Annual Student Travel Pointers
When planning student travel, consider this: What is your goal? Where will you go? What will you do? How will you select qualified chaperones? How will your group fund their experience? How will you ensure things run smoothly? What happens if someone becomes ill—or there’s an emergency situation?
These student travel pointers provide information to help you plan and execute efficient, safe, successful trips, aided by your SYTA member tour operator.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO DO
Determine your group’s goal and select an appropriate destination. Are cultural arts or language immersion important? What about art, music, local foods or history? Is this a performance trip?
Review potential destinations against your goals and expectations. Solicit the expertise of your SYTA member tour operator, who could offer advice to narrow your options or influence your decision.
Well before departure, plan your travel mode, subsequent transportation, activities, learning opportunities, various stops, meals and other details.
Request educational materials from the places you’ll visit. Some offer materials for use before travel, to help your group become familiar with where they will be and what they will see.
Have students photograph and write about their experiences. They will have something to share with family, friends and schoolmates, and something to use for classroom presentations.
If traveling to a foreign-speaking country, practice your language skills in the classroom—before you go. Seek language and cultural immersion opportunities. Dine where you and your students could read and speak another language—or translate descriptions and information in museums and other sites. Some mobile device apps offer translation services, which could enhance your experience.
FUNDING YOUR TRAVEL
Travel fundraising can be stressful for educators, students and parents. Before departing, know and plan for all expenses you may incur. Strive to avoid financial surprises.
Trip preparations should begin two years in advance. Have an alternative destination or experience in mind, in case of unforeseen problems. Be ready to modify your plans: Students canceling at the last minute could affect costs and travel arrangements.
Be conscious of what your group members may or may not be able to afford, and plan your destination and activities accordingly. Consider one larger experience or event, rather than several smaller events.
Never miss a fundraising opportunity! Students could earn money through candy, candle or wrapping paper sales—or via fun, creative endeavors such as car or dog washes, bake sales, dinners, sports tournaments and fashion shows.
Get the word out. Publicize fundraising events through school and local publications, websites and social media outlets.
Consider essay or other academic contests, where a monetary prize could be used toward travel expenses.
RULES / GUIDELINES / SAFETY
Ensure students know the rules before departure. Students who know what’s expected of them are more likely to follow direction and policy. Parents and chaperones should be aware of all expectations.
Rules should be clear and concise, and consequences for breaking them spelled out. Provide a printed travel itinerary to students, parent(s) or guardians, and anyone traveling with you. Go over every item and reiterate the importance of adhering to the schedule. Everyone should have contact numbers for the rest of the group, as well as any emergency numbers.
Ask your tour operator for any handbook or guidelines his or her company offers. Go over this content with everyone in your group.
Keep your passport and identification handy, but not where easily stolen. To deter theft, always keep a hand on your purse, backpack or other bag. Thieves may try to cut a strap and run off with your belongings; having a grip on the bag makes that difficult. You might wear your purse under your coat or other clothing.
Keep credit and debit cards in sight. Don’t let anyone walk away with a card to ring up a transaction, as you risk the card numbers (or card) being copied and illegally used.
Never go to a bank or ATM alone—and never accept a stranger’s offer of help while there, as it may be a robbery setup.
Meet with your group at the end of each day to review plans for the next. Establish a wake-up call time and a meeting time and location.
Let group members know when they may and may not use cellphones or other electronic devices. Some devices could interfere with travel equipment or may be prohibited where you’ll be. Set your electronics policies in advance and find out about policies that may affect your group during the trip.
Have photography rules in place. Remind students that established rules where they visit take precedence over the group’s rules. Obtain permissions, as needed, and pay attention to flash photography restrictions. Do not permit inappropriate photos or antics, including photo-bombing and planking.
Some group members may have food allergies or sensitivities, or dietary restrictions. Research your meal options and plan accordingly.
Obtain medical information for everyone in your group and be aware of needs that could arise. If a student requires medication or has a life-threatening allergy or other serious medical condition, try to enlist that student’s parent or caregiver to serve as a chaperone or travel with the group, in case help is needed.
If a traveler uses crutches or a wheelchair or otherwise needs accommodating, work with your tour operator to ensure those needs could be met at your intended stops.
Know where the nearest hospital, emergency facility or first-aid station is, at all points along your route.
For other considerations, download the SYTA Safety Resource Guide.
COMMON SENSE, TIPS, ET CETERA
Allow students to stay connected to family and friends by e-mail, phone, Facebook or other social media, as appropriate. Consider creating a Facebook page specific to your trip, where students could post photographs and comments while traveling.
Be as careful with cellphones and other electronics as you are with your passport and identification. Never leave any valuables unattended, or on a motorcoach when you aren’t on it.
Manners matter. Make sure students mind their manners and mind the local customs. Before departure, have students help research local traditions, customs, cautions and even currency.
“Please” and “thank you” are as important during travel as they are every day. Make it clear that common courtesy is expected, and that everyone in your group reflects your school or organization.
If traveling by air, make luggage easily identifiable by tying a brightly colored ribbon to the handle(s) so it’s easy to spot. This makes it easier to find and retrieve checked items from an airport’s baggage carousel.
Have some cash on hand, in case local ATMs are out of order, credit or debit cards aren’t accepted, or you have unplanned expenses or gratuities.
When walking, look both ways before crossing the street. Pay attention to traffic and traffic signs. Stay five feet from the road. The further you are from the road, the less likely you are to be accidently bumped into a moving vehicle.
Be prepared. Be ready for anything to happen. Have your plans and contacts in place. Safe travels!
Edited by Amy L Charles, Editorial Director for Teach & Travel.