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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 17th, 2014, 12:03 PM
  #101  
 
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Gretchen -- I am well aware it is easier in Europe. That doesn't change the fact that many people have this weird fear of being hosed by paying a teensy bit more that someone else.

Trust me -- even good friends can fall out over this.

To me it is a no brainer - divide things equally. BUT I've observed and suffered the effect more than once.

Then there is the insistence on separate checks. Jeeze Louise !!! Because so many Americans are used to asking for separate checks they assume it is the same everywhere. It ain't. Separate checks shouldn't be necessary since taxes/tips aren't an issue in Europe. I've even had the experience of a friend (!?) insisting on separate checks when all 6 of us ordered off the set menu and all owed <u>exactly the same amount</u>. (She isn't a friend anymore BTW)

I'm not saying it <i>should happen</i> but that it very well <i>could happen</i>. Just sayin'

Simply another alligator to prepare for in this swamp.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 12:26 PM
  #102  
 
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I've run into exactly the same circumstances that janisj mentioned. It happens; be prepared.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 06:16 PM
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I would try to get a sense of how the mother really is doing with her mental status. If she has dementia, a change of location and routine can often make this much worse. If you have concerns, you might ask her or her husband to check with her doctor to see if he would advise such a trip.

I think your boss should go on this trip with his mother. Perhaps you can help plan it but suggest he go to in your place to "enjoy the experience."
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 09:59 PM
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<I think your boss should go on this trip with his mother. Perhaps you can help plan it but suggest he go to in your place to "enjoy the experience.">

I have to admit I had a similar thought after reading about 'mom with mental issues'. This is a red flag to me, and you need to be very careful here as you assess this group dynamic. Your boss is really asking a lot IMO.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 11:12 PM
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Indeed, the mother's state of health seems to be a major issue. What is your real responsibility there? What if she wanders off in the middle of the night? How about from a restaurant? She goes to the bathroom and walks out of the restaurant instead of back to the table. It really should be your boss going, not you.

At least make sure everyone has medical insurance that will cover them abroad, and evacuation and repatriation insurance. And that the insurance covers pre-existing conditions. I don't buy standard travel insurance, but I do buy those policies.

It is all very well to say you have no patience for drama queens, but on this trip it will be your JOB to have patience for them. Any drama queen will see you as a paid employee and will no doubt treat you as such. I have read the whole thread but don't remember all of it. Has anyone suggested turning this over to the FIT (foreign independent travel) department of a major tour company? It is their business to organize and execute trips for groups of demanding and possibly incompatible clients. They are not cheap, but I trust you aren't, either.

It may be called concierge travel or custom travel or tailor made travel rather than FIT. Check your favorite high-end tour company. Or see, as an example, http://www.geoex.com/custom-travel or http://www.smithsonianjourneys.org/tailor-made/
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 11:45 PM
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A BIG second for insurance - health as well as general trip insurance.

Make sure you know who to call for help, and how to dial the numbers from your phone. Everyone who has medical issues should bring pertinent info with them - hopefully they won't need to refer to it, but stuff happens all the time.

I can't remember if this has been mentioned, but 2 weeks in Paris is a long time for many people - even after you discount the 1st and last days for jetlag, getting settled, travel, etc.

You might consider booking a couple of day trips - I think private tours would be easiest, and it sounds as if money is not a consideration. Would not suggest Versailles, but Fontainebleau is lovely, Provins, Reims, Normandy if anyone's interested...there are lots of places that would make a good half- or full-day trip, and give a nice change of scenery.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 11:47 PM
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PS - Context Travel does excellent small-group tours, and will also tailor to your interests.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 04:01 AM
  #108  
 
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can I just be a phone call away

Ummm, be sure all have cell phones ready for Europe.

Janis, I do agree with you--was just pointing out that it is somewhat "cleaner" with tax and tip included. We can hope.

If the mother is that far down the road, she should not go on a trip. Could she go to San Francisco (for example) and be happy and safe? Can she do her own packing? What someone posted is correct about becoming disoriented and the need for stable schedules, etc. This is a VERY important assessment. If the family is "noticing", then it may be further along than they even realize and are she is able to cover it up. Word of warning. And even though her husband will be with her, it can be a strain and needs to be addressed.

I also suggested insurance--and be sure there is a provision for "dissatisfaction". LOL

I suggested Michael first out of the bag, but now hope he wouldn't get involved with this, as good as he is. He's meeting DS and family next week.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 07:15 AM
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I would be VERY concerned about traveling with a woman with noticaeble mental problems. Even if the husband is willing to be responsible for everything, the stresses of travel, including being in a foreign country in which she doesn;t understand the language can be extremely disorienting.

Make sure you see the mother in the evening (when symptoms are often more obvious) and ask her several questions to help you determine how oriented she is to time and place. (For instance, ask her something specific about the dinner/date, something about current events/who is president, and be sure to probe for what sights she is interested in seeing to get a realistic view of her abilities.)

(When my dad was starting to become obviously confused he would often be distressed when my mom left the house - even for a couple of minutes to mail a letter at the corner. She once came back to find him in tears - saying she had been gone for hours and he thought she had left him. And this was only a couple of months after she first noticed any symptoms of confusion.)
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 07:27 AM
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OK -- this is sounding more and more like a fantasy.

The original scenario was weird/enough . . . But now we have added a major takeover/buyout where the OP will presumably reap big $$$, then a mother w/ dementia . . .

OK, it might be I'm too skeptical by half. But this is beginning to sound like a screenplay.

Would ANY halfway normal executive leave his mother (w/ dementia), father and 6 retired friends loose w/ a 20-something w/ virtually NO travel planning experience, no French skills, and hardly any knowledge of Paris . . . and two weeks just in Paris????

I know many of us would not blink twice at 2 weeks in Paris, but how many retirees you know on a first time ever visit would even consider two weeks in one city?
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 07:30 AM
  #111  
 
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Depending on what the mother's condition actually is, six months could make a big difference in her condition.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 01:40 PM
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First order of business would be to consider a budget. Has your boss indicated a specific amount for this "VIP but also cost-effective" excursion? Will that budget include you and your expenses? Will each of the other couples be able to match that budget?

Have you researched air fares, hotel rates, meals, transportation?

<<Before the upcoming dinner, I plan to send a mass email and text to bring cash. Is this a good idea? He who wants the credit card points can charge the whole bill to his card and take the cash. They can do this on rotation so no one feels left out. You think this is fair?>>

I cannot imagine responsible couples (or even your boss) turning over any amount of cash to a completely inexperienced "travel planner".

Before you can even think of collecting any funds, you will have to present them with a reasonable and executable plan. You are not going to receive carte blanche.

You'll also need to present a full itinerary, probably with options, that includes the cost of activities and excursions or walking/food tours and transportation options.

To believe that you could possibly be "just a phone call away" if and when "all this is figured out" does not seem the least bit realistic at this point. You mentioned your boss would tell them that you "will do all the leg work and book everything to complete the itinerary", so it seems you should have a plan in place ahead of that dinner.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 06:16 PM
  #113  
 
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The whole splitting of dinner bills really is a can of worms, or the "alligator in the swamp." Love that analogy.
There have been a lot of threads and opinions relating to this.

With another couple who are close friends, we either split or take turns paying because we absolutely do not care if we are equal, etc.

However, with a big group where some people eat a lot of the most expensive foods and wines at every meal and we have salads, I resent paying equal time after time and will not do it. I would certainly not subsidize someone else for a two week period to eat and drink what I felt I could notmafford.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 06:38 PM
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Sorry, somehow hit the submit too soon. Should have been "could not afford."
Some people are foodies and love and enjoy wine. That is lovely.
DH and I try to have a nice meal every other day during a trip and wine perhaps once or twice. That is our budget. If I could afford more, I would do more - for myself. I do not wish to split the bill to pay for other people to enjoy what I can not also enjoy comfortably.

So, for you planning this trip, be prepared on how to deal with this. It could become a big issue - or not -depending on the group. Are they all great friends with each other or only friends with boss's parents? If they are a tight group, they might not care. If any are not close to all the others, they will probably care. Only a meal or two, they might resent it, but would live with it. Over a two week period, if many meals are together, it will be an issue.

A discovery we once made. One person who took over paying for family groups, taking cash from everybody and putting the bill on his credit card, was divvying things up by dividing costs between two fewer people than were actually there, in other words, adding the cost of his and his wife's meals to everybody else. It was a large enough group, we didn't catch on at first, then DH and I had a big laugh about figuring it out, and watched the bills after that. We could all afford it at the time. It would not be funny now.
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 03:38 AM
  #115  
 
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Wow, that "service charge" was a whopper!! How strange!! LOL
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 09:14 AM
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You're getting a lot of good advice from people experienced in traveling with a group. And experienced being the planner/person-in-charge. It's a "special" experience. Most of us traveled on our own first before leading a group. Which is a plus as well as a minus. (You know what you're missing.)
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 09:48 AM
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I would suggest that you ask each person or couple to let you know what their interests are....museums, architecture, shopping, fashion, etc.

Work on a 2 week itinerary incorporating these interests and ask each to opt into whatever activities appeal to them.....sort of like cruise ship excursions. They must realize they cannot be together for 2 weeks continually and each will need time on their own. You may even want to include a list of activities that can be done without guides or reservations, like wandering parks, etc.

Likewise, submit restaurants and ask each to decide which they want you to reserve for them. We usually reserve either lunch or dinner each day.
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 03:12 PM
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If you start asking people what their interests are, you'll just open a can of worms. Those of us who have planned our own trips can confirm that to be an extremely complex endeavor and you will just not be able to please anyone or everyone.

The better bet is suggestions. Construct a suggested itinerary that includes some museums, some architecture, the major sights, shopping (the Grands Magasins), etc. Then, those interested can do that and those who are not can do whatever they wish.
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 03:39 PM
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Here are my suggestions …

1. Check out the website parispersonalized.com. The company is owned by an English speaking woman living in Paris (Antoinette) who thoroughly knows the city and can help plan the tours. The cost one of one tour guide divided by 8 guests will be well worth it.

2. As others have suggested, this is the perfect use for a TA — one who has experience not only with Paris but also planning group travel. As others have expressed, planning group travel is entirely different than planning individual travel … and you're just being set up to fail if you try to do this yourself. As others have expressed, there are too many variables — and I assume you're not an expert on trip insurance, tours, itinerary planning, or getting hotel amenities.

3. This would be quite easy for an experienced TA to set up, and you could find a good TA to do it without any service fees … perhaps just a "plan to go" fee that would be applied to the trip, to guard against doing hours and hours of work and then having the group back out (meaning, no commissions from the hotels booked).
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 04:40 PM
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Before you meet with all of them have a questionnaire emailed to each participant. Do they want to spend all two weeks in Paris or would like some time in Normandy or the Loire Valley? Are they willing to separate into smaller groups so some can go to a museum, while others may wish to shop? Dining..what level do they expect? Are they flexible?
When we visit cities in Europe with friends, we go our separate ways during the day much of the time.
Get these types of questions out on the table early. Good luck, quite an undertaking for you.
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