Sunshine only

Date Posted: 03/10/2017

Jo Cumming, whose group has never experienced a drop of rain on a trip, tells Rachel Bailey about some of her experiences as an organiser.  

Jo, please tell us a bit about your group? 

My group is based on the borders of Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey. My members pay a fee each year, which I aim to give back via subsidised trips where possible. There are no men in the group but we do invite husbands and partners and friends to come along on trips and a lot of them do. 

In terms of women-only trips, it’s only things like afternoon tea or lunches where this is the case. The men are invited on everything else. Group members are all 50 plus, and while they don’t necessarily have a common interest, the aim of the group is to provide everyone with fun days out and holidays. I used to organise trips in the Women’s Institute so have plenty of experience organising overall. 

What sort of trips do you do? 

I run at least one UK day trip a month, plus other things like lunches and local theatre trips. We go on foreign holidays as well – one or two a year on average. We went to the Christmas markets in Germany last year, which proved so popular that we returned to Germany in May this year, combined with Holland and Belgium, for a four-day trip. 40 people came on that.

Have you any holidays abroad planned for the future? 

Prague is a strong contender for our holiday in 2018, as is a wine festival in Germany, or even Switzerland. I haven’t decided yet. We used to run a day trip to France each year but the problems in Calais have put me off running it the past few years. 

Jo's group

And what day trips do you run? 

This year so far the group has been to the Houses of Parliament, and to see An American in Paris in London, plus taken a Jack the Ripper Walk, also in London. That was really excellent, with a very good guide. We’ve also been to Oxford, and enjoyed a day trip to Cardiff. My husband Clive and I went on the Group Leisure & Travel Reader Club Trip to Cardiff in 2015, and this had a direct impact on organising the group trip there this year. I don’t go on familiarisation trips that often, but Clive and I have been back to Cardiff just the two of us since that trip as well.

What else have you got coming up before the end of the year?

We’re going to a Christmas market in Wells, and another day trip to London that includes seeing 42nd Street in the evening. 

I run a lot of theatre trips, and we’ll often go to the cinema to watch live showings of opera and ballet. The opera is my absolute passion and I organise an opera day every year. We invite a conductor to meet our group and he comes for a day and shows us clips of opera and teaches us all about it. 

Other trips coming up include a trip to a local bakery, called Warings Bakery, near Reading. We’re going there in November and December, we go and watch a bakery demonstrations and learn how to cook different things. 

Bakery trip

Your group sounds very creative; where do you get your ideas from? 

I used to work in the travel trade, with an educational travel company for incoming groups, so I did a lot of research for that. I also just like to pass on my interests to other people. We do a lot of foodie trips, too: we go to Whitstable Oyster Festival in Kent, and Borough Market in London. The Oyster Festival is a favourite with everyone so we’ll repeat that, but I try and do new things every year. Foodie trips are the most popular.

Do you enjoy organising? 

Sometimes [laughs]. It’s lovely when a trip all goes to plan. Do you know, in all my time organising, we’ve never had rain on a trip, except when we’ve been sat on the coach. It’s quite amazing! Although I’m probably tempting fate, telling you that. 

Have you any advice for other GTOs? 

The main thing is to find out what it is your group would like to do. Talk to them about what’s possible, and do lots of research before you offer trips, because it’s not always conceivable to do exactly what you want. You have to be sure that what you offer will happen.  

Have you seen many changes in your time as an organiser? 

There’s just so much more to do and choose from now, it’s quite incredible. I could take the group on a different trip every week and not repeat a thing. The value of the pound has dropped, and it’s making it very difficult to do trips to EU countries. However I do think eventually, following Brexit, things will be alright. I just need to make sure I run trips that everyone can afford. 

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