I'm I crazy?

Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 07:58 AM
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I'm I crazy?

My wife and I have traveled to Europe five times in the last 7 years. Never had a major problem. We have been asked to take a group of 15 High School Seniors. We have absolute freedom in planning the trip. What advice can you give on booking group discount(Youth) discounts on airfare, booking a block of Hotel rooms train travel, etc.? Please keep in mind these students will be funding their share of the trip. We live in a rural area and most have been less than 200 miles from home! Any help will be greatly appreciated.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:21 AM
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I don't have any knowledge of booking youth/group discounts, but for that large of group I'd pick a tour agency or a travel agent to handle the logistics and touring agendas.

Rick Steves has some interesting options:
http://tours.ricksteves.com/tours08/home.cfm

Good luck on your planning!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:23 AM
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ira
 
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Hi Danny,

>We have been asked to take a group of 15 High School Seniors.<

You are out of your ever-loving mind to even consider it.

However:

Everyone under 19 needs a letter signed by both parents giving you permission to take the minor out of the US.

You also need a limited power of attorney (just another permission letter) allowing you to act "in loco parentis" (as the parent) for medical emergencies and any other incidents that may arise (bailing them out of jail).

You and your wife are not enough chaperones for 15 kids. You need another couple.

You also need another couple to prevent you from going mad.

Do not make any reservations or bookings until you have a hefty, non-refundable deposit from each kid and the letters from the parents.

Have you considered just booking them onto a student tour? For example, google <EF Tours>

Also enter <student tour> in the "search this forum" box.

Hope this helps.



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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:33 AM
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Hi above advice is excellent, especially ira's details.
You need to look into insurance liability issues as well--traveling at one's own risk, not YOUR risk or the school's risk.
No need to reinvent the wheel, lots of agencies specialize in organizing group trips, including student trips. They will offer a standard tour with a menu of a few options, they can include meals or not, train tickets, museum passes, etc. they can give you a menu based on various budget levels. Sometimes group leaders can travel for free if the group reaches a designated size. That may help you recruit additional chaperones. They may also throw in extras like totebags and luggage tags for the group, maps,etc.
If they were older you could be more creative in putting your own trip together, but I think for a first time this would be the way to go. If you live off the beaten track, don't forget to consider the logistics of getting everyone to and from the nearest airport hub.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:33 AM
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ira
 
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PS,

You will also want a letter, signed by the parents and the youths, listing the rules and specifying that any infraction thereof could result in said youths being sent home forthwith at their parent's expense.

Remember, you will be held responsible for whatever happens that makes anyone the least bit unhappy.

So, you have to have several meetings of the group:

1. Set the rough itinerary

2. Assign task groups to work on travel arrangements, the hotels, sight seeing, restos, and free-time in each venue.

You will have to allow them time by themselves each day and evening.

This is when you need the other couple. The four of you can go somewhere and worry together.

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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:34 AM
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Thanks for the quick responses. Knew I could get good advice here. Didn't mean to imply that we would be the ONLY crazy adults. Got other parents that will go once we establish that we can afford to go. We are looking to fly into Milan and using that as abase for four days. We can do Rome,Venice Cinque Terra and Southern ALps from there. Then to Paris as a base and finally fly back from there. I probably would be better to hire an travel agency, but to me this is the "good" sane part of the trip. I like to plan
Thanks again
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:35 AM
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PPS,

You might need a travel agent to arrange discount airfare.

However call the airlines first.

Also check out www.1800flyeurope.com. You can call them and see what can be done.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:43 AM
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Hi D,

> fly into Milan and using that as abase for four days. We can do Rome,Venice Cinque Terra and Southern ALps from there.

Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

How to put this courteously, tactfully and nicely.

You **really are** out of your mind.

From Milan it is 4:40 - 5 hr to Rome, 3 hr to La Spezia, 3 hr to Venice.

How long are you planning to be in Paris?

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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:48 AM
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If you have 15 seniors interested, it's likely that only 6 or so will actually come up with the money. I wouldn't book until I had all of the money up front or arrange a way for each to pay their own. You can book group airfare through any of the airlines. They all have a group contact desks/web pages(some for 8+ others require 10+).

You can arrange a private tour for your group only with most of the student tour companies. I would not use EF. CHA is much better for not much difference in price.

It's all very well to state you will send someone home at the parents expense, but can you actually make that happen? I really doubt it unless they provide you with access to their credit cards (not likely).

Acceptable student tour companies(to me):
higher end - www.acis.com or www.netc.com

middle range - www.cha-tours.com or www.passports.com

No, you can't do Rome, Cinque Terre, etc. using Milan as a base. It's just not remotely practical.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 08:54 AM
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>>We have been asked to take a group of 15 High School Seniors.<<

Will the person who did the asking also be going on the trip? ;-)

You are truly awesome to consider such a responsibility. In my job I take children on summer day trips - never overnight, never out of country, and always with the help of two or three other trained adult supervisors. It's a lot of fun, but also can be very tiring. Have at least two other adult couples with you, so you can take turns going off on your own for a break from the responsibility.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 09:03 AM
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I have traveled to Europe for 10 years with student groups but always with CHA.

I admire your endeavor but I would never do it with that many people. It's nice having a travel company (like CHA) available for things that don't go as planned.

We couldn't connect in NY once due to weather and instead were diverted to another town, where we spent the night. Somehow CHA knew we were going to miss our flight and had already re-scheduled our flight out the next day before we had even landed in the city we were diverted to.

A student in our group (but not one of mine) broke his arm rough-housing. Our CHA tour guide spent the better part of a day helping him get the surgery he needed in a hospital in Rome.

One of my students left his passport at a bank in Patras, Greece, My student didn't discover it was missing until we got to Athens. Our CHA guide drove his own car from Athens to Patras and back to retrieve the passport (where the local Greek teller was holding it hostage).

Also, if hotels are substandard or if something goes wrong with the booking, can you get sued by the students or their parents? What if one of your female students gets pregnant after a brief liaison with a local Italian male? (this happened on a trip a friend of mine was chaperoning). I know the pregnancy can't reasonably be blamed on you. But whom do you suppose the parents would hold accountable? How about infected tatoos? (I have a no tattoo and piercing rule but rules seem to be ignored at times.) Traveling with teens is a joy (really!) but it can be an adventure in ways you weren't expecting.

And so on. . .

I have thought about enterprises similar to yours (though with smaller groups) and then my wife gives me a dope slap to bring me back to my senses.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 09:37 AM
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15 rookie travelers under the age of 20 and only 4 chaperones?

I would say you need a minimum of 6!
Otherwise you are just asking for trouble.

I have one big question for you:
Just how do you propose to keep the boys and girls separated? Let's just say that the urge to merge can be overwhelming.

I can see some over heated male rappelling down the side of the hotel using two bedsheets for a rope.

I was in a hotel in DC two years ago that hosted the senior trip. The boys were on one floor and the girls were another, with all roolms on the same dead end hallway. There was a security guard seated in each of the two areas!!

The rule was: Nobody in the hallway after 10 PM unless there is an emergency!

You say you have been to Europe 5 times and never had a major problem. If you go off with 15 seniors and just you two as chaperones, I think your no problem record will be smashed to quark-sized pieces with no gluons to help.

I may be wrong on this aspect of your situation, but will hotels in Europe allow a large number of teen agers to stay?

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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 09:51 AM
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<We are looking to fly into Milan and using that as abase for four days. We can do Rome,Venice Cinque Terra and Southern ALps from there>

I'm sorry but that makes absolutely NO sense at all. You cannot base in Milan and do day trips to Rome or to the Cinque Terra. Perhaps Venice as it is the shortest, at a 3 hour train ride each way... but still 6 hours on the train for a few hours in Venice? You REALLY need to rethink this entire concept of a "base" in Milan.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 09:57 AM
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I took 13 adult friends to the UK for 2 weeks. Adults - and not 20-somethings but 30-ish to 75-ish. The UK - so no language issues. No - "responsibility" issues since they were all adults . . . . . and STILL there were some major problems. It was for the most part, great fun. But a couple of these "adults" still don't speak to each other 8 years later (!)

15 novice travelers - 4 chaperones - Italy and Paris -- OH YEAH, I can read the headlines now

Contact one of the student tour agencies mentioned above - and you just go along as one of the several chaperones.

(And no - Milan is not at all a practical base for the places you plan)
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 09:58 AM
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Kudos to you and your wife for helping provide what can be a mind expanding experience for these kids. That said, DO NOT attempt to do it yourself. Life will be easier for all if a third party (especially one with knowledge, experience and a network of contacts) handles arrangements. In the distant past have done arrangements for domestic group travel with adults. It was a royal PIA and after once or twice I learned my lesson. Companies that arrange group travel earn their money.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 10:07 AM
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Something else you have probably not thought of. 15 eighteen year olds who are coming from a country where they are not legally allowd to drink. They will suddenly be turned loose in countries where they can drink all they want with no legal restrictions. No matter who these kids are or what their usual behaviors are, I can see the distinct possibility of drunk, obnoxious, and disorderly behavior.

You would need very strict guidelines about this, including a signed agreement stating something to the effect that anyone who violates the alcohol guidelines will be put on the next plane home. The parents would have to foot the bill for the last minute flight on top of the expenses they had already promised to pay.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 10:12 AM
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Europeans kids go on trips like this all the time, accompanied by teachers.
My sons went to Paris and to Florence on school trips. They were 15 at the time. There was one teacher to every 6 kids. Mixed groups. There are hotels that cater specifically to this sort of group in both cities. No need for guards or separate floors. Treat them like young responsible adults and they will behave as such.
They were given a certain amount of freedom there, allowed to travel the Metro in groups without a teacher present. They were given a list of things to find during the day, and questions to answer about them. A meetup point was always arranged. They went on organised trips by bus also, to Versailles, to San Gimingano, a vineyard (and they tasted the wine - very nice it was too from the bottle that came home for us). They never lost anyone, there was no hanky-panky, a good time was had by all.
I see no reason why it wouldn't work with a group of American teenagers.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 10:14 AM
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Danny~ I think the idea of contacting a company that specializes in student tour groups (as recommended by several experienced posters above) is the reasonable very first thing to do. See if your group can afford to do the trip. You go along as chaperones. They know how to plan the trip, as they do it all the time.

You are needlessly reinventing the wheel and I don't think you have the experience required to pull it off, quite frankly, because of what you've said like basing in Milan to see all of Italy. I'm no expert, but this is so obviously not going to work.

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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 10:16 AM
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Danny 3643:

Do you get the sense that people are yelling at you?
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Old Feb 2nd, 2008, 10:25 AM
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hetismij: I agree - if this was a European parent - the question would not even come up.

But a couple of major differences I see:

These are American kids who live in a very rural area. My guess most have never been on ground public transport of any kind other than perhaps school buses. It sounds like some haven't even been on a plane.

Never on a metro/tube/subway or even a city bus. Probably, some have never even to a US big city like New York, Chicago or San Francisco.

If they were a group of Newcastle kids going to Paris and Rome - or Lyon kids going to London and Edinburgh - no problems (well no major ones).

But kids from a rural US location and w/ the major differences in how drinking is handled. . . .

I don't mean to say these kids are terrors or anything of the sort. It is just an entirely different culture. Plus being HS seniors means they can be anywhere from 16 to 19 - mostly 17 and 18.
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