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Imagine this: planning the perfect trip, not only for you, but also for a select group of like-minded individuals, where your airfare, accommodations, food, and activity costs are covered, in addition to a modest stipend.   This is exactly what happens when I run tours to Italy!  And, here’s my secret: I got my start after completing Great Escape Publishing’s Leading Tours for Fun and Profit program

It all started with my passion for Italy and wanting to share it with others.  Upon turning 40, I signed up for a bicycle trip across Italy, cycling for 13 days from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean, and I was hooked.  Since then, I’ve traveled to Italy annually and 2014 marks my 20-year anniversary.  Each trip has expanded my knowledge of the country and its 20 regions.

Over the years, I shared my experiences with friends and acquaintances while providing informal trip planning for many others. Several people mentioned they wanted to travel with me to Italy, and joined my first tour.

Planning a tour takes great creativity, thorough research, and lots of planning. But when it’s your tour, you get to pick where you want to go and what you want to do, so it can be a lot of fun!

No matter where you go, I recommend considering the unique opportunities in the region you visit and what qualities will set your tour apart from the multitude of other offerings out there.  Add your unique mark to the tour by drawing on past experience and expertise.  Leading Tours for Fun and Profit provided the foundation to realize my dream and make it a reality. 

One of the tips I got inside was about finding  a “person in the field” who knows the area intimately.  This contributed greatly to the success of my first tour.  While traveling from Venice to Tuscany, we visited an acetaia, or balsamic vinegar producer, and experienced an entire lunch based on the vinegar it produced. Without an “Italian Intermediary,” it would have been difficult to uncover this family business that had been in operation since 1850. This little “insider” experience made the tour that much more special.

Over time, I’ve tried to continue establishing cultural relationships that make my tours memorable.  I always keep a watchful eye on all things Italian, subscribing to newsletters, blogs, and magazines, for more potential trip ideas and experiences that will make my tours stand out.

For example, having an interest in the California olive oil movement, I attended seminars at the University of California, Davis to learn about an “olive oil resort” in Italy and just knew I had to take a group there.  Set in the Tuscan countryside in the hills surrounding Florence, it provided a unique experience.  Originally a fortress, tour participants lodged in a stunning villa converted in 1430, complete with a special olive oil tasting and multi-course cooking lesson. 

And, after reading about a paper printmaker in Venice, I asked him to demonstrate his craft for a group of photographers on tour.  Not only did he agree to provide a printmaking demonstration, but he met us on Venice’s Grand Canal, leading us through the labyrinth of calli (narrow streets) to his studio and then invited us into his home.  The relationship continued and came full circle when we arrived at his negozio or shop the following day.  Everyone was able to take a piece of his work and the experience home with them.    

In addition to making your tour unique, here are some final words of advice about planning:

1. Don’t be afraid to elicit help in the beginning and always confirm, reconfirm, and reconfirm again. 

2. Always have a backup plan for a rainy day.

3. Don’t over-schedule. Be sure to allow adequate time for relaxation and replenishment. 

Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!

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[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up today here and we’ll send you a report, Get Paid to Travel as a Travel Writer, completely FREE.]  

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