So, you’re an educator who is brave enough to travel with your students outside the classroom. That’s great! You are going to create some experiences for your students that they will never forget. How, then, do you go about this without taking all your time to book a trip for your group of students? Do you have time to negotiate prices with hotels, bus companies and restaurants? How do you plan an entire tour without sacrificing classroom time and/or losing your mind? Use an educational travel provider, that’s how! Just make sure to not underestimate the small ones!
There are a number of reputable companies out there, big and small. You can see some reviews here and I’m sure if you are like most other educators out there, you know someone who knows someone who has used a company and has either a great (or terrible) story about them. It’s important that you find someone that you trust to work with – someone you feel you have a relationship with, someone who has direct experience with your destination. No, not just important – CRUCIAL. This is the number one thing to do correctly when planning an educational trip and it can be a challenge.
Big Companies – Volume-Based
They have been around for a long time, have a large customer base of 3,000 or more travelers and have good experience negotiating prices on hotels, flights and local transport. In this market, strong negotiating comes mostly from volume discounting. Yes, many try to pack in as many students as possible into a 45 seater touring bus. Can you recruit 45 students? Do you want to recruit 45 students? If you don’t, some companies will find groups from other institutions to travel with you. More often than not, the faculty/teacher leaders of these disparate groups have different academic goals for their travel program. If they can’t find another group to travel with you, some companies reserve the right to cancel your program and offer a completely different itinerary instead! Or they could ask about 60 days before departure for you to travel on another date! So while you might feel comfortable with the size of the big company, this comes at a loss of putting together a program that really meets your needs and at a loss of the certainty of when and where you are going to travel.
Small Companies – Local Expertise
The small travel programs have an advantage. They tend to have more experienced staff who have a deep knowledge and tremendous passion for your destination. These companies are more likely to welcome customizing your program so that it fully matches your goals. Their specific knowledge of the location should also allow them to offer ideas and suggestions you haven’t even thought of. Because these companies are usually a small team, there won’t be multiple layers of bureaucracy between your sales contact and the operations department, making sure your requests don’t fall through the cracks. It’s doubtful you will be on a 45 person bus as well. These small companies tend to partner with small vendors around the world who are very connected locally and thus better equipped to plan your perfect itinerary. These vendors will also handle the emergency management, which is always the main concern when traveling with students. Traveling with these companies might increase the price slightly, but probably not too much. Depending on your specific goals, more often than not, this cost is justified.
How to Choose Your Educational Travel Provider
So, who should you chose? That should always depend on your program’s goals and your feelings about the educational travel company. Our advice, make sure you feel comfortable with the program. That you have a relationship with them. That they have direct expertise and experience with your destination and your program goals. For many of the people traveling with you, your trip may be the only experience they will have with the destination! In the end, go for the people who are passionate about the destinations they offer: the ones who have lived there, have friends who live there and have connections to allow your group to not only see the tourist attractions but also find that hidden gem that few groups will be able to see!