When deciding whether or not to take students on an educational travel program, it is valuable to know how you can stretch your travel dollars. When money is tight, we all know that student educational programs need to make economic sense for both parents and students.
This article is based on the premise that schools still do want to travel with their students and that they see the educational value in doing so. Further, it assumes that any educational travel program will have a direct link to curriculum and can be justified from a pedagogical point of view.
Some Valuable Travel Tips
- Don’t forget about what’s in your own backyard. There are fascinating tours in the much forgotten provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan such as the Louis Riel Historical Tour (2010 is the 125th anniversary of the 1885 Resistance)—excellent value for your money and incredibly historical and varied. This topic is in most provincial curricula, and with a vigorous emphasis in most provinces on First Nations historical recognition, this kind of tour would “fit the bill.”
- There is also the amazing history and architectural beauty in Quebec City, Montreal and cosmopolitan Toronto. All of these centres offer varied curriculum links such as drama and music (Toronto really IS Broadway North with actor/student workshops, etc.), science and film tours. Another possibility is the awe inspiring outdoor programs and eco-tourism tours in Alberta and B.C.
- For those expanding their knowledge of the United States or just wanting to stay close to home, you can take part in local music and theatre festivals or participate in educational science and technology programs. Sports programs in the form of clinics, camps and competitions are offered throughout the school year and throughout North America.
- There are also “hidden gems” in both the United States and Canada that offer varied experiences. You can pick activities that are educational, fun and that cost very little. Choose interactive museums, participatory theatre and music programs, or try “off-beat” adventures such as:
• The Student Educational Program at the USS Alabama at Battleship Memorial Park
• The National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, DC
• A classroom program at Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach
• West coast sailing off the coast of British Columbia
• Bamfield Science School on Vancouver Island
• Model UN programs in Montreal (McGill), Washington, Paris, Athens or Brussels
• Hands-on science or music programs in Disneyland or Disneyworld
• Holocaust Studies at the Holocaust Museums in Washington (along with Smithsonian and Government visits) or in Los Angeles or Miami
- If you do decide to travel internationally, there are still many ways to keep your costs down. Remember that students under 18 (and often accompanying teachers/chaperones) are free or at significantly reduced rates in many cultural locations such as museums. An ISIC Card (International Student ID) is another way to obtain savings around the world for student travelers. Visit: http://www.isic.org/home.aspx
- Save on meals and accommodations. Hostels have changed considerably from when we stayed in them. Many hostels today offer many of the same amenities as hotels but with significantly lower costs. You can save some money on meals as well if you go to a local market to purchase bread, cheese and the essentials and then have another experience cooking together in the hostel kitchen followed by telling travel tales in the hostel lounge. Consider some safe and low-cost accommodation alternatives depending on the destination and time of year you travel. Homestays are particularly good for language study tours that would offer an immersion experience. International language studies are the fastest growing segment of international student travel. Many accredited language schools exist throughout the world and offer students homestay or dorm housing, cultural tours and immersion lessons geared to student abilities and curriculum fit. There ARE savings to be had and it is important to explore your options with your travel service provider.
- Don’t forget that local transportation isn’t all bad! If you are traveling with a small group, it can give flexibility and a real close look at a destination. In some cities, train transportation can be much easier than trying to get around by bus (e.g., Paris, New York, Toronto). If you are traveling by private bus, you will need a good number of travelers to keep the cost down.
- Book airfares early and secure your space and the price as soon as you can. Most schools have similar Christmas and Spring Breaks, and since most schools travel during Spring Break, you can imagine how busy the flights are, and as planes fill up, prices go up! If you have over ten students traveling together both directions, you will be eligible for group flights. It will also be worthwhile to check into student/youth flights depending on where and when you are traveling.
- Fundraising is an avenue not to forget. Ask your travel provider for various ideas and ways that they may be able to assist your fundraising ventures.
As we learn about our global responsibilities, educators have discovered the best way to increase our awareness is first-hand knowledge of other cultures (including our own!). Jr. High and High Schools have become very interested in providing their students with a wide variety of options from service learning (e.g., mission work and volunteering abroad), to curriculum based travel that will expand global horizons and equip students with skills that will be required as global citizens in an increasingly interdependent world. With this in mind, we can still offer educational travel programs to our students—even during recessionary times.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Kathy Oakes heads up Innovative Group Travel by Travel CUTS bringing with her 22 years of Travel CUTS, management, and group travel experience.
Ron Jeffery is the coordinator of high school academic group travel, joining forces with Innovative Group Travel in 2006 after a 30-year teaching career.
For further information on traveling on a budget, contact: Innovative Group Travel by Travel CUTS (Canadian Universities Travel Services) 1-866-290-6523. / www.innovativegrouptravel.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s September 2009 issue.