It’s a group leader’s dream: a packaged tour where travelers can follow their own whims while still sharing a full itinerary of experiences. This convenient setup is why Bucknell University’s travel program has focused almost exclusively on cruises for many years now.
“We do some domestic trips on buses, but for the most part, our trips are cruises,” said Thompson. “We book a lot of small-ship cruises to the Mediterranean. Our alumni tend to like the riverboat cruises especially.”
The cruises allow alumni plenty of freedom while still encouraging connection during certain mealtimes and excursions when the group travels together on a separate small bus.
Thompson doesn’t want all the cruises to blend together, so she works with tour operators to offer standout cruising products.
“We keep a running log of the trips we’ve taken and the number of people who have taken the trips,” said Thompson. “If there is a trip that isn’t that popular, we’ll drop it and try another one. If it’s popular, like Cuba and Alaska, we’ll offer more trips.
“Right now, we are considering family-friendly trips,” said Thompson. “That’s the next thing on the agenda.”
Though Thompson traveled domestically and abroad before planning tours, she makes a point to distinguish those trips as vacations and says they were different than the types of trips Bucknell offers. Rather than an excuse to lounge by the cruise ship’s pool, the college’s trips feature strong educational components.
“The alumni are very inquisitive,” said Thompson. “The tours typically feature a professor or an expert who will present an educational program on the trip. They are always interesting and give people the opportunity to learn more about the area and to ask questions.”
To promote these scholarly experiences, Thompson sends out information to alumni through brochures, social media platforms and articles written for the alumni program’s blog.
“We’ll interview alumni about their trips and include that in the article,” said Thompson. “We’ll then link the blog article to various other platforms.”
The blog articles spotlight the destination through the eyes of the alumni, a focus on the travelers themselves that Thompson keeps at the forefront of her program. She enjoys introducing the alumni to one another and herself.
“You develop wonderful memories because we are on a small ship that is very intimate,” she said. “I really get to know the alumni, and it is so exciting to hear them talk about their time at Bucknell and their favorite professors. I like to ask them about the last time they were on campus. Bucknell alumni are amazing, smart, fun people.”
- Make a list of all the items you don’t want to forget.
- Make a copy of your passport, and pack it in a suitcase.
- Be flexible and have fun.