When deciding your timeline, dont just think about numbers of weeks or months, but from the start plan out your tour route. Think about the weather and double-check driving times between cities to make sure you dont accidentally commit yourself to waking up at 4am to make it to a show. But the key thing here is to approach your hosts with a specific date in mind – tour will be much less bumpy if you have a proactive approach to your schedule, rather than trying to please everybody or just go where the wind takes you.
I generally use the following categories on the calendar: “potential tour route,” “alternate tour route,” “confirmed tour route,” “Tour Calendar (Public).” In this screenshot you can see I am imagining two potentially very different tour routes in October. Color-coded categories also help visualize booking progress. This can be a real help as you are getting many different events scheduled at different rates and your start date is fast approaching. As plans solidify, I will change any “potential” stops to “confirmed,” and then when details are all set, I will upgrade it to “Tour Calendar (Public)” – thats the one that displays on the website, and those entries should always include accurate start time, address, and presentation type. People often look at our website for show details so its really important to be sure that info is correct!
On the calendar above you may notice that some items are specific places on specific dates, while others are general cities spread over a few days. Here is how I approach choosing dates:
1. Plan it out week-by-week. That might look something likes this: Wisconsin-Minnesota-Iowa-Missouri-Illinois-Wisconsin
2. Pick key cities, generally. You will notice 3 days in Milwaukee – Im not sure what Im going to do there yet, but I know I could easily find shows and visit friends for 3 days minimum.
3. Leave gaps strategically. I start with the calendar totally full, something on 6 or 7 days per week. But I dont over-fill it. “Long drive” or “Border Crossing” or “Visit friends” counts for one full day. And some of those initial ideas will not work out. Thats fine, I usually just leave a gap there because something else will surely come along (see #4), or we will appreciate a day off. I think that ideal workload is an average of 5 events per week.
4. Squeeze in late requests in the gaps, if necessary…
5. Add in and shift public school events as necessary. My experience has been that there are more requests for public schools than we can handle, and when touring is also about fund-raising, public schools often fall to last priority. I usually wait until pretty last minute to confirm with public schools, because they usually have flexible schedules.
6. Be sure to include detours and nice places. On the last tour we went to sea caves on Lake Superior, giant sand dunes on Lake Michigan, Niagara Falls. We also spent an extra day with some lovely friends old or new whenever we could.
7. Always remember to count driving hours. Triple-check that shit. Seriously.
Also, its always a good idea to schedule a week with your tour mates before your first show, to prep materials, practice presentations, set intentions and agreements, etc. I almost forgot to include this consideration, but dont you forget it – it can make all the difference between smooth sailing and loads of stress and mediocre presentations during your first few weeks of tour.