1 | Going DIY

Apart from the obvious financial protection offered by tour companies in the form of ABTA or ATOL bonding, it’s very easy to underestimate the amount of time and effort that you will expend on arranging a ‘DIY’ trip.

It pays off to approach a reputable tour company with years of experience invested in their teams.

They will have first-hand knowledge of your destination and a good ‘bank’ of suppliers from which to choose appropriate services for your trip, and can offer 24-hour help and support in the unlikely event that anything should happen – from flight delays to last minute cancellations, etc.

2 | Missing information

Tour companies and their suppliers such as airlines, hotels and leisure attractions overseas will ask for a lot more information in one place than you are probably used to processing.

It’s important to collect as much data as early as possible, including passport information, nationality, and even dietary requirements.

This allows the tour company to identify anything that needs action, like an expired passport, or a non-EU national who might need additional entry documents for their destination.

3 | ‘Relaxed’ commitment terms

Invariably a tour price will be based on a ‘minimum number’ of participants, and if you book the tour and pay deposits for those numbers, then you are committing to maintaining those numbers, whether you have achieved them at the time of booking or not.

Deposits to tour operators are almost always non-refundable, so it’s a good idea to ask for a bigger initial deposit from your participants than is being asked for by the tour company: this way you have a ‘cushion’ against late payers, dropouts, or replacement participants.

4 | Not delegating responsibility

Surround yourself with a team of competent staff colleagues who can take on particular roles either in tour preparation or on the actual trip, such as collecting certain data, looking after passports or pocket money on the tour, or managing pastoral groups.

Delegating should also extend to ensuring that it’s the parents’ responsibility to ensure their child has the correct documents (passport, visa if applicable), and that they adhere to a code of conduct prior to and during the tour.

5 | Ignoring curriculum support

The benefits of opportunities to learn outside the classroom are far reaching. To maximise the positive impact of the trip and help gain approval from parents and the school to run the trip in the first place, ask your operator how they can support you to promote these benefits.

You can also recruit your students to help with posters for the classroom and approach the operator to help provide materials and information for presentations you can give to pupils and parents.

6 | Not doing things in the right order

Many tours don’t get beyond the planning stage because teachers haven’t gauged parental interest and got approval from the headteacher first.

Approaching an operator for a quote first can be a huge waste of time for all concerned. Making an enquiry should be the last step in the process and allows tour companies to give a much better service.

7 | Not using an accredited provider

Using an STF-accredited provider saves you precious time in filling out paperwork and gives you peace of mind that the elements of the trip have all been carefully checked on your behalf.

There’s a comprehensive online Teacher Toolkit at schooltravelforum.com to address common concerns, from fears over liability issues to how to minimise the administrative burden.


Gill Harvey is chief executive of the School Travel Forum (STF).