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Iceland 2013–planning an overseas trip

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One of the jobs to do in September is launch the department’s 2013 Iceland trip.  A few people have asked about what they need to consider when planning an overseas adventure. This post aims to provide an outline of the way we do it.  It works for our context, and I’ll try to tease that out below.

TimescaleDSC03946

We like to take around 18 months from launching the visit.  This gives our parents enough time to pay.  From experience, it’s possible to fill any trip at almost any price if the payment plan is realistic.  We set up a monthly payment plan, and avoid the Christmas / New Year.  It also gives us enough time to monitor the behaviour of the young people (an overseas visit is a privilege). The downside of this is that staff are often locked in to committing.  This can be avoided by setting the visit up so that anyone can step in and pick up the planning.

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In relation to Iceland, we go for Discover the World.  This is for a number of reasons:

  • We like their staff and have built up a good relationship with them.
  • They offer free pre-visit trips to schools that have committed to a visit.
  • We like their Silver scheme and from past visits the hotels, guides and backup is excellent.
  • They provide good value for money.

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The success to any overseas visit lays in the staff, and the work starts well before the visit.  We split up the roles pre-visit with an individual staff member taking responsibility for:

  • Parent communications and liaison with Discover the World.
  • Finance
  • Passports and behaviour

During the visit, it’s really important to have staff that take part in all of the activities and can cope with the 24/7 nature of residential visits.  They also need to be comfortable with moving away from their classroom personas.

Wherever possible, we try to take one additional staff member to allow a rota of downtime.

During the visit, it’s very important to have clear staff roles.  As the party leader, I usually take on the role of ‘bad guy’ deciding on lights out times and dealing with any discipline issues.  Then it’s always good to have someone looking after medicine and medical issues.

MeetingsSAM_0379

We hold a number of meetings:

  • A ‘sales’ meeting open to everyone. We offer the visit to all year groups. This is usually attended by a Discover the World representative also. We cover costs, the behaviour contract, costs, equipment and activities.
  • A ‘drop in’ session about 2 months before the visit. We insist on seeing the parents of every student during a 2-3 hour session. Information on the final programme, passport checks, money etc. This is also when we order the all important hoodies. We take time to speak to each parent and child going on the trip. This drop in approach has proven to be more successful at getting full attendance than a rigid time.

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When it comes to Iceland we go for a strict ‘no clipboard’ trip.  Our students are there for an awe inspiring holiday with their peers first.  Of course, we’d like them to leave with an appreciation of the geography, culture and place, but this comes with getting stuck in!

You can imagine the type of activities available, but the most important thing is to have evening activities.  Most issues arise during free time. It’s also worth ensuring that the accommodation has a common room area where young people can gather. This removes any excuse for them to meet in bedrooms.

It’s also worth setting up a few competition such as ‘best packed’ and we usually hold a photo competition.

 

On top of that, a pre-visit is a must for at least on member of staff.  Many people always mention the drudgery of risk assessment and paperwork involved.  All we’d say is that this is a myth and that careful risk assessment are part of the planning process.  Indeed, many of the companies and places visited already have the generic risk assessments in place and available.

I hope that’s useful to you.  I have to say that I find the organisation of overseas trips to be not that much of a hassle and very rewarding.  Feel free to contact me using the link at the top-right if you’d like to know any other details.

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