Are you taking a student group on a trip to Europe? There’s so many things to consider that it can be confusing at first. Logistics can be a nightmare when it comes to traveling internationally, especially with a group of teenagers. From finding a reasonable cost of tour packages, hunting down the most educational destinations, and preparing students to travel internationally, there’s no shortage of things you need to prepare for.
Whether you’ve received a recommendation from a fellow teacher or you’re just starting from scratch, you need to make sure you do your research. To assist you in answering your questions about student travel companies, we created this guide. Here are 30 tips for finding the best student tour company to Europe.
1) What is included in the starting-at price?
A starting-at price will include some sort of package that includes a number of different offerings such as activities, meals, travel insurance, accommodations and airfare.
2) What isn’t included in the starting-at price?
What will you be paying extra for that isn’t included in the initial starting-at price? This could include optional excursions, drinks with meals or local transportation when you arrive at your destination.
3) Does the program handle flying arrangements?
Flying to Europe with a group of students can be stressful, there’s no doubt about it. When a travel company handles the flying arrangements, you won’t have to worry about the finer details. For example, you don’t have to collect payments from students, you’ll have more flexibility with the itinerary, and support when there’s a delay or flight cancellation.
4) Will your group be met at the airport upon arrival?
With so many things happening after you land, and in a foreign environment nonetheless, it’s easy to get lost or confused. It’s best if your tour company has someone that meets you at the airport to help you find proper transportation and take you wherever it is you’re going.
5) Does the tour company provide a finalized itinerary before departure?
Will the tour company plan out everything beforehand? Having a tour company that plans for all transfers, reservations and guided visits will help you avoid uncertainty when leading a group of teens.
6) Is your itinerary flexible?
Understanding if you can tailor your itinerary to your group’s interests will make everyone’s trip much more enjoyable. If it is flexible, will it cost extra? Plan on budgeting ahead of time for additional excursions or experiences, such as a visit to Versailles when your group is staying in Paris.
7) Where will you stay?
This is very important, especially when traveling with a student group. You need to have some form of oversight to keep track of your students. Make sure that wherever you’re staying is in a safe area for tourists.
8) Will your group be staying in youth hostels?
If a student tour company is offering accommodations at youth hostels, you might want to think twice about signing up. Youth hostels are loaded with noisy coeds that might cause trouble amongst the youngsters in your group.
9) Where will you eat?
If meals aren’t included in your travel package, what will you do to feed you and your group? Are there affordable restaurants at your destination? Research the area you’re visiting to understand prices and availability.
10) Who is your tour guide?
Finding out as much as possible about your tour guide is paramount for a successful student trip to Europe. How many years of experience does he or she have? Are they fluent in the language of the country you’re visiting? Will they stay with the group or have separate accommodations? What services are provided by the tour director?
11) Does the company employ certified tour guides?
This could mean the difference between a great experience and a poor one. A guide that’s certified is much more qualified to talk about the history and culture of your country of destination.
12) Which destinations does the travel company have the most experience with?
You undoubtedly have a few desired destinations in mind. How many years of experience does the travel company have at those locations?
13) Are membership fees applicable?
Does the student tour company charge membership or registration fees? These fees can sneak up on you and quickly suck up extra cash that you’ll want for your trip.
14) What type of support does the tour consultant provide?
If you’re traveling to Europe with students, your tour company should provide support to you and your group. This will keep your mind at ease in case something unfortunate happens.
15) Is there permanent bilingual staff in Europe, 24/7, to support you on your trip?
If you don’t speak a foreign language, make sure that the student tour company is bilingual so you can actually communicate with your support system should an emergency arise.
16) Will your student group be combined with another tour group?
If your group combines with another group, will they be compatible? Two different groups could have opposing opinions on preferred activities when traveling abroad, meaning your students might not see all of the attractions that they want to.
17) Does the program price include fuel surcharges and airport taxes?
Along with hidden fees, fuel surcharges and airport taxes will really cut into your budget, leaving you with less money to explore Europe.
18) Will members in your group be participating in an exchange program?
If you’re participating in a student exchange program, how are the host families qualified? Many times, these families are not paid by the tour company and host an American student out of their desire to learn more about U.S. culture as they teach the young students about their own.
19) How are host families chosen?
Host families normally fill out an application that is sent to the tour company for approval. The tour company then conducts interviews with the potential host families to determine if they are suitable candidates to host an American student. Make sure there’s a given process when searching for a host family.
20) What will students do during their exchange program?
Students that want an immersive experience should try to do an exchange program during the school year so they can visit a European school during their stay. This gives the student a taste of day-to-day life and expands their cultural awareness.
21) Is there a plan in place should a problem arise with the host family?
Should a problem arise, ensure that the tour company has a plan in place to diffuse the issue. Find out whether or not there is a backup plan in place for the potential student that faces a problem.
22) What language skills are necessary when travelling abroad?
Having a good background in the language of the country you’re visiting is helpful, but not a requirement in most cases. Regardless, it’s very helpful if your tour guide is bilingual so he can better guide you.
23) What is the tour company’s cancellation policy?
There are a number of different scenarios in which your trip may be cancelled. A tour company should have policies in place for both a normal cancellation, such as someone changing their mind, and a forced cancellation, such as a terrorist threat. Trips to Europe can be quite pricey, so if something happens, it’s nice knowing that you’re covered from any major losses.
24) How much extra money should students budget for the trip?
It’s recommended that students plan on a minimum of $40 (£37) of spending money per day. This money will go towards meals or snacks, ground transportation, souvenirs and other miscellaneous costs not included in the program price.
25) Can students call home from Europe and can parents contact their children?
Although it detracts from the immersion experience, students should be able to call home if the need arises. All you do is dial 001 before the area code. If a parent needs to contact their child from the United States, they dial 0 – 11 – 33 and the last nine digits of the number.
26) Does the program include medical and trip insurance?
There’s always risk involved when traveling to Europe with students. Finding a program that offers full insurance coverage will help should a medical emergency arise or your trip be interrupted.
27) Does the program offer a payment schedule?
Many families might not have the necessary funds to pay for their child’s trip all at once. That’s where a payment plan comes in handy. This gives the family more flexibility with their finances, while ensuring the child can participate in the trip of a lifetime.
28) Does the student travel program offer a teacher’s grant?
A teacher’s grant can drastically reduce the price the teacher has to pay out-of-pocket. Check with the program about what they offer before you agree to anything.
29) Are there positive testimonials about the tour company on their website or the Internet?
If the student tour is legit, they should feature a number of positive testimonials, from both students and teachers, on their website. But do a little more research on the web to see if any reviews counter those testimonials published by the company.
30) Does the student tour group offer a truly educational experience?
After all, the students are there to learn as much as they can about European culture, history and lifestyle – so, what kind of educational experiences do they provide?
While planning a student trip to Europe seems daunting, you don’t want to miss out on the trip of a lifetime and the educational benefits for your young group. Follow these tips when choosing the best student tour company for your needs and all should go smoothly – safe travels!