Embarking on the trip of a lifetime is a thrilling, sometimes nerve-wracking experience. Whether youâre an experienced world traveller or have just started dipping your toes in international travel, it feels good knowing that someoneâs there for you. Someone who knows the itinerary in and out, whoâll smooth out any bumps in the road and who can provide a sense of comfort as you courageously travel the world.
After living in Europe for 7 years and visiting over 72 countries on 5 continents, Caroline Riffou is a travelling pro. But to be a great Group Guru (which she is), you need more than a sense of adventure. A Group Guru is the go-to expert who makes sure our travellersâ tour is as delightful as possible. We sat down with Caroline to see exactly how she makes that happen!
Everyone, meet Caroline
As soon as I get the names and contact info of the travellers joining me, I get in touch with them. I love to listen and really get a good understanding of who they are before I meet them. Some may have travelled a lot, some not so much. By getting to know my travellers, I can help improve their experience. If I know that some travellers are interested in art, then Iâll try to include the option to visit an art museum during our free time. I just try to get a good sense of what they want to get out of their tour.
I build a team and create harmony within the group before we go. After I call all my travellers, I set up a group chat with WhatsApp. People start chatting with me in the group, then with each other. The connections start forming. Maybe two people are both from Vancouver so they both start talking about that. I love to create that space to chat and be available for them if they have any questions.
Approach provides a lot of information with the Tour Journals they send travellers before a tour, but if it’s a place that I’ve been to many times, I can offer some additional suggestions. I’ve been travelling since I was 17.Â When I lived in Europe,Â I toured around on a motorcycle and did a lot of camping. So I’m happy to share what I’ve learned. Some travellers need more help than others and I donât mind at all. I always tell my travellers they can reach out to me anytime. Whatever they need, I’ll do my best to help them.
On a group tour, you’re travelling with great people. People that I call my family.
I like to go, go, go! Carpe Diem are words that I live by, but a lot of people are more hesitant about exploring. Some travellers like to go off on their own, while others won’t leave the hotel if they’re not with someone else. I make sure that I’m there for them. At the end of the day when we get to the hotel, if we have some free time Iâll say, âIâm going for a walk. I’ll be in the lobby and whoever wants to come with me can.â
Many will want to stay in their hotel rooms and rest. But there are always a few that they want to go and take advantage of where they are.
Before dinner, Iâll also let my travellers know that Iâll be grabbing a drink at the hotel bar. If anyone wants to talk with me while I’m there, they can. We’ll have great chats about dream destinations (mine’s New Zealand) and favourite places we’ve been (Prague). I do this to make sure that everyone always feels that they can reach me. They don’t have to call me or come knock at my door. Most of the time Iâm not in my room anyway!
A lot of couples (and solo travellers) that join us want to make friends that they can travel with again. Itâs amazing that people will meet on one of our tours and will go on to travel on more tours together.
When we go to a restaurant, I love to see my group mingling and chatting with each other.Â I make a point to sit with different people at every meal. I’ll also go around and make sure that people with allergies got the right meal and that everyone is happy and has everything they need.Â While weâre travelling on the bus, or as we walk around, I’m always roaming. Iâll sit with a couple for 10 minutes and then Iâll sit with someone else and get chatting. Iâm always trying to create bonds within the group.
Being with a group and having a Group Guru means that no matter what happens, someone is there for you.
My favourite travel moment with Approach Tours happened while on a tour in Italy. Of course, we went wine tasting. While we were at the vineyard, I mentioned to the group that I was buying wine, sausages and cheese so we could have a small cocktail hour later. Then everyone started buying treats to bring and our small cocktail hour became a full dinner. We gathered on the rooftop of our hotel and the view was just amazing. Everyone had brought things like crackers, chips, wine, and beer. Someone had found a bucket in the hotel and filled it up with ice. It was a really fun moment where everyone was enjoying each otherâs company and connecting with each other. We could have stayed there all night. No one wanted the night to end.
The reviews are in!
Our travellers love Carolineâs approach to travel as much as we do.
Check out some of Caroline’s
Fresh artichokes, tomatoes, sweet almonds, aubergine and cold pressed olive oil will never taste the same. The south of Italy has its own spin on everything, and food is only one example. Lose yourself in the Sicilian heartland and learn about the myriad of civilizations that each left their mark on the island. Discover Greek temples, Arab-inspired markets, Norman castles, and the shimmering beauty of the volcanic Aeolian Islands. A few kilometres north, Calabria and Puglia offer distinct culinary traditions and spectacular coastal towns. Celebrate the art of living, eating and travelling slowly, in the region that started it all.
Departures: September & October 2023May, September & October 2024
A cherished favourite for many travellers, and the home of the âDolce Vitaâ way of life, Italy has an expansive and established influence in world culture. Fall under the subliminal charm of fine leathers, renaissance art, classical music, delicate pasta, Neapolitan pizza, wonderful wines, fresh mozzarella and velvety chocolate. From Veniceâs waterways and Pisaâs leaning tower, to Florenceâs Duomo and Cinque Terreâs panoramic views â an unforgettable experience awaits. Our complete itinerary goes beyond the essentials and is the perfect way to discover Italy for the first, second or tenth time.
Departures: September 2023April, May, September & October 2024
Flanked by Spain and the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal seems to enchant anyone who has made a trip along its 1,800 km of pristine coastline. With picturesque vineyards, jagged cliffs and hilly cities, history can be found on every cobblestoned street, and the Portugal experience is different for each traveller. Warm people and delicious food are central to every visit. If salted cod and fresh sardines are everyday staples, the PastĂ©is de BelĂ©m pastry is now an institution in its own right.
Departures: September & October 2023April, May & September 2024
A lyrical culture in a land of 40 shades of green, Ăire is seducing at every turn. From the untamed quiet of Connemara to the thunderous waves crashing against the Cliffs of Moher, through the famous Giantâs Causeway coast, itâs easy to understand why residents of the Emerald Isle proclaim that their land is the most beautiful in the world. The melting pot of eras offers an experience rich in modern culture, founded on over 5,500 years of history and ancestral traditions.
Departures: September & October 2023April, May, September & October 2024