Unforeseen increases in tour prices, last minute drop outs and unavoidable changes are just a few challenges that teachers and schools face when trying to book a school trip. Budget cuts and financial worries are also a major concern, especially for those booking tours abroad, multiple years in advance.
Our team of education specialists have been involved in school travel for over 50 years and know what it takes to give students and tour leaders the experience they’re after. So here are Travel Places’ top tips on what to consider when planning your tour.
1). Look for tour providers that are financially stable and ATOL protected.
Picking a company that is financially stable and has a current and valid ATOL licence are two fundamentals. Unfortunately we’ve heard horror stories of schools booking tours with companies who have filed for bankruptcy before they can deliver the purchased tours, only to discover the company’s licence had expired and therefore the schools were unable to claim their money back. You can check online if a company’s ATOL licence is up to date: www.caa.co.uk/atoll-protection and don’t be afraid to question tour providers on their financial stability during your initial consultation.
2). Make a clear plan and stick to it.
Take a clean piece of paper and write down your tour objectives. What do you want to deliver to your students? Do you want to focus on one key area of your curriculum or combine a sporting tour with insights into a new culture? Do you want to provide a broader understanding of a subject or combine cross curricula subjects? Aside from learning, what else are you constrained by – does it have to be within a certain budget, leave from a certain airport, etc?
During your first contact with your tour provider, 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 and within your budget.
3). Cheaper is not better – value is king.
When comparing tour quotes from tour providers look carefully at what is included in the cost and what isn’t. Meals, venue entrance fees, guides, local transport, local tourist taxes are all costs that soon add up and mean your tour price is higher than you think.
Be careful when companies include insurance as 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.
4). Do the flights actually exist?
Some companies have been known to provide quotes on flights using estimated prices which are based on the lowest season cost and in some circumstances, do not actually exist. As a result schools have been asked to pay a supplement due to increased flight costs or their departure airport was changed to one elsewhere in the country. To avoid this, 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.
5). Thinking outside the box pays off!
Why go to the same place year after year? We live in an accessible world and there are so many options to consider and often these can be better value than destinations already busy with school groups during the popular travel periods.
Travel Places has arranged education and sports tours to places such as Japan, Finland and Malaysia. This year we have groups booked on all types of experiences from scuba diving in Croatia, to watching the Solar Eclipse 2017 in Wyoming, to riding Trans-Siberian Express to Mongolia, exploring Ghana, as well as the classic destinations to Iceland, Berlin, Krakow and Bay of Naples. The possibilities are endless!
6). Don’t panic.
Follow the tips above and make sure you pick a company who you feel is as passionate and dedicated as you are in providing your students with a fantastic tour!
Travel Places has over 40 years’ experience providing travel solutions for the world’s leading athletes and sports teams. We are a family owned and operate in association with American Express Global Business Travel, providing financial security to our clients. This unique partnership has been in place for over 20 years, allowing us to benefit from their considerable buying power and fares across the travel industry, achieving great prices and terms for our customers.