Let’s face it, school group trips are unlike all others. The day must be full and the itinerary must be educational. Finding the perfect travel company for your group is not always easy. Use these questions as a guide to help you choose a company that's best suited for your student tour.
1) Is this student travel company a member of the SYTA?
The SYTA (Student Youth Travel Association) is very selective of the companies that it allows to join, and being a member demonstrates stability and quality.
2) Does this travel company offer a refund guarantee protection plan?
It’s important to have homeowners and auto insurance to protect you from risks and perils. Why then, would you start on a trip without that same type of protection? Find a student travel company that understands the importance of your financial security. An honorable tour company will be more than happy to provide you with a copy of the insurance policy upon request.
3) What experience does this company have with school groups in my desired travel destination?
Choose a travel company that is not only an expert in the industry, but also an expert in the destination. Finding a company whose team is comprised of former teachers and experienced professionals who specialize in school trips are essential.
4) Can I see a day-by-day itinerary with information about hotels, transportation, meals and attractions?
Although most companies will not be able to give exact information about your trip before you book, they should be able to mention specific hotels, restaurants, and bus companies that they have used in the past. A great student travel company will be more than happy to share the locations and names of their suppliers with you. That way, you can rest assured knowing that they have already established excellent relationships with their suppliers which indicates that they are a trusted company.
5) How does the company help arrange a quality public performance at the destination?
If your group is a musical one, the performance aspect is the most important element of a student tour. Finding a travel company that plans and executes educational student tours flawlessly may not be able to say the same about performance student tours. You will want to find a company that can also arrange public performances.
6) How closely does the tour company work together with the group leader?
Some companies will have a set tour itinerary and may want you to adapt your desires to that schedule. However, there are many companies that allow for customizable itineraries. If you are paying for the trip, a great company will do everything they can to accommodate your desires in every way.
7) How do I know that the hotels chosen will be right for my group?
Ideally, you want long, indoor hallways with no secondary openings to the outside. You want long-distance phones and adult movies turned off. You want a staff that has worked with school groups in the past and is comfortable with the higher levels of noise and activity that students bring with them. In most cases, the best hotels have indoor hallways and are two and three diamond rated by AAA. Also, be sure to ask about the location of the hotel for pricing variations. In addition, make sure to ask about the hotel's security during the nighttime.
8) Will my group be combined with other school’s traveling?
Some tour companies will combine your group with another group. This arrangement is of a slight benefit in price, but not in convenience. Try to find a travel company that does not combine groups unless specifically called for and both parties are in agreement.
9) Can you please provide me with references?
A tour company should be glad to supply the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of schools that have traveled with them. You are about to entrust thousands of dollars and your reputation with a company — do your homework by calling that company’s past clients and ask some tough questions.
10) Are there any additional tour cost and inclusions?
Know what is and what is not included in the trip package. Know how a change in participant numbers will affect your price. Know how many complementary chaperones are included in the price. Know what the deposit and final payment amounts and schedules are. Also, be sure to ask what the withdrawal penalties are. Price is important, but it may pay in the long run to spend $10.00 more per person up front for a much higher quality trip than to try to save money and be burdened with hidden costs later on.
11) Who will accompany my trip?
A tour company may not be able to give you the name of your escort six months before departure, but they should be able to discuss escort qualifications, training, and experience to your destination. It is also good to ask what portion of your trip will be escorted.
12) Is there someone in the office I can talk to?
Find a company whose staff is cross-trained and anyone, not just your sales rep, can assist you. Also, find out if there is a 24-hour customer service number where you can reach an actual person, rather than a machine, in the case of an emergency.