In two days’ time, I will be going on a walking tour of Ireland organized by Go-Ahead Tours, EF Educational Tours’ adult travel division. I recruited a small group of adults to travel with me and we will be part of a larger group of independent travelers on our 11-day tour of Ireland. After traveling with students during the spring break, I look forward to recharging my “travel batteries” on an adult tour. However, I have to admit that I will miss the kind of experiences you can only have on a student tour. I like to read the travel blog for Go-Ahead Tours called Destination Go and a popular type of blog post has been “My Trip in 5 Photos.” Since “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” here is my recent spring break student tour to Great Britain in five photos with some tips for group leaders.
My students adopted a second-grade class at a local school and traveled with “Flat Stanley” dolls made in the likeness of each second grader. Stonehenge, England’s most famous rock group, was a great place for Edwina Mathis, Matthew Williamson, and Laura Brabham to bring out their “Flat Stanley” dolls. Before the school year ended, my students held a party for the second graders and presented each student with a photo journal and souvenirs from England and Scotland. Participating in a project like Flat Stanley makes your tour truly educational and it is a good way to get publicity for your tours. Think about recruiting early, too, for future tours because those second graders do grow up. Plan to be a group leader for the long haul because it’s worth it.
My tour dress code discourages students from wearing their school sweatshirts and t-shirts (or anything with wording that could be taken the wrong way), but I don’t have any problems with them wearing their tour souvenirs. London was certainly a favorite part of our itinerary and Madison Vogt, Chelsea Maier, and Carley Chapman spent their pounds wisely when they bought sweatshirts and a hat to keep warm when the weather turned colder by the time we traveled to Bath. Encourage your students to wear their souvenirs to school because that is one way to advertise for your future tours. Also encourage your students to follow your packing list so that they are prepared for any kind of weather. I couldn’t resist saying “I told you so,” to several shivering students on my tour.
Hadrian’ Wall is described as Great Britain’s “greatest Roman monument” and was designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1987. This defensive wall stretches for 84 miles between England and Scotland. My students and I had the opportunity to hike along a 2.5 mile part of the wall near the Houseteads Roman fort. When most of my students left me in the dust (or rather snow since it had snowed the day before), only one student stayed behind to make certain I was going to finish the hike. Mason Tomberlin was the youngest student in my group and I look forward to teaching her this coming school year when she enters 9th grade. Needless to say, Mason has already earned an A in my class. Consider recruiting younger or even older students than the ones you teach. I require a parent to accompany younger students and I require older students to follow the “rules of the road” when they are on tour with me. That’s a good way to increase the size of your groups.
On our first night in Edinburgh, my group was treated to a private ceilidh complete with a wonderful dinner and lots of Scottish bagpipe music and dancing. The highlight of our evening was the presentation of the haggis and I had no idea it would be done by one of my students, Dustin Griggs. Not even his mother, who was also on the tour, had any clue that her son would be an important part of the ceremony. He made all of us so proud and he looked handsome in his kilt. The Scottish ceilidh was an optional excursion that was worth every penny (or pence)! Try to do some fundraising to offset the cost of an optional excursion.
If you’re not easily embarrassed, you can show your Scottish pride by donning a “Jimmy hat” with ginger (red) hair. Josh Evans first traveled to Scotland with me in 2005 when he was a senior in high school. He returned home from that tour with a kilt that he wore to the prom. On his return tour to Scotland as an adult, he was not ashamed to show his enthusiasm about being back or being Scottish during his time in his “homeland.” Repeat travelers have been a strong part of my groups. Cultivate strong relationships with the families of your students. Chances are, younger siblings will want to go on tour with you and maybe even the parents or grandparents. You may get former students who want to travel with you after they graduate from high school.
I am looking forward to traveling to Ireland on my third adults-only tour. After traveling with students on so many EF tours, I just have to remember not to use my “schoolteacher voice” with my adults and I need to back off from asking any of them before we leave the hotel if they used the toilet. Even though I will be making wake-up calls, I will not be doing any bed checks. I will be making my daily passport checks. There are just some group travel routines I can’t give up. My adult travelers get the same attention and care I give my students. Don’t tell my adults, but sometimes students are easier to travel with than adults!
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