Bobby is a Principal with a background in History and Social Studies. He first traveled with EF Tours in 2010 to Rome and Paris, and now leads a student tour every summer. He believes that young people should experience life outside of their communities, and that understanding other cultures is imperative to solving global challenges.
Over the next 11 days I’ll be leading my fifth student tour with EF through Paris, London, and Dublin, including stops in Stratford-upon-Avon and County Kerry. The last few weeks leading up to your departure are always exciting, but it’s also a very important time for Group Leaders. Before I head out on tour it’s up to me and my EF Tour Consultant to make sure that a fun, safe, and enjoyable trip is planned and ready for everyone. To ensure that all details, big and small, are being covered I’ve created a list of what needs to be reviewed in my pre-departure meeting.
The following is what I covered in our pre-departure meeting. I consider this my pre-departure checklist.
Finalizing the flight itinerary and arranging transportation to and from the airport
The week before we leave I check my flight itinerary EVERY DAY. There would be nothing worse than arriving at the airport to only realize your flight times have been changed and your plane is already on its way to Europe without you. We live over an hour away from the nearest airport so arranging a time to leave together is important. My group always meets at our high school and we carpool to the airport from there. This is important because it allows me to make sure everyone has their passport before getting to the airport. It also lets me know that everyone is there so I’m not stressing at the gate waiting for my last traveler to arrive.
Pack light and pack smart
At this point I’ve repeated the mantra ‘pack light’ so often that my travelers may be afraid to pack anything. During the final meeting I try and stress the important things–keep your checked bag under 50lbs and make sure to leave room for souvenirs. I also suggest they bring a few travel items such as sunscreen, travel size Febreze (to help keep clothes fresh), and a light jacket (especially when traveling to the United Kingdom in June). I also stress the importance of the carry-on bag. If you have medicine or an asthma inhaler that you may need access to on the flight then you need to make sure you can easily access it in your carry-on. A flight attendant cannot access the hold no matter how much you beg.
Make a photocopy of everyone’s passport
In the event that your passport becomes lost or missing it will be much easier to deal with the embassy if you have a photocopy of your passport. I photocopy the passport of every traveler going on tour and keep them in a binder that never leaves my side.
Signing the behavior contract
Every summer prior to our trip I discuss the behavior contract with my student travelers and their parents. Fortunately, I have NEVER had to use the behavior contract. It’s important to set behavior expectations with your students, and the departure meeting is a good time to remind them of those expectations. I let them know that I want them to have fun on their trip but to also be good representatives of themselves, their school, and ultimately their country.
Collecting tip money
Collecting tip money for the Tour Director and bus drivers prior to departure is a must. Tip money goes directly into an envelope and then becomes my responsibility. I deliver this along with a card signed by all of my travelers to the Tour Director on our final day. Every year we have added additional money to the envelope before giving it to the Tour Director–That’s how great the EF Tour Directors are!
I hope you find these tips helpful as you begin to plan your final departure meeting. However, my work is not quite finished. Group Leaders are naturally thinking about the students and the group, so it’s easy to overlook what you need, so I also have a pre-departure checklist for myself:
Notify your bank that you will be out of the country
If you plan on using your bank debit card in Europe you must notify them prior to departure. If unusual charges start showing up on your account then your debit card could be denied or even worse locked into an ATM. You do NOT want to deal with that on your first day in Europe.
Arrange for a way to call home
There are many options to choose from when it comes to communicating with home. I recommend that you call your cell phone provider and discuss what options they can offer you. Most cell phone providers can set you up with an international calling plan at a reasonable price. EF’s Customer Service can also assist you with international travel cell phones. All are terrific options for contacting your family and friends during your trip.
Time to pack
It is often hard to practice what you preach when it comes to packing light. Even though I always stress this to my travelers I don’t always follow my own advice. The important thing here is to not wait and pack your suitcase the morning of your departure. If you are rushed you’ll end of packing more than you need or even worse, forget something. Plan ahead and pack the night before.
As I finish up this post we are now less than 24 hours before our departure. Over the next few days the students and I will have the opportunity to visit some of the grandest cities on earth–I hope you join me for the adventure. Au Revoir!
Find your next adventure before you even take off!