Sunday, January 10, 2016

How to Plan for Taking Students Abroad {Part 2 of 4}

This is Part 2 of my soon-to-be 4-part series on traveling abroad with students. Part 1 (HERE) focuses on why you should take a trip abroad with students, and if you are reading this hopefully you are already sold on the idea. 

I took students abroad twice through EF Tours (and I highly recommend them), but there are dozens of companies that are in the business of taking high school students abroad. You should do a google search for "student travel tours" and see what comes up and what strikes your fancy.  While searching, here are some things to consider.

1.  Think about where students will want to go.

Maybe you would love to do a trip to Haiti, but chances are not many students are going to sign up for that trip. If you aren't sure where students would be excited to go - ask them. When I was having trouble deciding between a trip to Italy (wouldn't it be amazing to go to Capri?!) or Spain (I love Spain so much), I went to the cafeteria during a lunch period and asked each table which destination they would prefer if given the choice. They will also give you other ideas and you'll find yourself promising a trip to Paris next year.

2.  Think about the price tag.

This will be the biggest factor in determining how many students sign up for the trip. Unless you work in an elite private school where parents have close to unlimited funds, it will be hard to sell a $10,000 trip to parents. It will be hard to sell a $3,500 trip to parents, but it can be done. I've done it twice and I didn't work in an elite school with rich parents.

3.  Think about what is included in the price tag.

Does the trip include airfare?  That's going to be the priciest part of the trip, so it's great if you've found a week long trip for $1500, but airfare is expensive, so that price tag is going to double if airfare isn't included.

What is included and what will students have to pay for? This will be the second question parents ask you - immediately after they ask you how much the trip costs. Trips through EF Tours include all breakfasts and dinners - students have to pay for lunch, whatever other souvenirs they want to buy, and tips for the Tour Director and all Guides. You want to be able to give parents an honest final budget - how much the trip costs, plus how much their child should plan on spending for food, souvenirs, tips, and any other reasonable activities.

What other additional trips, excursions, experiences, etc can be added on to the tour? You might want to make these obligatory and included in the final price tag when students sign up. It will be more expensive to add that excursion to Pompeii when you are already in Naples, and honestly, who isn't going to want to go to Pompeii?! That optional bike ride through Barcelona should probably stay optional though. Not everyone knows how to ride a bike and not everyone will be psyched to see the city that way.

How much does insurance cost? I always included insurance in the price tag of the trip, rather than make it an optional additional expense. I don't want to be in a situation in a foreign country where I have to think about how a child should be treated for medical care and - oh no, did he sign that insurance form?! I know he signed that insurance form because I made it required.

How many students (or parents) have to enroll for you to go for free? The prize for planning all of this is free travel. Make sure you take care of yourself and go to whichever wonderful place you pick out for free!

4.  Do you want to travel with other Americans, or travel as a private group?

It's going to be cheaper to travel with other Americans than as a private group. The company has to pay for the bus you will be on, so it's cheaper for you if you are splitting that cost with a full bus of passengers, rather than a small group of 15. It can be a little worrisome to travel with strangers (who you aren't going to meet until you are already there and it's too late to get away from them), but I've only ever had great experiences. You will be with other teachers and their students from a different region (or maybe close by!) of the country, so you will be with like-minded people. Your students will get to make new friends with people they would never have met otherwise and after about 3 days together you will think these kids have known each other their whole lives!

5.  How long do you want to go for?

The longer the trip, the more expensive it will be. However, it will be a better experience if students get to see a lot of different places, so you have to find that balance of having seen a sufficient amount of places, but not so many that it's too expensive.

6.  When do you want to go?

I always traveled abroad with students during Spring Break. I recommend you go during a school break, but not in the summer. Students engage in a wide range of activities in the summer and are not likely to be available for a trip. Also, it probably will not be a popular idea with your administration, other teachers, or parents to plan the trip during regular school days. If your school has a week off for a Fall Break, that could be a good time to go, or if your school has an extended Winter Break. I don't think many students will willingly give up Christmas or Hanukkah for a trip abroad though, so that can be tricky.

7.  Plan WELL in advance! 

The further in advance you plan, the cheaper the payment plan per month will be for students (really for parents). If the trip is in April 2017, the last payment will be in March 2017. If students enroll in September 2016, their first payment will be in October 2016, giving them 6 months to pay for a $3500 trip (for example). That's roughly $583/month that parents have to come up with to pay for the trip. However, if you start planning the trip and recruiting students at the end of the previous school year, say in April 2016, then parents have from May 2016 to March 2017 to pay for the trip, making it about $318/month. More parents can afford the $318/month than the $583.

It will also take time to recruit students. They have many things going on in their lives and even though they say it sounds like a great trip and they really want to go on it and they can't wait to talk to their mom about it, you will see their mom next month at Parent Teacher Conferences and their mother will never have heard of your trip. The longer you have to advertise the trip, the more parents who will really have heard about it and be interested in paying for their child.

8.  How supportive is your administration going to be?

I never had any kind of an issue with my administration. This is a wonderful experience for students, so I cannot imagine an administration having a problem with a trip abroad, but it is probably a good idea to discuss the idea with them before plastering the school in posters and making announcements every morning for the next 4 months. They will appreciate being kept in the loop.

9.  Advertise, advertise, advertise.  

If the company you choose to travel with sends you posters - put them up all over the school in high traffic areas. I also talked to all my classes about the trip and had all the other foreign language teachers in my school do the same, so every student in the school heard about the trip (in theory). The first trip was hard to advertise because such a trip had never been taken before. But once we got back, the whole school heard about how we went to Italy over Spring Break and how now I was planning a trip to Spain, so it was much easier to advertise.

10. Filter students out

This is my polite way of saying "make sure the awful kids don't enroll in your trip and ruin everything". Not every student is ideal for taking abroad. There will be times every single day during the trip when you say "Okay, meet me back here in 3 hours. Bye" and you walk away and leave your students completely unsupervised in a foreign city. You need to have students in that group that you can trust won't get drunk, won't bring drugs in their suitcase, won't wander off, won't cause problems with other students, and just generally won't give you grief. When I advertised the trip to students in my classes, I told them I would not be taking jerks, and then I made eye contact with a few of those jerks. They usually know who they are and won't try to enroll in a trip abroad. That Student that can't follow directions in class and has to be redirected 209384 times every single day and gives you an attitude about every little thing - he's not an ideal travel candidate. When That Student's mom contacted me and expressed an interest in enrolling That Student in the trip, I had the administration call her and "express their concern" for That Student going on a trip to (insert foreign country here) due to his (insert bad behavior choices here). That fixed the problem with That Student possibly enrolling in my trip. Don't ruin the experience for the dozen good kids in your group because That Student enrolled in your trip.

I hope all this information helps you choose and plan a trip abroad with students! Comment below if you know of any other factors to consider when planning a trip! My next part will focus on what to plan for before you go!

UPDATE:
Part 3 "What to Plan for When Taking Students Abroad {Before You Go} is HERE

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