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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 8th, 2014, 07:52 AM
  #41  
 
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You suggested a travel agent and yes your boss IS a jerk whether that person upthread will say so or not...BUT what DOES a travel agent DO? The first thing they do is TALK to the people and nobody here has suggested you do that have they?

This trip is about them and NOT your boss. The way you are going to win BIG on this is for them to come back RAVING about how great you are. You need to get on their side of this NOW and not communicating with them from the beginning is not going to make that happen.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 08:10 AM
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Cath, it's the MBA in me ;-)
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 09:22 AM
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Have you thought about renting apartments?
I just rented an apartment through Paris Vacation Apartments. They have been extremely helpful and very informative. They will arrange airport pick up/drop off…MAKE RESTAURANT RESERVATIONS.etc. Plus I feel the rent is fairly reasonable.
I'm renting an apartment in Palais Royal….and they have three apartments in the same location. So they should be able to accommodate your group.
(I don't think I'm allowed to post their link on Fodor's….but when you Google them…it's listed 3rd or 4th from the top…"Paris Vacation Apartments - Page d'accueil)

Good luck….I love the planning part…..just take a deep breath….and start a notebook.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 09:28 AM
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Do not rent apartments for these people as you will be the person doing the shopping for them and lugging back the groceries. Plus taking care of anything that goes wrong. Do you want to be making their beds daily?

Have them stay in hotels where they can ask questions of the desk clerk and have breakfast there. Have their beds made and fresh towels every day. Hotels will make restaurant reservations, etc.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 09:36 AM
  #45  
 
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I almost always rent apartments - when it makes sense. But IMO that is a terrible idea here ( if we're still dealing w/ a real situation)

9 people would require an enormous place and finding one with 3 or more full bathrooms - pretty difficult. Otherwise you'd need 2 or 3 moderately sized apartments. Plus seldom are all accommodations w/I even a really posh flat of the same size/quality/ensuite so you'd have the issue whether each person pays the same for unequal rooms.

It would be extravagant to stay in a hotel that long, but it is really the only practical option.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 09:56 AM
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don't rent a flat for these people, you need to get a break and that is what a hotel provides you
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 10:02 AM
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One thing I found when leading trips was the more options I gave to groups, the less consensus I got and the more unhappy people were. Even in small groups of friends, some people will want American style hotels, others will want small, unique, elegant or quaint places, etc., etc. IME, for this trip, I would not call everybody in the group right now. You are just asking for confusion and trouble. Talk to only your Boss's parents for now. There can be only one person in charge and that is you.

I finally learned to create an itinerary, choose hotels, etc. have it in writing and present it to people who said they wanted to go. Then it was a question for them of in or out, I did not care either way, but they knew exactly what they were getting and exactly how much it would cost, etc.

That is why I suggested the OP sit down with a travel agent to create the trip. A good agent will have enough experience to know what should work, and can put together an appealing brochure (with a few options) for presentation to the group. Many do this routinely. The agent can put into the plan whatever you decide - like trip insurance - which, IMO, is absolutely necessary for this trip. The agent can book hotels, flights, etc.

This trip is doable, but you are not a travel agent and you need qualified help to make it happen. The trip should be booked through an agency so you are not personally liable if/when things go wrong.

And they do. This was all on the same trip - two weeks in France and Spain.
The van service that was meeting us at CDG cancelled the morning we were leaving the US. I had a last minute scramble to hire another.
One hotel had not included the price of breakfast for one day and it was expensive. I ended up personally picking up the tab - exactly why I had built into the cost of the trip an extra 10% above expected costs. I always did that and either refunded at the end or used it to buy lunch or something extra the last day if it had not been used.
One person fainted several times, once in the Prado and required a trip to the hospital.
Another was violently ill and confined to bed for a couple of days. Thank goodness it was near the end of the trip and not on travel days.
One forgot credit cards, and I periodically made loans to her during the trip - one more thing to keep up with.
The trip was wonderful and everyone had a great time, but only because problems were handled without disruption to the group.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 10:11 AM
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Actually Dukey, at least two people said start by talking to the travellers.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 10:20 AM
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No apartments! Two whole weeks! A group of this size that are not family and do not have enough gumption to plan this trip for themselves will need individual space. Too many logistics and in each apartment someone needs to be in charge of who gets what room, who cooks, cleans up, etc? No, no, no.

Once again, if you take this on, you must be in charge and not allow everybody to become your boss. If you do, each person who is paying will feel they can make demands of you. If you do not work through an agent, but take on the responsibility and they pay for the trip through you, they will, in a sense, be employing you as their agent and would have a right to expect you to act as such.

It is difficult enough to do this for family or friends, but doing it for strangers is a whole different animal.

OTOH, if planning and handling the logistics of major events is what you do already, and you enjoy problem solving that involves people and being social, it might just be your thing and open up a new career for you. Only you know what you can do.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 10:32 AM
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A brand new day a better perspective.

To answer what I do for work has anyone seen the movie A Good Year? My nickname at work is Gemma. He is not a trader though but how uncanny the movie is set in France. I understand your concerns and respect them as it does sound like a PITA project and completely beyond my scope. I help close deals not plan a vacation but everything is learnable. As impressions would seem my boss is not a complete idiot. He knows what's on the line and it's not just money. These are his parents and their closest friends and they mean the world to him. Based on previous performance he has faith I'll do whatever I need to execute. If it means consulting travel agencies then that's what I'll do. I have full reigns when it comes down to it and he doesn't need to know the details. It's all about results. I was just in shock yesterday this project came out of left field, one for the books. The objective is to turn it into a trip of a lifetime and for them to come back wanting more. I also get to go back to Paris which is a wonderful opportunity. I appreciate all the precautionary red flags, warnings and don't do it comments but there is no other option but to thrust forward and make sure they all have an outstanding time including myself. I am not privy to travel and this is the reason I posted on a travel forum. I will look for others as suggested.

I am not sure if the players have or have not been to Europe. All I know is they have not been to Paris. I obviously have a lot of work ahead of me. Finding out what makes each one happy and what makes each tick is crucial so scheduling an in depth conversation will happen soon. The rest can be figured out. I thank you all for the tremendous time and efforts you've put to respond to my post. I'll be in touch.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 10:47 AM
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If nothing else, chuck the itins up for us to help with please.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 11:50 AM
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While in-depth conversations would reveal ostensive aspects, as you noted by those who have done this, many people either knowingly conceal or not even aware of their personalities or wants deemed unsavory to bring up during planning sessions. They can play charades claiming to know about the places you suggested to look good and attentive, but in reality, spent no time thinking about if that was what they wanted to do and blow up on site that they were not interested in visiting.
If would be a lost cause trying to find out all the relevant values, beliefs, and limitations people hold. You would have to live with the limitation with what you can gather before the trip.

One way to deal with environmental and personal uncertainties are options, a concept I presume you are familiar with. Think of crucial points in your itineraries. If some of these suddenly decided to throw tantrums, you want to be able to offer them options to join the group or do their own things. However, you have to have thought about this. If you are at Chartres and someone suddenly decided they had enough cathedrals but cannot go back to Paris on their own or find things to do on their own, you have to drag complainers with you for the rest of the day. It would have been simpler to execute options if the same thing happened in Saint-Germain. Manage acquiring non-refundable prepayments as you learn group dynamics. You might want to suggest they get options by buying higher priced refundable/changeable bookings. You also increase options by considering open dates. You have more options to send people to different museums or restaurants if not on Monday, shopping options if not on Sunday, not planning to take the last train of the day, etc.

Know the points of no return at various points of the itinerary. If they step into this train, etc, they are committed to complete the itinerary. If they took this elevator, the only way to get down is 200+ steps or wait an hour, etc.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 11:55 AM
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Feel free to come back and ask questions. We are happy to help.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 11:59 AM
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While many may be giving you warning messages, there are a few of us who think you are the luckiest sod, wishing we had the project you are facing, and know exactly how to go about organising it

You've been given lots of good practical advice. I'd say the most important is to get to know the people you will be travelling with really well. Really, really well. All of them. Their quirks and foiables, medical needs and abilities, what they like and don't like. Whether all 6 will want to be together all the time or not. Who annoys whom. Spends weeks or months doing this if you have that kind of time available. Only after getting that sense should you try to plan an itinerary, and it will be easier.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 12:11 PM
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Parisbound15's response can't help but make me wonder if anyone, including the OP and her employer, has considered the effects of having an absolute novice plan an expensive trip for a group of 8 who, if a professional were given the task, might actually get their money's worth? It seems not. And while I admire her(?) gumption, it's bravery induced by ignorance and I fail to see why it's being attempted this way, with professionals readily available who'd make it easy and worthwhile for everyone concerned.

I'm baffled by the whole exercise and wonder if the others in the party know who they're entrusting with their travel time and money. If I were part of this group and discovered what the real story was, I'd certainly opt out of the group exercise, hire myself a real travel planner and see the rest on arrival. The OP may want to have the participants sign a waiver, that they know of her inexperience and are willing to proceed anyway. She should certainly protect herself from the liability being foisted upon her. And the participants have a right to know.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 12:33 PM
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Share please--EXACTLY how much time have you spent in Paris and under what kind of auspices?
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 12:39 PM
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Gretchen, she describes her experience in yesterday's post at 4:42, negligible.
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Old Oct 8th, 2014, 09:49 PM
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I have just realized that the OP probably works for my ex-husband.

He used to give me "jobs" like this all the time - then would pile on, when the inevitable happened. "Idea people" depend heavily on people like the OP to carry out the impossible or the unwise. It almost never ends well.

This is not a test of your intelligence - given enough time and money, you could pull off a reasonably well-planned trip. "Well-planned" doesn't mean everything will end up that way. If you're thinking that this will help advance your status or career, think again.

Apologies for offering personal advice, when all you wanted was travel information, but you will thank us later.
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Old Oct 9th, 2014, 04:17 AM
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"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."

Others have commented on this, but is this not the biggest ego trip for a control freak of a boss that ever was? "I (really BIG "I") can provide the person to take you for a trip of a lifetime." No matter that this person is a complete novice when it comes to group travel--AND Paris (does "deals" well).
Sometimes people have to step up to the plate and tell this type of person that they are wrong.
That said, she could contact a travel agency, make the arrangements with them with an itinerary and a cost and present it. And do not forget excellent insurance coverage, that could include "dissatisfaction".
She doesn't speak French--when the van doesn't come, she has to call the agency which will not speak English and get another one.
Making hotel reservations--or dinner reservations--for this number of people is difficult--and I HAVE had to do this, and enlisted on site Paris help. I have also tried to please a party of 8 (my own family) with what to do and when, and it is like herding cats!! No one wants to get started early--oh, wait, 2 couples DO want to get out and about early!!!

I would seriously look at a 2 week Tauck or Abercrombie and Kent Tour of France for cost and itineraries. Take that to "boss" and say, is this the cost you have in mind for 3 people (don't forget the single supplement for OP). There is no doubt it can be done for less, but it would be a starting point for discussion for someone who may not have a clue either. Has "boss" been to Paris? Curious.
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Old Oct 9th, 2014, 07:04 AM
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Wow! What an immense project for you. I just finished planning my 2 week trip and it took me forever to do all the research, etc. And I only have to consider the interests of myself and my husband. That said we are both retired, never been to Paris and have a variety of interests. We are reasonably fit and intend to use public transport and do as much walking as we can. We will be traveling late summer of 2015 for our trip. We are both age 60+ and will be arriving in Paris from time spent in England.

I am a big fan of Monet so my itinerary includes a day trip to Giverny as well as time at several museums. Other day trips I will be doing-Versailles and Chartres.

On the websites I've mentioned below you will need to locate your preferred language. I live in the US and there are buttons or drop downs for English.

Museum List:

Louvre www.louvre.fr
Orsay www.musee-orsay.fr
Orangerie www.musee-orangerie.fr
Marmottan www.marmottan.com
Cluny www.musee-moyenage.fr
Rodin www.musee-rodin.fr
Pompidou Center www.centrepompidou.fr
If you plan to do several museums may want to consider a Paris Museum Pass www.parismuseumpass.com Gives list what's included

Other sights:

Notre Dame
Saint Chapelle http://sainte-chapelle.monuments-nationaux.fr
Sacre Coeur
Pantheon http://pantheon.monuments-nationaux.fr
Champs Elysees-walk
Arc de Triomphe outside and base are free Fee for the observation deck Think 200+ steps, don't know if there is an elevator
Eiffel Tower www.tour-eiffel.fr will go twice, once during the day and will include a picnic and at night for the light display
Cruise on the Seine www.bateaux-mouches.fr
Luxembourg Garden

For flights check out www.kayak.com and www.skyscanner.net
trains www.sncf.com
city bus www.ratp.fr less walking and fewer stairs than metro
metro www.ratp.fr lines are coded and numbered


Another picnic spot is Tuileries Garden.

Of course have to have time for some shopping even though I'm not big on that. Can pick up souvenirs for folks back home at most tourist sights. That's about the extent of the shopping I'll do so not any info for you on that.

Also we plan to get an apartment for our 2 weeks. Will do almost all breakfasts at the apt. Lunch will be picnics and cafes. Our dinners will not be splurges except for 1 or 2 evenings.

To start your research you can go to the library and check out a guide book.

There was a good post on this forum that helped me a lot. It was a post from Cheryl about her 10 days in Paris. If I can locate it I'll post the link to it for you.

www.gogoparis.com
www.bonjourparis.com

Hope this helps you to get started with some ideas for itineraries. I do think you should ask each couple what is the 5 most important must do/sees for them for Paris. Then compare the lists, hoping for lots of same choices. This will give you an idea of where to start. If they have no idea what they want to see or do (I would find that hard to imagine but you never know) then have them list their top 3 interests like museums, churches, parks, shopping, walking/exploring neighborhoods, people watching, eating & drinking, etc. It may also help to know what each couple's budget is for the 2 weeks-just for all in Paris-cost of lodging, food/drinks, sightseeing, etc.-not the international flight. Knowing that info can help plan an itinerary better.

Hope you end up with a raise for this!!
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