Are you a teacher who's committed to traveling with a group of students? First off, congratulations! Student travel experiences (like these!) are some of the most memorable and enriching educational opportunities you can provide. Getting students outside the classroom—and their comfort zones—offers so many teachable moments. Not only are you exposing them to unfamiliar cultures and environments, you're creating an opportunity for students to bond with peers outside their usual group of friends. These are memories that are going to last a lifetime.
At Ecology Project International (EPI), we've been traveling with student groups for more than 20 years. We know the experience can be daunting, but armed with some strategic preparation and an upbeat attitude, we know you can do it, too! We chatted with longtime EPI teacher Ty Flom from Durango High School to gather some handy tips for traveling with a group of students.
Before You Depart: Plan and Prepare!
Several months before departure, plan on holding more than one lunchtime or afterschool meeting to go over travel logistics with your students. Decide whether or not you'll be checking bags, what time you'll arrive at the airport, and go over the documentation everyone will need.
Assign students a travel buddy for extra accountability.
Create matching t-shirts for the group to make it easier to spot everyone on travel day, or ask everyone to wear the same color if this isn't in the budget. EPI, for example, provides program participants with matching shirts before departure.
Flom advises students to limit luggage to a carry-on-sized duffel and backpack and avoid checking bags at all.
If possible, ask students to bring two forms of payment in the event there's a cash shortage or a credit card machine is down.
Give everyone a logistics handout that includes your flight itinerary, the address of your destination, and important phone numbers such as yours, a chaperone's, and a contact from home.
Navigating the Airport: the Organization Game
Arrive to the airport early! Three to four hours early for international flights will give you more time to account for any missing documentation and help with peace of mind.
If you're traveling internationally, triple check that the students have their passports and minor international travel letters before you check in.
When checking in for your flight, collect all passports and go to the ticket counter to get the tickets. Have the group gather in an area within earshot in case they need one student. Then hand back tickets and passports to the students.
Exception: Hang on to the passports and tickets of students who chronically misplace things—you know who they are!
Head straight to your gate, pile up the bags in one central location, and then let the students get food or visit the restroom. Chaperones or students can take turns watching the group's belongings.
En Route to your Destination: Anticipate Student Needs
Make sure the kids are drinking water and eating snacks—hangry and dehydrated kids are just harder to manage.
Keep the students who lack directional sense near you and assign a backup pair of eyes, such as a student who is very aware or another chaperone.
Chances are there's going to be a student who is overtired, crying, or just can't walk anymore. Be mentally prepared for this. Provide them with extra support by carrying their bag or just being with them.
If you end up with flight delays or other complications, be sure to let the airline know you're with a group of students—chances are they're going to be more sympathetic to a group of minors.
Upon Arrival: Be in the Moment!
After you deplane, stop at the restrooms immediately before waiting in line for immigration or exiting the airport.
When you're at immigration and customs, relax and stay positive! The line moves more quickly than you think. Take it all in and be in the present moment.
Congratulate yourself on a big undertaking and enjoy your trip!
Do you have tried and true tips you'd like to share for traveling with a group of students? Shout 'em out in the comments below!