Voice of a GTO

John Sansom was a journalist for the first half of his life working on local newspapers, radio and national newspapers before getting involved in the travel industry via the weekly travel trade paper TTG. Since then he has run Presslink, a travel specialist PR consultancy.

The best group trip you have ever been on:

Most of the group trips I have been on in my travel industry life have been press trips where a group of journalists are taken to a location or a venue in the hope that we will write nice things about it. Such is the level of entertainment that one can enjoy I have to admit that my memory of many of them is a little hazy. However if I looked at all my old notebooks I think they might reveal that a trip taken many years ago down a large slice of the US east coast was one of the best. Our hosts in Florida couldn’t believe that we’d come all the way from Washington – by train. It had a wonderful bar car, which included an upright piano and you could smell the ‘herbal’ cigarettes long before you got there.

And the worst?

It wasn’t the fault of the Moroccan tourism people that some local hotheads decided to try and kill the king while we were there, but it certainly got lively. The British plates on the Land Rover we were using got us safely through a lot of roadblocks and, having risked life and limb to try and find out what was going on, I was able to file a real news story back to a couple of national dailies and got paid. So in a way, it was one of the best.

What’s your favourite UK destination for a group day out?

My family all come from the Lake District so I am completely prejudiced in saying that the combination of ‘soft  Scottish’ scenery, quite a lot to do – particularly on the lakes themselves – and a well organised infrastructure for groups takes some beating. However you do have to put up with the weather and it can get very busy in high summer.  In the south I would say that, given the right sort of group, a place like Hever Castle in Kent is pretty amazing.

What makes a good group trip?

A location that is of genuine interest to the group members, a well-organised itinerary on the ground – taking into account the wishes of as many group members as possible – and a reasonable and flexible attitude from the group members because things can and probably will fall apart at some point during the best trips. Divas are certainly not required and patience is a virtue.

What do you always pack?

Laptop. Travel camera kit. Mobile. Chargers for all equipment. Notebooks. Pens. Key documentation. Passport/driving licence and copies of both. Compass. Local map. Small torch. Basic medics. Swiss Army Knife (not in carry-on). Local guide/phrase book. Book for that point when you are marooned in a third world airport and everything is closed for the night.

And what do you leave out?

I always try to pack as few clothes as possible, and always fail. I will leave the laptop at home if I think I will have regular access to a hotel business centre or internet café as they are heavy and very easy to get stolen. I also usually fail to cut down enough on camera gear.

What was your favourite trip last year?

The Italian Lakes. I have always been surprised that Italy does not get as many UK holidaymakers as it should, given the knockout combination of style, culture, food, scenery, fast cars, stunning women, La Dolce Vita and a male population whose reaction to the onset of (yet another) really serious crisis is to go and buy an insanely expensive pair of sunglasses.