Posted: 08 September 2017

How to Choose a School Tour Operator

So, you’ve decided to arrange a school trip and have a number of attractive offers from school travel companies. How do you choose which to go with?

It’s important to choose your school tour operator carefully to minimise the risks involved in school travel abroad. Using our decades of experience in the industry, we’ve put together a guide that we hope will help.

Here are the four questions that you must ask when choosing your school tour operator:

  • What are the company’s accreditations and does it provide financial security?
  • Does the travel company specialise in school tours?
  • What experience does the company have?
  • What learning support will the company provide for my students?

What are the company’s accreditations and does it provide financial security?

When booking a school trip, you need to be assured that the monies paid for the trip are protected.

For this reason, you should look for a school travel company that holds the relevant accreditations and bonds.

All school travel companies should adhere to the Package Travel Regulations (1992). Part of this legislation is the requirement for financial security, which is usually provided by a bond, travel insurance or trust fund.

Bonds are usually established through national trade associations, such as the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), of which Halsbury Travel is a member.

And if your trip includes air travel, then the school tour operator that you book with should also hold an Air Travel Organiser’s License (ATOL). Our ATOL number is 5079.

Does the travel company specialise in school tours?

Some ‘mainstream’ travel companies will arrange a school trip. But to get the most out of your trip for your students, a specialist school tour operator is recommended, as the level of expert advice they can offer is unrivalled.

Specialists in school travel will be able to advise you on the most suitable travel options for your group. They’ll also have experience of the most effective activities in the area with regards your learning objectives and curriculum links.

Many companies will claim to be experts, but there are some important markers to look for that will confirm this to you.

Firstly, are they a member of the School Travel Forum (STF)? Membership in this not-for-profit organisation demonstrates that the school travel company:

  • Understands and facilitates the needs of educational travel
  • Manages safety effectively
  • Offers fair terms and conditions, and the best financial security
  • Is fully-inspected every year by independent experts

You should also look out for the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) Quality Badge. This is a national accreditation which demonstrates that the school tour operator:

  • Offers ‘what it says on the tin’
  • Takes account of the needs of users
  • Has an emphasis on ‘learning/skills outcomes’
  • Ensures the quality of the learning process
  • Operates in a healthy and safe environment

Halsbury Travel is an Assured Member of the School Travel Forum and holds the LOtC Quality Badge.

What experience does the company have?

There are many school travel companies out there, all with varying degrees of experience. We recommend that you look for a school travel company that has been operating for many years.

Not only will they have the experience to support you throughout the process of arranging your school trip, but they are also likely to be financially stable.

Many companies will talk about their ‘collective’ experience but do be wary of this, as it may be a clever way of hiding the fact that the company may be newly formed.

Halsbury Travel was established in 1986 by Keith Sharkey, a former French teacher. Keith is still at the helm, alongside two generations of his family. They’re supported by a dynamic team of School Travel Specialists, many of whom have been with us from the early days!

What learning support will the company provide for my students?

Once you've ensured that you're dealing with a well-established, experienced and fully accredited operator, the final thing to consider is how the school travel company you choose to book with can enhance the educational value of your school trip.

For example, if you’re arranging a school French trip, French lessons at a specialist language school might be of benefit to your students – can your tour operator offer this option at a specialist language school?

Maths and science trips may be enhanced with a workbook that will help your students understand the relationship between your visits and the subject.

Choosing a school travel company that can provide additional learning support, such as Halsbury Travel, could mean that your students return home having learnt even more than you had hoped!

We hope that this guide has helped you know what to look out for when deciding on a school tour operator. To find out what Halsbury Travel can offer your group, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The Halsbury Difference

School trips designed by teachers for teachers

Originally founded by teachers in 1986 and with several former teachers in our team, we understand the pressures on you as Group Leader and work hard to relieve them.

Trips tailored to your curriculum and learning objectives

We’ll design your trip around your specific learning objectives and curriculum, to ensure it meets your particular requirements.

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