If you are thinking of organising a school ski trip and haven’t done one before then here are some pointers that you might find useful to consider before you start.
They are by no means exhaustive but represent some of the undertakings you should consider when taking trips abroad. Taking a group of students on a school ski trip is a fabulous experience and like anything else in life that is worthwhile doing, the more you put in, the more you get out. So here are our top tips for organising your school ski trip…
If you are thinking of taking a school ski trip, then it pays to start the process early; not simply so that you get longer to prepare but also because the popular resorts tend to get booked up well in advance. Many school party leaders start to plan their trip between twelve and fifteen months prior to their intended departure date, whilst some who are considering a trip to America start even further out.
Starting early makes sense on so many practical fronts… not least that it means that you can spread the payments over a longer period if you feel that this will help make the trip more accessible to the students.
Agree a Budget
No one will know the catchment area of your school better than you, so it is a good idea to consider how much your students would be able to afford to pay for a school ski trip. This will then act as an indicator for what type of destination, accommodation and transport (coach or air) will be best suited to your group.
Identify the needs of your group
Generally, the success of a school ski trip is a reflection of how much the group enjoy themselves whilst away. As this is a skiing trip then it stands to reason that one of the key factors in the enjoyment stakes is how well the skiing goes and in that case there are a number of factors to take into consideration.
What, if any, experience of skiing do you think the group will have? If it will be made up mainly of beginners then the choice of resort needs to reflect that with the type of terrain that is available, i.e. lots of greens and blues, a travellator or a ‘magic carpet’ to make it easy for those experiencing the mountains for the first time. If the majority of the group have skied before than you may want to look for fresh challenges and different types of terrain such as more difficult runs and snow parks.
Another key factor is the type of accommodation you prefer. Although this will be influenced by your budget, if, as we suggest, you start your preparations early there is more chance of getting hotels of the standard and type of location that you prefer. Some party leaders prefer not to be in busy locations whilst others like to be slopeside… your choice.
Don’t forget that the students will need entertaining in the evening as well and the last thing you want to be doing is breaking out the juggling sacks to try and keep them amused. Discuss the entertainment options with your operator and be prepared to include that in your budget.
Consider how many additional supervisory places you want to be included in the quotation. The standard ratio is one supervisory place per ten students but would you prefer extra places?
Most schools will have a mechanism by which school ski trips can be proposed for consideration by the head and possibly the governors. If it does require approval by the Governor’s, then it is worthwhile making sure you know when the next Governors meeting is scheduled. If you go through the whole process of agreeing a quotation with a tour operator, you might find that if the next Governors’ meeting isn’t for another 6 weeks that by the time you get it agreed then either your quote is out of date or availability in the hotel you prefer has gone.
It is always a good idea to sound out senior members of staff for their opinion on the best way of going about launching a school ski trip. The immediate feedback that you will get and the advice and support that may be forthcoming will be invaluable.
Getting a Quotation
Once you have identified the needs of your group and discussed the type of destination that you prefer with members of your team, then contact a school specialist tour operator, such as Activ4, who will listen to your requirements and advise and discuss the options available. They build a picture of what you are trying to achieve and put together a formal quotation that will become the basis of the tour agreement which secures your trip.
Things to look out for when you are selecting which companies to get a quotation from include the Learning Outside the Classroom charter mark. This charter mark is provided to assured members of the School Travel Forum and in booking with a School Travel Forum member you can be secure in the knowledge that they;
- Understand and facilitate the needs of educational travel.
- Have effective Safety Management Systems in place, specifically focused on travelling with young students.
- Offer fair terms and conditions and the best financial security.
To ensure that their health and safety standards are maintained, School Travel Forum members have their internal systems and procedures audited annually by an independent expert. School Travel Forum membership is the benchmark for good school tour providers; consequently, as previously stated it is the awarding body for the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge. The Outdoor Education Advisors Panel (OEAP) endorses the Quality Badge and requests that Local Education Authorities recommend the use of Badge holders as providers and require the minimum of additional paperwork where Quality Badge accreditation is in place.
This means that you can book your school ski trip with confidence, meet your due diligence and reduce the amount of external provider paperwork necessary.
If you are intending to fly, then you must also ensure that your tour operator has an ATOL licence. All School Travel Forum members and reputable school specialist travel companies should hold this license which is issued by the Civil Aviation Authority. This means that holidays are ATOL protected and in the unlikely event of insolvency the Civil Aviation Authority will ensure that you are not left stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to the operator in advance of the booking.
Before launching your school ski trip, consult your school finance manager about the most suitable method and dates for collecting deposits. Traditionally the parents of your students will send in a cheque with their child as a deposit to guarantee their place on the trip. Make sure that you understand the mechanism by which this works; do they need to bring the cheque to you or directly to the finance department?
Some schools already have online accounts, such as PayPal, which enable parents to pay directly into an account. There are also websites, such as Teamer.com that allow you to set up an account for your group and parents can pay via that website. Both of these options mean that should parents prefer to pay by credit card, then this becomes possible. It also provides an easy way to keep track of who has paid and gives you direct contact with the parents so you can easily provide them with information and updates.
Before launching the trip make sure that the price you are going to charge the students includes a sum for any possible contingency funds you will need. For instance, you may wish to have all the students travel on a group passport which cost £39 or if you are flying you may need independent transport to the airport with your local coach company.
Launching The Trip
The success of your school ski trip will depend on launching it properly. All school trips are dependent on the support of the pupil body and to ensure that you have this you need maximum impact for the launch. School assemblies, be they house assemblies or year assemblies are invaluable opportunities to make a presentation. Again, most reputable school specialist tour operators will be able to help you by supplying marketing tools such as posters, PowerPoint presentations and video clips.
Prepare flyers to hand out to those interested and include all the relevant information such as the dates of travel, the destination (give a web address of the resort so that the students can show their parents what a great place they are going to), the cost and the date by which deposits have to be in to secure a place on the trip. If you need any help with this, then once again speak to your tour operator and find out if they have already got something similar that you could use.
Many schools have internal information screens that carry notices. Can you place your presentation on the school ski trip on it?
Does your school have a social media accounts? If so, then these will prove invaluable in your quest to ensure that everyone is aware that you are launching a school ski trip. Regular updates and information about the trip will build interest and support. Likewise get it in the school newsletter.
As mentioned in the finance section you may wish to consider the option of providing a collective or group passport for the students travelling on your school ski trip to use rather than have them travel on their own passport. The process is pretty straight forward but it does take around six weeks to be issued so don’t get caught out leaving it until the last minute. The major benefit of doing this is that the students do not have to take their own passport with them and therefore don’t have to shoulder the responsibility of looking after it whilst they are away.
Make a Trip Handbook
A trip handbook does not have to be a massive undertaking but the more you put into it the better representation of your trip it will be. A handbook gives you the opportunity to set guidelines and standards as well as providing important information such as departure times and emergency numbers. It will allow you the opportunity to inform parents about the types of clothing necessary and to give tips on how to get in shape before leaving for a school skiing trip.
Just as an aside to this, remember to provide the Head Teacher and governors with a few copies as well. Teaching is a career so why pass up on the opportunity of reminding the senior management of the school how you have provided such a fantastic opportunity for the students which boosts the school profile in the community.
Parents Information Evening
It is always a good idea to provide parents with as much information as possible on the trip and an information evening, just prior to departure, can become a focal point and a great opportunity to show the parents just what a fantastic opportunity it is that you have given their children. You will already have the launch presentation to assist you and whilst you have everyone in one place then you can go through the handbook and can stress things that are particularly important to you.
Before the advent of cheaper ski clothing available in sports retailers, supermarkets and online, many schools would look to provide parents with the opportunity to hire ski clothing. Although clothing hire is less prevalent these days if you do wish to do so then the pre departure parents evening for your school ski trip is the ideal opportunity to invite the company in so that they can give their own presentation to parents