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Helpful Hints for Planning Travel

by Dave Thielman

It’s Summer – Plan Now

Summer is the perfect time to begin planning your next performance tour or festival participation… here’s why:

  • To receive the best airfare and airspace
  • Planning ahead will give you and your tour operator enough time for stress free planning
  • Better chance of getting those hard to find tickets to concerts and shows
  • Better hotel selection
  • Better ground transportation selection
  • More time to prepare your repertoire
Team Up

If traveling has always enticed you, but you feel your ensemble is too small or not balanced – consider joining forces. We see many groups planning performance tours together.

Teaming up is also a great idea for larger trips to Europe, China, or Australia, when it may be difficult to get your entire group to travel. If you are able to form a joint band, choir or perhaps a community group, it may turn your dream of touring into a reality. Travel together to represent your city or even state!

Choosing a Tour Company

Insist on a comfortable working relationship – you will work closely with a tour company for the better part of a year or more. Does your contact listen carefully and take the time to answer your questions thoroughly?

  • Find out if they have musicians on staff.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for references – a good company will have plenty.
  • Ask how many years the company has been in business.
  • Make sure the company has liability insurance.
  • Understand the payment schedule, billing process and cancellation policy.
  • Analyze the proposal – it should be both detailed and easy to understand.
  • Compare “apples with apples” – when considering multiple bids, be sure the following items are consistent: hotel location and quality, number of hotel nights, passenger count, number of free packages, meals, activities, performances and promotion, and air tax (many companies don’t include air tax up front – be sure to ask!)
  • Consider price and value – remembering that the lowest price is not always the best value.
  • Ask for specific examples of hotels, concert venues, exchange opportunities and clinicians.
  • Choosing Your Destination – Your biggest decision in planning a tour is undoubtedly the destination. There are many factors to weigh as you begin your search for the perfect place to bring your band. Here’s a quick list of items to consider.
  • School Restrictions – As you begin your planning, be aware and knowledgeable of any restrictions your school board or district has on student group travel.
  • Musical Experiences – What experiences do you hope for your group to have? Some bands look for competitive festivals and parades; others want a performance tour that includes various venue options.
  • Budget – Group travel packages range widely in price. Decide on your budget, then make sure everyone involved is aware of and able to pay the price expected of them. Your tour operator should be able to give you options within your budget.
  • Time of Year – When will your group travel? Parade and festival dates are one factor which may determine your travel dates. Also consider the climate and weather conditions in each destination. While January may not be the ideal time to tour England, it’s a perfect time to visit Hawaii or Mexico with your band.
  • Length of Tour – How long can your group be away? Taking a quality tour to Italy requires a minimum of 7 days, while you could take in most of Chicago or San Francisco’s best in just 4 days.
  • Age Group – Be sure to consider ages and maturity levels of your group. Adult and university bands often appreciate more historic sites such as the Normandy beaches, while a middle school band may gain more out of a parade performance at Walt Disney World – both of which are excellent choices!
  • Professional Contacts – A good tour operator will make all performance and clinic arrangements for you. If you have a sister city, school or a colleague in a certain area with whom you would like to work, these connections, when fostered well ahead of time with the group, can make a tour more personal for the entire ensemble.
  • Fundraising – If your group relies heavily on fundraising, it’s a good idea to research whether other school teams/groups may be holding fundraisers at the same time. Efforts to space fundraising activities out throughout the year will pay off in the end.
  • Travel Experience – Keep in mind your own travel experience, as well as that of the group and chaperones. A seasoned traveling group may breeze to China and back very smoothly, but bands on their first trip may be better off visiting a domestic destination.
  • Educational Experiences – Every destination has potential educational value. You and fellow teachers may have specific ideas or themes to incorporate into the tour. For example, St. Olaf College, a school rich with Norwegian heritage, will take their choir, band and orchestra to Norway for its centennial celebrations in 2005. A patriotic tour to Washington, D.C., including a clinic with the Army Band and a performance at the Lincoln Memorial, may add even more meaning for students and teachers.

David Thielman