Following are answers from Leisure Group Travel readers who responded to our inquiry: We are looking for your best ideas on how to create a great itinerary. What’s your secret sauce, your wow factor or “don’t ever do this” tip?

Get Them Involved

When suggesting Quebec itineraries, I like to include several hands-on and interactive activities each day. It might be petting angora goats, bottle-feeding a baby caribou or collecting eggs at one of our agritourism sites like 5 Etoile (Star) Farm. At the Wendat-Huron Village you will participate in a First Nations welcome ceremony and then tie your own dreamcatcher. You can learn how to work with copper design, and then create your own small picture with the tools at the Albert Gilles atalier. Your group can have a great dinner anywhere, but they will continue to talk about (and post to all their Facebook pages) the time that George was crowned king at Caberet du Roy. Or, rather than just sit down to that wonderful meal, you can arrange a cooking class so your group can help create it. At Rose Drummond, everyone comes away with their own small corsage creation. The possibilities are limitless.

Debra Ruzbasan
Manager, Leisure Travel Sales
Destination Quebec/Tourisme Quebec

Timing is Key

There is a variety of components necessary to build a great itinerary, but one that stands out for me is timing. You have to put yourself in the passenger’s seat to understand when they are hungry, tired and have seen too much or maybe not enough. I have guided tours in addition to designing them to learn how the passengers are truly feeling; these first-hand experiences have proven invaluable when designing a well-balanced tour.

Cathy Donahue
Product Manager of the West and Mackinac Island
Collette Vacations
Pawtucket, RI

Feelings and Emotions

Start with the end in mind. Meaning, what do you want your tour group participants to say at the end of the trip? What feeling do you want to evoke (adventure, soul-soothing, luxury, learning, etc.)? Once you know what you are trying to achieve for the travelers, it becomes easier to build the entire program to meet that goal and it also helps in marketing the trip because the itinerary’s purpose will drive it’s differentiation in the marketplace. Wanting the best price or the best value is a given these days. I recommend building an itinerary based on feelings and emotions vs. price points.

Pauline Lipkewich
Global Director, Group Sales
Rocky Mountaineer
Vancouver, BC

In the Kitchen

More and more visitors crave unique, hands-on experiences. For example, Providence is known as a culinary capital. We incorporate cooking classes into some itineraries. That way, travelers learn inside tips from some of the best chefs in the country.

Kerri Furtado
Tourism Sales Manager
Providence Warwick CVB
Providence, RI

Those Special Touches

We look at an itinerary as baking a cake. You need main ingredients and you need some sprinkles or a cherry. I think the best itineraries are those that include attractions or special interests that cannot be done by a leisure traveler. For example, a special show or behind-the-scenes look at how something is created, perhaps a special attraction that would open just for a group. If you are doing a museum, it must come alive for a group… red velvet ropes and no heavy reading but a docent in character that brings the museum ALIVE. Maybe a special dinner function that offers opportunities only for groups such as Ghosts and Goblets or enjoy an evening of total AHHHHHH moments when you become the age you want to be again. Start with an action stations dinner and then a signature drink and music, music, music as you pick dress-ups to play the part of the age you want to be!

Thought-provoking and inspirational names also help clients READ the tour components….tours that have clever and catchy names….like GOBLIN UP the Music, Red White and Blue Musical Christmas, Tip Toe through the Tulips…..all make you want to read more.

Diane Sphar, President
Ohio Travel Treasures LLC
Cincinnati, OH

Recycled Gem

I honestly think that people do not want to just take a tour anymore. They want hands-on experiences that help enhance any tour they are on. An example is having everyone bring an old CD or DVD that they are getting ready to throw away. They bring it to the recycling center (who takes people to the recycling center? I do!). They take the CD/DVD back with them made into a treasure (it’s a surprise) that is usable. That is what I have tried to do and it has proven very successful.

Diane Hestness, Group Travel Director
Council Bluffs CVB
Council Bluffs, IA

Three Musts

Three key ingredients for any successful group tour itinerary:

  1. Know your group. If you plan your trip around your travelers’ ideal holiday, they will join your tour.
  2. Be sure that you have a great tour manager on board. Tour managers need to be all things to all people and those who do it well will ensure your travelers return again and again at the same time a bad tour manager will send your travelers to the competition.
  3. Listen to your travelers’ comments. If you don’t already use an evaluation form start. Your travelers will share both the positive and negative; be grateful for the opportunity to use these comments to make changes to existing programs, thank your suppliers who always go above and beyond and for future travel destinations.

Theresa O’Rourke
Vice President of Operations
Mayflower Tours
Downers Grove, IL

Surprises Do Wonders

I try to give my people the WOW factor in all the trips that I do. Something else that I do is I never give all the details or venues and hold one or two back. I surprise them and they are under the impression that they are getting something for free. It works every time.

Judy LoSasso
TreasureTime Tours
Buchanan, NY