Tourist Guide

How to survive peak high season (aka) the crazy season!

The crazy season is upon us in Montréal, as it is every September and October. Many believe that the busiest time for professional tourist guides and tours managers who travel with the groups we guide locally, is in July and August. In fact, it’s September and October when everyone flocks to Montréal and the surrounding region by every means possible to see the magnificent fall foliage!

It’s a very popular time for both Québec City and Montréal for the numerous cruise ships that dock at the two ports with seasoned travelers and first-time travelers. The German ships Aida are docked for several days, the Marco Polo, Silver Sea, Oceania Regatta, Viking and many others arrive with thousands of passengers. Conferences, business meetings, incentive programmes and corporate travel also pick up after the summer months.

We have visitors to Montréal from all over the world including Singapore, Europe, the Middle East, Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, with many from the west coast who never see the colours we have in the East.

Needless to say with this mega influx of visitors, there is often a shortage of professional guides, drivers, motor coaches, hotel rooms and other services because of course they often want services on the same day and same times.

On Labour Day weekend while everyone is celebrating back to school and back to work. For nearly 25 years this is how I survive the crazy season:

  1. Prepare as many invoices ahead of time as possible for September an October and send them as soon as possible after contract is complete.
  2. Prepare all your clothes on a hanger, shoes in a row to save time getting it ready. I have 35 days worth of outfits prepared (no time for laundry and ironing).
  3. Have a meal plan for the two months so that you know what you will have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Prepare as many lunches to go on the days you finish early.
  4. Make sure rain gear and warmer jacket out of closet as weather gets cooler. So that you can just grab and go.
  5. If you have not time to work out, exercise, go to the gym, then walk as much as you can.
  6. Send all your clients the list of contracts you are doing just after Labour Day to ensure that there are no double bookings, no errors. Make sure you know where you start and begin your tour so that you can accept other work.
  7. When you do have changes to your calendar of dates, pre-set an email and send updates as often as you can, to fill your calendar.
  8. Water is a guide’s best friend in September. Moisture your lips, throat and body from the hours of talking.
  9. When doing two or more tours in the same language, we often forget if we have said something earlier. Try not to use the same route and say « As mentioned earlier ».
  10. Get a good night sleep and have breakfast.
  11. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to pay bills on time.
  12. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Never mind the heels! We are on our feet all day.
  13. Make sure that the vehicle has a microphone.
  14. As many drivers during the season are inexperienced, make sure you know where everything is. Do not relay on the driver.
  15. Share information and cooperate with colleagues and industry partners it will make every one’s tasks easier.
  16. Keep all your paper work, documents, in order at home so you can find things.
  17. Stay healthy, smile and just keep going its only a few weeks of craziness.
  18. Ask for help with the garden, mowing the lawn or whatever else you know you will not have time to take care of and schedule a time with someone who can do this for you.
  19. Working in a language you don’t often work in: prepare your notes and cheat sheet and go over your tour on the métro, on the way home and when you have a few minutes.
  20. If a potential client, travel agent requests a complicated itinerary for which you are not sure they will book your services. Keep it simple with basic information, not details.

An example of one week in September for me:

  • Sunday:
    6:30 to 8:30 — Sunrise helicopter tour
    9:00 to 13:00 — A 4-hour private culinary neighbourhood tour where I am driving and guiding
    13:30 to 16:30 — A motor coach tour
    17:00 to 20:00 — A walking tour in Old Montréal
  • Monday:
    6:30 to 9:30 — Photography tour for a travel magazine from Italy, driving and guiding
    10:00 to 13:00 — A site inspection with corporate clients wanting to bring a conference to Montréal
    13:30 to 16:30 — A motor coach tour with Australians
    17h00 to 20h00 — Evening walking tour of Old Montréal
  • Tuesday:
    8:00 to 17:00 — Full day tour to the Laurentian Mountains for fall foliage
    17:30 to 19:30 — Walking tour of Old Montréal
  • Wednesday:
    8:00 to 11:00 — Motor coach tour with a group from Singapore
    11:30 to 14:30 — A culinary neighbourhood tour
    15:00 to 18:00 — Photographers coming to shoot Montréal in the soft afternoon light
    18:30 to 19:00 — Cocktail dinner presentation to business clients
  • Thursday:
    8:00 to 11:00Training tour for students studying in tourism
    13:00 to 16:00 — Spousal programme Fashion-Design and Shopping tour
    16:30 to 18:30 — Walking tour of the weather proof underground city
  • Friday:
    8:00 to 20:00 — Scouting and shooting with a film crew from abroad
  • Saturday:
    7:00 to 9:00 — Private concierge, breakfast presentation
    10:00 to 14:00 — Art tour of Montréal
    14:30 to 17:30 — Neighbourhood tour for an international organisation
    18:00 to 21:00 — Tour of the Botanical Garden

In all, that I find the time to swim, dance, sleep, eat, get my hair done but it takes a lot of pre planning and preparation and it will still change last minute.

Vive la saison de fou! Long live the crazy season!

Ruby Roy

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