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On Being a Tour Director

When someone finds out I’m a Tour Director for Starr’s bus tours, one of their first comments is usually, “That must be fun. What do you need to know to be a Tour Director?”  All my Starr Tour Director counterparts have heard the same question over and over. Below are some answers along with additional questions I have received and my answers to these questions.

After answering with the usual “you have to like working with people,” and “you have to enjoy traveling,” I tell them that they have to be able to count to 54,  smile throughout the day -even when your day starts at 4:00am-, and project positivity as well as your voice to your tour guests.

On every trip, tour guest dynamics change, equipment changes, and drivers change.  But that is all part of what I call: The Challenge of the Day!  You see, even when I’ve done the same trip any number of times, I know that for my tour guests, it’s probably their first time.  I have to keep my narrative sharp, exciting and funny.  Yes, I believe having a sense of humor is another quality of a good Tour Director.   At the start of every trip, I always ask my passengers if any of them have traveled with me before. When no one has, I breathe an audible sigh of relief and tell them, “Great! Then you don’t know any of my jokes!”  And for those who have, most have forgotten them, by now anyway.

What about the excitement of motor coach travel? Some might say that it’s not quite as exciting as air travel, but then, any equipment problems are easier to handle at ground level. Speaking of which, we also have to manage technology on the bus like the outlets, WiFi, DVD player, etc. Times are changing and since I am a bit technologically challenged, I have had, on occasion, to get help from very young travelers. I am always thankful for help!

What are the most important qualities of a Tour Director?  Well, you have to like getting up very early in the morning, sometimes known as the middle of the night! Not to mention you have to be chipper all the time! From greeting your tour guests to the attractions we visit, places we eat and hotels we check into. Our days are long so it’s important that Tour Directors pace themselves.  We are certainly not allowed to fall asleep in our dinner plate nor are we allowed to catnap while traveling on the bus.

Tour Directors have to work in partnership with their driver – as equal partners. I have worked so closely with drivers in the past that I have been known to even sing a duet with them.  Oh, and we have to be good at writing on a moving bus. The worse we write, the harder it is for those back in the office to read our reports. That’s not always a bad thing! But they do give us a hard time since it’s hard for them to decipher our handwriting. But we have to tell the story of each trip so the office can review and plan more effectively for the future. Yes, they really do read my reports and our Tour Guests’ surveys too!

Being a Tour Director is a bit like being a stand up comic: you want everyone to love you, laugh at your jokes and then want to see you again. So do you think Tour Directing is for you?

 

Bette Barr, Tour Director

Quebec City & Montreal – Two of My Favorite Cities

A short drive across our northern border are two wonderful and undoubtedly French cities. My heart skips a beat just thinking about them. With their history, culture and architecture dating back to the 1600s you will surely feel as if you are in a French European city.

Montreal is a world class city, 2nd most populated in Canada, boasting two million people. Located on an island in the St. Laurence and Ottawa Rivers, it is known for its museum, arts, fine dining, shopping and an underground that started in the ’60s. The quiet, clean and safe metro system is an engineering marvel taking you to over 65 stops throughout the area each one adorned with works of art. The city bustles with activities and festivals but holds on to its charm in the historical and quaint neighborhoods with their winding staircases.

Quebec City, a short distance to the northeast, is located on a bluff on the north coast of the St. Lawrence River. It is a World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO and is the only walled city in North America. Once you enter the old city through the massive stone gates and step onto the meandering cobblestone streets, you’ll fall in love. The beautiful historic city is lined with cafes, boutiques, fine dining, uniquely relaxing squares and gorgeous vistas. A funicular takes you down the eastern wall to the oldest part of the city. This part of the lower city is not to be missed any time of the year. There is plenty of time for you to explore on your own in the French town.

Join Starr on a bus tour to one or both of these charmingly French towns. There are several options for you to choose from:

Montreal International Jazz Festival, the largest of it’s kind, at the end of June each year. There are hundreds of performances in 3 square blocks that are closed to traffic. You’ll have ample time to enjoy the festival and experience Montreal.

 

Quebec City & Montreal – The best of both in July, August, September and October. After visiting, you’ll want to return for more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quebec Winter Carnival held every February. This French ‘Mardi Gras’ is winter splendor at its finest with plenty of activities to keep you busy. You’ll tour the Hotel de Glace or Ice Hotel, the only one in North America. Words cannot describe the special beauty this place has, all 40+ rooms and suites.

 

Hope to see you on a bus tour to my favorite cities. You’ll understand why I say,
“Oh la la… C’est Magnifique!”

 

Penny Rudolph
Starr Tour Director

It’s Who You Meet Along the Way

It’s said that it’s not the journey but who you meet along the way that is important in life. Well, as Tour Directors, we are fortunate to be able to do both: travel and meet interesting people along the way!

Sometimes we meet people at our various stops and attractions, but most often it’s right on our tour bus.  After I introduce myself, and before I get into the details of the trip, I will ask if there are any veterans aboard the bus.  Sometimes I’ll get a few gentlemen to raise their hands and I thank them for their service… often the rest of the tour guests will applaud.  On occasion, a woman will raise her hand and she will not only get applause, but many times tour guests will take time during the trip to ask her about her service.  On a 4-day bus trip to Vermont last year, I had two women who were traveling together and still in active duty in the Air Force.  The gentleman sitting across the aisle from them suddenly perked up and said he just retired after 20 years in the Air Force… and the three of them then became a fun trio during the bus trip!

St. John’s, Newfoundland

On a bus trip I recently escorted to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, I had a family group from Philadelphia aboard, taking their Canadian cousins to the Big Apple.  Talking to Lisa, one of the Canadians, I found out that they were from St John’s, Newfoundland.  I had seen a program on the Food Network from Newfoundland and asked about it. She told me about the filming of that show and how everyone in town was involved in it. Then she said that they were going to see a Broadway show the next week: taking the train into NY. It would be her first ride on a train! And the show they would see was “Come From Away,” the hit show about all the flights that had to land in Newfoundland on 9/11.  Yes, she was involved in that too, although she didn’t take anyone into her home, they were cooking for and helping all the unplanned visitors to their town.

On the 9/11 Museum trips, I talk about the early history of New York and about the many first settlers who came in 1624 who were Walloons: French speaking Belgians who were fleeing persecution and went to Holland. They petitioned the government and were allowed to come on the first ship that sailed to the New Netherlands’ colony of New Amsterdam.  As they were getting off the bus in New York City, one tour guest said to me: “I was surprised and very moved, to hear you talk about the Walloons because I’m a Walloon… well, my ancestors were and I never really understood their place in American history!” She was quite happy the rest of the trip.

And last, but not least, on another trip into New York City, I talked about the early explorers and the dangers of exploration back then. Henry Hudson was put adrift by his crew in the Hudson Bay in the winter, and Giovani Verrazzano met a horrible end on a Caribbean Island. I mentioned that today’s explorers also experience danger, such as in the space program. On that trip I had an astronaut/payload specialist from the Space Shuttle Columbia, onboard. (A rather poignant example of the dangers of space travel – the Space Shuttle Columbia completed 27 missions from 1981-2003 before disintegrating upon re-entry on the completion of its 28th mission. All seven members of the crew were killed.) He concurred that space exploration was just as dangerous as exploring was in the 15th and 16th  centuries, but the dangers are different as there are no cannibals in space, as far as we know anyway.

 

I can’t wait to meet more interesting people on my bus trips this year!

Hope to see YOU soon!

Bette Barr
Starr Tour Director

 

P.S. Travel with me to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in May, August, October, and November, the Hudson Valley in June, Boston in July or September, an overnight in New York City in August, the Tall Ship Festival in Erie, PA in August, the Poconos in October, and more!

 

Get Ready For An Overnight in The City That Never Sleeps!

Get Ready For An Overnight in The City That Never Sleeps!

This summer, for the first time, Starr is offering a weekend bus trip to NYC!  I will be the tour director/tour guide for this 2-day getaway so let me tell you a few things about it and why it is a really cool trip… even if it is August in New York!

In addition to being a Tour Director for Starr, I am also a licensed NYC tour guide and I will be using my in-depth knowledge of NYC to give you an introductory riding tour of the city before you go off on your own.  As a native New Yorker, I love sharing “my” city with you.

Included in the cost of the bus trip is your transportation to and from Manhattan and an overnight at a wonderful hotel located at the northern end of Times Square, convenient to all the Broadway theaters and restaurants.  It’s also an easy walk to Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and Central Park (and their delightful zoo).

If you don’t want to visit those places, you’re also near the American Museum of Natural History/Hayden Planetarium on the west side, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim as well as all the other museums on New York’s Museum Mile, on the east side.

The 9/11 Museum and Memorial is just a subway ride away, but I would suggest that you take our Starr bus trip there, separately, since I do a great narration on that trip!

How will you get to those places that are not as close? Well, I will give you a comprehensive tutorial on using the subways on our bus ride into the city. I’ll also be available to give you directions to specific destinations.  The subways are the best way to get around and, unlike when I lived in Queens and worked in the city, they are AIR CONDITIONED AND ANNOUNCE THE NEXT STATION.  And, if you are over 65, you can get a senior discount (50%) on the subways. (You’ll need a photo ID)

Another great thing about this trip is that you can catch a Broadway show! Starr offers a chance to get discount tickets in advance, with great seats, or you can visit TKTS in Times Square, and sometimes, at the box office just before the show (but the seats might not be as good). When the show is over you can relax and have a late dinner and then see Times Square at its best, at night, as you casually walk back to the hotel.  No rushing to catch a bus home or bail out your car from an outrageously priced parking lot!  You could even see a matinee on Saturday afternoon and another show that night!

The next day you can sleep in a bit, if you wish,  and then do some more sightseeing.  You’ll have the better part of the day to see the things you didn’t see on Saturday and maybe do some shopping.  Although breakfast is not included, you can get the best breakfasts within a short walk of the hotel: there are dozens of places to choose from. Again, I’ll give you suggestions and I’ll tell you this: New York bagels are the best in the world… bar none! (Sorry, Philly.)

So, if you’d like a weekend getaway that’s not too far but a world of difference, come on a bus trip to New York with me August 2-3, 2019!  I’m looking forward to it and trying to decide where I want to go and what I want to see. There is just so much to do!

 

See you on the bus!
Bette Barr
Tour Director