A Day In The Life Of A Topdeck Trip Leader

4 February 2015
Read Time: 3.9 mins

Kriszti Imre has the type of job that causes her to be blocked from friends’ Facebook feeds. The Hungarian native has lived out of her backpack for the past three years, working with Topdeck as a Europe Trip Leader.

She’s responsible for ensuring busloads of wide-eyed travellers have the best time possible on their (often first-time) European adventure. With trips ranging anywhere from four to 49 days long, enthusiasm for the job is essential.

While the trip itineraries are action-packed in themselves, it's what goes on behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly that keeps Kriszti on her toes.

 Kriszti with her fresh group of greenhorn travellers

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All In A Day's Work

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“We have two types of days – travel days when you’re going from one place to another, or a free day,” Kriszti explains.

A typical day looks something like...

6am: Wake up, shower, pack bag, check-out.

7am: Breakfast with the group.

8am: Load everyone on the bus and off we go!

8am-10am: Go (or sleep) time

“The first couple of hours are when passengers catch up on beauty sleep and when I organise and confirm the bookings, and make my pretty ‘What’s On’ sheets for the next destination.

“Every time we arrive at a new place we have a program for the next few days – all the timings, all the details the passengers need to know – so that takes up a big chunk of my time. I figure the more colourful, the nicer they are to look at, so I do illustrations of the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, maybe the Pope for the Vatican Tour.

“I really like drawing and we’ve got some long drive days so I make it more fun like that!

“You also need to confirm accommodation, check how many dorms you need, how many beds for girls and boys, book restaurants, give them the dietary requirements – and explain what gluten free actually is in some countries.

“It’s getting much easier now but four years ago it was very hard explaining why someone couldn’t eat bread! [laughs]

“You don’t just need to think about what’s going to happen later on today but you need to be ahead three and four days to make sure everything is organised.”

 A lot more preparation goes into a tour than just walking to the various sights - some comes naturally

10:15am – 2:45pm: Road trippin’

“If it’s a very long drive day we usually watch a DVD and play some games.

“As soon as we cross into a new country, let’s say Italy, I’ll do an introduction about Italy – about the culture, cuisine, history – and then have a little language lesson. Just basic words like ‘hi’ and ‘how are you?’. It’s nice if you can greet the locals in their language.

“I do love my history and culture so I speak a lot. Sometimes in an introduction I can speak up to an hour depending on the country, and if I still have one or two people awake then I will keep on talking.”

3pm: Hello new country!

“When we arrive into our destination we usually have a walking tour or driving tour, which can be anywhere from 40 minutes to three or four hours. We walk around the city, see the major sights and I like to show them my favourite cafes or kebab shop that has amazing pizza even though it looks dodgy.”

 Of course the fascinating countries help keep everyone excited throughout

Make the most of your time in Rome. How To Spend 3 Days In Rome

See it from a passenger's point of view. A Topdeck European Trip – Simply Tops


7pm: Happy hour

“Half the time dinner is included and then the day is over! We can have a nice glass of wine, have a chat and get to know each other a bit better.

“My motto on every trip is to have a good chat – the passengers among themselves as much as with me – because it’s not just about the places you go but it’s about the people you meet along the way.

“If we have optional tours organised I might have to meet the group but often people will just choose to have free time. For me, that’s when I go for a jog and do my accounts. So it’s pretty much like a normal job, it’s just a very fun job!

“You also need to be up to date with what’s happening in Europe so I spend time reading newspapers and watching the news, and to keep my memory fresh I watch documentaries and read history books.
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Leading Tours Has Its Challenges And Rewards

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“I prefer the ones (trips) that are at least two weeks and over because that’s when you have time to really get to know your passengers and have a good chat with every single one of them. The longest tour is 49 days and I still don’t think it’s long enough!

“It’s always challenging when people are disappointed, when they see something and it’s not what they expected. The Trevi Fountain is under restoration at the moment and that’s really hard because there’s nothing you can do about it when you see those sad faces.

“But the most challenging moments are when someone discovers they have someone very sick at home and they have to leave the trip. I recently had a girl whose grandparents had an accident and it was a question of whether she was able to get back to see them still alive, and that was very, very hard.

 It's all about learning, experiencing the world and having fun, of course

“But in this job it’s quite lucky because when people are travelling they’re in a happy mood, so you get to share experiences with them when they’re in a good frame of mind.”

“For me the highlight is definitely the people I meet along the way. I’ve had some very beautiful people on my trips and we’ve become good friends.

“And the fact I can wake up and have breakfast in Rome, lunch in Verona and dinner in Venice, and that’s a paid job!”

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If You Stop Loving It, It's Time To Quit

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“I want my passengers to always have an open mind, have a positive attitude and to smile a lot because if they look bored, I’ll become boring! If they’re happy and smile, I’ll smile back.

“I think I’m very good at telling jokes and my passengers think it’s funny how I laugh at my own jokes. If people can see I’m enjoying the trip then they’ll enjoy it as well. Apparently I’m a very energetic person. I drink a lot of coffee.

“This is the type of job that as soon as you start not enjoying it, when you don’t want to pack your bag in the morning, that’s when people should quit.”

Celeste Mitchell

After a decade of editing and writing for magazines like Girlfriend and Cosmopolitan – and a stint in tourism PR – Celeste Mitchell now travels the world, working wherever there's wi-fi. Consequently, she has been blocked from many friends' Facebook feeds.