30 Q&As to prepare you for pilgrimage!
Pilgrimage Basics: What I need to know
1) Why should I go on pilgrimage?
Authentic Catholic pilgrimages offer an individual a way to physically identify with their faith. Whether it’s standing at a saint’s tomb, viewing a rare holy relic, or even praying at a Marian apparition site, those on pilgrimage are spiritually changed by that personal connection! In addition, a pilgrimage presents the opportunity to obtain special graces, blessings, and plenary indulgences for deceased loved ones.
2) If I want to offer my parish a pilgrimage, what is the best way to introduce the idea to them?
Canterbury Pilgrimages recommends talking with other parishioners to get a better idea of how many people would like to join you, and then approach your pastor/parochial vicar or deacon to introduce the idea to them. It has been our experience that spiritual directors can make the pilgrimage experience so much more powerful when they join the group! Canterbury Pilgrimages provides beautiful graphic materials to assist you in promoting the pilgrimage to your local parish community, including but not limited to: flyers, posters, and social media event pages.
3) What is the role of a spiritual director on a pilgrimage?
Your priest on this journey is your spiritual director (not your tour guide). He will have the opportunity to celebrate Mass daily and participate in the pilgrimage just as much as any pilgrim! Please be respectful of Father’s own personal journey and his time as you share this experience with him.
4) I have a favorite shrine/basilica/country I would like to visit. Can we plan a pilgrimage around that?
Yes! Using a focal point for your pilgrimage is the best way to match the appropriate itinerary to what you or your group would like to achieve. Thankfully, Canterbury Pilgrimages has a unique approach to this process and works individually with each group organizer to be sure the itinerary is tailored to those ideas! Please call us at 800-653-0017 for more information.
5) I don’t have a passport, but I really want to go on a pilgrimage. Can we plan a pilgrimage that does NOT go overseas?
Great question. Canterbury Pilgrimages is actually one of the few pilgrimage companies right now that offers domestic (within the U.S.) pilgrimages! Believe it or not, there are sites of spiritual significance near most major cities within our very own borders. We can organize a pilgrimage for you that goes to an opposite coast or one that is just a bus ride away from your home parish. Additionally, if you would like to travel to a place like Quebec, Canada, or Guadalupe, Mexico, you can apply for a passport card instead of a full passport, which is easier and a cost effective alternative!
6) Do you plan pilgrimages for special events, like a Jubilee or Holy Year, or World Youth Day experiences?
Yes! Canterbury Pilgrimages follows events over a year in advance. Please follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@ExpertPilgrims) to make sure you’re receiving updates on future events.
7) How do I register for a pilgrimage?
Canterbury Pilgrimages offers registration through various methods. For those comfortable registering online, you can click on the red CURRENT PILGRIMAGES button on the right side of our website where you can easily find and reserve space on a pilgrimage. If you have questions or would like to speak to one of our reservation specialists, please contact us at 800-653-0017. If you prefer to register through mail, simply fill out a paper reservations form found on the reverse side of a brochure, and mail it to Canterbury Pilgrimages, 166 So. River Road – Ste. 110, Bedford, NH 03110-6928.
8) What’s the minimum number of people needed to go on pilgrimage?
In order to plan a pilgrimage, you will need between 15 – 20 people to make it financially feasible for everyone. Pilgrimages average around 35 – 45 people per group. However, Canterbury Pilgrimages has accommodated groups much larger, so though we have a suggested minimum, we believe as many people should share in the experience as possible.
9) What time of the year is the best time to go on pilgrimage?
While the simple answer is anytime, it’s been our experience that spring and fall months are usually best in terms of weather and total cost. Depending on your destination, summer months can be more expensive and holidays or Saints’ Feast Days in some pilgrimage areas can also add a higher cost to the hotel and airfare portion of your pilgrimage.
10) Regarding what to pack, do I pack light, or do I prepare for every scenario?
Canterbury Pilgrimages recommends you pack lightly, especially for international pilgrimages because of different airline luggage policies and the excessive fees they often charge! It’s a good idea to review weather forecasts for the area you are going to be traveling in so that you know what sort of clothing you should bring. It is also a good idea to pack comfortable walking shoes since most pilgrimage destinations require a lot of walking. Try to pack casual but nice attire for visits and veneration at the shrines and at Mass.
11) Are there ways I can prepare myself physically, mentally, and spiritually for a pilgrimage?
- Physically: You may want to start walking and standing more around your home/neighborhood/office in order to accustom your body to different walking schedules.
- Mentally: Have you traveled to this area before? You may want to search for information about the destination you are going to prevent being overwhelmed when you arrive!
- Spiritually: You may want to start praying daily to tune yourself to God (if you have not being doing so already). Confession — the sacrament of reconciliation — is also a good idea to cleanse your soul before opening it to the Lord on pilgrimage. Canterbury Pilgrimages believes people are called to pilgrimages, so a spirit-filled attitude will be more ready to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit while on pilgrimage.
12) Am I going to have to walk a lot?
Be open to the rigors of plenty of walking, often on hard and uneven surfaces of streets that are centuries old! If the walking gets tiring, Canterbury Pilgrimages requests that you take time to rest when seating is available and to offer up any fatigue to our Lord in true pilgrimage spirit. Fun fact: Before the conveniences of modern transportation, all pilgrimages were walking pilgrimages!
13) Will we have a tour guide?
Yes! Canterbury Pilgrimages always has a professional local tour guide who speaks English and the native language of the country(s) you are visiting.
14) What sorts of meals are we getting?
Numerous meals are included as part of your pilgrimage. The menu and portions are based on the native country’s standards, so Canterbury Pilgrimages asks that you consider that when you are served. Ample bottled water and wine (depending on itinerary) are served with each meal. Those with dietary concerns were invited, at the time your reservation is booked, to note any concerns on their reservation forms. If nothing is noted, it is assumed you are open to eating the same meal served to the entire group. Please note that any last-minute meal changes may cause a delay not only to your meal but also to the entire group.
15) I have food/dietary restrictions. What should I do? What kinds of restaurants do we normally eat at?
First and foremost, make sure you tell us when you are registering! Since Canterbury Pilgrimages coordinates where you eat, we need to know your food restrictions so that we can coordinate this with the hotels and restaurants we work with. If you are going to another country, it may be a good idea to print out an allergy/restriction info card that you can hand to a waiter or host in their own language. Keep this card in your wallet!
16) If I need special accommodations because of a physical limitation, what should I do?
When you register, please share the details of your limitations or restrictions with our reservation specialists so that they can remedy this for you. It is important to note that not all pilgrimage sites are easily accessible, so your limitation may affect your ability to visit some items on the itinerary. Also, it is important to bring any aids you use with you since they may not have those available at your hotel or even at a pharmacy to rent. It is important to note that most countries do not have an equivalent of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
17) I have heard a lot about "group ticketing" but am not sure how it works and what the benefits are. Can you explain?
Group ticketing is the process commonly used when purchasing a block of seats from an airline for a particular flight. They are purchased as a group in an effort to ensure everyone in the group travels together. Unlike regular airline tickets, or even electronic “E-Tickets,” group tickets do not have individual confirmation numbers. This allows each traveler to check-in using their personal ID and the flight number. Each boarding pass is printed at the time of check-in so there is nothing to misplace or forget before the flight. In group ticketing, a passenger is less likely to be “bumped” on an “overbooked” flight since the tickets were purchased as a group and not individually.
Costs: What's included
18) What is typically included on pilgrimage?
Depending on the itinerary and the group you are traveling with, just about everything is included! Since each pilgrimage is designed for the individual group, the included costs are always clearly printed on the brochure, as well as online, so you know exactly what you’re paying – every time.
19) What is travel insurance, what does it cover, and why would I need it?
Travel insurance has multiple benefits and is offered through a third-party insurer:
Trip Cancellation Protection - Up to 100% of the pilgrimage cost (reimbursement for prepaid, non-refundable expenses if you cancel your trip due to a covered reason)
Trip Interruption Protection - Up to 150% of the pilgrimage cost if your trip is cut short
Emergency Medical and Dental – Up to $25,000 for losses due to medical or dental emergencies during the pilgrimage
Emergency Medical Transportation – Up to $500,000 for medically necessary transportation as well as return home
Missed connection – Up to $800 for expenses resulting from a missed flight
Travel Delay – Up to $200/day for accommodations & expenses due to departure delay of more than 6 hours
Baggage Loss/Damage/Theft – Up to $1000 reimbursement
Baggage Delay (over 24 hrs) - Up to $300 to reimbursement for essential items
20) What is an appropriate amount of money to bring for gift shops, food, etc.?
For most pilgrimage itineraries, lunches and snacks are the only food items you would need to budget for, with the typical pilgrim spending approximately $20-25 per day. A great rule-of-thumb is to think about your past experiences out of town. Did you spend more money on cuisine or on gifts; were they for yourself or others? Answering these questions about your own shopping habits will help you predict how much you will need to bring while away. Canterbury Pilgrimages recommends that if you are going out of the country, check exchange rates online ahead of time to know how far your money will go at local currency rates!
21) What about beggars and pickpocketers? Should I be worried?
The places you will be traveling are beautiful areas. Like anywhere, they have safe and unsafe areas. Even in safe cities, there are plenty of people who have moved into the major areas to beg for money or to artfully remove money from your person. Canterbury Pilgrimages suggests ignoring and not speaking to the beggars, who are in most cases actors and are not lame or as poor as they make themselves appear. Try to avoid putting valuable items inside a backpack. We also suggest men keep their wallet in their front pockets rather than back pockets and women not carry a bulky purse. Another alternative is to invest in a money belt for extra peace of mind!
22) What should I do about credit cards, debit cards, and cash?
Before you leave the U.S., Canterbury Pilgrimages recommends you contact your bank as well as your credit card companies, and let them know you will be traveling abroad. Many banks and credit card companies have built-in safeguards that may shut down access to your card if they believe it to be lost or stolen. Also, if they know you are traveling, getting a replacement is much easier if something does happen. Rather than exchanging your money in the U.S., we suggest waiting until you arrive and locate an ATM machine near your hotel rather than using the currency exchange service at the airport. Your bank ATM processor will automatically calculate the exchange rate for you and does not charge a fee to do that.
I’m signed up! What do I need to know about my trip?
23) When will I have all the final details about my pilgrimage, like my plane schedule, hotel information, etc.?
We mail the final information packet approximately a month before the departure date of the pilgrimage! In most cases, you can expect in your packet: completed itinerary, name badge, flight schedule, hotel information.
24) How accurate/flexible will my itinerary be?
Your itinerary is developed several months before your journey with the input of your spiritual director, and it reflects his personal preferences. Accommodations are made around those preferences and most cannot be changed, so we ask that while traveling, you review your itinerary daily!
25) How should I transport my passport?
In a foreign country, your passport is as important as your wallet. We suggest you carry a photo-copy of your passport in your wallet or purse and, if you have a phone that can store pictures, take a picture of it, and store that as well. These steps make getting a replacement a lot easier if it is damaged, lost, or stolen.
26) Will I get to attend Daily Mass?
Your spiritual director may have pre-scheduled daily Mass into the itinerary. Because of the popularity of the location, some Mass times may be moved by the vicar.
27) I have heard that you can’t take pictures in church. Should I bring my camera?
Canterbury Pilgrimages suggests taking as many pictures as possible! Please be aware that many of the buildings you may visit have artwork that can be damaged by photography. We ask that you be aware and respectful when placards stating “NO PHOTOS” are posted in the building you are visiting.
28) If I want to start a Facebook event page for my pilgrimage, how do I do that? Can I post photos there once it is created?
29) How will I know who’s in my group once we are on pilgrimage?
All pilgrims are issued name tags for group organization and security! That way, you will be able to identify other pilgrims as long as they are sporting their badges. Canterbury Pilgrimages asks that you wear your badge at all times since there are many other groups from other pilgrimage, tour, and travel agency organizations traveling as well. It is the best way of not only identifying you but also your group.
30) Once we arrive, how do we get from place to place?
The group will be traveling on a luxury motor coach to most, if not all, of your itinerary locations! While that takes some of the burden out of walking, it is important that you board the bus at the scheduled time. Many streets do not allow a coach bus to stay parked for more than a few minutes, and some do not allow the larger coach buses to enter — so you may be dropped off near a location rather than at a location. This is standard practice and is not be considered the fault of your guide. Though we request that wifi be available on each coach, the assignment of each coach is outside of our control. The coach buses have similar paint schemes so Canterbury Pilgrimages recommends you pay attention to your guide when boarding.