Heres the bullet-point version of how to make an awesome tour:
A good tour comes from building relationships and keeping in contact with good people. Thats the foundation you should be building from and always building onto.
2 crucial practices – thorough advance planning and lots of phone time with hosts
3 seems to be a magic number – teams of 3 are both nimble and steady, and my experience tells me that 3 weeks minimum to 3 months maximum is a good duration
Plan these key elements in this order: special events at beginning and end, slightly flexible dates on a realistic journey around a relatively small area, keep 2 days off per week, and then do 30% colleges, 30% community, and 30% schools.
Im also going to drop some random tips in at the end here, if I think of any. Feel free to add to it in the comments section!
1. Always bring an umbrella. You might only use it once, but in that moment when you have to hustle posters from your truck to the venue in a downpour, you will be really happy to have it. Try to think of other items like this – some of mine are AAA membership, extra windshield wipers, zip ties, clip lights, bike lock, tent, 3-4 sets of warm gloves.
2. If you will be crossing the border, try to get your materials down to a minimum before crossing (and make sure you have some restock packages waiting for you at the next convenient place), and then pack everything up as small and neat as possible before making the crossing. Oh, and tell them youre teachers, not an “artists collective” – that line almost guarantees you will be stopped and searched.
3. Learn how to tie at least a few solid and easily-untied knots (“two half-hitches on a bight” is my favorite), pack at least one good 50ft length cord, and throw out that shitty plastic rope! This is especially important if you intend to do anything outside.
4. After spending two months touring around Europe, mostly alone and on mass transit, I have some special considerations and insights about that experience, which was very different than how I have done it in North America. You can find some thoughts about that here.