World geography teacher Edith C. surrounded by illustration of her 2022 New York to Washington, D.C. tour

Tour planning

Absolutely amazing student travel: Why Edith switched to EF

Like many of us, Edith C. loves to travel. But when the world geography teacher from Laredo, TX went on student tours with other companies, she found the experience less than stellar. Still, Edith is driven to provide travel opportunities for her students. Coming from a low-income school, she says it’s rare for kids in her community to even think about travel, let alone believe they can go. She’s determined to show those kids that the world is theirs and waiting for them. That determination is why she’s working with us to plan compelling class trips.

At EF, she feels supported by an entire team who shares her vision for absolutely amazing travel experiences. She has a true partner who provides her with all the tools and knowledge to make her job as a Group Leader incredibly easy. This March, she led a group of students on her first EF trip: a dream New York to Washington, D.C. tour.

 

On tour, Edith saw travel transform students right before her eyes. She told us all about the impact she witnessed.

“You want to make sure that travel is accessible to everybody.” – Hannah M., an EF Tour Consultant who helped plan Edith’s New York to Washington, D.C. tour

The partnership at the heart of every EF tour

For Edith, it’s all about communication. Knowing there’s a plan, what goes into that plan, and exactly how it will be executed fills her with confidence that she and her students will be taken care of. As her Tour Consultant, Hannah M. is Edith’s main point of contact with EF. The two collaborate closely on every detail, partnering to make sure the tour is a success. From their first conversation, Hannah knew she’d love working with Edith. “She’s passionate, she’s fun, she tells it like it is,” says Hannah. “And she loves her students.”

Because Edith’s group might not immediately think of travel as an attainable option, Hannah knew itinerary selection and timing would be top priorities to make the trip realistic for the kids. By picking an affordable tour, and setting a departure date well in advance, families would have lower monthly payments they could plan around.

From there, they begin focusing on promotion. Hannah makes sure Edith has all the materials she needs to spread the word about her trip, from email templates for parents and images for Google Classroom to posters and flyers. That organization and those tools make life incredibly easy for Edith. “Hannah and I have always been eye to eye,” she says. “It feels like I did nothing, really, just hold a couple of meetings and show these slides she sent me.” For a community of largely Hispanic families, Hannah makes sure to equip Edith with EF’s Spanish and bilingual resources. “You want to make sure that travel is accessible to everybody,” she says.

Throughout, Hannah is available for any questions Edith has, and the two quickly find their favorite form of communication. “Texting is big,” laughs Hannah. “It’s fast. [Teachers] don’t have to find a planning period. It’s just easy.” Those texts don’t stop after departure, either, as the two stay in touch throughout the travel experience. “Edith hit the ground running [on tour], but she was sending me pictures, just loving it.”

Elisa M., an EF Production Specialist, organized all the pieces of a New York to Washington, D.C. tour for Edith’s student group from Laredo, Texas.

Behind the scenes, a dedication to the details

After getting off the phone with Edith during the initial weeks of planning, Hannah starts talking with Elisa M. to really set the class trip in motion. Elisa (an EF Production Specialist) coordinates, well, all things production, with a focus on the East Coast. If it can be scheduled, coordinated, or booked, Elisa is on it. Things you don’t often think about, like museum tickets and dinner reservations, are what keep an itinerary running smoothly so travelers can immerse themselves in their destination.

Elisa also has a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of COVID restrictions. She knows, for instance, that while the U.S. Capitol has taken longer to reopen to visitors than other attractions, there are a half dozen (or more!) alternatives she can quickly recommend. Above all, though, she’s a communication pro. Not only is she in touch with Hannah, but she works with the procurement teams (who handle security, hotels, and buses) as well as the group’s dedicated Tour Director to make sure everyone involved in Edith’s New York to Washington, D.C. tour is on the exact same page.

Left: Three of Edith’s students take in the scenery at Ellis Island on their New York to Washington, D.C. tour. Right: Edith and her students stroll through Times Square on a New York to Washington, D.C. tour in March of 2022.
Sara S., an EF Customer Experience Manager, helped coordinate a training tour ahead of Edith’s New York to Washington, D.C. tour with students.

Coming together for training

“The training tour blew me away,” says Edith. As a first-time Group Leader with EF Explore America, she was able to join EF staff and other educators in New York City in January for a free training tour. “They trained me as if I was a student, she says. “They modeled. That’s the way people learn. And now it’s like, “OK, I got this.’” Sara S., a Customer Experience Manager who focuses on organizing training tours, makes sure every moment along the way is a learning experience—from pre-departure flight information to walking tours and group meals. Sara and the rest of the training tour staff never miss a teaching moment (while making plenty of time for sightseeing and fun, of course).

Edith and Sara agree that the most impactful moment on these trips is talking to the teachers with experience leading a tour. “We had two educators from San Antonio,” says Edith. “And they had all these resources they shared with us. The actual training made me really comfortable.” That lightbulb moment is something Sara sees on every training tour.  “Someone like Edith might be the only one in their community who’s spending their spring break leading students on tour,” says Sara. “Something about being in that room with people who have chosen to do the same thing you’re doing puts teachers at ease.”

“It’s my job to make the transition from the ‘on-paper itinerary’ to the ‘actual tour experience’ seamless.” – Chris M., Edith’s Tour Director for her New York to Washington, D.C. tour

Becoming fast friends on the road

For Chris M., Edith’s Tour Director, a successful tour starts well before greeting a group at their destination. Weeks in advance, he’s in communication with everyone involved to make sure things go smoothly. He catches up with Hannah and Elisa to review everything they’ve put together. Looking over Edith’s itinerary, he notices the group will be in a rush to make it to Arlington National Cemetery on Day 3, so he coordinates with Elisa to make a slight alteration to the schedule.

Next, he focuses on getting to know Edith over Zoom. They cover logistics, of course, but Chris is mostly interested in developing a relationship with his Group Leader. As their dedicated Tour Director, he’s with Edith’s group through every step on tour, working together with Edith the whole way. They hit it off immediately. “She was really energetic,” says Chris of their initial conversation. “Right off the bat, I got a really good feeling from her.” He asks about Edith’s students, what they’re covering in class, and what everyone is most looking forward to.

Once Edith’s group arrives in Washington, D.C., Chris keeps the same mindset, but with a focus on the students. “I try to sit down and spend time with them as much as possible,” Chris says. “Get to know the kids, their personalities, their interests.” For him, that means joining the students at lunch or finding moments to wander a museum with a few travelers. “When you build a relationship with them, they’re going to be much more apt to engage with you when you’re giving a walking tour of the monuments.”

Those connections enhance the experience for everyone, making the tour exciting, immersive, and personal. Which is exactly how Chris wants travelers to feel. “It’s my job,” he says, “to make the transition from the ‘on-paper itinerary’ to the ‘actual tour experience’ seamless.”

Left: Edith and a traveler pose for a photo while walking the National Mall on their New York to Washington, D.C. tour. Right: Students participate in the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on a New York to Washington, D.C. tour.

Next stop? California!

Hannah remembers one unexpected thing about Edith’s D.C. to NYC tour: The Group Leader was so excited about her recent travel experience that she couldn’t help but start planning the next trip from the road. “She was actually on tour, and she wrote to me, ‘California 2023,’” says Hannah. Unlike other experiences, the educational travel Edith found with EF is exactly what she always envisioned: strong partnerships, a collaborative environment, and incredible itineraries. Her California Panorama tour is still in the early planning stages, but after introducing a group of students to life outside their Texas hometown, they’re hungry to see what else the world has to offer.

Student on a New York to Washington, D.C. tour exploring a D.C. monument while wearing an EF backpack

Say see ya to so-so travel

At EF, we don’t settle for simply showing you the highlights of a destination. Our modern approach to educational travel provides lessons and connections that will stick with students (and help drive them) wherever they go next.

Learn more

Jake Minton

Jake is a copywriter at EF. His bucket list includes (but is by no means limited to) snowboarding in Japan, exploring the streets of Nairobi, and snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.