How to Select an Educational Travel Company

There are many criteria that can be imposed on a student travel company to evaluate effectiveness. I will outline the characteristics that I feel are most important to a quality student travel experience, no matter what the destination.

Experience in Educational Student Tours
Educational group travel is a special field. It is unlike other niches in the travel industry for many reasons. Students must be chaperoned, supervised, kept on schedule, and provided fun and entertaining things to do that are age appropriate. Educational Travel Consultants have 24 years of experience in booking student tours. We understand parent’s concerns. We know how to create itineraries that are in sync with educator’s objectives. Most importantly, ETC associates understand that the educational experiences students receive on visits to Washington D.C., Orlando, Florida, New York City and other destinations must be balanced with social opportunities and chances to dine, shop, and visit interesting sites.

A Background in Education
An excellent student travel company will have owners or members of the management team who have spent some years in the field of education. This is an excellent professional foundation for creating an exciting student travel experience. If key players in the student travel company have spent years in education, they will not only understand the teacher’s and parent’s perspectives of student travel, but will also know how to appeal to students while developing and executing student tours. I started out in the field of teaching and moved into educational travel, because I enjoy student travel so much more.

Security for Students While Traveling
For many parents, the thought of letting a child go away on a school field trip is a bit disconcerting. There are many things parents have to fear in the age of terrorism and child abductions. The unforeseen, such as accidents, travel delays, and miscommunications are possibilities as well. A qualified student travel company with excellent customer service will have liability insurance for unforeseen events, good communications about travel delays and other challenges, and be available to answer questions.

Keeping students secure is a challenge in some urban areas. Educational Travel Consultants selects safe suburban hotels for accommodations. The hotels selected have indoor hallways. An experienced educational travel company will make certain that children are supervised around the clock. In the evenings, after meals, Educational Travel Consultants provides private security for its groups.

In conclusion, an educational travel company should have an extensive background in student travel, some background in education, excellent communication and customer relations, and security procedures in place for student safety. Feel free to contact us at info@educationaltravelconsultants.com.

Educational Tours of Washington D.C.: Please Book Early!

There are many reasons to plan ahead with student travel groups headed for Washington D.C. One of the main reasons is that educational tours to the White House and The Capital are now planned well in advance.

In the days before 911, student groups waited in special lines upon arrival at the Capital building in Washington D.C. Since 911 and the War with Iraq, an educational tour to the Capital must be scheduled in advance through a local Congressman or Congresswoman. If the field trip to Washington D.C. is scheduled well in advance, chances are good that planning for the educational tour will go smoothly. If the request to visit the Capital is made at the last minute, the likelihood of scheduling the visit is remote.

Because so many student travel groups feel that a visit to the Capital is mandatory for a well- rounded experience of Washington D.C. I always emphasize that groups should plan early.

VIP Tours of the White House
Visits to the White House must also be scheduled in advance. Upon arrival to the White House, it is still mandatory that educational tour groups stand in the public line to wait for their tour.

A member of Educational Tour Consultants professional staff will schedule a special VIP tour with enough advance notice from the student tour group. The White House VIP tour saves time. Students do not have to wait in line at 7:00 a.m. the day of the tour in hopes of procuring an admission ticket for later in the day. Also this educational tour is usually led by a Secret Service Agent or another trained tour guide.

Ideally, student groups traveling to the Washington D.C. area in 2008 should be booking field trips now. With several months notice tours of the Capital and the White House can be scheduled. Email info@educationaltravelconsultants.com for more information.

Why would anybody want to travel to Washington, DC

Why would any school group (performing or social studies) want to go to Washington, DC this school year? Fuel prices are at record highs, meaning for the 2nd year in a row there is going to be a steep increase in trip prices. The fallout of high fuel prices (since transportation costs, affect other areas of the travel industry), like the cost to transport meats and vegetables to restaurants and paper products and work uniforms to hotels. Then there is the safety issue. Israel is at war with terrorist groups in Lebanon. Other terrorist groups are threatening the United States. We had the 9/11 disaster in 2001 and the war with Iraq in 2003. We had many schools cancel their trips or show absolutely no interest in traveling to Washington, DC or for any US city for that matter. Hey, I am just playing devil’s advocate. Actually, in spite of these real things happening, the early phone calls and e-mails from teachers show a very brisk travel season ahead. Go figure. A few years ago, any change in world affairs, would scare schools off. Not any more. Maybe we are getting “thicker skins” and are adjusting to this new way of life, that the United States and its people are no longer insulated from the rest of the happenings of the world.

Thunderstorms “fried” us for a couple days

I always heard that the Tampa Bay area of Florida was the lightening capital of the United States. More days of lightening per year than any other place. Well, lately it’s our home office in Hendersonville, North Carolina. It may be hot from Washington, DC to Florida across to Arizona, but the active weather seems to be in my town. What’s really strange was that we didn’t get a drop of rain from the last storm, yet the lightening strikes (about 2 miles away) reached our office and “popped” our surge protectors, blew out 2 computers, and a router which took us off the internet. I now know how far lightening can travel (pretty darn far). This handicap lasted about 2 days. I never knew I was so dependent on the internet till I had no internet. All is well now.

Oh What A Day!

My wife and I were in Mexico this past week (as we do mission work across the border in Matamoros, Mexico). We were to board our flight at 4:00pm yesterday for a simple 1 hour flight to Houston to then connect to our last flight to Asheville, NC. Our incoming plane was delayed because of mechanical problems. By the time it got to Brownsville (over 2 hours late) we would now miss our connection (which was the final flight of the day) back home. We decided to still go on to Houston and get one flight out of the way, spend the night in a Houston hotel, and fly the final leg today.

So we boarded the plane and left Brownsville at 6:30pm. Just before landing in Houston, our pilot informed us that a severe thunder storm decided to sit over the airport, and the airport was now closed. The pilot said we had extra fuel so we could circle for awhile. Well, after an hour of circling (and the airport still closed) we were running low on fuel, and now had to be diverted to San Antonio to take on fuel. We landed in San Antonio at 9:30pm. As we were fueling, our pilot got on the speaker and said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that Houston airport is now open. The bad news is that this flight crew has now exceeded our legal flying time for the day. So we will have to have you deplane here and get on another jet. (There were already about a dozen other jets that also had to divert to San Antonio because they were also low on fuel). So we got on another jet and finally 5 hours after leaving Brownsville, we got to Houston. We were supposed to be home last night by 10:30pm. We got home today around 9:00pm. Oh yeah, we also had to fly into another airport (Greenville) and get a ride home (65 miles) instead of the 10 miles it would have been from Asheville airport. The end result is we got home about 24 hours late and with more flights and stops then we had ever planned on.

The Washington, DC Cycle is Recycling

About every 5 years the cycle of demand/supply in Washington, DC goes full circle. Even the affects of 9/11 haven’t changed that cycle. Right now (as things appear) hotel availability will be in short supply (and high demand) and prices will be up. We know this from being in direct contact with the hotels on a daily basis. School groups (especially larger ones like bands and choirs) need to be especially aware of this. Do not wait very long to make your Washington, DC travel arrangements, especially if you are traveling from Mid March thru mid June 2007. Prices will either be outrageous (for the few hotels that will have availability and will gouge) or you may be staying 50 miles or more from the center city. We have been in business 23 years and this is the 4th or 5th time the cycle has gone this way. What will most likely happen a couple of years from now is hotel general managers will be calling us with special deals because thy will have alot of empty rooms. However, that’s not this year. Book your trip early.

Orange level travel alert is not scaring people

After about one week of having to adjust to Orange Level restrictions (nuisances), most everyone has adjusted to not being able to take drinks onboard a plane or bringing things on like liquids or gels, or chap stick, or make up. Even in the toughest airport, Washington, DC Reagan National Airport (because of the proximity to government sensitive areas), things are pretty much normal again. A poll was recently conducted after the latest terrorist scare and the question was, ” Are you very scared to travel/fly?” 23% of the respondents said yes. What is interesting to note is that that is the same identical percentage that responded the same way one year after the 9/11 terrorist attack. This means we are not letting scare tactics bother us the way they used to (at least in this case.).

Student groups going to Washington DC want a tour of the Capitol

All the school groups we have that go to Washington, DC, whether it is a history or government class, or even it’s a choir or band, all want to visit the US Capitol and tour it. If you can think back five years ago (pre 9/11), you could get in one line if you had a school group and another for individuals and families and go right in without a reservation. Also no elaborate security screening. Those days are gone. That is why we stress that school groups need to book their trip early with us. Once we know your dates and approximate travelers, we can contact your local US Congressman (or woman) or Senator and get an appointment for you. This is now the only way you can get into the Rotunda of the Capitol. Some groups would like to get gallery passes too for the US House of Representatives or for the Senate, and we can also get those, but again book early, as the reservations are strictly controlled and it’s first come, first reserved. I feel badly for some school groups who book later in the fall and want to travel at a particularly busy Spring week. All we can do at that point is make the US Capitol a picture taking spot. All reservations would have been given out. Besides 9/11 the current architects that have been involved with renovations of the building, have put a maximum on the number of visitors allowed through the building each day (which is about 60% of what it used to be). So again, I say book your trip early so you won’t be disappointed about not getting into the US Capitol as well as other popular Washington, DC attractions.

Terrorist plot foiled on flights to USA

I don’t like these kind of stories, especially related to the sensitivity of the student travel market, but everyone is thinking back again to September 11, 2001 after yesterday’s foiled plane bombing plan. I have school groups right now booked on flights to New York City and Washington, DC and it makes people think again of the terrorist attack of five years ago. My mindset is different than alot of Americans, although I think over the last five years many have changed their mindset too. My mindset is, we no longer live in a protective “glass bubble” immune to events in other parts of the world. Israel has lived in a state of military readiness for years and yet they still live normal day to day lives (even with the latest rocket attacks from Hezbollah). The United States has a “knee jerk” reaction to terrorist threats. That reaction is to stop doing what we normally do and change our plans. This is actually one of the goals the terrorists have in mind. I’m not saying our country should not be caught with “their pants down”. I’m in favor of security measures. However, even with security measures in place, it does not make us impenetrable. We have to be able to live our normal lives (as they do in Israel) knowing we have very good security measures and an excellent Intelligence Department capable of sniffing out and finding terrorists and their plans against our country. I am also editorializing to school boards and administrations that cancel trips based on the news media accounts (which is also somewhat editorialized). You know, because of yesterday’s events, it is not unconceivable that a school from (let’s say) Jackson, Mississippi may cancel their trip to Atlanta. Sounds untrue. I was there after 9/11 and after we sent troops to Iraq in 2003. These kind of things happened. I hope, since 9/11 the American mentality has toughened.

Tips, Information, and Stories About Student Travel