April 29, 2019
Renée Beck

Traveling internationally with students has to be the best perk in teaching a world language. Watching them interact with native speakers and learn even more about different cultures is amazing! Although the planning can seem overwhelming, it is worth every minute when you see them having fun with their friends while immersed in a francophone community. Even if the students have been abroad before, it is a completely different experience when they are able to travel with their friends.

None of my trips have been school sanctioned, so that adds an extra level of stress since it’s “all on you.” However, through my experience, I’ve learned that you’re not really alone because the parents are always there to help take on some of the work when necessary. Oftentimes as teachers, we do not stop and look at life from the point of view of a parent or guardian. Even though they might have a lot of questions and seem apprehensive, we need to remember that these are their children and they need the proof and reassurance that their child will be safe. Many of the kids have never spent an overnight trip without their parents or guardians, so it’s an important step for both of them. No matter the circumstances, they want their children to go on an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime trip with their friends and enjoy it. With that said, I’ve never had a shortage of volunteers. I’ve had help with meetings, fundraisers, organizing paperwork, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Where and how do you start?

If you need guidance, you can try the following steps in planning.

1. Discuss the idea of traveling abroad with your administration.

  • Ask if you can advertise and organize an international trip with the students.  
  • If the school does not want to sanction the trip, ask if you can organize a trip on your own but still use the school resources, including a room for meetings and the use of the school email to contact and communicate with the parents and guardians.

2. Contact a travel company to obtain an itinerary and a price quote.

  • Ask the company to collect all of the money directly, leaving you out of the process.
  • Ask the company to allow the parents and guardians to sign up without paying the deposit until you have the minimum number of participants for the quoted price.

3. Prepare and advertise an informational meeting.  

Provide a packet of information including:

  • The name of the company, an itinerary, and the price quote
  • A printout of the FAQs from the tour company’s website
  • Information around how to download, sign up, and utilize a communication app such as Remind™. With this type of app, you can create a closed group with a unique access code that will allow each interested party to join. This will allow for easier communication in the future. Allow and encourage them to sign up even if they do not know if their child will be going. This will enable you to have a way to contact the parents or guardians directly.
  • Required communication sign-up

Because not every parent or guardian will be at the meeting, you will need to have other means of communicating with them. Ask for a main contact email. With the email, you will be able to communicate the same information through multiple means of communication. Also, you may have a limited number of words allotted to an app and need to send out an email with the important details. An app like Remind is fun because it also allows you to send pictures and updates to parents while on the trip. The parents love it!

4. Meet with parents or guardians.

The parents or guardians will have a lot of questions, and you will need to be prepared to answer them. Most of their questions will be answered with the FAQs from the tour company’s website, but you need to be prepared for anything.

Common questions include:

  • How much spending money is required or recommended?
  • Are there free times?
  • How will meals be arranged?
  • How will phone usage work?
  • What happens if my child becomes ill while on the trip?  
  • What if we end up not being able to go?
  • Who watches the rooms at night?
  • Can you use a prepaid card?

NOTE: If the students are using a prepaid card, be sure to verify that it works in your destination country. You do not want your students to be without money on such a memorable trip!

Remember to take notes on the questions for which you do not have an answer, and let the parents and guardians know the answers will be given at a later date.

Don’t forget to tell the parents you will be collecting tip money for the bus driver(s) and tour guide(s) the morning of the trip. Ask the tour company for the expected amount per traveler.   

5. Follow up before the trip.

After the parent meeting, be prepared to collect and keep track of all forms as they are submitted. It is helpful to use a printout with all participants’ names and check each form as they are received. Collect all forms before the day of departure. The tip money and travel documents, such as a passport, should be collected the morning of departure. Do not travel with a student without first receiving all forms!

Common forms that I have requested in the past:

  • A health form, which includes a list of both prescribed and over-the-counter medications. All students are required to submit this form even if they are not sending medication. All medication needs to be in its original packaging, placed in a zipper bag with the child’s name on it. A designated person will keep all medications at all times and dispense them as directed.
  • A consent form for traveling outside the country signed by both parents or guardian(s)
  • A behavior form signed by the student and their parents or guardians explaining that you can send the child home at their expense if the rules are not followed. Typically, the school behavior guidelines are expected to be followed while on the trip.
  • A photocopy of their travel document such as a passport, a passport card, or a certified copy of their birth certificate. Collect a copy of each ahead of time and the original document the morning of the trip. The photocopies are for proof of residency if the official travel document is lost or misplaced.

6. Ready to go!

On the morning of your departure, be sure to have the other chaperones help you collect and track the official travel documents, the medication, and the tip money.

As a reminder, don’t forget:

  • The official travel documents should be kept with you at all times, especially at the border crossing.
  • Medication must be in its original packaging with the student’s name clearly written on the package.
  • Bring tip money

7. Wave goodbye, sit back, and relax. Don’t forget that you will also enjoy the trip abroad!! ☺

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