Technology is a distraction. That’s a common feeling among society today. The mini computers in our hands capture attention with digital games, live streaming videos and social media feeds, all keeping us in an endless thumb scroll. Rather than shun these mobile machines, many companies in the student travel industry are embracing them. They are finding innvative and disruptive ways to incorporate them into their itineraries to make the travel experience even more fulfilling and eductional for students. How are tour operators lifting students’ eyes from the screen to the real world?

National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey in Times Square

National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey in Times Square, Credit: NYCGO

They’re using some of the technology that has emerged in recent years to transform smartphones into helpful tools rather than diversions from the travel experience. In addition, organizations are utilizing technology to improve the trip-planning process during every stage, as well as increase their efficiency when it comes o everyday activities. And the movement is not limited to tour companies. Individual attractions and destinations are also getting into the tech game with their own apps to enhance student visits and make the trip more memorable for everyone.

Planning and Managing

One of the most time-consuming and complicated elements of student trips is planning. As a result, tour operators have been using technology more and more to ease stress and make life easier for group leaders and parents. “We have been looking to implement technology at every stage of the trip,” says Robb Showalter, Brand Development Manager at Bob Rogers Travel. “Our online MyTour system allows groups leaders to access trip details, traveler details, payment information, tasks that need to be completed, important documents and more.” Leaders can access this information at any time and from anywhere.

National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey

Credit: National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey

Bob Rogers Travel also offers its Individual Payment System (IPS) to let families pay the company directly, says Showalter. This removes the need for directors to collect payments, giving them one less thing to worry about. Super Holiday Tours also offers a secure online payment system for parents where they can manage their balance and pay it down in convenient increments that work with their timeline and budget. While these tools may seem basic, they create a straightforward experience for administrators and parents. “We want our technology tools to assist group leaders at every stage,” says Showalter. “Giving them everything they need right when they need it.”

Tech on the Ground

If students can get distracted by smartphones in a classroom, what’s to prevent the same thing from happening in a museum or on a guided city tour? Attractions, destinations and tour operators have addressed this issue, turning the phones into educational tools through modern technology. The National Park Service (NPS) has developed several free phone apps for its parks to help group leaders plan a trip and “discover the stories that make our parks.