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What a way to run a coach trip: Part One

May 9, 2012

So, you know some people or belong to a club and are going to organise a coach trip to the theatre? It’s something I do, and I thought I’d jot down a few notes that may help / hinder the process. Turned out to be so long, I’ve split it into two, so the second part will follow next week.

First, pick a show. If your group is older, then revivals of old musicals or trusted long runners are a safe bet. One 90 year old member of my party still hasn’t got over the ending of “Marguerite” in 2008. BUT: check the price. Remember, you have to add the cost of the coach – including £1 per person tip for the driver to save collecting one later – to it, and £39.50 is the absolute limit round my way, anyway.

So, you have to find something opening in 6 months time to take advantage of the “accelerator” rate – the cheapest possible group rate available only for early bookings. Still, you get £65 tickets for £29.50 each. The rubbish seats that the producer knows he can’t sell otherwise. Unless, like me, you fight for the better stuff and won’t accept anything less. Reserve your seats on the first day of booking, first thing, and there’s no excuse (except for the few group bookers who pre-registered) not to have the choice of most of the theatre. Oh, except that agents have many seats, so you may have to check allocations from several first. And have many dates ready as some won’t be available or have 50 choice tickets going spare.

Still, you get a month to pay for your visit 6 months away. Try convincing people that they do need to pay now… many will, but you have to trust the rest… and will sweat with those who say they can’t commit – even though their luxury cruise is booked for 18 months hence. You threaten to cancel and disappoint 30, relent and…

Finally, come the day of reckoning with 50 reserved and 45 paid, you gulp and ask for an extension. Get it, you are wildly happy… otherwise, it’s your credit card on the line.

You’ve paid and some of the tickets arrive promptly. The rest come in dribs and drabs, along with several other people’s – and the agency doesn’t care when you take the time to tell them. Knowing how tickets get lost in the many months before the trip, you keep them until a month before.

At which point you produce an “information sheet” to go with them. Realise you can’t say anything useful beyond where to meet the coach on the way there. The way back, you just say they’ll have to listen on the day (and you keep fingers crossed all make it to the rainy gutter in Soho where you end up meeting on the way home). No use saying “look for a red coach” on the day either – your coach company will use a substitute green bus at the last moment. This will look like everybody else’s bus, and your driver will fight off other groups at the end of the evening. Do a sign for the window and be thankful for the laminator you got cheap on Ebay – it’s the only way.

Get a copy of the seating plan and realise that you have too few odd numbers and too many even numbers of seats in a row. Attempt to assign seats fairly, remembering that as the A’s were near the back last time, they deserve better seats this time, but since they are not talking to the B’s then you’ll have to put the C’s between them with one of the D’s to make the numbers work.

Realise your own party will have to provide the odd numbers and peace-keeping force and split yourselves up. C’est la vie, and lucky you were planning to dump her after the trip anyway…

Distribute tickets and hope that those who take envelopes for others actually deliver. Photocopy the tickets in advance before distribution – at least you have a copy.

Then all you can do is wait.

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