Posted: 08 January 2024

Everything You Need to Know About School Trips in 2024

Here's your round-up of everything you need to know about school trips this year, from new requirements for travelling to Europe, to faster security screening at airports and updates at Dover. 

Ian Coles

Head of Operations & Customer Experience

Planning a school trip in 2024? Want to make sure you have the lowdown on everything you need to know before you travel?

We’ve got you.

From new requirements for travelling to Europe, to alternatives to Paris and top tips on keeping costs down on your school trip, by the time you’ve finished reading this article you’ll be ready to go.

So, grab a cuppa and let’s dive in.

New Requirements for Travelling to Europe

ETIAS

Heard about EES and ETIAS but unsure if or how it might affect your 2024 school trip to Europe?

EES stands for Entry/Exit System and is basically a digital border to the EU. It will allow non-EU nationals visiting the bloc for a short stay to be registered and should replace the need for passports to be stamped.

It will require fingerprinting and facial image capturing and, once that’s done, should allow for quicker processing (thankfully).

It’s currently due to start on 6th October 2024 and as this is aimed at non-EU, short-term visitors, this will affect UK school groups.

Fingerprints and facial scans will be taken on first entry into the EU after the EES comes in, which could potentially cause delays at entry points.

Both ourselves and the School Travel Forum are keeping in regular contact with the relevant bodies and authorities to ensure that we’re able to keep our groups updated with the latest information.

ETIAS will come in a  few months after the EES, as it will rely on it being in place to work. Currently, ETIAS is expected to be operational from mid-2025, so it shouldn’t affect your 2024 school trip.

ETIAS travel authorisation will be an entry requirement for visa-exempt nationals travelling to Europe, which includes British citizens.

You’ll need to apply online and pay €7 (there are some exemptions) for ETIAS and it’s valid for up to three years (or until the passport expires, whichever comes first). You can find out more (and apply online when applications open) on the dedicated EU travel website.

Smoother passage through airport security

The Department for Transport had set June 2024 as the deadline for major UK airports to invest and install new 3D scanners that would spell the end of strict restrictions on liquids being carried in passengers’ hand luggage.

This means that you won’t need to remove any liquids, gels or creams from your luggage, you won’t need to pop everything in a plastic bag and won’t be restricted to 100ml bottles (the new cap will be 2 litres).

You also won’t need to remove laptops and other electrical equipment from your luggage, as the new scanners will give security personnel much greater visibility of what we’re all carrying.

So, the great news is that it’ll soon be much quicker getting through airport security.

Indeed, if you’re travelling through Teesside or London City airports, you’ll see they’ve already got the new scanners in place and operational.

However, several major airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester are currently behind schedule and could take until the first quarter of 2025 to get their new scanners up and running.

So, the advice (for now) is to check with your airport and airline what rules apply to you and, if in doubt, continue to adhere to the restrictions on liquids for now, in the knowledge that easier and quicker security screening is on its way (hooray!).

Dover and other ferry ports

Easter 2023 saw chaos erupt at Dover and huge delays for groups trying to get over to the continent for what was for many the first school ski trip in three years.

But what caused this and, most importantly, could it happen again this Easter?

Essentially, this was a perfect storm of Brexit and the removal of Covid restrictions.

Easter 2023 was the first opportunity for many to get abroad after the lifting of all pandemic restrictions.

And although many school ski trips departed during the February half term, there weren’t the same numbers of other tourists as there were at Easter.

Pent-up demand saw many more people than normal trying to get away last Easter, which would have caused some delays anyway. But added to that was the additional checks that now have to be carried out at the border since Brexit.

If you’ve travelled to Europe recently, you’ll know that long gone are the days of being able to flash our passports at the border guards.

As we’re now restricted to 90 days within a 180-day period within the Schengen Area, border guards have to physically stamp your passport and check that you haven’t overstayed.

And so it’s taking a bit longer than it used to for coaches of up to 50-odd people trying to get across.

With the sheer volume of coaches and other tourists that turned up to Dover last Easter, you can understand why the port became so overwhelmed.

Now, while those checks still need to be done, the good news is that the port has made significant efforts to ensure that similar scenes aren’t repeated this Easter.

The port installed additional border control infrastructure to increase coach processing capacity by 133% and the Police Aux Frontières ensured that that was fully staffed – and this really helped the summer 2023 getaway to run a lot smoother.

A Coach Processing Facility was also put in place on the approach to the ferry terminal to conduct the API (Advanced Passenger Information) checks and help smooth movement around the port.

They also did a lot of work to improve the flow rates for all types of traffic to and from the port.

And the summer before, the port had also provided additional welfare facilities ahead of border controls, including toilets and refreshment facilities.

Ultimately, although we certainly aren’t expecting the scale of the delays that we saw this Easter, if you are travelling during peak travel times, by air or coach, then we would always advise that you have a plan in place for delays - just in case.

If you’re travelling by coach, one of our top tips is to make sure you stock up on extra water and snacks for everyone. 

If flying, it’s a great idea to have some contingency money set aside in case you need to buy food or water for the group in case of delays. And get everyone to bring an empty flask - most airports have free water fountains available once you get through security.

And remember, if you’re travelling with us, you’ll have 24h emergency contact numbers for us, so please do reach out if you need any assistance at all – we’ll be there to support you every step of the way.

Paris

The French capital will host the Olympics from 26th July to 11th August.

This means the city will be even busier than normal from late spring onwards.

Accommodation alone is now extremely limited and at a real premium, so if you were thinking of visiting and haven’t already booked, we’ve got some great alternatives to Paris without the big crowds!

Luckily, France isn’t short of spectacular cities to inspire your students with.

If you're keen for your students to experience a French city packed full of history and culture, then Lyon is a real treat and especially great for French school trips

Alternatively, head for the south, to make the most of the gorgeous beaches and laidback vibes of the South of France, Nice and Montpellier

Or, if you're keen to travel by coach, why not try the Opal Coast? Short journey times and loads of cultural activities make it one of our most popular destinations in France. 

Our school travel specialists will be pleased to chat through the options with you, so please do get in touch.

Any questions?

If you have any questions about anything you’ve read about in this blog, or if you need any advice or information on running a school trip in 2024, please get in touch – we’re always happy to help!

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