Presently, high school and middle school teachers are constantly being solicited by student travel companies wanting to take their student group on a tour either within the United States or abroad. In each school system, there are many groups who like to travel including band, chorus, orchestra, dance, science, history, class trips and more. The rush of excitement one faces when planning a tour, though, can overshadow the more important question of “Which student travel company is reliable and safe to partner with?” In determining which company to choose, one should ask the following questions before making an informed decision:
Is the tour company a member of any association or organization that advocates excellence in student travel?
The student tour operator must be a member of an organization/association that is committed to integrity, honesty, value and service. Associations like the Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA), the American Bus Association (ABA), the National Tour Association (NTA) and Music Educators National Conference (MENC) are just a few associations that meet these requirements.
What kind of Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating does the company have?
This is where you can do your homework. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see what kind of overall score the company has. Also, check all reviews and complaints. If there are a lot of complaints or negative reviews, one should probably steer clear of the company in question. On the flip side, if a company has an A+ rating with positive reviews, then this company might warrant a phone call. Moreover, you can check the search engines for reviews and/or complaints as well.
Is the student travel company a full-service company and do they customize trips?
There are many student tour operators who only sell “canned” trips. Steer clear of this type of operator! They want you to travel using their itinerary, in which they receive hefty incentives from their suppliers for booking a large amount of groups. Unfortunately, most of these companies do not pass these savings and incentives on to you. I suggest choosing a travel company that customizes your trip, your way. Choose a company that provides many options and will meet your curriculum and budgetary needs. Also, make sure the company will plan everything from A to Z providing you with a worry-free trip. This will give you peace-of-mind.
Does the company book reputable vendors?
Choose a company that books only late model motor coaches, books interior corridor hotels, provides security in the hotel, separates male and females on different hotel floors, arranges group dining in reputable restaurants, gives you the option of travel insurance and more. Choose a company that is honest, provides safe and reliable tours and offers specific guidelines on the itinerary, covering all aspects of the trip.
Does the company provide its own tour guide to accompany the group?
The tour guide should accompany the group from the beginning of the trip to the end to oversee all of the arrangements including transportation, accommodations, meals, acquiring attraction tickets and more. A qualified tour guide will help in making one’s trip run smoothly.
Does the tour guide know the destination?
For the protection of you and your group, you should choose a company that employs trained guides with certification from schools such as the International Tour Management Institute, a prestigious school specifically accredited for training tour guides. These trained guides not only will know your destination, but are knowledgeable, experienced, friendly and efficient as well.
Overall, do your homework. Ask questions, read brochures, check out websites, call the competing student tour operator companies and find out what to expect from each. By asking the above-mentioned questions, one should be able to narrow down the choices to a few student travel companies. Ask for bids and choose a company that will best suit your travel needs, curriculum requirements and budget. Always make sure you select a safe and reliable company that will customize your trip, your way and provide you with excellent service.