Although I doubt you are still doing your trip research with books in the library and organizing everything using pencil and paper, everyone has a different level of awareness regarding the technological options available for pre-trip planning and on-tour assistance. The following are what we consider to be some of the better solutions available to make your job easier and your student group trip safe and enjoyable for everyone.
You’re very likely familiar with Twitter, but even if you are not, your students definitely are. However, known to fewer is a specialized service Twitter provides that can be very useful to the group travel leader, Group Tweet.
Enabling up to 100,000 contributors to tweet into the same account, you can have all of your students sign up for this service and use it to create your own private Twitter-based message board. Want to send a reminder to everyone that they have 15 minutes to meet in the hotel lobby to catch the bus? Don’t go around knocking on 50 hotel room doors, just post a Tweet to the group. Need to notify everyone of a schedule change that occurred while the students were exploring the city on their free time? Just post a Tweet to the group. Someone left their hat on the bus and you don’t know who it belongs to? Don’t gather everyone together to find out, just post a Tweet and have the student come to you.
Gone are the days of post-trip gatherings where everyone brings their mountains of developed photos and the group combs through them for shots that they missed. However, the desire to share photos remains, and with 50 students on a trip, each with a camera, that means that your group will generate a tremendous number of photos. What is the best way for everyone to benefit from those students who happen to have the quickest hands at the right moment and capture the perfect pictures? There are many photo sharing services online today, but with their recent upgrade to 1 Terabyte of free storage space (that’s 1000GB), their intuitive mobile applications, and the ease with which you can create private photo galleries and share them only with the people you choose, our recommendation goes to Flickr.
Practical Mobile Applications
While both Group Tweet and Flickr have a mobile app component, they are social in nature and are designed to be used by the whole group. The following is a list of purely informational mobile apps that will help you as the group travel leader.
Smart Traveler App. The official State Department app for U.S. travelers, Smart Traveler provides you with easy access to frequently updated official information on every country in the world. This includes travel alerts, travel warnings, maps, U.S. embassy locations and more, all of which can be extremely valuable for the international group travel planner in both pre-trip information collection, such as noting visa requirements, and for on-trip information, like how to report a crime to local authorities.
GPS Tracker Pro. Keeping track of one teenager is difficult enough, but doing so for 50 can be a Herculean task. Since you are unlikely to separate students from their smartphones, you might as well use them as a tool to keep track of your group while on tour.
The GPS Tracker Pro app will allow you to form a group of contacts on your phone and then receive real-time information on the location of everyone in that group. Now you can feel more comfortable during your students’ scheduled “free time” and use it to set up check-in times and locations for when it is time to bring everyone back together.
Wi-Fi Finder. Whether you are just traveling to another part of the United States or to an international destination, being occasionally connected to the internet is considered a requirement for many travelers. This app contains an offline and online directory of Wi-Fi hotspots and even has an active scanning tool that will allow you to find any Wi-Fi signal within the range of your device.
Word Lens. Extremely useful for student groups traveling to international destinations, Word Lens translates printed words from one language to another with your smartphone’s video camera, in real time. No network connection needed. This app can be a lifesaver when the reading language skills of your group aren’t up to the task.
ATM Hunter. This is the fast and easy way for you to locate the closest ATM location. And because the ATM Hunter is location aware, there’s no need to input your address or current location, no matter where in the world you are. The ATM Hunter lets you tailor your search on what you want to do. If you need to make a deposit or want to use your own bank to avoid fees, you can search for your specific bank’s ATMs. If you just need to pick up some cash, you can search for all nearby ATM locations.
– Lance Harrell