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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, 06:08 PM
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Doesn't matter how people are at home. They can be the total opposite when traveling. The most up-tight person may hang loose and go with the flow while the sweetest of the group turns demanding and obnoxious. Some happily let you do all the work of planning, insisting they do not care, then complain about absolutely everything. Others drive you crazy picking at the plan, but once there, love the whole experience, even bad weather and late trains.

You should not have to settle restaurant bills, but they should decide before hand as a group, how they will do it, and one of them should handle it.

There are companies that will plan and do tours for small exclusive groups, so they could do a tour, but not have other people on it.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 06:21 PM
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I strongly encourage using a travel agent as Sassafrass suggests. Chances are someone will end up backing out for some reason and you don't want to be responsible for the finances. All of the group should get their own travel insurance just in case someone gets sick, has to fly home early, etc.

The brochure drawn up by the travel agent idea is great. Tomorrow I would ask your boss what the budget for this trip is. You can also ask him if he is figuring on 5 star hotels and first class flights or something more low key. Once you know that, a good travel agent will know if a two week trip is realistic or if the trip length should be shortened. You can speak to several travel agents and see what services they offer you before choosing one.

I would suggest to ask your boss's parents when it would be best for them to travel to see if they have a preferred month and choose the dates best for them. You can then float the dates out to their friends to be certain everyone can go. Chances are 8 people will have a hard time all being able to take a trip during a two week block of time.

Are you enjoying your wine?
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 06:55 PM
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You need some info on their interests. I could spend two weeks in Paris just looking at art - others would be bored to tears. Some people feel you have to go up the Eiffel Tower - I would consider it a waste of my time. What do they visualize themselves doing?
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 07:51 PM
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I don't know why people jumped down your throat when you mentioned being "sensitive to their age". How that is even offensive is remotely beyond me. My parents are in their 50s and would never travel the way I do and if I planned a trip for them that I would enjoy, they would be cursing me the whole way through. It could potentially end up having worse consequences for you if they miss an expensive reservation made for earlier than 9:00 am and this spoils their day, etc. You don't want to keep them on their feet for hours a day, even if they have the energy and stamina for lots of walking, most people don't want to exhaust themselves on their vacation.

With that being said, I do sympathize because at first I thought this would be a lovely task, but I have traveled with a complainer who did no research and didn't bother to even look at a map, so it's very likely that when you ask them for interests, some might say they are open to anything and you have to not believe them.

I would recommend not making more than 1 reservation/day because it's likely that one may be missed or they might feel too rushed. I think you should try to create 3 rough itineraries and make them choose the best one for them, that way they are more involved in the planning and will have less regrets once they're there. Since this is just 1 city you're planning for (and I'm guessing day trips as well), orient them with the maps early on.

As for free time, include that but have suggestions on what they can do with that free time for the people who like having everything planned for them.

For what it's worth, though, I feel like a lot of people come back fairly satisfied with their trips unless some giant mishap occurs, so I would just focus more on ensuring that doesn't happen by taking care of all the logistics and less focus on whether they will enjoy every single aspect of the trip or not.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 07:58 PM
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OK - it seems you have almost no experience in Paris. One two day stop over and a backpacking trip - right? Neither of which will be ANY help with this more upscale 'senior', comfort loving group.

I plan trips for others/strangers all the time, but not to places I'm not totally familiar with.

I may be wrong, but you sound pretty young - right? I think it is bizarre that your boss would ask such a thing unless you are fairly near the parents ages . . . AND were a Paris expert. It isn't like just planning a trip for yourself and a couple of your friends.

What sort of company is it, and what sort of position do you hold? it seems like a very inappropriate request IMO.

Like I said, I plan trips all the time for groups up to thirteen. Things/issues can pop up nearly every day which I've always been able to handle/solve . . . But I 1) know the places we go inside and out and 2) can be pretty forceful or 'bossy' when required.

Are you the type to take control and 'make things happen'? Or are you doing this out of fear - since you mention a couple of times that you can't lose this job?

You need to do some soul searching . . .
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 08:24 PM
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The best advice I can offer you is to tell your boss that you do not have enough experience to arrange such a trip, and please don't take this personally, but you don't. This is far more complicated that simply getting together with this group and deciding when to go and what interests them. That will be difficult enough with the likelihood of a variety of suggestions and opinions. Here are just a few questions to which you need to know the answers or how to respond.

What happens if some one cancels at the last minute?
Do you know how to get the best rates at hotels?
How do you plan to arrange meals?
What will you do if someone gets sick?
How will you arrange tickets to venues?
How do you respond and what do you do if someone doesn't like their hotel or room?
These are just a few problems that might arise, and believe me, IME, problems will arise.

To plan such a trip requires a great deal of knowledge not only about Paris and it's surrounds but about the the travel business itself. The ramifications if something goes wrong will be far more serious than an angry boss.

BTW, your boss must be an idiot to even suggest you take on such a task. This requires a professional in the travel business.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 08:54 PM
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"BTW, your boss must be an idiot to even suggest you take on such a task. This requires a professional in the travel business."

Never were truer words spoken. The consequences of screwing up, or the perception of having screwed up, have far worse consequences than saying what's true now - that the task is beyond you. It is. Given all the variables of people, logistics, lack of experience with virtually every aspect of the task, the likelihood of important aspects being poorly planned or going untended, people turning on you when you are unable to handle what they perceive as something you got wrong - well, the possibilities are endless.

The biggest problem at the moment seems to me to be that you don't know enough to know you're being set up for any number of ways to fail, no matter how hard you work and your good intentions. Many of us, after decades of planning experience for ourselves alone, still slip up on occasion. Your only salvation lies in not allowing yourself be talked into responsibility for this.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 10:42 PM
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This way lies madness - and disaster.

You would be taking full responsibility for anything that might happen to these people. Only an organized tour group would have the wherewithal - and the insurance - to deal with that scenario.

Your current boss is a complete idiot.
Hopefully, your next one will be an intelligent human being.

Quit now.
Take the severance pay and enjoy a little personal time in Paris.
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Old Oct 7th, 2014, 11:17 PM
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<i>you do not even get Senior discounts until 60 or sometimes 65.</i>

Generally there are no senior discounts for tourists. The one exception I encountered during our last trip was the discount price for the special exhibit at the Petit Palais which is run by the city of Paris. A few years ago a friend of mine managed to buy a train ticket on line with a senior discount, or so he claimed, the I do not recall the fare being any lower than the PREM fares.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 01:28 AM
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I can't get over what a loser your boss is.. thinking he can save some money by having an inexperienced 20 something yr old plan a long international trip for 8 people. He really is an ass. Sorry.. that's a fact.

Secondly.. well if you think you must.. well at least even if you screw up and he fires you ,, make sure you have a good time on his dime in PAris!! This trip must be 100 percent FREE to you. That will teach your idiot boss.

For two weeks I don't think its up to you to be a full time tour guide.. you really have no qualifications. You can find three hotels.. present them to the group, and then book on concencus. You can plan two or three day trips.. one to Versailles is easy and will require little advance work,, just jump on train with pre booked tickets for Kings Apartment tour ( they will love skipping the lines ) and go.. and maybe one to somewhere to see the champagne houses.. you would prebook train tickets for that for best prices, and for some wineries you would need to prebook.

The rest of the time I would just plan one big sight ( like Louvre, Orsay, Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, ) a day.. and then rest of the day free to wander.. although some days it makes sense to combine sights that are close to each other (ie Rodin on day you see Orsay, Orangerie on day you see Louvre) etc.

I would not book all their dinners.. they are perfectly capable of going out and having their own dinners,, goodness knows they may not want to be together every single day and every single dinner.. even on fully escorted tours they usually only include half your dinners, the rest you do on your own)

I would go on many forums,, not just this one and get tons of info.. goodness you will need it.

I would get a definite budget from other travellers .

I would like your job.. lol.. and I also suggest you book for next September, or june.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 02:15 AM
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If your boss owns this company and your job is defined in fulfilling all his requests, then perhaps you could get fired if the trip turns out to be an expensive disaster.

But in most companies, you would have a law suit if an employee was fired to failing to provided a service they never represented themselves as being able to do and were never explicitly hired to do.

If tomorrow your boss asks you to re-tailor his suits, can you get fired if you don't know how to do this?

If tomorrow your boss asked you to finish up his kids science project and they flunk because you know next to nothing about science, can he fire you?

You need the counsel of people in your company or an employment lawyer about how to handle this request. You made a good faith commitment to this company to do the job you were hired to do, and you have arranged your life to meet that commitment. They entered into a contract with you when they hired you, and you have some rights not to be scared for your income and future if someone in the company demands services that are not in your job description.

Obviously, if you signed on to be a personal concierge for just one person who owns his own company and sets all the rules, that is different. If you like the boss and the job thus far, you should be honest with him that your research keeps turning up the fact that his family and friends need someone more experienced than you to arrange this trip, and you can volunteer to help find such person.

If you want to ride this out and give it go, take notes, because it is going to be a great screenplay .
Also, read janisj's several trip reports about the unhappy trips she arranged for much smaller groups to places she had been to dozens of times. The trips were total disasters, and she considers herself a professional travel advisor. If you end up picking a travel agent for your boss, the travel agents should be able to give you plenty of references of happy customers.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 03:24 AM
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If you want to avoid crowds, none of the months you mention will do that. We were in Paris in April a few years ago, and I was amazed at the crowds. It was much worse than a trip in May I had made some years prior to that.

At Ste. Chapelle, we lined up for over an hour to get in. At Notre Dame, the crowds were so tremendous that we didn't bother. (We had been there before.) I would try to reserve in advance any well-known sites that allow advance reservations.

I think you should try to visit the Louvre on a Friday evening instead of during the day. The Rodin Museum was not crowded at all, and is very much worth the trip. We also enjoyed the Jardin des Plantes, and there was hardly anyone there (on a slightly drizzly day). I would have allowed more time for that if I had realized how much there was to see. The Luxembourg Gardens always have lots of visitors, but they're large enough to absorb them. Versailles is supposed to be extremely crowded; my husband had been there, and I wasn't dying to see it.

In April, there's a considerable risk of rain. We did have some rain on several days, but heavy rain on only one day (when unfortunately we had decided to visit some castles on the Loire). Because of the weather, I wouldn't want to go earlier than April; and because of the crowds, I wouldn't want to go later. We went towards the end of April.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 03:45 AM
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This is so silly. Just say no--if this is a real "project" for you. You cannot fulfill this. It is a trip for 8 people if I count correctly and the son isn't going!!
Where will you get a hotel reservation for 5 rooms in a high season. Where will you eat--decide EVERY meal before hand since you will need reservations at a restaurant to sit down. And lunch also, since I don't see these folks taking a picnic from a traiteur to the Champ de Mars or Pont des Artes as much fun as that is.
You are NOT a tour guide after being to Paris twice. Two weeks is a lifetime when you don't know what you are doing.
OH, by the way, has your "boss" given you a budget at all? Let's hear about that in real dollars--it is you and 2 parents for 2 weeks, and as you say, calling private cars, etc. What's his thought on cost?
The parents can take a high end tour for less--and enjoy and see more. Ridiculous.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 04:07 AM
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"Enjoying their cocktails" could be an issue. Mixed drinks - esp the more esoteric ones are not common in Paris restaurants - although they are in bars - and mixed drinks are usually very expensive versus wine unless you are going for fine vintages. This is just one difference that may be a big deal or may be a non event. (We are wine drinkers and couldn;t care less if we didn;t get any mixed drinks - but are ready to pay the prices if we do decide to have a drink one night. But this could be a huge surprise for them.)

When talking to these people I would give them sample prices for what they would expect (are they a "surf and turf" crowd?) so there is no major surprise or disappointment when they get their.

How wiling are they to execute on their own a list of activities you put together - since there is no way you can be 4 places at once.

If it were me I would reco May - usually good weather but not too hot, long days, and not the full mass of tourists.

I'm sorry - but IMO this is just a disaster waiting to happen - and I really feel sorry for you.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 05:04 AM
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We just returned from 2 weeks in Paris. It was my 9th trip and I consider myself quite familiar with Paris - not only the typical tourist experience but experiences further afield both in Paris and in the environs.

That said, I would no more plan a trip for 8 strangers than fly to the moon. We have stayed in hotels and apartments, eaten dinner with and without reservations. We have visited most of the Arrondisements, parks, museums, etc. We have taken perhaps 2 dozen day trips. And I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to satisfy 8 strangers, let alone your boss.

Unless you have a job description that requires you to do whatever your boss tells you to do, however extraordinary it may be, I would let your boss know that you do not have the background or knowledge to carry out this impossible task.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 05:12 AM
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25-30 years ago I would probably have taken this on. If, as you say, you feel you will be fired if you don't accept (sh@t boss, imo), then approach it in a way that minimizes risk for all concerned and that covers Y A.

If this is your project, treat it as such. Meet with or interview the travellers by phone or email and get preliminary but thorough information. Understand and document everyone's expectations, needs, limitations (don't mention age) in every key category--time and length of trip, budget and class of travel for flights, hotels, dining, ground transport, critical sights to see, day trips or overnights, travel insurance and and and.

Maybe provide a few examples but just to get their ideas. For example, would you like to take an overnight to the Loire Valley, the D-Day beaches, other? Do you prefer U.S. business chain hotels or French boutique or other?

Feed this back to them in writing with a deadline for any changes. At this point they may find their expectations differ so much that traveling ensemble is a non-starter!

Assuming you do obtain agreement/reasonable consensus, take the information gathered and interview travel agents on their areas of expertise, experience with Paris (get specifics) and fee structure.

Then take your recommendations to your boss in the form of formal business plan. Include assumptions and risks (re-iterate your limited experience but also what you bring to the table).

That should get you started. Good luck!
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 05:46 AM
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People who retire early are, almost invariably, well-off.

So, you have 4 couples, all retired, who wish to travel, but not one of them has the time to arrange anything, and there are no family constraints on timing.

One couple has a (30ish?) son, who, apparently, owns a company, and makes enough money to pay an assistant to do even non-company projects, and thinks since assistant went to Paris once or twice, they can arrange a group tour.

Son will pay for parents, and his assistant, other 3 couples will just fork over their portion for this arrangement.

Have I missed something?
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 06:04 AM
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elberko has it nailed.

The more I think about this . . . Could we <i>possibly</i> be looking at a troll? Not sure.

I can't imagine that out of a group of 8 middle aged, well off people not ONE has either been to Europe or at least has the gumption/ability to plan their own trip??? And 8 middle aged, well off early retirees are willing to turn over thousands of $$$$ each to some unknown employee of one son???

Just starting to smell a bit.

I apologize if my skepticism is misplaced - I'll wait for parisbound15 to come back and fill in the blanks. . .
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 06:04 AM
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Ok, I'm going to look at this as a marketing and sales exercise (which means you could use it on your CV/resume)
1) You need to meet these couples, all together or at least skype them into each other.
2) You need to find out what these customers want/need. Any veggies, medical requirements, special interests.
3) Once you have that bunch make sure everyone knows what everyone else wants. Include what they are expecting to pay
4) Meanshwhile read up on options. at the very least you will need

4.1 Trips out for the Day, including Versaille, Givenchy Gardens, Rheims or Epernay for Champagne tasting, possible WW2 beaches visit.
4.2 Trips inside Paris, including Louvre, D'Orsay etc I'd suggest the Rough Guide to Paris or the one for France (actually get your boss to buy 5 copies and send them out to the customers)
5 I'd look at May or June any later and European holidays start getting in the way
6 Send out proposed itin, once you know what people want to do. Don't worry about restaurants yet, focus on getting the attention of people on the itin.
7 Ask for votes on the itin day by day and you will soon find out what the reall interests are, offer up mk2 and mk3 as the only options and get them to chose (basically your place or mine as it limits their options
8 Are you organising flights, if so lay that off on a TA (their kick back should cover their costs).
9 Age, smage, are they fit or idle?
10 Go for it, worse thing is you get the sack (and by the sounds of your boss that is going to happen sometime), best thing is you learn a new operational skill
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 07:47 AM
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Janis, You may be on to something although in my early years in IT marketing, I was tossed some pretty wild challenges.

Bilbo, like minds and all that--did you work for HP?
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