Student travel doesn’t happen without the collaboration of parents and guardians.
It’s not just about convincing them to allow their kids on the trip—it’s about working together before, during and after. When you’re in it together, parents are some of your most valuable assets, advocates and allies.
That said, this trust and collaboration doesn’t come out of nowhere. There are steps you can and should take to bring guardians into the loop and make them part of your travel planning process. Here are five big tips to get your trip started off on the right foot.
- Plant the seeds. Start off strong when informing parents of the trip. Gather as much information as you possibly can about what you hope for this journey to accomplish, then shout it from the rooftops—on your website, through the school email list, and however else you can. Then, send your students home with letters outlining the most important details, and informing parents of the next step: An information evening.
- Bring them into the process. Parents need to feel included, and this begins with an informational evening and town hall of sorts. Prepare an evening where parents can come and learn everything you know so far about the trip. Think of this as your Shark Tank moment, a time to pitch the trip and all of its strengths while showing how passionate and informed you are. Parents don’t want to send their kids off with someone enthusiastic but clueless, or vice versa.Sharing videos and photos from past trips is the best way to show parents exactly what the trip entails, including what fun will be had and what the students can learn. You may even want to include a particularly moving story, allowing parents to imagine their children having the same transformative experience.
- Don’t go it alone. You don’t have to be the lone advocate for this incredible opportunity. Teaching colleagues can help grow the audience, while students who’ve taken the same trip—or at least previously travelled with you—can offer valuable perspective from the kids’ eyes.If possible, the most valuable person to have at your information evening is your tour operator. Not only is it their job to know more than you, but they also have experience “selling” opportunities like this. They can discuss finances, scholarship opportunities, travel insurance, safety measures and more in great detail. Most importantly, the travel representative will be a big part of your trip, so it’s crucial parents form a relationship with them to build trust.
- Put their minds at ease. Safety has always been the top priority when it comes to student travel, but parents are thinking about it now more than ever thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Before anyone agrees to go on the trip, they should know every aspect of your safety plan—precautions, vaccination requirements, emergency preparations, worst-case scenarios, and so on. Don’t wait for them to ask! Offer it up from the start.The other big part of this is making sure parents are heard, and feel heard. The end of the evening should include a Q&A, offering plenty of time for questions, concerns and suggestions. You don’t need to solve everything on the spot, but you do need to show you care, that you’re taking this responsibility seriously, and that you trust the parents’ insight. They can tell you everything you need to know about exactly how to handle their child’s needs, fears and goals.
- Stay in touch. When you were a kid, going on a trip meant losing basically all contact with your parents. In today’s world of technology, parents expect to be kept in the loop. Take the onus off your students and use social media to post pictures and videos consistently throughout the trip, allowing parents to see exactly what their kids are up to and how much fun they’re having! Many parents understandably have a hard time letting their family go off and have adventures far away, where they have no control over what happens. Reward their trust in you with two-way communication.
This article was written by Managing Editor Josh Veal for Teach & Travel’s January 2022 issue.