Monday, January 28, 2013

March For Life: Frustrations & Trip Planning Tips

On Thursday, 8 of our Bobcats For Life group headed out to DC for the March For Life. It all went well, but in retrospect there are a few things I would've done differently. DON'T GET ME WRONG, the trip was great. There were a few times I was frustrated... and these are ways that frustration could have been avoided:
Trip planning tip #1: Plan early, so you don't have 8 people on 5 different itineraries out of 2 different cities. The earlier you plan, the cheaper tickets are and the more likely you are to be able to find all your tickets on the same flight. Ryan and I flew together which was nice, but also had to provide a ride for 2 others who were flying out 5 hours before us, so our day started at 7:30 a.m. for our 2:00 flight...which proved to be exhausting at the day's end. 

Trip planning tip #2: Tell the group they have to bring cash- not just $20 bills, but $5s and $1s would be preferred. Just to be kind to the waiters at restaurants, do this. Also, when 2 of our group members wanted to split a cupcake that cost $3.95 plus tax, THE WORLD ALMOST ENDED. They each had a $20 bill and the total was like $4.27 so they wanted the guy working at the cupcake shop to do the math and split it, then take both of their $20 bills, then give them the change for the $40.... basically it was hell. I offered to just pay for the damn thing, but eventually - after an embarrassingly long and loud process that left the man working the register shaking his head - it got sorted out. I never carry cash with me when I'm at home, which I should, but definitely tell your group members to bring cash in small denominations to pay for food at restaurants when they won't split the check AND for times when they want to be petty and worry about who is paying $0.01 more when splitting a cupcake.

Also, make sure members realize that - if their trip was fully or partially funded by the organization or donations - they kind of don't have the right to complain about having to spend a few extra dollars at a restaurant on a meal. Believe me, I'm not saying "if people can't afford the food, they did something wrong!" but we went to affordable restaurants and fast food places the whole weekend and it bothered me so much to hear one person complain about how a meal was $12-ish when Bobcats for Life covered the member's entire plane ticket of almost $400. 

Trip planning tip #3: It's better to plan in excess and then decide to play things by ear, than to play things by ear and then have chaos. I planned our schedule for the trip and provided it to our members before leaving, but still... things could have been smoother. The biggest issue we had with this was meals. "Where do y'all want to eat?" or "What kind of food do y'all want?" never get anywhere. I planned a few meals and locations ahead of time, but when it was 11:00 p.m. and everyone was tired from flying and very hungry, it was difficult. I wish I had found a restaurant earlier so we wouldn't have had to waste so much time locating one on Yelp.

Trip planning tip #4: Mention manners ahead of time. This mostly means to say something along the lines of "Don't have your cell phone out at dinner unless you need it to be out." This translates to: "Dinner is not the time for meaningless scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Aside from the fact that this should be common sense, leading a group of eight 18-21 year olds through this trip taught me that common sense is not all that common. At one restaurant, 6 members had phones out at once. It was just flat out embarrassing. The group should be representing the organization in a professional manner, not looking like a bunch of 8th graders at the mall. 

Trip planning tip #5: You can never be too explicit with expectations. I am NOT saying to make a bunch of rules and be all naggy about that. We had like 4 rules- 1) keep your phone on and charged all weekend. 2) always have at least one person from the group with you. 3) if you go out after 9:00 p.m., just let someone know where you & your buddy are headed. 4) text me before you depart/after you land. However, when weather predictions say that the weekend will be around 20 degrees, if you mention to one person that he should plan to wear pants and he shows up for the trip wearing shorts.... I mean.... it really just put me in a bad mood. It's the common sense thing again. I wish I had emphasized more seriously that I was not kidding that shorts aren't okay. It isn't a fashion rule, but an "I don't want to deal with you getting pneumonia" rule. This member only packed 1 long sleeved shirt and 1 hoodie also. We had to stop at Ryan's on the way out of town to get more layers. It really started my day off on the wrong foot. 

Trip planning tip #6: Couples can be dangerous. I knew that Ryan and I would be attending the Students for Life conference together and no one else was going and I knew that we had a few sightseeing things that we wanted to do during free time, but I didn't think about the consequences that multiple pairs in a small group could have. Obviously Ryan is my best friend so it is logical that we would spend time together, likewise one member had her sister there (who doesn't go to TX State so wasn't too familiar with the rest of the group) so it was way logical that they would stick together, we had one member whose boyfriend got her the free flight through work so he was flying out with her - I didn't know he was staying in DC that weekend - so I learned that they would be together, so that left 3 members without a sister or boyfriend. I figured we would do more things as a group than we did, but that was difficult when Ryan & I had to go to the conference. Also, had a member who was sick part of the time and then went to meet up with friends that she had in the area, which I later learned was actually her boyfriend (I wasn't mad, it just felt deceptive to not say something about how your boyfriend happens to live in the city you are about to visit...). SO that made 2 couples  (romantic & biological paha) in the group, 2 people in the group with boyfriends in the city, and left 2 members without a partner other than each other. It sucked for them because when we had free time and all the couples were out, they were forced to do things together and they didn't really get along. One person said she was yelled at in a museum by the other and it was just like... sad. I was bummed by the two members of the group who had boyfriends in the city that didn't attempt to include our two solo members. 

Trip planning tip #7: Provide addresses & maps & directions ahead of time. I actually did this one! However, as I have mentioned before.... common sense doesn't always come into play. Here is an example of how one conversation went that could have been prevented if this group member had utilized the information packet I provided in advance:
G: what time is Mass?
S: 5:15, all the information and the time is in the packet
G: okay!! how do we get there? can we walk?
S: take the metro, the map & the metro stop are listed in the packet.
G: okay! do you know the name of the stop?
S: it is Brookland CUA. 
G: what's the address so we know how to get there?
This was all taking place while Ryan and I were at the Students for Life conference ON TOP OF another member texting me similar questions. Eventually, I just sent out a group text with all the info anyone could ever want about our trip to the Basilica as a preemptive strike. 

Trip planning tip #7: Take members who have been very active and shown passion for the cause all year. That's all I'm going to say for now, but it is essential. Without passion for the cause, people wouldn't want to spend hours in the cold and walk for a very long time in a slow moving group for the march (which is the whole reason for the trip).

Trip planning tip #8: You can't make everyone happy, no matter how hard you try. I put lots of hours into planning this trip and doing everything I can to make sure it was an affordable and enjoyable time. It sucked to feel like I couldn't make people happy - especially the two members that were left after everyone had "paired off" - but I did everything I could. 

I'll post happy things & fun pictures & memories at a later time, ttfn!



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