TOP 5 TIPS WHEN PLANNING AN EDUCATION SCHOOL TOUR
Just what happens when you book a tour?
You choose a tour operator with ATOL/ABTA and STF (School Travel Forum) membership school and request a 4 day Cold War History to Helsinki. They say ‘great’ and send an email to a hotel, visit the Easyjet website and call a Finnish Coach company then, 9 months later it all goes like clockwork – it’s that easy!
Unfortunately, it's not always that easy for most of us as the planning and arranging of a school trip can be stressful and time consuming. There can be unavoidable changes, unforeseen increases in tour prices, last minute drop outs to name just a few of the challenges.
I have been involved in school travel for almost 20 years and I want to share my top 5 tips with you on what to consider when initially planning a tour.
Top Tip One – Make a clear plan and stick to it!
Take a clean piece of paper and write down your tour objectives, what do you want the tour to deliver to your students? It could be to focus on one key area of your curriculum, to provide a broader understanding of a subject, combine cross curricula subjects, be within a certain budget, leave from a certain airport etc.
During your first contact with your tour provider either by phone, email or during a face to face meeting ensure these objectives are passed on and that both you and the tour operator are happy and confident that your tour can be delivered exactly as you want it, within your budget.
Top Tip Two - Cheaper is not better, value is king
When comparing tour quotes from tour providers look carefully at what is included and what is not. Meals, entrances, guides, local transport, local tourist taxes. These costs can add up and mean your tour cost is higher than you think.
Be careful where companies include insurance, these are often the lowest level of cover available and your own school travel insurance will in almost every case will be a better policy – ask to see a copy of the insurance schedule and compare it with what your school already has.
Top Tip Three - Flights do they exist?
I have seen a lot of competitor tour quotes with flights using estimated prices, based on the lowest season cost and in more than one occasion do not actually exist. Once you book you will be asked to pay a supplement due to increased flight costs or that you will flying from an airport on the other side of the country. Ask your provider to detail the flight they are booking for you preferably with airline details, route, times and flight numbers -these should all be available 9-11 months before departure.
Top Tip Four - Think outside of the box and don’t be afraid to be a pioneer
Why go to the same place year after year? we live in an accessible world and there are so many options for you to consider, often these can be better value than destinations already busy with school groups during the popular half term travel periods.
Over the past couple of years,Travel Places has arranged for groups to travel to Japan, Uganda, Finland, Russia, Slovenia, Malaysia, China, Barbados, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and with future groups booked to go scuba diving in Croatia, to see the Great USA Solar Eclipse 2017 in Wyoming, riding Trans-Siberian Express to Mongolia, exploring Ghana, visiting multiple cities in Japan as well as the classic destinations to Iceland, Berlin, Krakow, Bay of Naples, Frankfurt etc. We really are the company with the experience to get you where you want to go.
Top Tip Five – Never panic – it will all be alright
Having spent many years working with people within the travel industry, I am fully aware they are passionate about delivering the best tour possible. My colleagues always go that extra mile to ensure the tour is a success; double checking and triple checking your reservations are in place, leave no stone un-turned when looking for solution to a challenge, carrying a copy of your itinerary for the duration of your tour, being aware of where you are during the trip hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute fretting that you will be in time for that special boat trip that leaves at 13:15 sharp! Eagerly awaiting news on Twitter that the tour is going well and most importantly following up a successful tour with a chat with you the party leader.