When educators first get the inspiration to travel with their students, they usually turn to a tour operator that specializes in student travel. Whether it’s a short trip to the state capital or an international adventure, these organizations can smooth the way and make the planning process a positive experience.
Lifting many of the burdens off the teacher’s shoulders, experienced operators take care of all the details, from flights and bus transportation to hotel arrangements. They also may provide free travel and other incentives to teachers interested in forming groups.
Here is a brief look at seven student tour operators and what they offer:
Brightspark Travel is a company based in Chicago, Illinois that specializes in educational and performance travel for students. The company simplifies student travel by planning the essentials of the group’s trip, including: flights, hotels and attraction tickets. Brightspark helps customize the experience to fit the group’s needs.
Based on the belief that travel brings new insights to people, Brightspark’s mission statement is “A Bigger World for Every Student.” Brightspark emphasizes experiences beyond the classroom that facilitate learning and is dedicated to giving students a unique experience. The team is committed to helping teachers with every step of planning process, and provides resources for recruiting for tour and fundraising tips.
Brightspark offers tours all over the United States, Canada, South America, and Europe. Groups can view the beautiful architecture in Chicago and have a slice of its famous deep-dish pizza, or explore historical landmarks and memorials in Washington, D.C. The nine-day tour in London, Paris and Rome includes visiting the Tower of London, Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, Roman Forum, Colosseum, and more.
For bands of all types, including marching, concert and jazz, Brightspark offers several performance events and tours. Dance tours are also available, which are focused on connecting dancers with professionals in ways that will inspire them to be their very best. Other options for theatre, choir and dance include performance tours in New York City and the National Performing Arts Festival at Disney World, giving students the opportunity to learn from the Broadway professionals. For more information, please visit www.brightsparktravel.com.
2. Education First
EF, short for Education First, is a world leader in international education based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With more than 45 years of experience and offices in more than 50 countries, EF provides tours for educators and students from middle school through college.
EF helps students reach their education goals by providing educational travel, cultural exchanges, language training and academic degrees. On a 9- to 12-day tour of Athens and Crete, students will learn about ancient Greek history, visiting sites such as the Palace of Knossos, Acropolis and Agios Nikolaos. A 10-day AP English Literature tour in England visits the Bronte Museum, Clifford’s Tower and the Roman Baths. For groups who enjoy wildlife, “Discover South Africa” is an 11-day tour that allows students to learn about South African politics and history while viewing natural attractions like Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Kruger National Park.
An incentive for teachers who choose EF is the Global Rewards Program, which gives teachers travel and gift rewards. Teachers may earn points by enrolling students in one of the tours, referring other teachers to EF and pre-booking optional excursions. Points in the Global Rewards Program never expire as long as the teacher remains as an active EF Group Leader. (eftours.com)
3. Globus Student Discoveries
The Globus family of brands provides tours in North America and Europe. Globus has over 80 years of experience and offers more than 400 tours to more than 70 countries on six continents. Washington D.C., Boston and Philadelphia are a few of the most popular domestic destinations, while popular destinations in Europe are Italy, London and Paris. Globus provides customized service, with trips tailored to the classroom curriculum.
Teachers can enjoy benefits that Globus Student Discoveries provides. When 10 students travel on a trip, the teacher travels for free. Teachers also receive a single room at no additional cost. Also, teachers with qualified student groups may earn up to a $1,000 donation for their school.
Group Voyagers, Inc. is the company that markets the Globus family of brands including Globus, Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon Waterways. Starting out as a small company, the Globus family of brands is comprised of more than 30 tourism and aviation businesses and is one of the leading tour operators worldwide. (globusjourneys.com)
The world’s leading travel booking site for students and youth, StudentUniverse partners with more than 70 airlines to provide global trips possible. A unique pricing structure grants discount rates to large student groups, and a partnership with Flight Central in 2015 ensured your students can now take reasonably priced trips to diverse countries such as Hong Kong, Australia, India and the United Arab Emirates.
The company emphasizes “adventure” in its tour itineraries, so whether your group wants to explore bustling European cities or South American mountains, StudentUniverse has a tour to match your ambition. The Botswana & Falls adventure takes students on a weeklong excursion through the lush landscapes of Zambia and South Africa, while the Best of Spain and Portugal guides your group through the cuisine and culture of the Iberian Peninsula. Do your students want to remain in the states? The National Parks & Bright Lights winds its way through the great national parks of the American West, including the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Yosemite.
5. Straight A Tours
Straight A Tours is a leader in student group travel based in Orlando, Florida that provides travel arrangements for students to destinations all over the United States. It is also the largest provider of cruise excursions for student groups.
Student groups in California can experience theme parks and other attractions. Itineraries in Northern and Southern California might include the Golden Gate Bridge, Disneyland and SeaWorld San Diego.
Straight A Tours’ “Festivals at Sea” program includes workshops, classes and presentations that can be arranged with the ships’ staff and crew members on the ship. For example, Celebration Cruise Line offers a 2-night cruise that takes student groups from West Palm Beach, Florida to Grand Bahama Island. Straight A Tours also offers packages with Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line. In addition, groups have the option of adding top destinations such as Disney World, Universal Studios or New Orleans before or after the cruise. (straightatours.com)
A middle school teacher from Chicago discovered the positive impact of travel on students and established Lakeland Tours in 1967. In the 1990s, Lakeland Tours combined with other travel programs, including American Student Travel, Educational Field Studies, Heritage Festivals, Bowl of America and Wider Horizons to create WorldStrides.
WorldStrides is a travel study school that is independently accredited in regions across the country and around the world. It provides educational travel programs for elementary, middle, high school and university students. WorldStrides’ mission is “Enriching Students’ Lives Through Experiential Travel.” One popular destination is Washington D.C, where students learn about American government and history in the nation’s capital. The 4-day trip visits sites such as the Washington Monument, White House and Holocaust Museum.
Educators can also gain valuable experience by traveling with WorldStrides. Qualified educators can receive free professional development or low-cost graduate credit. They can also travel with students for free and may receive an allowance in the form of cash or scholarships for each student who travels. (worldstrides.org)
ACIS, the American Council for International Studies, has been a leader in quality educational travel for middle and high school students since 1978. The company emphasizes Cultural Connections, where students interact with local tour guides and artisans no matter where in the world their trip takes them. Students can look forward to authentic meals that represent local cuisine and hotels close to historic sights instead of long bus trips or catered meals.
With tours across six continents and personalized service from a dedicated international program team, ACIS has established an excellent reputation after nearly 40 years in the industry. Unique tours include Kia Ora New Zealand, where students will explore Maori villages and embark on a dolphin sightseeing cruise, and Gateway to Japan, which includes a bullet train ride and stop at Matsumoto Castle.
By Vernie Wong