Museums are prevalent the world over. Yet, many group travel leaders find museum visits difficult going for tour groups. Leaders tell me that you have to wait in line too long, it’s too limited appeal, there’s nowhere to sit down, too many stairs, not enough restrooms, and so forth.
They also often mention that not enough group participants are interested in everything they’re seeing and the lack of technology at older museums limits the immersion of the subject matter.
Is Your Group Avoiding Museums?
If these are some of the reasons you’ve avoided museum‐going, perhaps you are not planning appropriately. And perhaps you are missing interesting and educational experiences that could be woven into most any group trip. The first step is to know your museums—learn which cities have interesting museums—not necessarily the biggest, but the most appealing.
Ever Try Smaller Museums?
I often find some of the smaller and more personal museums easier. For example, I was entranced in Ireland by the Dublin Writers Museum with its collections of early manuscripts and first editions of the likes of James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Yeats, Samuel Beckett and others. The Rodin Museum in Paris, housed in a magnificently restored 18th century townhouse, allowed me to spend time with The Thinker and The Kiss.
Many museums are so huge that it may be necessary to choose what you’d like your group to see. At the vast British Museum in London, I met with the guide in advance and arranged to have my group see only the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, and the Mummies—with a fairly in‐depth explanation of the importance of each, and then with free time afterward.
The method of scheduling your group’s visit in the morning works so that after the tour they may have the afternoon free to purchase lunch and see other exhibits of particular interest to them or go shopping—all meeting back at the hotel in time for evening fun.
It also helps to explain any special interests of your group to the guide or docent. For example, a tour group with a number of men in it might enjoy the exhibit of Arms and Armor at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, whereas an all‐ladies group might appreciate its Costume Institute, showing fashion through the ages.
By all means, do all the practical things to make the trip run more smoothly. Make advance reservations for starters. Coming into the small town of Giverny, France and seeing a line down the street and around the block all trying to get into Impressionist painter, Claude Monet’s home and garden made my group gasp. But when we were all able to walk right to the front of the line because I had insisted that my receptive tour operator pre‐book a specific entrance time, they all applauded me and felt like royalty!
Start at the Top
Other practical hints? Start at the top floor of a museum and work your way down, not the other way around. And certainly if you have people with difficulties in climbing stairs, respiratory problems, and the like, check out the availability of elevators in advance. Find out where restrooms are, and insist that the group all avail themselves before the museum guide starts off with your folks. Establish a meeting spot in the museum in case some people get separated from you and your group and don’t know how to find you.
If you feel your group is too big for everyone to hear properly, consider breaking it into two smaller groups—each with its own guide. (Note—some museums will let you come with your own guide; others will require you use a museum guide or docent).
If you’re planning to visit more than one museum, stately home, or landmark site in a given city, check out some of the passes that include entrance fees to many city sites for one package price. You might want to think as to how you could wrap a tour around a specific museum’s blockbuster show, but check if there is an additional fee.
Museums are doing everything possible nowadays to make their offerings more appealing to all ages, more accessible, educational, and fun. It’s up to us as group travel leaders to use them in our travel products.