Tuesday 26 Jul, 2011

Common Questions for First-time Group Leaders


Leading your first class trip is an exciting experience. But, like every new experience, it will come with some questions. Tour consultants Luke and Katy took the time to answer several common questions that many new group leaders have:

What kind of support will I have?
EF Explore America provides excellent support for our group leaders. Your tour consultant will help you select a tour and enroll students. A pre-departure specialist will also team up with you and your tour consultant to help with the travel details. We also have an Educational Travel Advisor program that puts you in contact with an experienced group leader to ask questions and get advice.  Our Educational Travel Advisors each have their own expertise, ranging from fundraising advice to seeking school board approval to setting chaperone expectations.

While on tour, you’ll have a tour director with your group 24 hours a day. Our tour directors will handle all the logistics; serve as a guide to your destinations; and are professionally trained to engage students through inquiry-based learning.

If an emergency should occur, you’ll also be supported by our 24-hour emergency line and local offices.


When should I start planning my tour?
As soon as possible! When it comes to preparing for a class trip, it’s never too early to start planning. It’s not because the process is long or difficult, but planning early gives you and your students an advantage. You’ll have more time to advertise the tour and grow your group. For students, planning early can make the trip more affordable, since they will have more time to fundraise and save money. Also, with EF’s monthly payment plan, the sooner students enroll, the smaller their monthly payments will be.  Many of our experienced group leaders start planning next year’s trip even before they travel this year.


Are your tours safe?
EF Explore America goes the extra mile by employing additional security to watch over each group at their hotels. Plus we do nightly safety checks at the hotel. During the day, tour directors and chaperones help keep students safe. (Remember, EF Explore America offers a low free-place ratio, so there is one free chaperone spot for every 10 travelers.) Students also will have ID badges to keep them identifiable, and the badges have important emergency contact information listed on the back. Also, members of our operations team visit venues annually and all on-tour staff go through background checks.


I have a small group; can we still travel?
Definitely! At EF Explore America we can combine groups taking the same tour at the time, which is what we call a consolidated tour. On a consolidated tour you will share the tour bus and tour director.  We offer this to make travel affordable since the price will not fluctuate depending on your group size. The only thing we ask for is some flexibility with your dates to find a time that works for each group in the consolidated group.We often hear how much travelers on consolidated tours enjoy meeting each other and making new friends from other parts of the country.


Are there any scholarships available for my travelers?
Yes! The EF Explore America Explorer Scholarship awards $25,000 annually in scholarships to deserving travelers.  All students need to do is answer the question, “Why is traveling on this tour important to you?” Find out more about the Explorer Scholarship.

EF Explore America also has a helpful fundraising guide for group leaders. This guide is a great way to help you set fundraising goals, come up with new ideas, keep track of your efforts and find grant opportunities.  Ask your tour consultant to send you a copy!


Do I have to handle the groups’ payments? How do payments work?
No, you don’t have to handle any of the students’ payments. EF Explore America has a dedicated customer service team to handle all the financial work associated with your tour. Most students take advantage of EF’s free, easy monthly payment plan.


I’ve tried putting together a trip like this before, but haven’t enough interest.  I’m worried not enough students will want to go.
We’ve got help for that! From getting the word out to getting parents involved and having students enroll, our tour consultants have tips, ideas and resources to help every group leader. Here are a few tried and true ideas:

Is there a student that everyone wants to be around and gets along well with his/her peers? Recruit that student to travel on the tour and ask them to act as a Student Ambassador!  Is there a teacher that all the students love and look up to?  Ask that teacher to travel as a chaperone on the tour to help generate more interest.  For more ideas, check out our post on recruitment ideas.


How am I going to get the school board or administration to approve the trip?
EF Explore America offers a great School Board and Administration Booklet. This booklet outlines our liability policy, commitment to safety, accreditation and relationship with the Smithsonian Institution. We can help you create a packet to present to the school board with the School Board and Administration Booklet, pricing information, a day-by-day itinerary and a plan of action for fundraising events. A EF Explore America representative or Educational Travel Advisor can also come to meet with your school administrators. Ask your tour consultant for both this packet and about coming to your meeting!


I want the trip to be as educational as possible; how can I incorporate the tour into what the students are learning in school?
You’ll have access to our Educator Resource Center with materials to incorporate the tour into the classroom! You’ll also receive on-tour educational materials, which are interactive, educational and fun. Our tour directors are specially trained to engage students through inquiry-based learning, and you can also bring elements of your own classroom to the on-tour experience. Plus, each student will get a travel journal where they can document their travels and write stories about their experiences.


What should the students pack on tour?
As our colleague, a pre-departure specialist, always says to group leaders, “Make sure the students know it is not a fashion show!” Students should pack lightly and know they are responsible for carrying their luggage in the airports and into the hotels.  The most important item is comfortable walking shoes.  It is also important to be prepared for any type of weather with sunscreen, rain gear and warm clothes.  Bring a camera to document all the fun, but don’t bring any unnecessary valuables that might get lost or stolen.


What is a day on tour like?
In one word: busy! You will wake up around 7 or 8 a.m. and eat breakfast at the hotel. Then you’ll hop on the bus or the subway and your tour director will give you an outline of the day. The nature of our tours is to fit in as much as possible and give students a taste of everything the destination has to offer. There is typically some free time each day to shop or explore in small groups, and after dinner you will have an evening activity, such as a Broadway show, a ghost tour or a tour of the monuments lit up! Usually you will get back to the hotel around 10 p.m., tired but ready to rest for another fun day tomorrow!