"Passports" student travel company

Jan 19th, 2008, 05:51 PM
  #1  
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"Passports" student travel company

Does anyone know anything about this company? I was doing a web search on student travel organizations and this one came up and looked intriguing. I have never led a student tour group but have been warned well off of EF, both on this board and from colleagues. I have never heard anything about Passports and wondered if any of you knew anything--good or bad.
Kellye is offline  
Jan 19th, 2008, 05:58 PM
  #2  
 
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Passports is a mid-level student tour company. The founder was associated with a student tour company that went bankrupt and the info used to be on their web site, but was taken down a few years ago.

Top companies
www.acis.com
www.netc.com

Mid
www.cha-tours.com
www.passports.com

Bottom
www.eftours.com
www.explorica.com

I would chose CHA over Passports.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 19th, 2008, 06:00 PM
  #3  
 
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I just looked at Passports again and the history is there, but tweaked a bit.
http://www.passports.com/about/stusa.asp
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 20th, 2008, 06:17 PM
  #4  
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Any specific reason why you would choose CHA? Are ACIS and/or NETC worth the extra cost? I haven't ever really entertained the idea of taking students on trips, but having been completely bitten by the travel bug now, I am exploring the possibilities. I am also considering applying to become a teacher leader for People to People since I have heard really great things about that organization. Any feedback on that either?
Kellye is offline  
Jan 20th, 2008, 07:50 PM
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P2P would be a last resort IMHO. I personally find their recruitment tactics despicable. To pretend they are a service organization "awarding" trip invitations when really they are on overpriced for profit tour company and will take anyone that will pay. I feel sorry for the students that think they have really received a special "award". Usually Fodor's gets a flurry of people asking questions about P2P this time of year because that's when they send out their recruitment letters.

I suggested CHA because they are a step-up from the budget companies (EF and Explorica). ACIS and NETC would be great if your students can afford them. NETC offers more hands-on educational activities than any of the others. CHA doesn't hassle people and send catalogs forever. They won't call you for years afterward like Passports/EF/Explorica.

FWIW - You may have 100 students express interest and half show up for an actual organizational meeting. Out of the 50, you may have only a handful that will actually come up with the money. If you have a small group, you will be combined with other groups of any age from age 10+. You may get bumped to a similar trip if not enough people signed up for the trip you selected.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 20th, 2008, 11:40 PM
  #6  
 
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When I was still teaching, I took students on several tours to Italy, France and Spain - using student travel companies - so I have first hand experience with several, including EF and CHA and a passing aquaintance with Explorica and Passports. I read a lot of posts from people who have never actually taken one of these tours, and from students and parents who were not properly prepared on what to expect.

The companies do vary a lot (and that is important - both on the trip and before), but the most important aspect of student trips is the teacher who is taking them, how informed/knowledgeable he/she is, and how much preparation he/she gives the students and parents. I took students to places to which I had already traveled, independently.

I would be happy to pass along more detailed pros and cons and personal experiences if you would like.
Sassafrass is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 08:33 AM
  #7  
 
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I went on an EF tour as an adult and do not recommend it. However, I think it would be fine for high school students. It is an inexpensive way to see Europe.
KL467 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 08:58 AM
  #8  
MaureenB
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Have you looked at STATravel? They specialize in student travel, and have offices on several college campuses across the U.S. It's helpful to be able to sit down with a live person for help planning.

We used STA for airfare when our daughter studied in Italy, and they were very helpful when her return itinerary had to be changed (which we knew would happen!). They only charged about $35 difference in fare to change departure city, date, and arrival city.

I just went to their site and found that they offer packages with discounts, through companies like Contiki. http://www.statravel.com/cps/rde/xch...s.xsl/9781.htm

>-
 
Jan 21st, 2008, 04:38 PM
  #9  
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I appreciate everyone's feedback. I have a friend whose daughter went with P2P last year and she had a marvelous experience. Her favorite part were the homestays that were arranged in Germany. Does any other organization do those?

P2P was attractive because I have been told that you don't have to do as much recruiting if you are one of their teacher leaders. They do it for you.

The more I think through this, the more I think I would like to take seniors on a graduation trip. The positive would be that they are adults and I would imagine that could be spelled out clearly to parents beforehand, so some of the chaperonage issues would be less arduous. I would rather travel as a "teacher companion--guide" than a "chaperone" if you know what I mean.

Sassafrass, did you go to places you had already explored because you had more knowledge then or because you wouldn't be as disappointed if you didn't get to see some of your "must sees"--or perhaps some combination of those two? I'm not well travelled in Europe at this point, so there wouldn't be too many places I could take them that I have personal experience about.

My personal travel style is to settle someplace for longer and really explore, rather than hit all the highlights and keep moving to a new place. So far, all the student tour places hit the ground and keeping hitting the ground. I can see the advantages of that from the perspective that you keep students moving and hopefully they won't get into as much trouble, but I also think it is a shame since they don't really get the experience of feeling the ambience of where they are (people, geography, history, etc.).

Any and all feedback is welcome as I navigate this concept. Thanks.
Kellye is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 04:53 PM
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Kellye, I recommend having the students hit the highlights and keep moving. Some may only go to Europe that one time. No matter what you decide, I know that you will have a great time!
KL467 is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 05:53 PM
  #11  
 
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kybourbon has accurately listed some of the main companies in the student travel business and her rankings seem pretty accurate.

Kellye, taking graduated seniors is different than younger kids, but can still turn into disaster if they have no guidance and rules. My last three trips had between 25 and 30% graduated seniors. They were given enough extra freedom to feel special, but not enough to ruin discipline or moral with the younger kids.

If this is your first trip, it would be very lucky for you to have so many kids sign up that you can limit it to only graduates. Depending upon the company, you will need well in excess of 20 paying participants and fewer than 45 to have your planned trip come off. Fewer than that and it would probably be combined with another teacher's group with different itinerary and different rules.

There is a teachers' bulletin board discussing student trips at http://tinyurl.com/24vjn4
Unfortunately, many of the people posting there are students or parents so not all opinions carry equal weight.

Busy schedules and travel give the students the most for their money. We sprinkle multiple hours or even afternoons off through the trip. These are still structured around activities such as picnics, shopping or hiking/exploring. Guidance and schedules are important because most kids won't know what to do with their time.
gforaker is offline  
Jan 21st, 2008, 06:13 PM
  #12  
 
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Passports called me today. I don't find them really pushy. They just want to know if/when I'm planning on traveling and tell me they will send some information.

As for P2P, I'm sure their trips are enjoyable, but they are way overpriced compared to the other student tour companies. They originally started out as a non-profit, but that was long ago. They are a for profit student tour company just like all the others except for their deceptive recruitment awards.

STATravel is more for independent college students traveling on their own. I used them when my daughter was studying in Spain for 5 months. They allowed changes on airline tickets for $25 if you booked through them. This comes in handy for study abroad programs if you don't know your exact return schedule at departure time.

As for Contiki, you must be 18 and they are known as a party tour. They don't leave early in the mornings and provide transportation to the clubs at night. You didn't mention your age, but you can't travel with Contiki if you are over 35.

Another concern would be school or school board policies. In my district, any teacher traveling with students is responsible for the students and must follow all school board policies/rules as to behavior. We had one teacher let go after some questionable decisions made on a trip. All trips (even during breaks or summer) where a teacher employed by the school district is taking students in the school district (even if their parents are going) must be approved in advance by the school board. This approval is required before you can even mention such a trip to students. Their position is you are their employee all year and you are using your position with the school to recruit. They (the school board) can and have cancelled trips at the last minute (9/11, Madrid bombings, etc.)resulting in students losing money (the teacher doesn't lose because she is traveling free).

Yes, some of the companies besides P2P offer homestays.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 21st, 2008, 08:22 PM
  #13  
 
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No "must sees" for myself on student trips, because I had already visited most of the major museums, etc. I wanted my art students (who had not traveled) to see first hand the Sistine Chapel, David, San Marco, Pompeii, etc. For a semester before, they studied places and artwork they would see. Even if you haven't been someplace yourself, you can explore with the students what they will be seeing and it will be more meaningful to them. You might also pair up with another teacher who has been to some of the places you want to go.

I took no more than six to ten, carefully selected students. It was a time for me to share art with students who would really appreciate the opportunity. Serious students are easy to travel with. Look carefully at those who just want to get away from home and party. My trips had no direct connection with the school. Kybourbon is right though. In some school systems, you might not be able to handle it that way, plus a big group might be fine for you.

As gforaker said, if you have a small group, it will be combined with another. This worked well for me. If your trip doesn't have enough people, you will be given a similar trip. As KL467 said, fast paced tours do seem to work best for students. They need some free time to explore and that is where they need your leadership. Choose a tour where you are actually on the ground, seeing things, not passing by on a bus.

Personal experience
EF:
Great to work with from day one
Good guides
Good flight schedules
Really bad food and poor hotels
I hear from recent travelers that these have improved.
Some fellow teachers have used them with great luck. Big groups seem to get the best treatment.
CHA:
Mostly, much better food and hotels
Really great guides
Horrible flight schedules
Good to work with during planning stage
Not helpful when things went wrong
Passports: has repeatedly been helpful with planning advice, even though I ended up never actually using them.

You will enjoy taking students. It is incredible to see the look on their faces when they see Venice or David for the first time.
Sassafrass is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2008, 07:18 PM
  #14  
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I appreciate all the thoughtful feedback. I am definitely over 35, have no interest in a "party tour", would have rules and expectations, but would also like the parents to know that if their children are 18, they are legal adults in Europe and therefore, we should set rules (and expectations for me and the kids) accordingly. I would also hope to be able to set rules that allow for me to send a child home immediately at parent's expense if rules are violated (drugs, illegal behavior, etc.)--do all groups allow for that sort of thing? I teach in a pretty affluent school system so finding students who can afford a tour wouldn't be the problem, I don't think. It would be more of a problem finding students whose parents haven't already planned or taken them on this kind of a trip, honestly. I'll check into school board policy here--a colleague has been advertising a trip since last spring so she can tell me what the policies are with regard to the BOE, etc. I don't know whether I would really want to be personally responsible for a large group of kids--I think I would rather end up combined with another group with the ability to go our own way during free time than feel like I was having to keep up with 25+ students. I am in the process of exploring the idea and getting some brochures at this point. Thanks again for such thoughtful feedback.
Kellye is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2008, 08:10 PM
  #15  
 
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Most of the student tour companies have the policy about sending kids home at the parent's expense. It rarely happens though. On one EF tour, the EF tour leader offered to transport drugs for the kids. I'm not sure what you mean by "legal age" being 18. If you are talking about drinking, 16 is the norm in many European countries. I've never seen kids under 18 have any problems getting into clubs either. It's just not the big deal it is in the states.

If money isn't a concern, I would use ACIS or NETC. Try to pick tours that spend 2-3 nights each location. One nighters get very tiring. Even if the kids have traveled with parents to Europe, I think they will still want their kids to experience other cities/countries and to travel with friends.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 24th, 2008, 06:58 PM
  #16  
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Was that an EF tour you were on? That would definitely turn me off that particular company--jeesh!

I emailed the teacher at school that is leading a tour later this year to find out which company she is using, school board policy, etc. and will proceed after getting that info from her.

I REALLY appreciate your help with this--all of you.
Kellye is offline  
Jan 25th, 2008, 03:15 PM
  #17  
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Have another question--does anyone know about Worldstrides? Their interactive experiences look pretty great. I couldn't find prices online though. That is a little scary.

I did exchange emails with my colleague who is taking a group this summer. She is using EF (uh-oh), has 12 going and it is a mix of current students, former students, a colleague and a couple of parents. She said she only cleared things through the principal and they have been very accommodating, even allowing her to arrange for fundraising opportunities for the students on campus.

I got my Passports brochure today in the mail and I skimmed through it on my planning period. I did like that they had some single destination trips which would allow you to see more of what you want to plan to see. Continuing to research...
Kellye is offline  
Jan 25th, 2008, 05:43 PM
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I received a catalog from Explorica a week ago and Passports today. Passports, CHA, ACIS and NETC use 3 and 4 star hotels and ACIS states theirs will be centrally located. EF and Explorica will use 1 and 2 star with an occaisonal 3 star. EF and Explorica also will house 4-5 students in a room while CHA uses triples and ACIS uses doubles and triples. This makes a difference when girls used to their own bathroom at home are having to share with 4 people. It doesn't seem to be as much problem with the guys, but the girls really have a hard time getting out the door in the mornings.

Things that seem to affect the quality of tours with EF and Explorica are whether you are leading a private tour (your group only of 25-40 people) or combining with other groups/schools. Private tours seem to get better hotels/locations, but they are usually paying more. The time of year will also affect the quality of hotels/locations. With EF/Explorica, many times your Rome/Florence/Venice hotels can be as much as an hour outside of the city.

I've never heard of Worldstrides, but was surprised when I looked at the company history on their website. They state they combined 6 companies in 1967 one of which was Educational Field Studies. I know EFS was still operating as EFS in the late 90's as my daughter's school used them for their annual DC trip. Many parents/students got confused because the school also had a few EF tours at the time and the names were so similar.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 25th, 2008, 06:00 PM
  #19  
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Interesting. The company history I am reading at Worldstrides says that they combined the companies in the late 90's.... I wonder if there is more than one link and we are getting different ones?????
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Jan 25th, 2008, 06:21 PM
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Don't know about Passports, but we took a tour of France with NETC this November and they were great! We were a group of 31; 15~18 year old students, some parents and teachers. Our guide, Robert, was excellant. He was born in California, has French parents and makes documentary films. He has the patience of Job and was very good with everyone.

Our whole experience with NETC was positive and if you could make arrangements with them, I think you would be pleased.
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