Staff focus: Ann Marie, Tour Advisor

Ann Marie, Tour  Advisor, gives us an insight to travel

Tour Advisor, travel expert

Ann Marie, Tour Advisor

Ann Marie is part of the Tour Advisor team at Budget School & Group Tours. We catch up with Ann Marie to learn a little more about her and all things travel.

What did you study in college and when did you realise you wanted a career in travel?

I studied hotel and catering management in college and got to meet people from all over the world in the hotel industry. This gave me the travel bug and I spent two years working and travelling around Australia and Asia. When I came back from my two years of travel abroad I decided I wanted a career in travel. I started work as a Tour Co-ordinator for school groups and after five years I moved into my current sales position as a Tour Advisor.

What aspects do you find most satisfying about your job?

I really like researching a new destination and putting together an interesting itinerary for a group. At the same time, it’s great working on a destination I’ve been to before as I know the group will have a great time

What are you top three tips for a successful tour?

1. Book as early as possible. It’ll give you the best chance of visiting the attractions you want to see as demand can be huge in popular destinations.

2. Pool your checked in bags. If you need to check in a bag this can add considerably to your tour price. You could consider pooling a bag between two or three people. That way you can still travel with all your toiletries but at a much cheaper price.

3.  Consider flying a day or two before the school term holidays. Flight prices jump when schools are closed, so getting away that day or two before the break can make a huge difference on the tour price.

What holiday destinations have you enjoyed most?

Without a doubt, my favourite country to visit is Vietnam. I’ve been there three times and will definitely go back. It is such a diverse country with a rich historical culture, amazing food and genuinely lovely people. From the Industrial Hanoi in the north to the sunkissed beaches of Hoi An in the centre and to the noisy chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh there is definitely something for everyone in Vietnam.

Closer to home, I really love Barcelona. There is so much to see and do, from the street performers on Las Ramblas to the breathtaking views from Parc Guell and the Magic Fountains at Montjuic. And if you’re a football fan you have to visit Nou Camp. I caught a game there and it was amazing. The public transport system is great for getting around and you should definitely visit La Sagrada Familia and the Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter. The shopping in Barcelona is great and of course Spanish food is amazing!

What destination do you believe gives school groups the best all round experience?

I think Berlin is an amazing city for school groups to visit. The public transport system is so easy to get around, it eliminates the need for a coach which keeps costs down. There are a lot of very interesting free visits, The Reichstag, Topography of Terror, the Holocaust Memorial. Shopping is great on Kurfurstendamm and the Arkaden shopping centre in Potsdamer Platz has great bargains. A visit to Sachsenhausen can be difficult however it is an amazing experience and perhaps to end this day the group can enjoy a splash in My Tropical Island – an indoor waterpark just outside Berlin.

What’s the greatest scheme you’ve heard a student dream up while on tour?

There’s plenty I’m sure I don’t hear about, but there is one pretty enterprising scheme a group came up with in Switzerland. The boys realised the hotel’s vending machine accepted a €1 coin as if it was a 2CHF coin, which is a pretty nice exchange rate! Rather than stocking up on cheap Pringles and cans of Coke, the enterprising lot filled the machine with €1 coins and pressed the refund button, receiving Swiss Francs back. I often wonder what the mastermind behind that scheme is working at now!


Bright Ideas…

Improving your tour

Thanks for your support! We love getting feedback on how to improve our tours.

Some recent changes our Tour Co-ordinators made in response to your feedback include:
Teacher’s request: “More activity, less sitting in coaches”

Our Tour Co-ordinator Neil was working with a Group Leader who was travelling to Berlin. The Group Leader was keen to get the students off the bus as much as possible to keep them active. Neil thought about this for some time and suggested they replace their coach tour of the city with a bike tour. Neil has visited Berlin before and had met a company that provide bike tours of the city. Having experienced Berlin by bike, he felt it was a safe and flat city, easily navigated on two wheels. As a result he suggested that the group of students ditch the coach tour for a bicycle tour & burn off some energy while visiting the sites of Berlin at a slower pace & from a different perspective. It went down a storm and Neil now organises bike tours in Berlin for lots of groups, and the feedback is fantastic!

Teacher’s request: “An alternative to a day at Parque Warner”

Alicia, Tour Co-ordinator, was working with a Group Leader who wanted to include a day in Parque Warner near Madrid. Unfortunately the theme park was closed and Alicia had to come up with a different plan that would work for the group. Alicia put together a day packed full of great visits that included the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and the Madrid Zoo Aquarium. The Group Leader was so pleased with the revised itinerary that she decided to book the exact same tour the following year, leaving out Parque Warner.

Here’s some feedback from some Group Leaders who travelled with us in September and October this year
School tour to Berlin:

The hotel was excellent. Staff were very helpful in particular one of the male managers.

School tour to Amsterdam:

Alicia (Tour Co-ordinator at BSGT) could not have been more helpful. She delivered on everything I requested and did so with so much professionalism and friendliness. She was very knowledgeable about the area and anything I enquired about she researched thoroughly and came back to me promptly.

School tour to Amsterdam:

The service provided by Budget School & Group Tours was, as always, super – very professional with excellent expertise.

Retired Association trip to Paris:

Aurelie (Tour Co-ordinator at BSGT) is a pleasure to work with. This is our third tour and our working relationship is second to none. Each time I would have a planned itinerary which I would give to Aurelie and she always improves on it, her knowledge is exceptional and I couldn’t ask for a better organiser for our tours.

School tour to Düsseldorf:

It was absolutely excellent. All (teachers and pupils) were very satisfied and enjoyed the tour. Many thanks

If you’ve some suggestions on how we can make your task easier, or improvements we can make to our service please drop us a line on

Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí student, Aoife De Bhailís, tells us about her school tour

Aoife De Bhailís, TY student at Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí in Tralee, told us about her Border Hopper school tour…

Gaeilcholaiste Chiarraí in Brussels on their Border Hopper Tour

Gaeilcholaiste Chiarraí in Brussels on their Border Hopper Tour

Friday the 17th of October, at the ungodly hour of 2am the alarm clocks of Galecholáiste students and teachers alike began to ring. After months of counting down, hastily packing and looking forward to, the day had finally arrived. Making sure nothing was left behind and passports were in hand we met at our bus by school and began our first journey to Cork airport. Attempts to sleep were first dismissed by the excitement levels but by the time we boarded Aer Lingus most of us were ready to crash and slept soundly to Schiphol. We arrived, albeit a little dazed, to a bright and buzzing Amsterdam. Complemented by the russet colours of autumn, the red brick buildings stunned and we got the chance to enjoy a lot of the main sights of the city via canal on a boat trip. After some food and souvenir shopping we made our way to the Nemo Museum, a renowned science centre which had different interactive floors to cater to different ages and we spent a good while here ooing and awing at what was on offer. Our hotel in Valkenburg was a bit away from Amsterdam so we began the journey back where we ate then went to bed to catch up on sleep. Day two started with an interesting trip round the Valkenburg caves, made during WWII in case a nuclear bomb should drop where afterwards we went to the local toboggan run which was great fun especially as the sun poured down on us in abundance. After finishing, we headed to the beautiful city, Maastricht, where we relaxed and shopped before returning to Valkenburg where we did some laser tag in a new set of caves which everyone enjoyed. On our third day we ventured into nearby Germany to Phantasialand, one of Europes biggest theme parks. Here we braved rides like the black mamba, where its array of stomach churning loops and screws left us feeling nauseous but at the same time hungry for more! After satisfying our rollercoaster habit we headed back to Holland and ended the evening bowling. On our final day we drove down to Brussels. Here we finished up our shopping and got the chance to have a tour round the EU parliament which was a fantastic opportunity, then with time ending we finished up with a tour round the nearby Parlamentarium. All in all we had a brilliant time filled with laughs and good memories and who knows some familiar faces might be seen on the next upcoming tour.

Mary completes marathon in aid of Barretstown

Dublin City Marathon, October 27 2014

Dublin City Marathon, October 27 2014

Mary’s personal goal reached for 2014

Mary O’Rahilly is a deputy  principal, teacher and Group Leader with Budget School & Group Tours from Notre Dame Secondary School in Churchtown, Dublin.

The annual Dublin City Marathon took place on Monday 27 October where it wound its way around the city centre, the Phoenix Park and the suburbs of south Dublin on a hilly, 26.2 mile route. Over 14,000 people from 48 countries lined up for the 35th Dublin City Marathon, and Notre Dame Secondary School’s Mary O’Rahilly was one of the competitors.

Mary classifies herself as a recreational walker. While she enjoys sailing during the summer months, walking would be her most regular form of exercise all year round.

Mary began volunteering at Barretstown in 1996, which many years ago inspired her to experience at least one new thing or a challenge every year, so when the thought of completing a marathon occurred to her she didn’t shy away from the challenge. Plus, there was the added motivation to fund raise for Barretstown

Whether training to run or walk a marathon, the key to success is training and building upon your stamina. Thankfully there are lots of websites available to help you plot out a plan. Mary started getting serious about walking the marathon in June, giving herself five months to prep in the build-up to the 26.2 miles.

We’ve all heard of “the wall” and Mary hit it at mile 16 where she witnessed two people having to pull out, whom she thought were doing really well. Despite this, the encouragement, kindness and support from random strangers along the route really made the difference to help her push on. Receiving texts from friends who were tracking her progress on-line and being joined by friends on the final stretch helped get Mary across the line in 7 hours and 21 minutes.

To date Mary has raised €1,478 for Barretstown. If you would like to support Barretstown and acknowledge Mary’s great effort you can donate whatever you can through the safe and secure MyCharity site here:

With a marathon ticked off Mary’s bucket list for 2014, what challenge/new experience is next? Watch this space 🙂

Barretstown offers a fun programme of challenging activities designed to help children deal with the trauma of serious illness. Hospitals take care of the physical effects of serious illness. Barretstown helps to heal the emotional scars.
See for yourself what happens at Barretstown by clicking on

Rome & Vatican City, Italy

Lap up the Italian lifestyle through Rome’s food & culture. Massively historic and home to the Catholic HQ, Rome is abuzz and the energy is palpable. But don’t be mistaken, Rome isn’t all cobwebs and fine art – it is also Italy’s capital and largest city and serves its cosmopolitan population well in its trendy bars and restaurants housed in historical buildings. Of all our tours to Italy, Rome is without doubt our most popular.

View the sample itinerary below for an idea of how your tour to Rome could shape up:


Silvia, Tour Co-ordinator, comes from Verona & looks after our Italian tours

Silvia, Tour Co-ordinator, comes from Verona & looks after our Italian tours

London, UK

The UK’s capital city is a short flight away, with many flight options from across Ireland. Popular with dance groups, choral groups, sports fans and culture vultures alike, one thing’s for sure – our Tour Co-ordinator Neil can create an itinerary that’ll suit you down to the ground.

If you have a particular focus like dance or music talk to us and we can offer a range of attraction from dance workshops at Pineapple Dance Studios to behind the scenes tours at the Royal Albert Hall.

Here’s a sample of an itinerary we organised for a group to London:


Neil, Tour Co-ordinator, works on all our UK tours

Neil, Tour Co-ordinator, works on all our UK tours

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s one of our firm favourite destinations for groups. Its varied attractions appeal to both young and old alike. With so much to experience, you’ll feel you’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg after your first visit, it’s no wonder people return again and again to discover more of this fantastic region.

Here’s a sample itinerary that our Tour Co-ordinator Alicia put together for a group that recently travelled with us.


Alicia, our Spanish Tour Co-ordinator, comes from Galicia in north west Spain

Alicia, our Spanish Tour Co-ordinator, comes from Galicia in north west Spain