An international travel program for your organization or school can be a rewarding way to learn about another culture or environment and build affinity among members, but if you’re never done it before it might seem overwhelming. Below, we break down the steps to show you how easy it can be!
1. Select a travel provider
The tour operator you work with can make or break your trip. A good travel provider will have the local contacts and the experience to make the whole process go smoothly, and it will be able to handle all your reservations and arrangements instead of leaving you to do the heavy lifting.
In choosing a company to work with, find one that specializes in working with similar clients. For example, if you’re representing a school or university, find a provider that’s experienced with academic groups; if you’re part of a birding organization, your provider should be versed in the needs of birders. Seeking recommendations from peers or colleagues is a good place to start. Other considerations include the company’s experience (especially in your preferred destination, if you have one), their flexibility, their responsiveness to communication, and their safety protocols.
2. Brainstorm your trip details
This is the fun part! Based on your goals, specific interests, desired travel dates and destination, your travel provider should be able to help you select a pre-planned itinerary or customize one of your own.
Things you’ll need to consider include:
Destination: You may already have a destination in mind, or your travel provider can help you decide based on your other criteria.
Things you wish to see or experience: These could be particular species, ecosystems, cultural activities, or learning opportunities
Length of trip
Type of accommodations (rustic, luxury, or somewhere in between)
Anticipated group size
Physical activity level
How much structured vs. free time you want
It’s also helpful to think about your goals or desired outcomes for the trip – and if you’re leading a student group, what academic objectives you have and whether your program will be part of your curriculum.
3. Get down to the nitty gritty
Once you’ve decided on an itinerary to fit your group’s needs, you’ll need to nail down the logistics of enrollment, payments, and terms and conditions. Typically during this stage you’ll need to sign a contract with the travel provider. Some travel providers handle all the details of enrollment for you, while others may expect you to handle collecting registration information and payments from your travelers.
4. Recruit travelers to join the trip:
Now it’s time to get the word out about your trip and begin enrolling travelers! If you’re the representative of an organization, you’ll often have a built-in audience that you can reach out to, whether by an email listserv, social media, in-person or online informational sessions, distributing flyers or hanging posters, advertising, or creating a website specifically for your trip. If you want to keep your group small for a more intimate experience, you may wish to limit who you invite, and maybe even require an application process. Conversely, if you want a larger group of travelers (to bring down costs, for example), you might consider casting a wider net by partnering with other schools or organizations or inviting members of your local community.
5. Review your travel documents and prepare for departure
Your travel provider will let you know when you should expect to receive final travel details (usually a couple weeks to a month or more prior to departure). Make sure to review your documents to so that everything is as you expected. It’s also wise to communicate with your travelers to be sure they have all the travel documentation and immunizations necessary for your destination (passport, visa, etc.). You may want to host a bon voyage meeting with your group to communicate any final details. Then, prepare for the experience of a lifetime!
photo by Debbie Jordan