70 Hacks for Student Travel Planning

The editors of Student Travel Planning Guide offer travel organizers advice on negotiating with hotels, chartering a bus, choosing chaperones and mapping out a trip planning timeline.

Anyone who’s ever organized a trip for their students know these adventures don’t just happen—they take hours of careful planning and a team of competent individuals ready, willing and able to assist. Whether it’s choosing a hotel, chartering a bus, selecting chaperones or mapping out a trip planning timelime, our editors chime in on how to keep your next student trip on track.

Negotiating with Hotels

iStock_000018683570SmallIf you are not working with a tour operator, you will need to negotiate directly with the hotel sales department to get the best deal for your group. You’ll rest more comfortably by following these tips:

  • Provide the sales department with the approximate number of sleeping rooms needed, the types of rooms needed, and the dates you want
  •  Book early to ensure your preferred dates and save money, and avoid national holidays unless your trip is based around it
  •  Ask if free breakfast is included and whether it is continental, buffet or a full hot breakfast
  •  Inquire about the hotel’s comp policy—free rooms provided for x number of reservations
  •  Determine if the room rate includes all taxes, tips and hotel/resort fees
  •  Ask about free meeting/party rooms and welcome receptions
  •  Find out if there is free internet access
  •  Inquire if the hotel has been used by other student groups
  •  Use technology to your advantage; websites like grouptravel.hotelplanner.com allow you to post your group request and multiple hotels will bid on your business
  •  Know the deposit and final payment date

Before you sign on the dotted line, know the following:

  •  Be aware of the last day to cancel without losing money
  •  Find out if the hotel has an attrition clause on unused rooms
  •  Get everything in writing, from total price to number of rooms to the smallest promised service
  •  Research the safety of the neighborhood where the hotel is located using websites like spotcrime.com
  •  Investigate the distance from the central city or major attractions using sites like Walkscore.com
  •  Inquire about the hotel’s security program
  •  Inquire about airport/mall transportation – if you have long days on the bus, this will help out the driver immensely

Choosing Great Chaperones

iStock_000042378104LargeChaperones Should…

  •  Have experience working with adolescents
  •  Be willing to help plan and facilitate activities
  •  Be able to attend all pre-tour meetings
  •  Assist with documentation needs such as passports and visas
  •  Prepare to spend money on items not covered in tour
  •  Be able to chaperone small groups of students on flights or tours
  •  Follow all tour guidelines in respect to student expectations

On Tour Responsibilities Include…

  •  Being on call 24/7 in case of emergency
  •  Assisting with student disciplinary matters
  •  Responsibility for small groups of students throughout tour
  •  Helping facilitate curfews and room checks at night
  •  Staying behind if a student is too ill to participate in the day’s activities
  •  Accompanying a student home in case of severe illness
  •  Making sure students are ready at the proper time
  •  Monitoring activities during free time
  •  Willingness to accompany students on free day excursions
  •  Taking over the group if the lead teacher cannot complete the tour

Creating a Trip Planning Timeline

18-24 months prior

  •  Determine purpose of trip – academic or sightseeing
  •  Develop list of invitees
  •  Make a list of potential destinations – domestic and international
  •  Determine approximate length and dates of trip
  •  Have an approximate cost in mind

12 months prior

  •  Choose location and dates
  •  Choose tour operator or start making arrangements on own
  •  Finalize itinerary and set price
  •  Start chaperone selection process
  •  Announce tour and start promoting it – snail mail, email, social media and in-school
  •  Create fundraising plan

6-9 months prior

  •  Early participants should be signed up with deposits paid
  •  Create a list of reading materials or study exercises to prepare students
  •  If a passport or visa is required, now is the time to apply
  •  Promotion, promotion, promotion

3 months prior

  •  Contact students who have shown interest but not committed
  •  Final payments start becoming due
  •  Arrange group transportation to and from airport (if needed)
  •  Have students choose roommates for hotels

One month prior

  •  Schedule a final meeting to confirm trip details and packing lists
  •  Gather emergency contact, medical and allergy information
  •  For overseas trips, ensure participants have passports, adaptors for electronics and spending money in proper currency

Tips for Chartering a Bus


Before signing on the dotted line, ask these questions…

  •  How long has your company been in business?
  •  How many motorcoaches do you own?
  •  What is the average age of your fleet?
  •  What onboard amenities will the coach you charter have?
  •  Are food and beverages allowed onboard?
  •  When quoting rates, are taxes, tips, parking, tolls and driver’s hotel room included?
  •  What are the deposit, final payment and cancellation clauses and dates?

Safety and Financial Matters

  •  Motorcoach companies must have federal operating authority if they cross state or provincial lines and should be able to offer you that proof
  •  Ask for a current insurance certificate that provides a minimum of $5 million in liability coverage
  •  Ask for the US DOT number which allows you to view the carrier’s safety and insurance information
  •  Ask the company about safety and inspection policies
  •  Long or quick turn-around trips may require an extra driver to adhere to federal hours of service safety regulations
  •  Ask if the operator is a member of bus industry associations ABA or UMA
  •  For customer service ratings on bus companies, contact www.bbb.org

Download the 2015 Edition of the Student Travel Planning Guide Today to see this and other great articles!

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