10 Air Travel Tips For Effortless School Trips
For many students, a school trip abroad will be their first time travelling without their parents and for some it will be their first-time travelling on a plane at all! To help you navigate from check in to landing with minimal teenage turbulence, our experienced former teachers-come-teacher tour leaders have shared 10 of their travel hacks for air travel with a school group.
1. Where to meet
Some schools, (particularly those with a longer distance to travel to the airport) will choose convene at the school itself and travel to the airport together. If you decide instead to meet at the airport, set a meeting time which leaves ample time to get the whole group checked-in and accommodate for any late arrivals.
Unsure of where to meet? Find out the check in area that your airline uses. These are normally labelled with large letters or numbers which makes them excellent muster points.
You will also need a meeting point in departures before boarding the flight. Choose a recognisable shopfront or marker and tell students that regardless of gate changes, delays or information they see on departure boards to meet at that point with plenty of time to walk to the gate.
2. Set your expectations in writing with a behaviour contract.
It is understandable that some students get over excited or over confident on an exciting excursion away from their parents. One way our teachers have encouraged good behaviour is to write a contract for both students and their parents to sign, agreeing to their expected levels of behaviour on the trip.
Having a copy of this contract with you on the trip can give you a chance to warn students of the promise they have made at the first sign of disruption. It prepares the parents of the expectations on them in the unlikely event their child breaks their agreement and are sent home and their parents have to collect them from the airport. Every group is different, what expectations do you have for your students?
Personalised hoodies, t-shirts or wristbands are a great way to keep track of your group and also to ensure that if for any reason a member of the group is separated, they have the school name and spelling to show an adult who can help them reconvene with the group. Try something as simple as a small printed business card including the group leader’s name and telephone number for the students to keep in the back of their phone case or in their wallet.
4. Ultimate packing list
Explain to your group what items they are allowed to pack into their hand luggage and what items they should place into their hold luggage. If you are a frequent flyer this information might seem obvious but first-time flyers could be caught out.
Consider the age of your students and how much packing and repacking they are likely to do on their trip. If appropriate why not tell each student to print their packing list and tape it to the inside of their case. At the end of their trip they can then check off items as they are repacked so they don’t leave anything behind. Younger children particularly benefit from this method.
5. Count to 10
Designate around 10 students to each teacher in your group. This teacher will be responsible for making sure these students are present and ready at each stage of the journey. Smaller groups are easier to get through security, board the plane and easier to count.
6. Efficient Security Checks
Explain the security procedure to your group before they approach the security entrance being sure to mention which items to take off before walking through the metal detectors or full body scanning machines.
Younger students can become overwhelmed if they are searched or if their bag is more closely examined, especially if they are nervous about the trip in general. Make them aware beforehand that this is a possibility and what will happen if their belongings or person does need to be searched.
In your groups of 10 students or fewer, make sure the teacher goes last so no student gets left behind.
7. Who should have passport control
Your decision of who should hold on to passports should depend on the age of your students and the level of responsibility they are used to. Generally speaking, we would recommend teachers hold on to all passports to minimise the risk however if you want to entrust the students with this responsibility ensure all of your students store their passport in a secure but easily accessible location. If it is stuck at the bottom of their rucksack they may cause delays through passport control.
Losing a passport can have consequences which dramatically disrupt your trip but if this does happen, call our emergency number and we will arrange an embassy appointment.
8. Navigate the airport
Point out some key locations in the departure lounge, for example the toilets and places to buy water and snacks. Have some spare cash for delays. Hours of delays can be a lot easier if everyone is fed and watered. Keep students informed of the likely delays so they can manage their own expectations of time.
9. In-flight food, drink and entertainment
Check on your itinerary to see if food will be provided on the flight and advise students if they need to buy a snack or drink in departures before boarding. It is a good idea to also check on your itinerary for when you will be having your next meal after arriving so you can prepare students if they will be going a while between meals.
The ultra-prepared teacher could bring paper activities to entertain students but in reality most students will being an electronic device to entertain them on board.
If you are travelling on a long-haul flight, you should receive a meal to sustain you but fussy eaters might be better to bring extra snacks just in case.
Small packets of sweets can really help students with the cabin pressure during take off and landing, plus it could distract nervous flyers.
10. Let the Cabin Crew take over
Remind students that once on board the cabin crew are in charge, not you. For security reasons all students should be sat in their assigned seat, this is a simple way to avoid some friendship dramas early on in the trip.
Do you have any nervous flyers in your group (that includes teachers)? Check in with them after any times of turbulence. Other than keeping an eye on your group, once on board you should be able to relax and enjoy your flight, trust that the cabin crew will alert you if the students need your help.