Experienced Group Leader Danny S. giving teachers parent communication tips

Travel tips

Pre-tour parent communication tips from experienced Group Leaders

While generating excitement in students as you’re planning an EF tour is so important (and so fun!), it’s equally as crucial to keep parents and guardians in-the-know from the moment you choose an itinerary.

While strategizing, organizing, and keeping up with communication before tour can feel daunting, we’re sharing easy-to-follow advice from three experienced Group Leaders. We sourced the following parent communication tips during an informational panel on one of our training tours, which allow new Group Leaders to experience a tour and learn the ropes of student travel before they lead their own students out into the world.

Meet our panel of experts

Group Leader Cheryl O. shares parent communication tips

Group Leader Danny S. shares parent communication tips

Former Group Leader now EF staff member Lisa W. shares parent communication tips

What they’ll cover


Signing students up and hosting meetings

Danny S.
“I kick spring break trips off in the fall—about 18 months out—because the payment plan helps manage costs for families.”

Cheryl O.
“I hold a tour confirmation meeting 2–3 months before we leave, and then 2–3 weeks before we leave. It’s the easiest way that I’ve kept track of things.”

Danny S.
“We’ll have quick meetings during school with students, but sometimes I’ll hold a parent meeting if a lot of questions come up. It’s all about opening that line of communication and being ready to answer anything. And if you don’t know an answer, just say you’ll get it from EF because your Tour Consultant will know.”

Lisa W.
“It’s really important to get students genuinely excited, but if they’re excited and the parents have no idea what’s going on—or vice versa—it’s definitely harder to get a tour off the ground.”

“What I find helpful is having a parent come and endorse the trip. When a student’s parent shows up to your recruitment meeting and can share their story and answer any questions, that’s really meaningful.”

Cheryl O.

Family inclusivity

Cheryl O.
“I often tell students to talk to their families or grown-ups or caregivers, not their parents, since so many of them aren’t raised by or financially supported by parents. While I’m recruiting, I’ll often encourage my students to talk to whoever makes financial decisions for them to help cast a wider net, including relatives and family friends who may support them financially through the personal fundraising page. When I send messages to my groups, which often include parents, guardians, caregivers, and families, I’ll use a greeting like, ‘Good morning, travelers and lovers and supporters of travelers…’”

Danny S.
“Understanding that families come in all shapes, sizes, and formations these days, it’s best to be intentional with how you address families that may be interested in sending their young people on tour with you. While many of us have used the tried-and-true ‘parents/guardians’ address, more recently we’ve begun using ‘family leaders.’ Keep in mind that many travelers have extended family members helping them financially—we’ve started calling them ‘financial mentors.’”

Experienced Group Leaders share parent communication tips

Email communication

Cheryl O.
“I send out monthly newsletters that cover a large swath of things, including how to pack, what to expect on tour, what meals might look like, what the weather will be, why I chose the itinerary, and anything I know as I know it. And then I get questions, which I’ll answer in the next newsletter. I also ask for parents to respond to me in some way to verify that they’re reading them.”

Cheryl O.
“It’s important to be really mindful about the messages that you send out. You want them to be thoughtful and meaningful. Think about bullet points, images—all those really great things that make us want to read an email, because the travelers and their parents will really appreciate it.”

Roommate selection and front-loading expectations

Cheryl O.
“While my inclination is to check in with parents to make them aware of what’s going on with rooming, it’s important to remember that some of our trans or queer students aren’t out to them yet. So check with a student first before you escalate rooming to adults. If they’re not out to their parents, you’ll have to navigate that conversation carefully. You can work with the student and your Tour Consultant within the parameters of your tour and show them their options.”

Danny S.
“When you have meetings with parents, tell them the rules, parameters, and possible consequences as soon as you can. And say that if behavior is extreme enough, their child will fly home at the parents’ expense. I have a behavior contract that all students and parents have to sign.”

Cheryl O.
“There’s only three rules that travelers and parents know before my trips—be on time, listen, and be on time. If they’re on time, I know they’re listening, respecting the rules, and that we’ll do all the activities we wanted to. I want to trust the students to make the best decisions for themselves. I obviously want everyone to stay for the whole time, so I tell parents that if their children are on time, being kind, and listening, they’re going to have a great trip.”

Danny S.
“If we do have incidents, I’ve found it works to take a student aside, call their parents on speakerphone, and have the student explain what happened. Then the parent knows, the student understands the gravity of the situation, and both parties are aware of the possible consequences if the behavior continues.”

“In my meeting 2–3 months ahead of time, I pull out a sheet that asks students to write down five people who they’d prefer to room with and anyone who they won’t room with. I also ask students upfront whether they’d feel comfortable about sharing a room with someone they just met that day, if the tour is consolidated.”

Cheryl O.

EF staff members share parent communication tips

Money management and tipping

Cheryl O.
“Collecting tip money upfront—usually during the last parent meeting—is the best way to make sure that you’re not scrambling for money or that students are mis-budgeting.”

Lisa W.
“You’re in charge and can make executive decisions on tour excursions. When I was a teacher and taught in a low-income area, I decided we would go on an excursion to Siena. I gave parents as much advance notice as I could that it would cost 30 euros each. It’s good to talk about spending money in your enrollment meeting, too.”

Lisa W.
“I created a floating bank and asked parents to give $20 of emergency money so that if one student’s card didn’t work, it wasn’t all on me. And I told them to not expect to see that money again, and that I’d turn it loose on the students on the last day of tour.”

learn new parent communication tips on international training tours with EF

Looking for more advice from experienced Group Leaders, EF staff, parents, and travelers?

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Maddie Poulin

Maddie is a copywriter at EF. She loves dissecting movies and TV shows, making playlists for every mood, staying active, and dreaming about her next trip.

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