Some things should go without saying. Or so I thought. We Americans have that reputation as being “ugly” in some places and I certainly can say that over a lifetime I have had my moments. Nothing I am very proud of, I assure you. What I love about Ireland is that they still like us! They are appreciative of everything we’ve done for them and the opportunities we’ve given them, whether we were nice about it at the time or not. Millions of Irish citizens sought a better life in America and people like our former President Bill Clinton are still working very hard with the troubled North to find some peace. Let’s not ruin that.
I’ve witnessed and heard stories about bad behavior on escorted coach tours, or even stuff that just makes us, as Americans, look bad. Now it’s quite unlikely that my readers will recognize themselves as, for example, a psycho man-crazy-stalker, so I’d say that I am probably preaching to the choir here. But if we can keep these things in mind, and perhaps correct another that may be going down the wrong path, we just may be able to enjoy many more years of the wonderful Irish hospitality.
1) Read the material sent by the tour company. CIE Tours sends a backpack with an info guide, map, luggage tags & strap, etc. Use them. The strap helps you get spotted at the airport for your transfer to your hotel and the tags tell the hotel porters who YOU are so they know where YOUR bags go. Simple concept, lost on many. The info guide is also full of useful stuff like money, packing, weather, tipping (see #8) and such. One guy was stymied that the bank in Ireland wouldn’t give him a cash advance on the credit card he handed to her without a pin number. He had been told not to bring a debit card by some genius. Um, I don’t think they would in the States either. He didn’t read his guide or that Rick Steve’s book. Know before you go, then you can concentrate on the tour without issue.
2) Be prepared, like the Boy Scouts say. Poncho, umbrella, hat, raincoat, medications (Rx, headache/pain, allergy, diarrhea), a copy of your passport, adapters – you know the drill. And if Mother Nature decides to show her angry side, take it in stride and find some joy in the company of others. One passenger complained that there should have been an alternate activity when gale force winds and heavy rains during a storm that shut down the entire island came through at a walking tour visit. Most chatted in the café over coffee & pastries while the truly adventurous did the walk. Hmm, good input, maybe the driver should have an art supply box on hand just in case…
3) You are only one of many in a group tour. Whether it’s a big family group having a “great time” being loud and obnoxious (IMHO) during the commentary, or two friends that chatted non-stop during it (and somehow missed all the instructions), people can be oblivious to their surroundings. YOUR vacation is not MY vacation, but things like that can ruin the experience for others. People should be allowed their space, privacy, boundaries and their own way of doing things. Be kind, friendly, inviting and respectful.
4) Be on time. I use the Notes app on my iPhone to keep track of times given for things like breakfast, bags out, return to bus, etc. (it’s also good for notes, haha) and I set the alarm to allow myself some travel time back. The old joke is: Do you know the difference between a tourist and a hitchhiker? 2 minutes. The reality is, the tour is held up until you are in your seat. Visit times at locations are on slots – you miss yours, and it’s gone. So planning for bathroom breaks, shopping or choosing to tell the driver at 8:45 that you left something in your LAST hotel room and expecting him to solve it while the rest of your group is already on the bus for todays voyage… (same chatty friend in #3). Keep yourself organized, listen to instructions, plan ahead for your needs and be on time. Like a grown-up or a working person does.
5) If you need something, ask, but be reasonable. Many a hotel gripe shouldn’t be one. Did you read the organized book on your desk in your room? It answers many an unasked question – like they have fans to cool your room, adapters, a fridge, even a hair straightener at one place. Just ask. At the breakfast buffet you can usually order eggs the way you like them. And they’ll bring you heavy “pouring” cream for your keto coffee. The rooms can be smaller in Ireland as the buildings are much older in big towns where space is a premium. We get that at home, too. And are you surprised that your room is not ready when your flight comes in at 6:15 AM? Shouldn’t be – check in time in the States is also around 2 PM. One guy was fit to be tied because the hotel should know we Americans need coffee in the morning while waiting for our (fabulous) breakfast buffet to open at 7 AM. Did he not see the tea & coffee service in his room closet? I had 2 cups before I came downstairs. Hadn’t looked, though he had used it at the last hotel – it’s a staple in every one I’ve been in.
6) Your tour guide/driver is working. And working harder than you think. He’s looking after you, your luggage, getting you to your destination on time while giving colorful commentary, finding a place to park that ginormous coach, getting you in, calling ahead to confirm visits, hotels, times for meals and bags, scheduling transfers to the airport, picking up all your trash, sweeping and mopping the coach, washing windows and the outside, fueling up, picking you up, getting you from place to place to place. And then handling your issues – lost and left behind items, special requests, missing bags, instructions not followed, getting medical attention, finding you an ATM or post office or whatever, answering your questions, etc. It’s a long, hard day. When you see him sitting alone at a mealtime? That’s his meal break. He’s not lonely. He doesn’t need some company. Let him eat in peace.
7) Your tour guide/driver is not a love/sex interest. He is working. I know only too well that when lightening strikes for 2 people, you can’t help it, however I’m not talking about that. I’ve seen and heard of MANY ladies turning in to psycho man-crazy-stalkers and create relationships that are all in their heads. Advances spurned at every turn, calls, texts and emails ignored (very creative at getting their numbers!) and still relentless and ruthless. Buying drinks, leaving group stuff to follow them, calling their rooms, saying raunchy come-ons, physically groping them in front of other drivers, tracking them down at pubs in town, jumping in the elevator to find what floor he’s on, emailing, calling, inviting him to the States, sending him photos, flashing him, feigning issues to get special attention, sending plane tickets, trying to get him to a rendezvous… Insane. Doesn’t matter that he’s married or in a relationship, or that everyone on the coach knows he is, he says no and they still pursue. They cross the line with their behavior and abuse their power – its sexual harassment. These “ladies” of all ages and walks of life do not do us proud and are driving good men to change their careers because of it.
8) Tip well. Did you read number 6 and 7? If tips are not included in your tour package (Insight does), the suggested minimum for a 1 person tour guide/driver is 6 euros per person per day. If you have a driver and a tour guide (2 persons), the minimum is 4 euros each per person per day. Mind you the drivers make pretty much minimum wage or less by our standards, and they’ve been busting their arses for you the entire trip. “Running out of euros” or just plain stiffing them is about the ugliest thing you can do. Relief drivers get tipped separately, and walking tour guides should be tipped 2 euros, or more. Plan ahead for that in the beginning of the trip. Easy math: # of days X 6 (min) X # in your party. Use that (obsolete) hotel stationery provided and include a note as a thank you – they very much appreciate knowing that what they said or did made an impact with you.
9) Provide good feedback to the tour company. I know CIE gives out a card to take notes on throughout the tour and a final card for official feedback at the end. This helps them plan for the next year’s tours – adjusting itineraries, routes, hotels and other stops of interest. The goal is to improve! They also have spots to leave comments online. Give your tour guide/driver kudos on both. Many tours encourage sharing your trip on social media like Facebook and Instagram and will give you a hashtag to include in your posts. That’s a great way to connect and keep in touch with friends you made on tour as well!
10) Speak up. Whether it’s the rowdy bunch or the chatty friends, be brave and discreetly say something if their behavior is disrupting others. Talk with the guide/driver if you need help, they are trained and experienced with all sorts of American (and other) behaviors. Sometimes seating changes can be made. When they are being victimized by the psycho stalker however, they’ll need your help. It’s not acceptable in our workplace and shouldn’t be allowed in theirs, so stand up for them please. We’re the protectors of life and liberty – so we got this. 👍🇺🇸