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Planning Your Own Tour In Europe

I am looking at taking my Chamber Choir and Vocal Jazz Ensemble to Europe in the summer of 2012. I have traveled with a tour company before and was fine with it but I think I can do what they did on my own. I'm wondering if any of you have had success in this area. I would need to hire:
Tour Guide from each country or at least a multi-lingual guide
Hotels and/or hostels
Deal with food
Are there people who have tried and failed? Grand successes? I'd love to hear from you.
Replies (7): Threaded | Chronological
on June 25, 2011 6:49pm
For what it is worth....I have led several concert tours to Europe to England, France, Austria, Italy, and Germany and I strongly recommend that you contract with one of the many reputable tour companies.   Just look at the list you made of items to be attended to...I am not sure realize the enormity of work involved with that list.  In addition, what happens if something does not go as planned while in  Europe....doing  all  yourself would be much more difficult to handle.
You also did not mention any concert venues in your note.  Do you plan also to book them and have you thought how to do that.  Tour companies have
"iins" with various concert venues and I have found them very helpful in setting those up for me on my tours.
Just my humble opinion...but every dollar you pay to a good tour company is worth it.
Michael Larkin
Music Director, New Ark Chorale
Choral Department Chairperson, Music School  of Delaware
on June 25, 2011 8:51pm
Mike, I have to agree with Michael here. You don't want to fly solo on a European tour. I've done several domestic tours myself, and that's worked out all right. In addition, I'm personally in Europe once or twice a year for research, so I'm VERY comfortable there. I point all that out to amplify my argument that I would never think about planning my own choir tour over there.

Sure, you can find a bus company and book the hotels yourself. You might even be able to negotiate a group rate, but it won't be as good as the one that a tour company, who might book several hundred rooms per year in that hotel, might. Also, are you going to be able to book the kind of venues that a tour company can? When I took my church choir to Italy in 2007, we sang a Sunday Mass at St Peter's Basilica. Do you know who to call to get that done? I don't!

Keep in mind one last thing. You won't likely save any money bypassing the tour company. First because of the volume they're booking, as I mentioned before. Also, remember that their money is made through commissions and kickbacks from the places they take you. The good, smart tour companies are actually not adding much or anything to the actual prices you'd pay, had you gone directly.

If you're taking your choir to Disney World, you'd be silly to use a tour company. But I really feel you should reconsider taking a group of students to a foreign country with no backup!

on June 26, 2011 10:16am
Mike, I am taking my choral group (adults average age 60) to India to do a couple of fundraising concerts.  I am East Indian, and other than the venue city Bangalore, all other touring is being contracted out with a tour company, that comes recommended by someone I know.  You might want to focus on performance and attending to all the other "stuff" that happens rather than the logistics of touring.  Good luck, Keep us posted.  I am a little nervous myself undertaking this huge trip!  
on June 27, 2011 6:41pm
Some pointers
  • start planning very early - about a year ahead, i would recommend
  • get helpers - this is hard work
  • fund-raise through concerts, raffles, quizzes and any other means you can, and put the loot into the choir's war-chest to set against overall costs
  • work out a detailed itinerary
  • submit itinerary to at least three agencies for cost estimates - these can vary widely, so check each one in detail and go for the best, not necessarily the cheapest one.
  • contact choirs in  target areas to arrange concerts - shared or otherwise.  This way you have some hope of an audience
  • Have someone in the group who speaks the local language
  • Ensure that you are covered by insurance especially for medical expenses abroad
  • Ensure that all those travelling have passports and visas as necessary
  • Check diet requirements, allergies and other possible problem situations
  • Check all legal requirements
  • know where your country's Embassy is and have all details readily to hand - phone no/fax/ internet contact
  • have helpers/parents travel with you to supervise
  • Have a checklist for all those travelling of what they need to bring (medication, teddy bears, ear plugs [European cities can be very noisy],etc)
  • Do lots of research on the country/ies to be visited
After that, work out other points needs that are likely to arise.  And good luck!
on June 28, 2011 9:49am
I would suggest you use a touring company as well.
I use a small touring company from England.  They will tailor your tour to your desires including performance venues and lodging.  I have used them on three occasions and plan to use them again in 2013.  I will be glad to provide you with their contact information or any other requested information (types of tours, locations, etc.). 
Best Regards
Billy Rayburn
Director of Choral Activities
Houston High School
Germantown, TN
on January 30, 2013 6:11am
I have had great success with one tour to Europe (Central Europe) - but you do need to at least work with a travel agent. The travel agent we worked with here in the DC area was able to get us hotels, airfare, and the tour guide. We arranged our own concert venues. We stayed in hotels that offered breakfast, and we were on our own for the other meals. A travel agent will do this for their commission - not an additional "fee" on top of the tour cost. The tour groups also will offer things like "One trip free with each 10" or something like that - when what most of them are really doing is just adding an extra bit to each tour to cover the cost for directors trips.
CJ Redden-Liotta
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