What to Look For in a School Tour Company

Posted: 01 November 2022

What to Look For in a School Tour Company

Once you’ve decided to run a school trip, the next decision to make is which tour operator to use. There are many options and it can be a little overwhelming working out which is best for you and your group.

So, here’s what you need to look for in a school tour company to ensure that your group is protected and your experience of running a school trip is as stress-free as possible:

The most important thing you need to look for in a school tour company is the necessary accreditation to reassure you that your school trip will be financially protected and that you will receive the quality of service and product that you’re expecting.

This is especially important as it is the parents’ and guardians’ money that is at risk if you don’t use a fully-accredited operator, which could lead to an incredibly stressful situation for you if anything does go wrong.

We would strongly recommend that you arrange your school trip through an ABTA member.

All ABTA members are required to adhere to a very strict code of conduct and, if you feel that your tour operator has contravened this, ABTA will investigate on your behalf.

ABTA membership also ensures that your school trip is financially protected. Should the company fail, its membership of ABTA means that you will be provided with a full refund or will be able to continue your trip as planned if you have already travelled.

As we reported in 2019, in research conducted by ABTA, 73% of UK families said that they would expect a school trip company to be a member of ABTA, so it does seem that this is an important consideration for parents and guardians when deciding whether to allow their children to go on a school trip.

If you’re travelling by plane, you should also check that your chosen school tour operator holds an ATOL – Air Travel Organiser’s License. Similarly to ABTA membership, this provides financial protection should the company fail – you’ll receive a refund or you’ll be able to continue your trip if you’ve already travelled.

When two or more elements of the trip are provided by an organisation, that organisation is bound by the Package Travel Regulations, which is another form of protection for consumers – in this case, stipulating that customers are entitled to a refund if their trip is cancelled or significantly altered.

If you choose a fully-accredited school tour operator to arrange two or more elements of your trip, you can be assured that you are fully protected should there be any issues with either the company or the trip.

However, if you arrange the trip yourself, you should be aware that your school or employer may then be bound by the Package Travel Regulations, which could then prove costly and stressful in the event that anything does go wrong.

Just in case you’re wondering, Halsbury Travel is a member of ABTA and we hold an ATOL. We also only arrange school trips where we arrange at least two elements, ensuring that it is ourselves who are bound by the Package Travel Regulations, removing the burden of responsibility from teachers and their schools.

Lots of travel companies who can provide group tours will also arrange school tours if you ask them. But we would highly recommend choosing a school trip company that specialises in school travel.

We say this because we have over 35 years of experience within the school travel industry and we know how specialised school trips are. School groups clearly have very different requirements due to the age of the students and the importance of safeguarding.

In addition, most school trips also have an academic focus and so a knowledge of the curriculum and how activities can enhance learning is so important. A good school tour operator will be able to provide you with expert advice on how to get the most out of your school trip.

For example, as Halsbury Travel is a specialist school tour operator, our staff know all of the activities available in our destinations and how they can support learning. They’ll work closely with you to design an itinerary that ensures your school trip meets your learning objectives.

How can you tell whether a school travel company really is a specialist? Well, once again, you should first take a look at their accreditations.

Are they a member of the School Travel Forum? Membership of the School Travel Forum shows that the company understands and is able to facilitate needs of educational travel. Membership also requires that the company has taken responsibility to put an effective Safety Management System in place and that it offers schools fair terms and conditions and the best financial security. And all of this is inspected by independent experts every year.

Do they hold the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge? This is awarded by the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom and shows that the school trip company provides the quality of tour advertised, that your group’s health and safety will be prioritised and that there is an emphasis on learning and skills outcomes.

In case you were wondering, Halsbury Travel is an Assured Member of the School Travel Forum and holds the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge.

Running a school trip is a huge responsibility, so you need to know that your chosen school trip company will provide you with the support you require throughout the process.

Questions to ask include will they provide you with expert advice to ensure you get the most out of your tour? Will you be given a 24-hour emergency contact number in case something happens when you’re abroad or will you be left to deal with any situations that arise by yourself? Do they have multilingual staff who can liaise directly with suppliers on your behalf so things don’t get lost in translation? How have they dealt with unexpected situations in the past?

Halsbury Travel was originally founded by former teachers who wanted to provide better support for colleagues wanting to take their students abroad. So, of course, our staff will work closely with you to ensure your school trip supports your learning objectives.

And you will certainly be provided with a 24-hour emergency contact number on which you’ll be able to reach a senior member of our team who will be able to help you with any situation that arises. We really will be with you every step of the way.

Many of our team are multi-linguists, who will liaise directly with suppliers on your behalf, both during the planning stages and while on your trip, if required.

And when it comes to how we’ve dealt with unexpected situations in the past, don’t let us tell you how effective we are at finding solutions to any problem – hear what our past Group Leaders thought!

When choosing your school tour operator, you will, of course, need to take price into account. You will want to offer the trip at as low a cost as possible in order to ensure that as many students as possible are able to access it. However, it is worth remembering that cheap doesn’t always mean value for money.

When comparing quotes, make sure you look carefully at what has been included in the quote and what is listed as an optional extra. You may like to look at our guide to comparing quotes for further tips.

Remember to check the tour company’s accreditations and what protections they offer your group. And ask questions about the support that they’re able to offer you.

You could even ask if there is any further learning support available, whether that’s guided tours led by experts, language lessons delivered by fully-qualified native-speaking teachers or even workbooks (all things that Halsbury Travel are able to offer).

And when you’ve looked at all that, you can make a judgement on whether you are getting real value for money from your school tour operator.

Wondering if Halsbury Travel is the school tour company for you?

Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any further information or advice you require, or to request a tailor-made quote.

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.

Rewarding loyalty scheme

Work together with other teachers in your school to save thousands of pounds on future school trips with our multi-trip loyalty scheme!