You are retired so can you volunteer?
One of the things you may get involved with in your new found freedom is being asked to organise a group trip. If this is something you haven’t done before then this short article may give you some valuable tips. To make the article come alive I have shown how we organised the bi-annual trip to St Savin when we were in Hartley Wintney Twinning Association.
First things first.
Before you start any detailed planning if you are organising a group trip, ensure you have a very clear idea of what people want you to do. This sounds blindingly obvious but it’s so easy for people to waffle in vague terms then, when you come back with a detailed plan, for them to say: ‘Oh no! We don’t like that idea!’ So early on chat with a representative slice of folks, outline what you’re thinking, and ask for their comments.
The main event of the twinning year was the exchange visit with our twins, St Savin in France and Malle in Belgium. It was easy to pop over to Malle as it was so close, but St Savin was 498 miles away, and so needed much more time. On previous trips the twinners had done the journey by coach in one exhausting day. Then on Saturday and Sunday they were guests of the local French community before doing the return trip on Monday.
A new approach.
As newcomers to organising a group trip we suggested a different approach – why not extend the trip down and back to two days and visit places of interest on the way?
So with our knowledge of France we proposed staying overnight in Chartres and having a conducted tour of the cathedral. Next day enjoy lunch near the Villandry Chateau, afternoon tea in Chinon, then arrive at St Savin late afternoon.
After the weekend with our French hosts we proposed to stay overnight Monday in the charming port of Honfleur, and then return to HW by late on Tuesday. After sufficient people to fill the coach had said: ‘Oui’ we went ahead and planned the trip in detail.
Do a recce.
The internet and Google Earth are all very well but, if possible, when you are organising a group trip visit the places and see things for yourself. The twinning trips were always held in May so in January Mike, Glynis, Bill and myself as driver set out for a weekend recce of the main places of interest.
Saturday we booked the Ibis hotel and guided tour in Chartres, followed by the lunch venue, the Cheval Rouge at Villandry. We returned to stay overnight in Honfleur, which is a charming place.
On Sunday it was real pleasure to book the restaurant for the May lunch party. Even in January we weren’t able to book the hotel we wanted but we found an alternative on the edge of the town.
Doing a recce enables you to meet hoteliers and restaurant owners, discuss detailed menus [see photo] and room allocations, agree specific prices, and you leave knowing you have made firm bookings. Most importantly, you have developed a personal relationship and are not just a name on an email message.
Market the trip
Recce safely done we then had to persuade sufficient residents to actually put their money down for the trip. We used our Burns Supper at the the end of January to promote the May trip. We had the map of the proposed trip annotated with the stopping points, and were able to speak from first hand experience of the joys to come.
It’s important to give specific prices for each activity, and be able to talk with confidence about what rooms people can expect, and timings for the journey.
Planning into reality!
May swiftly came and on the due day we loaded the coach early and set out for Chartres. Our tour guide, Malcolm Miller, went there as a young man straight after university and has made the cathedral his life study.
The Ibis Hotel is simple but everyone gets the same style of room. Vital, if you are to avoid the usual complaint: ‘Why did so-and-so get a bigger room than us?’ Lunch on Friday at the Cheval Rouge near Villandry was excellent [see photo at top of page], then on to St Savin via a short stop in Chinon.
Our hosts had planned a busy weekend of visits, social events the usual formal dinner with [luckily short] speeches.
On the way back.
Monday came far too quickly, then back on the bus and set out for Honfleur. We stayed overnight in the OtelInn, just on the outskirts.
On Tuesday after a relaxed lunch near Le Basin in Honfleur, we set out for HW, arriving just before midnight. The trip was excellent and proved once again the value of something drummed into us as young officer cadets at Sandhurst: time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.
I hope that this example of organising a group trip was on interest.
If you enjoyed organising a group trip you might enjoy a day trip to Ypres
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