Educational group travel – there’s a lot to learn

Organisers, parents and volunteers who have experienced being responsible for a group of spirited youngsters travelling abroad, have learnt the importance of meticulous planning. They have also learnt that partnering with a reputable Travel Management Company (TMC) can alleviate a host of challenges and provide much appreciated peace of mind – before, during and after the trip.

The travel-proven knowledge of TMC is invaluable at planning meetings where the organisers, chaperones, parents and learner group are present; answering questions and giving useful travel tips and advice.

Whether it’s for a school, college or sports club group, the services of one service provider, rather than a variety of providers, means that if something goes wrong, there is just one point of call. For example, dealing with many companies with different payment deadlines can be confusing. Inadvertently missing one payment deadline may jeopardise the entire itinerary.

Getting the numbers right is the responsibility of the organisers. When booking flights, the ratio is at least one adult to 10 children. If this ratio is not adhered to, the group will not be allowed to board the aircraft.

New South African Travel Regulations

It’s common knowledge that South Africa has new regulations regarding travelling with minors. Central to these regulations and requirements is an unabridged birth certificate that reflects the particulars of both parents. If the child is adopted, an adoption certificate is required.

Additional mandatory documents for each child include:

  • A valid passport.
  • If the countries being visited require a visa, it must be organised at least two months before departure.
  • The contact details of accompanying adults, as well as the contact details and address of the child’s parents or guardians; that is, the people who will drop them off and pick them up.
  • A document from both parents authorising their child to travel without them. If this authorisation is from just one parent, it is invalid.

Certified, original documents

All documents must be originals or copies certified by a commissioner of oaths; the most convenient probably being a stamp of confirmation from the nearest police station. To avoid loss, it is advisable that one accompanying adult is responsible for all the group’s original documents during the trip, while a second adult has copies of all documents.

Get vaccinated if necessary

A good TMC will inform the organisers of any vaccinations that may be needed in the countries visited. Some countries require that visitors carry proof of certain inoculations, for example yellow fever. This is important, because if children become ill, hospitals may turn them away due to incomplete or missing information.

Accompanying adults must have access to a comprehensive profile on each child that includes any allergies, specific eating habits, culture, emergency details, etc.

Discipline is key when travelling

Having a clearly communicated disciplinary code applicable throughout the trip is imperative. This is where the adult to child ratio is especially relevant. A full itinerary that occupies the children throughout the day greatly alleviates disciplinary problems.

Insurance gives you peace of mind

Finally, organisers must ensure that the group, both adults and children, has comprehensive group travel insurance which includes medical cover, emergency evacuation and unexpected travel changes. Such insurance provides peace of mind to all involved in a group trip abroad, including loved ones left at home.

Learning to plan, organise, lead and ultimately enjoy taking a group of enthusiastic youngsters on a trip abroad has many rewards; not just for the learners, but also for the accompanying teachers, parents and chaperones. They get to experience a different world through the wonder-wide eyes of their children.