Have you ever boarded a flight on time and then had to wait passed the planned departure time due to unforeseen circumstances?
Sometimes the flight needs to wait in the queue of takeoffs. Other times is a technical issue, which is probably the most nervewracking of them all!
And then, there’s the missing passenger situation.
I’ve been on flights where you can almost feel the tension when a missing passenger finally makes it onto the plane. Shooting daggers is one way to describe the look of fellow passengers waiting onboard.
These late passengers can even have a justifiable reason beyond their control like their previous flight had a delay.
And still, this can be and most of the times really is frustrating for those already waiting onboard.
When you organize trips for large groups of people as often as we do here at Expat Club, we’ve run into this once in a while. Or better said, rather frequently. Those of you who have travelled with us before probably have experienced it at one point too.
Today we want to tell a little bit more about why our trips require some careful time management, and why we ask our travellers so often before and during the trip to come on time.
If you’ve never travelled with us before, it will give you more insight into the world of Expat Club travel and what you can expect when you join us on the next journey.
If you are an established Expat Club traveller, this will be a quick refresher of some things you may already know. And maybe a couple of new things you never realized before.
Whatever the case, here are a few reasons why time is of the essence during our Expat Club events.
Carefully designed program
When we say our trip programs are carefully designed, we’re really not overestimating this at all. Nor it is a marketing gimmick. Careful design is an actual necessity. Without it, anything can happen, but likely the flow of the trip is up to chance.
The majority of our trips are happening during weekends or bank holidays to make sure our guests can enjoy exciting destinations without having to take days off work.
That already narrows down the timeframe we have available to discover a new place, despite that lower traffic intensity generally means we can be more ambitious about how far we are going. Try to go to Paris during weekdays…
To create that great program our Expat Club guests will love, we have to factor in a lot of different requirements:
- The best routes and best destinations to include in the trip
- Working with providers that can cater to our specific group needs
- Opening and closing hours of key landmarks and museums
- Times for sunsets, which is for instant important for being able to see that glass stained window in a Cathedral
- Travel regulations, especially official E.U. regulations for bus drivers, and many other factors that will depend on where we go, where we stop, where we eat, and where we sleep
- And another one… the number of toilets and coffee points at a highway service station, because 2 or 4 toilets (especially for ladies) can make a huge difference in time required for the stop
We pack as much as we can in a trip to make it worth your time and investment. And we also make sure it’s an enjoyable experience, of course! So there is enough time to see all destinations, enough time to eat, and enough time to do something on your own. Of course, this is planned for the “average traveler” because everybody has different preferences.
Sense and Sensibility
We’re not talking about the famous work of author Jane Austen here.
Our job at Expat Club is to provide unique experiences for our expat community through travel. We cover a lot of destinations within Belgium, surrounding countries and the rest of Europe.
Many of our trips are made by bus; our preferred method usually being the 4* coach for maximum comfort (extra leg space, good seats, on-board toilet, DVD system etc).. This particular method of transport gives us a lot of freedom and flexibility.
Here’s where good sense comes into play.
It’s great to have flexibility, but not to the point of delaying the experience for everyone else.
We’ve had some guests in the past taking advantage of this flexibility. They arrive well past the agreed bus departure time, delaying what’s already a tightly packed schedule.
We always like to put it this way. If you are late just 5 minutes with a fully packed bus of 50 people, you “steal” 50 x 5 minutes equals 250 minutes from your fellow passengers. That’s well over 4 hours of lost time to enjoy the day…
Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control and influence your arrival time, such as disrupted metro schedules or unusual traffic jams.
In those case we of course verify the situation and try to find a solution. We cannot automatically delay departure because you run into a traffic jam or cannot find a parking. You should have taken this into consideration beforehand. Neither can we wait because you miss your bus or metro, that’s really your own responsibility.
At the airport, it may not be your fault that you are late for a flight, but it certainly is not the airline’s either. So the responsibility is always on the travellers side.
The fact that we can control when the door closes and we step on the gas pedal, does not mean we simply adjust our schedule because someone arrives late. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
Sometimes, there are things beyond your control that make it impossible to meet certain time commitments, such as urgent medical issues, being a witness at some accident, or looking after a lost child in a department store who only speaks your language. All actual examples from our trips, which the rest the rest of the bus of course fully understands.
But coming late because you want to take yet another picture, buy a last gift in the gift shop, or visit the restrooms 1 minute before departure, are not good reasons for coming. Sometimes people said they thought our meeting time was at 11h15, whereas it was clearly said 11h00, and the entire bus except 1 person understood that.
Also on the Expat Club side force majeure exists, and we will deal with those situations whenever they happen. We proactively monitor traffic, even hundreds of kilometers away, to limit the impact it may have on our trip. While we have a thorough knowledge of the chosen routes, sometimes unexpected traffic may delay our arrival at specific destinations. But our promise is, we organise the entire program with realistic driving and visiting times.
Don’t shoot the messenger host
Your host always always keeps the best interest of the group in mind. Generally this means he or she just wants to make sure we can stay as close as possible to the original program.
Step one in this endeavour is to depart on time. Therefore we always maintain a latest meeting time 15 minutes before official departure time. It allows us to do the necessary administration, possibly call latecomers (yes, we do that as an extra service), and get on board in an orderly fashion. This is super helpful, especially when we have a large group.
A flight that leaves at 10h00 also has a boarding time of 9h25, with a final boarding time at 9h50. It’s simply impossible to all get on board at 9h58. It doesn’t work with an airplane, and it doesn’t work with a bus.
We communicate the departure times from Brussels clearly in our “TRIP INFO” emails that we always send a few days in advance. In that email we also explain that a meeting time of 07h45 means that is the latest meeting time. And if we have not heard from you at 7h50 that we may have to right to “close the gate” and depart without you.
During the day your host always clearly explains when our next meeting time is, for instance at 14h00 after lunch. If you are then at the end of your lunch and are talking away with an extra coffee (having fun and meeting people is most important), it may be that your host reminds you that the departure may be just 10 minutes away. In other words, it’s time to take a last sip and put your jacket on.
The great majority will be already in the bus, waiting patiently for the rest to show up. They want to leave at 14h00. Some are talking outside, having a last cigarette or taking a last picture, but they are basically ready to go at 13h58. And then there are a few that are still at the restaurant at 14h00. Time to go, but we can’t when 2-3 people are missing.
Your host will always politely ask you to come on time at our next stop, but in the mean time the rest of the bus was waiting for these last folks. Again a few minutes lost and some irritations among fellow passengers. It did happen in the past that some on-time people thought it was their turn to be late, and so a negative cycle starts. Really, the only way it works is if everybody is on time, every time.
In the meantime, don’t shoot the messenger. Your host is only doing his job and only wants to maintain the schedule.
You are not alone
One of the beautiful things about our community is that you can enjoy these travel experiences in many ways.
You can come with a friend or your partner, maybe even your family. Or perhaps you join us on your own. Maybe you stick to your own party during the trip or decide to socialise a bit and meet new people.
Being on time not only makes sure your fellow travellers have these great travel experiences, but it also ensures you get the most out of them.
We want to make sure every experience with Expat Club is one that enriches your life. One where you can create new memories and new connections (whether it’s during or after the trip)
Remember, time flies when you’re having fun.
So we better make it count!