Deciding on a Tour
Unless you get a huge high out of making a thousand tiny decisions and potentially having many dissatisfied customers, I would highly recommend that you not plan the tour yourself. There are plenty of reputable companies out there that are doing a great job of planning trips. Sure, no trips are perfect, but neither would one planned by a teacher. The price is a bit higher, of course, than a trip one might plan themselves, but not so much higher to make it worth the work.
If You Choose a Tour Company, You (Usually) Get:
- a personal website where you can keep track of sign-ups and other tour details. There is also a website that is specifically designed for our tour that students can look up that has details regarding itinerary, prices, dates, etc.;
- an orientation tour;
- your tour covered (not counting spending money, lunches, etc.) with 6 full-price paying travelers. Most tour companies do 6 students but for some, it is 10 enrolled travelers;
- a discount for family members to travel with you. However, at least with the tour company, I am traveling with, anyone who receives a discount does not count as an additional number toward the 6 or 12 or 18 you need to have a person travel for free.
First Group Meeting
You’ll have to consider the time frame of your trip when you are thinking about planning your first trip meeting. A teacher friend of mine and I had our trip meetings in the same month, but because her trip was on a two-year schedule and mine was only on a one-year schedule than my first group meeting was sooner after the informational meeting than her’s.
Items you’ll want to have on hand for the meeting:
1. an agenda – one for them and one for you with more details so you won’t forget
2. emergency contact list – Get the cell phone numbers for parents and students to take with you when you travel.
3. OTC medication form – It permits you to give the students a variety of medicine should they need it for your average traveling ailments: Advil, tums, etc. signed by the parents.
4. Passport applications and other similar forms – all the kids will want one unless they already have a passport.
5. A list of FAQ – like reminding the students that this is not a vacation where we sleep in every morning or going over what students might need like shots, paperwork, electricity converters, etc.
Items For Pre-Departure Meeting
- Items provided by the company (backpacks, luggage tags, etc.)
- Travel Itinerary/Flight Information
- Packing List
- Behavior Agreements
- Get-to-Know-You Questionnaires
- Thank you cards for tour guides and bus drivers
You’ll want to make sure and plan a pre-departure meeting about a month before your anticipated departure date. By this time, you should have air or bus arrangements, in addition to a planned itinerary for the trip which are both good things to go over at the meeting. According to one of the professional write my essay services, students must sign a behavioral contract. This is an especially good idea if you have students traveling with you who you don’t know very well or were never in your class since you might not know what to expect from them (of course, I wouldn’t take any student without a teacher recommendation from a teacher I trusted). I also had students/parents double-check emergency contact information. If going abroad, your tour company may also require students to have a notified permission slip stating that their parents have allowed them to travel into the country. We had these but never needed them during the trip.
Of course, you will want to keep track of how students are doing as far as paying toward their trip and consider any add-ons that the company may provide. Also, you will have things to do like arrange student rooms, put together a med-kit, get thank you notes for your tour guide and bus driver (I had students sign these at our pre-departure meeting and you’ll have to collect extra tip money from the students if it isn’t provided by your tour company), make copies of passports and arrange to have this information with you at all times, etc.
Another thing I would suggest is checking in for your flight ahead of time. We flew with an airline that would not let us check our bags at the desk but required us to check them in electronically so we ended up going to the self-check-in computer about three times before we got checked in for our flight. You’ll have to check your airline policy about this one but the airline we were traveling with allowed each person to check-in and pay for a checked bag separately which would make it easier for you, the group leader.
During the Trip
If you planned well and went with a travel company, it should be pretty smooth sailing from here. The larger your group size, the more planning you will have to do to ensure that smoothness. With just 6 students, for example, it is fairly easy to keep track of everyone. However, with 30, it will require more division of labor which is a bit more stressful. 6-1 is a good counting ratio, so I would suggest making sure every 6 travelers is assigned to one specific group leader. That way, instead of counting 30, you just check with the other 4 group leaders who have already checked to make sure their 6 are present (or however the numbers would work out with your group). You’ll be doing a lot of counting heads as you go.
If you went with a travel company, the most work you will be doing is counting heads, since the tour guide arranges and organizes everything else. This was a great relief to me and allowed me to also enjoy the trip. Occasionally you may have students who don’t fit in with the rest of the crowd in which case you’ll want to do some thoughtful maneuvering whenever students need to be in groups or whenever they seem a bit lonely.
If you are doing an international trip, likely, you will not be provided with overnight security. Therefore, you may have to be the one to get up to check and make sure students are in their rooms. I have not found students out of their rooms more than 5 minutes too late so I don’t envy the teacher who finds kids out at 1 am – hope that isn’t you! My students wanted to use the pool when they got back to the hotel at night so I set our curfew time as in-rooms at 10:30 pm, but it depends on you. I told students they had to be in their rooms but not quiet, which also depends on you.
Most of the rest is common sense I think, which I’m sure you have as an educated professional. We have a great time on trips! Hope these suggestions help you prepare and have a wonderful adventure!