
Bonus: Share the information and addresses of a few gas stations near your host property for attendees to fill up their tanks before heading home! And, if your destination happens to be an electric car hotspot, consider charging stations, too, as many have popped up across the country in recent years.
4. Watch the Weather
Consider your drive-to destination’s typical weather around the time attendees will be in town for your event. Is there a chance of icy roads or snowstorms that may be dangerous for attendees to drive in, or heavy rain and floods during springtime? You may be a bit more in control when it comes to driving versus flying in bad weather, but the decision to hit the road is for whoever’s behind the wheel.
If your destination tends to have unpredictable and risky weather around the time of your event, it may be best to consider other options for where or when to go.
If there is no way around the weather, be clear in warning your attendees of what they will be driving through ahead of time. This is also important in regard to the type of terrain your attendees will be driving through, which may require four-wheel drive to reach. (Mountain and beach destinations often do!)
No matter the situation, the best thing to do is provide your attendees with as much information as possible as early as you can.
Read this next: Gearing up for successful drive-to gatherings