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Two weeks in Paris guiding 4 couples. Need help with itinerary!

Two weeks in Paris guiding 4 couples. Need help with itinerary!

Old Oct 7th, 2014, 02:37 PM
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Two weeks in Paris guiding 4 couples. Need help with itinerary!

I have a new project at work and this one is sensitive. My boss knows I've been to Paris in the past and asked me to plan a trip for his parents and 6 of their friends. I have only been there twice and that doesn't make me an expert. They are all retired, coupled up and flexible with the month and number of days but he says two weeks should be good. I'm going with them to assist with anything they need, book stuff, call private cars, basically be their assistant and chaperone. He wants it to be kind of VIP but also cost-effective because he's paying for his parents. I suggested a travel agent but since he's already paying me, it's my new project.

They are in their late 50s and early 60s, all retired so flexible when to leave and none of them have been to Paris before. Honestly I've never had to plan a trip for others and need to be sensitive to their age. If there is another website you can direct me to can someone please suggest. I could really use your help especially if you have organized such a trip!

Thank you for your time.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 03:20 PM
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There is a website I haven't looked at too carefully, but it could be a starting point: parisforseniors.com

Unless some of them have medical disabilities, for the most part they should be able to do most any of the standard tourist things that most people want to do on their first trip to Paris -- I would guess that's the first thing you need to find out. Late 50's and early 60's isn't exactly elderly. First thing I would do is get some information about what the people going on the trip are interested in and any medical and budget restrictions. And they may not necessarily want a chaperone all the time.

Then there is a wealth of information on this forum is you use the search the forums feature.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 03:23 PM
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"...need to be sensitive to their age."

Don't let anyone hear you refer to their ages, let alone that you're "sensitive" to it. Insensitivity has already reared it's ugly head and I suspect they'll have as much energy as you do, whatever your age. They aren't old despite your limited perspective. Get a grip young person.

Now, carry on.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 03:35 PM
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It is really a flaky request, no disrespect to your boss. Sounds like he is only paying for his own parents's costs. Is everybody else supposed to be happy with your hotel choices and restaurant picks when it comes to budget -- or are you expected to find out what their parameters are?

If you don't speak French, I am not sure how much help you are going to be making restaurant reservations and calling taxis and being the on site problem solver.

Most of us would have an exceptionally hard time planning any trip for 8 people we don't know. Most of us would have a hard time planning 2 whole weeks in Paris for our own immediate family.

I would include in your research finding out the names of the very best travel agents in your town for Paris. At some point, you might want to go back to your boss and explain to him that, rather than footing the bill for your air fare, hotel and other expenses in Paris that the money should be spent on a professional agent, and you will be the point person for working with the agent.

Not very long ago a request like this would have been seen as abusive of an employee unless your job description is limited to personal assistant. But if your salary is being paid your company to assist your boss with getting the work of the company done, not his parents vacation, quite frankly I think you need to figure out how to approach human resources and an employment lawyer.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 03:37 PM
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Darn, I started typing a response and it went off into thin air..

I would try to arrange a group meeting to see what their expectations and preferences are. For example, the group may want to do everything together or some may want to shop or have leisurely meals while others sightsee. Some may want to be fairly independent while others may want you to plan every moment of their time away.

I think in this instance a travel agent would be worth contacting as they may have access to group hotel and flight discounts that you won't have and suggestions you might not have thought of. (You might be able to sell your boss on some travel agency help with the idea of helping to lower the cost.) Possibly the travel agency could handle flight and hotel reservations (and collecting those fees) leaving you to plan most of the rest.

VIP and cost effective don't quite go hand in hand. I think you need to ask your boss and his parents' friends what their budgets are which will help dictate the type of trip you will be planning.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 03:42 PM
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Talk about foot in the mouth! I'm sorry if I offended anyone. I didn't mean it the way it sounded but after rereading I'm just sorry again. The first time I went to Paris I was 17 years old and went 2 days and it was rushed. The second time was with a bunch of backpackers my age who basically wanted to check things off our list and say we've been there and let's get on with it. In retrospect, that was rushed too. I'm sorry for the insensitive comment. This is not starting off right and I'm starting to feel this might be too much for me to tackle but I don't want to get fired. What I meant to say is I want it leisurely for them and not rushed the way I did it.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 03:45 PM
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The more I think about it the more I think I would suggest his parents and their friends consider joining such a tour as this:
https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/france/paris-france as you are not a travel agent or expert on Paris!
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 03:52 PM
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Have you explained to your boss the type of trip you have done are likely different that what he is expecting for your parents?

A two week trip will definitely give plenty of time for a more leisurely visit to Paris. My husband and I were just there for two weeks and found plenty to do. We loved walking tours - we did a food tour through Paris by Mouth and other walking tours through http://paris-walks.com. There are other walking tours as well which you could consider scheduling. Paris Walks is easy to "schedule" as many of their tours don't have to be pre-booked.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 03:52 PM
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They do not want to go on tours with anyone else but themselves so the Rick Steves tour with 15-20 other people would be torture for them. My boss is adamant I go to assist.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 04:03 PM
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I need to take a breath. I was just hit with this today and I wanted to strangle him when he told me but instead I put on a positive "Can-Do" face because I cannot lose this job. I think if I can line up a day to day itinerary for the two weeks I can propose it to them and see what they think about it. I'm sure they would want their alone time with their spouses but I would like to propose a suggested itinerary. If I book ahead of time I can watch out for airline fares. Hotels would depend on which area we all stay in. Personally, I was planning to go to Europe in the fall next year so I guess I can do the research for them and myself. Positive thinking!
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 04:22 PM
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Well, on the positive side, you will get to learn a lot about Paris! At least you can research on work time. You might check itineraries group tours do as a starting point. Since you will likely be booking 5 rooms you can email hotels once your dates are finalized and see if they can offer any discount.

I would also consider late April, May or June as July and August can get fairly hot and humid in Paris.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 04:33 PM
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I think you need to talk to the people involved and get a lot more info.

First - unless they are VERY sedentary now walking shouldn't be a problem for people in their 50s and 60s - but you need to find out for sure. You also need to find out about food allergies, likes and dislikes, interest in wines, etc. I would not make reservations at any restaurants without giving the people sample menus. (I have done a number of small international meetings for client investigators and you would be amazed at people's assumptions and requests - and the number of people who won't eat or drink a whole bunch of what I consider basic sorts of things.)

You also need to get specific info on budgets for all these people (do they limos, taxis, metro?????)

Also you are never going to find ONE itinerary that all these people will enjoy. I think you need to find out their interests and then determine what things are musts for all and also make a list of options (day trips for example) that some may want to do and not others.

Frankly, the way you have described it will be impossible with 8 people with potentially diverging interests, budgets and likes/dislikes. I think the best idea is put together a skeleton of basics and a whole list of options and recognize that people will be going different laces much of the time.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 04:33 PM
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Thank you for the encouragement. This was a real shocker. Sheesh. It really is up to me when to go. I've met his parents and they are very nice people, really sweet and they seem easygoing. They love their cocktail hours and their wine. I'm hoping the rest of their friends are like them. Birds of the same feather flock together, right?

So if it were you, what would you say the best month would be? April May or June? Less crowds, better weather, less rain. I also love the Paris Walks suggestion.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 04:35 PM
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Do you have an exit plan if this blows up in your face?

This all depends on the personalities making up these four couples.
They can be gracious about anything you do for them.
They can also be one of these people http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...d-sorrento.cfm worsened by you being a “paid butler” obliged to satisfy whatever fancies and irrationalities they care to throw onto you while dangling “you employment” is at stake verbiage?

It could be a career coup or a monumental headache.

I have planned trips with in-laws and friends. Even though I thought I knew them well, there were moments of awkwardness. Here are some trouble areas I can think of right off my head.

Two weeks probably means day trips or visiting somewhere else. If somewhere else, it is RT to CDG or open jaw, e.g. Nice and coming back from Paris. What are the expectations? Do all the couples do the same things or you have to come up with 4 different couple itinerary for each day (yikes!!!)

Many adults exhibit tantrum like behavior when they cannot do things they suddenly decide they want to do that they never have brought up during planning. “Why can’t we go to Versailles today?” Ahh... if you do that, you can’t be back in time for our Eiffel tower reservation, etc. This can happen even if you go over next day’s plan the evening before.

In my experience, "the itinerary looks ok", usually meant "I don't care to think about it now. I would bug you to accommodate what I want to do once I get there."

The bathrooms, shower, power, beds, food, business hours, etc., are not like at home. Do they just enjoy and amused by how things can be done differently or do some of them just split out one vituperative comment after another how “dumb” things are done there?

Do you need to figure out cell phone solution for each couple? Have phones unlocked and take them to a local FNAC, etc? Same for electrical items.

Do they know how to pack for an oversea air travel? Do they know how to protect themselves from delayed luggage like never put essential medications in checked luggage? Is it your responsibility to come up with a recommended packing list?

Do they know what to do about using credit cards and debit cards overseas? How to protect cards, cash, and passports from losses? How many times have you been to a supermarket and saw a lady leaving a shopping cart with her open purse while she went to the next aisle?
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 04:37 PM
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nytraveler I agree. I'll try to get more info about likes and dislikes and see where they're at.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 04:48 PM
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I'm just laughing at this point. I really don't know what else to think right now. I'm going to buy two bottles of wine on my way home to forget about today. I really should go back to school.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 05:04 PM
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Another important factor: How will each couple pay for day-two-day expenses while in Paris.
? For example, if they all dine together, how will they pay? Split the check evenly? Get separate checks? Take turns paying, assuming it will even out? Do they all stick together for meals or go off on their own (or not feel bad if one couple goes off on their own)? This should be decided up front to avoid misunderstandings and bad feelings later.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 05:13 PM
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Hire Michael Osman.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 05:48 PM
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The age thing: you do not even get Senior discounts until 60 or sometimes 65. At age 60, I was still teaching HS and taking teens on trips, staying up till the wee hours to take them to dance and disco clubs in Italy and Spain. Unless there is a medical issue, slowness due to age is not a consideration - maturity is because they may want a deeper experience, not just a "drive by view or check things off the list." They may also have developed particular interests and want to spend time on their own pursuing them. That is why it is very important that you meet these people (more than once) as you go forward.

I have taken people on tours of France, Spain and Italy, which were part package tour and part I planned for them, up to 15 people from age 11 to 60.

My personal experience: I loved taking my teen students. They were great and enjoyed even the mishaps. With a couple of exceptions, I hated taking grownups. They were picky about food, hotels, trains, waiters, bills, timing for things, etc. Someone was always late, holding up everybody. They lost credit cards, bags, tickets, cameras, etc. and depended on me to fix everything. That meant carrying their passports, giving them money when they lost their credit card, getting them a new camera, etc.

*****This is a very real job you are taking on. ******
Look at some tours to see how they are arranged. Things to think about: Besides, hotels, etc. people must get from airport to hotel. Will you reserve a van or let them all get taxis? Here are some very tough issues. Your are planning, but will you also be booking hotels, etc. How will the hotels be paid? If you book, you will be responsible and they will want a credit card number. How will people pay you? Will you give people the info and they book for themselves? What if they don't book asap and there are not enough rooms? Will you book and pay for plane tickets as a bundle or will everybody do it for themselves?

I can just about guarantee you 100% there will be somebody who doesn't purchase the plane ticket and has to take a different flight, doesn't pay you back for everything, cancels at the last minute (and if you are the one who purchased things, it will be impossible to make them pay), have credit cards that do not work once they are in Europe, etc., etc. Can you force them to buy trip insurance?

If you were taking only the Boss's parents and acting as their personal guide, that would be one thing, but a group is quite another.

******This is not a job to take on for total strangers! *****
I urge you to plan the trip and put a package together with a travel agent. The travel agent can then make a brochure with everything clearly in writing and let the travel agent collect the money and pay for everything. You can be the tour escort, but you should not be responsible for the financial/business end of things. It should be handled in a professional and business like manner with everything included in the trip clearly stated in writing and all costs, plus estimated extras indicated. My advice is do not get yourself involved with the money.
No tour I have ever seen has every bit of time planned. There are always "free times" with suggestions of possible activities for people to do and explore on their own. No tour I have been on in Europe included all meals. Most included breakfast and about half the dinners. So do not feel you have to plan every activity and all meals.
Examples:
Breakfast at hotel, two hour guided tour of a museum, lunch on your own, afternoon free, dinner together, evening cruise.
Breakfast at hotel, train to Versailles, booked group tour, afternoon free to explore the grounds, train back to Paris, evening free or option of a show.

Do get a good hotel with breakfast. It will cost more, but is easier with a group.

Do these people actually want to spend the whole two weeks in Paris? I am betting not.

Consider five days to a week in Paris, then perhaps a two or three day tour of the Loire Valley Chateau (booked through a company) then five days someplace else - perhaps Provence or the Alsace or Belgium, or a two day tour to Normandy could be an option while others stay in Paris.

A few Ideas for whole group
One getting-acquainted-with Paris tour, probably not the HOHO - some people hate them, walking, biking or Segway perhaps.
Evening Seine River Cruise
Guided tour of the Louvre
Notre Dame
One day for Versailles
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 05:59 PM
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What is your usual job? I was telling my husband about this and he suggested it was time to start the new job search.
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