Living the Tour Director Life With Skip VanderSchaaf
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Years Tour Directing: 12 ½ years (started August, 2010)
Travel Bible Verse:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
How many miles you’ve traveled:
Not really sure, but a lot. Between flying miles and coach travel it adds up.
Tell us a little more about your family and background:
I was born in Chicago, but grew up in Florida. I went to Moody Bible Institute in 1967. I met and married my best friend, who was from Mount Joy, PA. We now live a half mile from where Karen grew up. We have been married for 52 years and have three children and ten grandchildren (nine boys and one girl). I worked in sales for 34 years as my full time job. I also worked part-time at WDAC on weekends for 34 years (but not totally in the same period of time).
When I say “BNT Tour Director,” what pops into your mind?
Traveling with amazing people. I often say that I will not diminish the wonderful places we are blessed to visit, but it is the people we travel with that have been such a blessing. Many have become some of our best friends.
That’s such a lovely thing to say. So, if you have to choose, what are your favorite BNT tours?
That’s like asking which of my children are my favorite. That’s hard, but to list a few: Iceland, Alaska, Holland, MI/Mackinaw Island, Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island.
What does “a day in the life of Tour Director” look like…
In the morning, I pay the hotel bill. We get on the coach and count, count, count! I do want to be sure we have everyone. Once we’re on the road, I do enjoy our brief time of devotions, which usually has to with places we are going, or the overall theme of the tour. I then go over the schedule of the day, destinations, meals, etc. At the end of the day, when we arrive at the hotel, I pass out their room keys. Once off the coach, I make sure luggage is delivered and answer any questions someone may have. When in my room, I go over the day and be sure I have recorded all the expenses paid and review the next day, i.e. schedule, bills to pay, people/venues that may need to be called, chose a devotional for the morning etc. If we have a step-on guide the next day, I will call them to be sure we are all set and clarify any questions. Then, finally . . . to bed.
So, with the fun and games comes great responsibility. What do you think is key to your work as a Tour Director?
First and foremost, much prayer. I keep three things in mind. First, I am representing our Lord. Second, I am representing Bob Neff Tours, and third, those traveling with us are looking to have a wonderful time and have certain expectations for the tour. Then, it’s preparation, preparation, and then, some more preparation. I like to create a schedule for the travelers so they have all the important times, places, meals, etc. on one handy reference sheet. I want to make the tour is as enjoyable as I can and hope to meet the expectations of those traveling with us.
With all those miles and all that experience, what is the funniest memory as TD?
We enjoy Drury Inn and Suites. Every evening they have their “Kick-Back” dinner (which is included in with the room). I had created the PERFECT hot dog. Just the right bun, a nice brown hotdog, the right amount of catsup, mustard, and relish. I put it down next to my wife and went to get something to drink. When I returned – a “gentleman” at the next table had taken it . . . and began to eat it . . . all of it! It was his first Bob Neff Tour! We still laugh about it. He will forever be known as “Hot dog John”. That is just one example of how we come together and enjoy each other’s company on tours.
I have another story…On a BNT Tour to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, we had a group of nine Amish widows who are all very good friends and love to travel together. On our way, one of our lunch stops was in Freeport, Maine at the L.L. Bean flagship store. This day also happened to be my birthday. As we were getting off the coach, I noticed that ALL the Amish ladies were across the street, headed single file, “on a mission,” and going somewhere. I didn’t give it another thought, but when it was time to get back on the coach to leave, the ladies approached me carrying a fairly large box. They handed to me and said, “Happy Birthday.” When I opened it, much to my surprise, it was a FIVE POUND whoopie pie. They had gone to a store across the street called “Wicked Whoopies,” which make all kinds and sizes, of whoopie pies. Being very appreciative, I thanked them, but wasn’t quite sure what to do with a FIVE POUND whoopie pie. That night at the hotel my wife had a brilliant idea. She got the small plastic juice glasses from the breakfast area at the hotel, cut the whoopie pie into 50 pieces, and we brought it down so all of our travelers could share in that amazing gift for breakfast. It was very good, by the way! Those ladies were and are so much fun and have become friends. We love it when we can travel with them.
Skip’s Photos from the Road…
Now, I’m hungry! What are you Top 3 Traveling Tips:
Pack comfortable shoes, bring an umbrella, be flexible, and enjoy getting to meet new people (I know that’s four!).
What do you believe you uniquely bring to tour directing?
I love to travel and experience new places and meet new people. As I mentioned before, I like to prepare so there are as few “surprises” as possible. I also feel that being able to have my wife travel with me adds to the spirit of joy and fun on our tours as a group.
What have YOU learned as a Tour Director?
Be flexible, be compassionate, and be enthusiastic. Everyone is different, but I try to make them feel like they are part of the BNT “family” on tour. We laugh a lot and share life together.
What BNT tours are you looking forward to?
This year, 2023 it would be – ALL of them. But, if I need to narrow it down: Best of Texas, Trains of New England and Barn Bash with David Phelps. In the future, Canadian Rockies, Wyoming/Yellowstone, Israel, and Iceland.
Some places keep calling to us. Where would you return to again and again, given the chance?
Alaska, its vastness and uniqueness.
Nova Scotia/PEI, the serenity and beauty.
Iceland with its stark contrast of lava fields, magnificent waterfalls, and beautiful pastures.
Mackinaw Island. Just so peaceful, unrushed, with a quiet beauty.
What is the BEST thing about tour directing?
Hands down (and I think all of BNT tour directors would say the same), it is the people we meet. They are all so unique, so interesting, so encouraging, and so much fun!
Three Words… God, Creation, Fellowship.
Check out a few BNT Tours with Skip VanderSchaaf as Tour Director!