Posted by: marymarthatours | June 30, 2010

Planning an M&M Tour

For the M&M’s, planning a tour is lots of fun, but it’s also lots of work. Fortunately, we both love the planning process, so the work part is fun too.

1. The first step is to decide on a destination. Our previous travelers and respondents to our “Ireland or Wales” poll helped us make that decision for 2011. So next year, our tour will be to the GARDENS OF IRELAND.

2. The next step is to decide roughly when to go and for how long. We count on our tour arranger, Journeys with Jeff, to make the flight, coach, and hotel arrangements, so at this stage we confer with Jeff and Ann at JWJ frequently. We like to travel in September when the weather in the UK and Ireland is still mild, the masses of tourists have gone home, and the airfare is less expensive. Factors that influence the length of the tour are travel dates, costs, and where we can find suitable lodging for several nights at a time.

3. We prefer to stay in each location for more than one night, so we need to keep this in mind when we research and decide on where to stay and what sites to visit. There are so many beautiful gardens in Ireland that choosing which ones to visit was not easy. We needed to consider the location of the garden; days and times that each one is open; the cost of a visit; and which gardens will offer a variety of styles for our travelers to enjoy. We like to include other types of sites on our “garden” tours, so we have also investigated historical sites, churches, beautiful scenery, and noteworthy towns as potential locations for a stop. And for Mary and Martha, every trip does include something that we personally really want to see. We figure that if we want to see it, you will too.

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The neolithic tomb of Newgrange is on the M&M’s personal wish-to-see list (photo by GFDL)

4. Planning a route. Once we’ve identified the locations where we’d like to stay and the sites that we’d like to see, we need to be sure that we can fit everything into each day. Mary relies on www.michelin.co.uk for help in putting together a worksheet for each day that lists mileage, travel time, and length of time for each visit. The variables include traveling by coach rather than car, loading and unloading 30 people at each location, bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, etc., etc.

5. Finding accommodations. Once we’re set on the general itinerary, Martha researches hotel possibilities. Although JWJ does the actual booking, we try to give Jeff some suggestions that we think are reasonably priced, highly rated, and suitable for the folks who like to travel with the M&M’s.

6. Booking the gardens and other visits. Mary can do this mostly by e-mail and is ever so thankful for modern technology.

7. Deciding on the tour price. Thank goodness JWJ does this. They have to consider the costs of airfare from two departure locations (Seattle and Minneapolis); coach price; hotel and meal prices; costs of the daily visits and city tours; and on and on.

8. Writing the brochure and finding photos. JWJ will print the brochure for our tour, but Mary and Martha write the copy. Jeff has some photo resources available, but Mary passes along photo suggestions from her collection and other sources.

9. Extras. We like to preplan a few surprise stops for our travelers that are not listed in the itinerary brochure. Some we expect to include while on tour and others are possibilities if time allows. The Falkirk Wheel in Scotland was one of our preplanned surprises and was a favorite stop for lots of the folks in 2009.

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A boat entering the Falkirk Wheel

Changes and snafus happen throughout the process. We had originally wanted to include a few days in Northern Ireland, but had to eliminate this possibility because of cost and too many long driving days. Finding hotels for the Ireland trip has been a challenge. Several of our top choices are too expensive, and one location was already completely booked (15 months in advance) for a wedding. Jeff is still working on finding and booking our hotels.

We’re delighted that the GARDENS OF IRELAND Tour is coming together nicely. We expect to have the planning done and the brochure out by summer’s end. If you’re interested, let us know. We expect this tour to fill rapidly.

Picture credit: Newgrange – copyright by GFDL and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

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