by Howard Clemens
When planning and executing student trips to Washington D.C., New York City, Orlando, FL or other U.S. destinations one of the primary components for a smooth and fun trip is good communication between a tour escort (also known as a tour director) and the teacher who is sponsoring the class trip.
Some student trips can be quite large, with groups ranging from 100 to 150 students, while other class trips may number between 40-60 students. No matter how large or small the group and how many buses are needed, a trained tour director is a necessary part of the journey and can make the difference in whether the student trip is well managed or not.
An educational tour company with experience in taking school groups on tour will always provide a tour escort as part of the overall cost of the trip. The tour escort is the representative from the educational travel company whose main task is to keep an open dialogue with the teacher when schedule changes or deviations in the itinerary are suggested or needed, among other things.
A tour director is not in charge of the trip. The teacher is the person who fulfills this role and takes ultimate responsibility for making decisions on behalf of the student group. The tour escort’s role is to assist the teacher when a decision needs to be made, and to inform him or her about any potential charges which may be incurred for making decisions that do not coincide with the planned itinerary.
Here is a breakdown of the role a tour director will play on a class trip and the responsibilities of the teacher or school group leader:
• Introduces him or her self to the teacher before the trip via a personal telephone call.
• Uses the itinerary as a guide for the entire class trip.
• Keeps the group on schedule and manages any issues that may arise that will affect timeliness in attending scheduled events, destinations, eateries, etc.
• Acts as a liaison between the attractions, hotels, restaurants, bus driver, and other stops on tour.
• When requested by the teacher or group leader the tour director may assume more control of the group. For example, a teacher may be away on a personal phone call, trip to the restroom, or overseeing a problem with a student or group of students. The tour director will act as a temporary group leader when the teacher’s attention is elsewhere.
• He or she is the group leader of the class trip and maintains control of the students.
• The educator dialogues with the tour escort and makes final decisions on adjustments to the itinerary or schedule.
• A teacher will consult with the tour escort on any potential or actual financial changes that may occur due to modifications of the itinerary.
• When disciplinary problems arise with a student or group of students, the teacher takes the lead role in intervening and correcting the problem.
• If there is a problem with the venue or schedule, the teacher is informed by the tour escort how the issue will be resolved and makes final decisions on the outcome of the situation.
The teacher and tour escort relationship is always more effective when both individuals keep the lines of communication open. An adept tour escort is a proficient communicator. An educator has to have excellent speaking skills to manage a classroom on a regular basis. When both of these key roles are working in unison, a student trip to any destination is a quality educational experience remembered fondly by all.