Choosing The Right Student Travel Company

by Jim Rider - Date: 2007-06-29 - Word Count: 1021 Share This!

Several years ago I was teaching science at a school in Indiana. Our school was going through a transition to a new principal and it was good news. Our new principal (Ralph Walker) was a very progressive thinker. He was open to new ideas and was excited when I brought to him a brochure I had somehow received in the mail. The brochure highlighted an exciting new program that was being promoted to science teachers. The program included staying a few days in Orlando, Florida, with visits to EPCOT Center at Disney World, a day at Kennedy Space Center, and a visit to the beach. Perhaps there were a few other things included that I cannot remember?

We raised money for airfare and for the trip package (airfare was not included). Soon enough, we were on our way and had a pretty good time. The trip was an overall success, though there were a few things that were
promised to us that were not delivered. On this trip, I learned an awful lot about traveling with students and these lessons, as well as others learned later, became valuable in the formation of our own travel company years later.

One of the first things I found is that if it is not in writing, it is not going to happen. This is a painful lesson and can cause bitter feelings for those who have booked a trip. When dealing with any type of trip, or for that
any kind of transaction, get it in writing. "He said-she said" does not hold too much weight especially if other things are documented on paper. We were promised a "welcome pizza party" but it never happened!

A very important detail is to check out the credentials of the company that you are looking to book with. There are several associations that may be important for you to know about depending upon what type of trip you are going to be taking. For example, if you are going to book a student cruise, you probably want your company to be a member of "CLIA"-Cruise Lines International Association. If your company is not a member, you probably want to book with a company that is!

The next credential to look for is "SYTA-Student and Youth Travel Association. This organization has strict guidelines for membership and has created many measures to insure that the student tour company you are dealing with is honest, has been in business a while, and has financial integrity. Membership in this organization insures you that the company you are working with is reputable and will not take your money and run.

The National Tour Association (NTA) and the American Bus Association (ABA) are two other organizations that can increase your confidence in a student tour company as each do have good criteria for membership, however, neither should be taken alone as meaning the company is really good.

After memberships and associations, the most important aspect of choosing a student tour company is the student travel coordinators on the other end of the phone. Are they pleasant and do they LISTEN to what you are saying? There are several companies out there who believe they "know what you want". This is arrogant and should be an immediate turn-off. How can anyone know what you want without you telling them. So, be sure the other person is hearing what is important to you.

Variety of offerings can be important, though this is not as big as others. Is the company you are dealing with able to give you more than one destination if you need options? Or, do they have a "one-size-fits-all"
mentality? Being able to offer options will keep you from going from company to company looking for the ideal trip. If you work with a company that has different options, you can limit the number of calls you have to make before settling upon a decision. Just make sure the person you are speaking with does not claim to know everything about everywhere. This should be a red flag to an informed shopper.

Does the company have a "one-size-fits-all" payment plan? This may not work too well with your group. If they are willing to help you then they are really worth using. A company that is inflexible in payments will be
inflexible in other areas as well. This goes for itinerary, arrangements, and most other items in the trip. Always avoid inflexible companies.

Are there teachers or former teachers working there? This is a good indicator that they know how to work with student groups and within the limitations of working though school systems. In schools, nothing important happens fast! I came to know this very quickly as a teacher and I still find it to be true. Payments are sent out after approval by the monthly board meeting and not sooner. If a company cannot deal with this fact, huge headaches are ahead for you.

Thankfully, we have worked hard to try to meet all of the above-mentioned standards. We learn every year and improve in all areas. We are not perfect, nor is any student travel company. So, when you deal with a company of any kind, stay reasonable. Nothing is 100% all of the time. There are times we hit homeruns, and other times we hit singles. We even occasionally strike out (it pains me to admit this, but it is true). We are all human and regardless of intentions, we all miss it. So, have a positive attitude and expect some little bumps. A company can really shine during these bumps, or they can show their true colors in a negative way. Keep notes and share your feelings with them. A good company will make the necessary changes and appreciate all feedback, whether good or critical.

If you follow the advice given above, you will avoid 99% of the bad companies and chances are you will have a good company to work with. I know many good companies out there and we are always striving to become better and better-as are others! Be wise in your choices, watch out for warning signs, trust your instinct and enjoy the trip!

Related Tags: tours, student travel, bus tours, student tours

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