So, you've decided that it's best for you and your school to go with an educational travel agency for your global experience(s).
But where to start? Of ALL the organizations out there, how could you possibly be tasked with finding the one that meets your students' curricular and budgetary needs, while mitigating risk? We'd love for you to select Our Human Family as the organization you're working with, but understand that your needs may be better suited for another one. Below are some areas to consider when seeking out travel providers:
#1 - Where Are We Going???
Obviously, you'll need to the organization that you're working with to offer and have had experience in offering itineraries to the location that you and/or your fellow trip leader has been looking for. For example, if you're interested in "Environmental Science in Australia", it would be wise to do a quick google search to narrow down to a list of 3-5 providers that offer this type of program. Also, it's wise to consult with your peers in the industry on the location you're interested in, and ask for provider suggestions based on it! BEWARE of "totally custom" providers, as they often won't have experience in itinerary that is delivered to you. I'm sure you don't want to be the guinea pig for a new offering.
#2 - Identify Itinerary Needs
Not all providers offer the same service. Some specialize in leisure, language immersion, service, history, science, arts, etc. Many companies will take business that is outside of their scope of service in order to gain a new client, but beware of this. Do research on each of the providers that you've found and better understand their niche. This will provide some foreshadowing on what you will inevitably experience on the ground. For example, Our Human Family makes it clear that authentic and immersive experiences are our mission. We're simply not a fit for a school that wants to have a typical leisure experience, as there are many providers out there that are very good at that already.
#3 - Find Out Budgetary Constraints
Every school has a different culture when it comes to traveling abroad. Some schools have no culture, and you're finding yourself starting from scratch. It's important to identify what students' parents are willing to bear from a cost standpoint, prior to going down the road and relationship with a provider. For example, if past trip leaders have marketed and run programs successfully in the $3,000 - $3,500/student range, then it would be best to avoid marketing programs that get into $4,000+. Yes, this may eliminate some specific destinations globally, but it will save you some time in the long run. Although, this budget precedent rule is not always firm. In our podcast episode, Engaging Students in the Trip Planning Process, David Lynn outlines some great way to get students involved and invested in the itinerary activities, making it more of a "value" experience than purely focused on cost. Again, it ALL comes down to culture.
#4 - Wait--What are the Specifics Again?
It should be clearly and effectively demonstrated what is and is not included in itinerary on the head of the proposal you receive. If it is unclear, make sure to ask your travel specialist or whomever you are working with to clarify. It some things are ambiguous, it usually means that you'll see a surprise at some point. It's common for many providers to aggregate groups based on their size in order to achieve lower back end costs abroad. BEWARE on this, as the groups you may be paired with could come from a significantly different value set than yours.
#5 - Get Testimonials
Great providers don't mind sharing client testimonials--in fact, they are typically excited about it. Do your homework, don't trust the marketing, and trust your peers. They'll never try to sell you.
If you want to learn more about the process of selecting providers, or are perhaps interested in creating an itinerary for your group, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org!