4. The Itinerary

Icefalls along the Cline River Canyon

The Hero’s Journey

The hero’s journey is a storytelling structure used in many myths, novels and movies. It begins with a hero in the ordinary world, going about their daily life, before the hero receives the call to adventure where they are confronted by a challenge they can’t ignore. The hero will often be reluctant to take on the challenge until a mentor that can help them along the journey comes along.

Crossing the threshold into the special world, the hero heads out on an adventure. They are tested along the way, facing challenges they are not sure they can overcome, before reaching the reward. The adventure isn’t over yet. They must now make their way back to the real world, facing more challenges along the way. Finally, having overcome the final challenge they make their way back to the ordinary world, transformed by the adventure and with great stories to share.

What does this have to do with building a tour itinerary? While your guests may not be living an epic tale of Star Wars proportion, their adventure follows a similar pattern.

They are not joining you on your adventure. They are the heroes of their adventure. Your guest is the main character. As the experience provider, you are the mentor helping them overcome the challenges, offering guidance and providing the tools they’ll need. You will send them back to their ordinary world, transformed by the adventure and with great stories to share.

Allstones Creek along the David Thompson Highway

Allstones Creek along the David Thompson Highway.

Memorable Moments

We’ve worked on each of the components of the adventure so far and it’s now time to start bringing it all together. Identifying key moments during the experience will help create lasting memories for the guest.

The first type of moments we plan for are goosebump and aha moments. These are the highlights of the tour, the key moments we want to showcase. Goosebump moments are those time of pure emotion, when the guests feel truly alive. Aha moment are those times of discovery when everything just makes sense. It’s the moment when snowshoeing becomes easy or secrets of life become obvious while standing in the middle of a frozen lake.

These are the big moments we look to build the itinerary around, building up to them as we go. Some of the smaller moments we plan for include conversation starters, especially important on longer tours, and photo opportunities. We’re not talking about Instagram moments but rather about planning the best locations that naturally make great shots.

Finally, the last moment we plan for is there to reinforce memories. It’s the moment the guests reflect on the their adventure, taking the time to remember the feelings they experienced along the way. This works best when done at a stop before the end of the tour and combining it with a comforting snack like hot chocolate helps. One of the goal here is to create an association between the feelings and something they’ll encounter in their normal life, reminding them of their adventure. This can be done by including a take-away item for them to keep, but the results can be just as powerful without.

Survey Hill Hike on the Kootenay Plains

Bones on the Kootenay Plains near Survey Hill.

Survey Hill Hike on the Kootenay Plains

Hiking along the Kootenay Plains.

Survey Hill Hike on the Kootenay Plains

Early season hike to Survey Hill.

The Logistics

It’s now time to bring it all together, looking at the logistics required to make it happen.

We may have chosen a location earlier on when defining the vision (some tours are location specific) or we may now need to decide where to best offer this experience. When an activity can be offered anywhere, it’s usually best to plan the tour for a location as close to the starting point as possible. This will reduce drive time and will simplify the planning, allowing for more time to be spent on building the experience. Thinking about the location, it’s important to confirm availability, permits and setup as soon as possible.

When can the tour be offered, thinking about the peak seasons and should seasons gives us a good idea on the other logistics that will be required. How long should the tour last is another consideration. Approximately 90 minutes to 3 hours usually works well for individual components, with multiple components combined to create a full day tour. In general, we find that a drive time of up to 3 hours at the start or end of a tour can work well, but it’s best to limit drive time to 30 minutes or less between components.

Group size will usually be dictated by permits or other logistics like vehicle size. In general we find that 8 to 12 guests per guide is the maximum ratio to create connections between the guests and the guides. Some tours work well with a single guests on a private tour, others may require 4 to 6 as a minimum to avoid an awkward feeling. This is especially true in tours where conversations matter as part of the experience.

The departure time needs to take into consideration your guests’ context. Keep in mind that for early morning departures or late evening returns it may be difficult for the guests to arrange transportation to and from their accommodation.

Putting together a detailed list of all the gear, resources and vehicles needed will make things easier when delivering the tour. Be detailed and plan based on when the gear will be needed during the tour so that it can be stored accordingly.

Some tours may involve working with partners. Make sure that all the details are confirmed well in advance and that everybody is working from the same playbook.

Snowshoeing in Red Deer's Waskasoo Park

Snowshoeing in Red Deer’s Waskasoo Park.

Putting This Into Practice

This is the time to plan all the details that will be needed to deliver the tour, bringing everything we’ve discussed so far into one place. It’s about the flow of the event, making sure that it all works well together to create lasting memories.

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