My name is Paul Chardoul. I have been organizing and leading travel experiences since 1978, beginning with college students and expanding over time to include adults. My background in travel began with a long European trip I took with my family when I was eleven years old and I got “the bug.” It continued when I was on active duty in the Navy, both in Europe and an extended tour in South East Asia in the 1960s. My academic background of diplomatic and intellectual history, international relations, and art history has assisted me greatly in preparing for my various itineraries.
My trip philosophy is to explore a country in greater depth than most “canned” tours. As a result, my itineraries include the following facets of a particular country or part of a country:
• Architecture and fine art
• Food and drink
• Group interests (I listen to my traveling partners and get to know their likes and dislikes)
I inspect all possible ground transportation possibilities and try to include several different modes in each trip: private motor coach, rail, internal air – if the distances between point warrant it – and river cruising. I also research hotels to try to find accommodations that are city-centered, comfortable, and reasonably priced. If possible, I work out a schedule so that we don’t change hotels every night. I figure distances between sites so that the time on long-distance motor coaches is not too taxing. Finally, working with my agent at Dolphin Vacations, I ensure that we have good guides, either one who is with the group the entire trip or “step-on” guides who greet us at each city.
I greatly respect each individual’s privacy. When I send out a group email, the names and email addresses are always in the BCC: column to maintain anonymity. I continue this until the group size is finalized, then move those names to the TO: column so that all fellow travelers know with whom they are traveling.
I send a lot of research information via email to my clients, including the history and culture of the particular country under study, detailed information on each site we will be visiting, hints on what to wear and bring along, and other details that I think important.
Why group travel? There is a lot of information that I can provide based on my background as well as updated research and prior travel experiences. A well-planned group has the distinct advantage of not wasting client time. If done correctly, I can plan the route so that clients are let off right at the site they are visiting without having to worry about bus schedules or finding a parking spot. Usually, we can purchase admission tickets in advance to sites and as a result, waiting in line is something of the past.
Believe it or not, if you reserve a hotel room using one of those web sites that “guarantee” the lowest rates, chances are that you will not be assigned a prime room.
That particular hotel does not know you and you will not receive a preferred room as you have not generated loyalty with that hotel. Travel agents work with specific hotels frequently and have generated that loyalty; thus their clients can expect better treatment, which might include VIP check-in as well as better choice of rooms.
My groups have many similar interests. As a result, when I design a tour, I know what my clients are looking for and can create the tour details that we can easily work together on. You are special to me.
Can you put together a similar tour to what I propose? Yes, but I pride myself in providing value based on my clients’ desires and additional things that a group can create because of economy of scale. My concept of “value” is based on the level of service that I can provide to each client as an individual.
Past group trips have included 7 trips to Costa Rica; 2 to Guatemala; 3 trips to the People’s Republic of China; 1 trip to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands; 3 trips to Greece; 1 trip to Italy; 1 trip to northern and eastern Spain; 1 trip to western and southern Ireland; 1 river cruise up the Danube River with extensions to Budapest and Prague; 1 trip to Bangkok and northern Thailand with a venture into Myanmar and Laos; 1 trip to eastern Scotland and northern Ireland which I called “Celtic Ramble;” 1 trip to Paris and northern France, where we experienced a very emotional time in the U.S. Cemetery on the Normandy beachhead. I managed to get a group trip completed before relations between the United States and Russia got cold in the form of a river-lake-canal cruise from Moscow to St Petersburg, with most of the group taking advantage of a three-day extension to Helsinki in late August and early September 2012. Then there was the 2013 memorable trip to Perú that included Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and the Nazca Lines as well as Lima. In September 2014, I led a group to Portugal that included a wine cruise on the Douro River as well as four nights in Lisbon. In 2016, I organized and led two trips: the first was to both North and South Island of New Zealand and in September-October a trip to southern France including a week-long cruise down the Saône and Rhône rivers and then a five day extension to other locations in Provence.
I plan trips to take advantage of the best weather of the location along with times when tourist traffic is reduced, but not eliminated. This reduces the cost, increases the availability of sites I want to visit, and allows for greater scheduling ease. My next planned group trip will be to both islands of New Zealand.
Keep looking here at my website and also emails. If you are interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you in my Traveling Friends list.