I read in an old travel book about Sandwich Street, located across the Detroit River in the Canadian town of Windsor.
Sometimes the biggest mistake on a bus tour can make the best memory.
I bragged about the spot to the tour group because of the locale’s description—a quaint site with gift shops, restaurants, and touristic places. Also, it was unique to most of the sites we had lined up on this particular journey (the group had toured Greenville Museum and Mackinac Island).
After Sandwich Street, we were to make our way home.
As the motor coach pulled onto Sandwich Street, we were not able to locate the particular area that held all of the wonderful places advertised. The driver took us up one side of the street and then down the other.
The only thing remotely close to the area described was a place that housed a dilapidated laundromat, a tavern, and a closed-down convenience store.
After consulting my tour book to make sure I had not made an error, I saw that the description was there, but the site was not. Luckily, my group had a good sense of humor and a sense of forgiveness.
Planning something miles away is always difficult, so it is important to have as much information on the area prior to taking off.
Here are a few suggestions:
Innovation With The Internet
The Sandwich Street excursion occurred before the internet, so I had to look things up in tour books and rely on word-of-mouth information. Today, it is possible to explore every restaurant, museum, and birthplace of someone famous before leaving home.
Prior planning, as well as an internet connection while traveling, will assist the tour director in making last-minute changes or plans.
Even though the World Wide Web is invaluable, don’t hesitate to do some work the old-fashioned way. In the event Wi-Fi is not available or other problems interrupt phone or computer service, you’ll want some backup.
Draw out a map of where you’ll be going, and then research or call ahead to places to discover the gems that may await the group.
Creativity With The Casing
My successor at a touring organization once wondered how I knew where all the coffee stops and rest stops were located. Previous groups told him that somehow I knew every little place along the highway.
I wasn’t that smart or psychic—I just kept my eyes open! As we drove down the road, I would pay attention to billboards and signs.
Having seen an ad for a particular restaurant, I’d start walking up and down the motor coach, making comments such as, “Doesn’t a cup of coffee from [insert restaurant name here] sound good?”
Or I would say, “I’m getting hungry for lunch. I think there’s a great little Mom-and-Pop-type place up the road.”
Look for billboards that indicate the restaurants and tourist stops. Sometimes a “surprise” visit to a place adds a huge bonus to a tour group. Things like the world’s tallest prairie dog and largest ball of twine should not be ignored.
Add a few dollars to the trip fee to allow for the freedom to “chase a rabbit” on a side trip should one arise. The extra money not used for such additions can be given back to the group by a partial or full funding of the last meal of the trip.
Dialogue With The Driver
Establish a good relationship with the driver of the motor coach. More than likely, he or she has been on this particular trip before and will know some of the best places to stop.
The driver also knows the best places to take restroom breaks. Although there may be a bathroom on the vehicle, I found very few people ever wanted to use it.
Some locations cater to the travel industry and have more than one toilet and/or urinal for use. Careful planning must take place for restroom breaks because there are usually long lines that form at the women’s door.
Although the driver’s expenses are covered, create an additional fund for a tip. Because ours was a faith-based group, we got away with passing an offering plate. Always budget a little extra into the price of the excursion to ensure the driver is cared for in a generous way.
Propel With The Punch
Another way of saying this is to “roll with the punches.” Understand that in planning trips and excursions, the saying “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” plays into every scheduled event.
Creating a spirit of play and childlikeness goes a long way in covering mistakes, whether they are yours or the fault of some travel brochure or website. Taking ownership of mistakes leads to forgiveness from travelers far sooner than playing the blame game.
Reflect With The Group
This particular group always had a post-trip meeting for sharing photos and reliving particular memories. As I entered the party, I noticed posters and drawings had been placed around the wall with pictures of the different sights of Sandwich Street.
What started as an oversight and error became the most memorable part of the trip. Despite all of your planning, the experiences that just happen may be what people remember most!
Enjoy your trip!
David Waddell is an instructor of Park and Recreation Management at the University of Mississippi. Reach him at 662-915-7696, or firstname.lastname@example.org .