You really want to organise a field trip to South Africa for your students but have never done this before … where do you start?
First of all, well done, give yourself a pat on the back – you have made the best decision you can in terms of giving your students’ the best education possible and probably the highlight of their academic careers. The benefits of field trips should never be underestimated.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and you don’t have to take on the entire burden yourself. I have published an e-book A Complete Guide To Planning A South African Field Trip which is based on 24 years of experience in field trips and over 12 000 students. The book covers in detail the following 12-step field trip plan.
Step 1: Destination research
The destination that you decide to visit with your students is incredibly important. Your senior management team will need to be convinced that you have done your homework and can provide assurances regarding risks and benefits.
The right destination is a one that:
- Fits your educational aims and objectives;
- Offers opportunities for fun, once in a lifetime, experiences;
- Has the right climate for the time of year you plan to travel;
- Meets a high standard of health and safety;
- Meets your needs in terms of in-country support;
- Offers value.
Step 2: Research in-country venture providers
Besides the fact that in most counties it is a legal requirement to be a registered tourist guide to conduct any form of tour for anyone other than yourself (basically), it is the responsible thing to do. There are many benefits to using a local professional venture provider, the least of which is having local backup in-country should something go wrong. Please don’t think that contracting in a local tour guide will do because when things do go wrong you could need more support than a “one-man band” is able to provide.
Step 3: Develop your field trip aims and objectives
A field trip abroad is an investment in your students’ education, in your institution’s reputation, and in your (the trip organiser’s) career. Therefore, it is important that you set clear aims and objectives that are quantifiable in terms of learning outcomes, personal development objectives, and/or life skills.
Clear aims and objectives are required at all levels (from the students to senior management) to get the necessary support for the trip. You want the entire chain, from the governing body to the parents of the students, to buy into the trip. Otherwise, it might be regarded as your personal hobby horse and not an asset. Some institutions go so far as to involve local media to get the buy in of the surrounding community, which helps students with fundraising activities.
Step 4: Appoint an in-country service provider
Based on your field tip aims and objectives and the research you have done on in-country venture providers you are now able to make an informed decision regarding the most appropriate choice of in-country service provider.
Step 5: Finalise your itinerary and costs
Together with your in-country venture provider you can now finalise your itinerary and cost of the trip. In the travel industry your itinerary is regarded as a binding contract between you and the service provider, it is therefore imperative that you are both working from the same itinerary and it includes all the activities and services you require.
Step 6: Develop and submit you field trip proposal for approval
Steps 1 through 5 make up the core of the content that your senior management team will need to see covered in your field trip proposal. In addition to this, consider including a section on the benefits of field trips to students as well as the institution.
Step 7: Secure flights
Everything hinges on securing flights. Flights usually open 11 months in advance and the sooner you book the better the price (in theory) and flexibility you will have. The deposit varies between airlines and travel agents but usually a 10% deposit is required. At this stage, the airline will not require names.
Step 8: Prepare a safety/safeguarding plan
This is the most crucial and time consuming part of the process that requires you to think ahead comprehensively covering the following aspects:
- Risk Assessments – every aspect of the trip must be assessed.
- Acknowledgment of Risk/Indemnity – almost every insurance company (including your institution as well as your in-country venture provider) will require this.
- Code of Conduct – this is not a private holiday; students and other staff are representing your institution. Generally, field trips are to places where one is outside of normal comfort zones and require heightened awareness. Participants need to acknowledge that, for the benefit and safety of themselves and others, a code of conduct is required.
- Media Release Consent Form – If you are planning to use images or videos of the participants on social media or to promote future trips you will need a media consent release form signed by everyone.
- Personal Information – On the trip you will need to have immediate access to various personal information in case of an emergency or simply ensuring specific dietary requirements are catered for. This needs to be collected and managed in line with Personal Data Protection laws.
- Temporary Guardianship Authorization – for children under the age of 18 you will need each child’s parents to assign you temporary guardianship. The reason for this is most destinations, attractions and activities will require some sort of indemnity to be signed before admittance.
- Participants’ Travel Insurance Documentation – Travel insurance is not only responsible practice but in many cases a condition of travel. If group travel insurance has not been taken out, you will need copies of each participant’s individual travel insurance documentation.
- In-Country Partner’s Insurance Documentation – Your in-country venture provider must carry the relevant insurance and provide you with valid proof thereof.
- Medical Emergency Response Protocol – Prepare in advance a response protocol that is sound and both your institution and your in-country venture provider agree on.
- Emergency Medical Evacuation – If your in-country venture provider does not have this make sure it is included in your travel insurance.
- Sexual Offenders Register – All your assistant group leaders and your in-country venture provider staff must submit valid certificates.
- Emergency Communication Protocol and Contact Numbers – It is important that your plan includes an emergency communication protocol and a comprehensive list of contact numbers.
Step 9: Your marketing and recruitment plan
The leading reason why field trips fail is because the organizer ran out of time. Remember that success is planned for and not as a result of luck. Your plan will be dictated by various factors such as the target students, the aims and objectives, the financial resources available to the participants, and the regularity of the trip (an annual event or a once-off). The most important thing is to start marketing early.
Step 10: Payment Schedule
You have invested a lot of work in this field trip and your in-country venture provider has booked out space on their schedule. Based on the outgoing payment dates to secure the various services necessary, develop a payment plan to get payments from your students. Three or four installments over as long a period as possible is a winning strategy. Allow sufficient margins for late payers and diarise all the necessary outgoing payment dates and advise your finance department well in advance so they can schedule payment transactions.
Step 11: Prepare students
It is too late to discover a week before the trip that a student’s passport does not have a full blank page, therefore it is important to schedule a pre-departure briefing at least one month prior to departure to check the following:
- Each person has a flight ticket
- Expiry date is at least 6 months after the return date of the trip
- The name on each passport matches the name on the corresponding flight ticket
- Each passport has at least one full blank page
- Nationality of the passport and the relevant visa requirements have been met
- The necessary medical and dietary information has been correctly transcribed from other relevant documents into one document
- Insurance documentation is in order
- You have a signed Temporary Guardianship Authorization for each minor on the trip
- You have a signed Acknowledgement of Risk for each participant
- You have a signed Media Release Form for each participant
- You have received a Personal Information Form from each participant
- Each participant has signed the Code of Conduct for the trip
Step 12: Final pre-departure checks
As the departure date for the field trip gets closer you will want to ensure that there are no last-minute surprises. Therefore, it is essential to schedule a final pre-departure briefing. The following is a checklist of items for this briefing:
- Participants have bought local currency
- Those requiring visas have them
- Everyone has a packing list and has bought any additional kit they require
Photos from a recent field trip for schools:
African Insight Academy has over 24 years’ experience in organizing international field trips to South Africa. To date, African Insight has hosted over 12 000 students. The company holds international health and safety accreditation from the British Standards’ Institute and adheres to the highest possible standard of liability insurance, holding a two-decade incident-free record. Learn more about our field trip programmes here.
Contact us here to talk about your school’s field trip requirements.