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School Expedition Companies

Discussion in 'School trips' started by julieB2000, Jul 9, 2010.

  1. Hi everyone,
    I'm just wondering whether anyone can recommend a good schools expedition company? We have been looking at a few over the last few weeks but they just seem SO expensive! Do we really have to spend over £3,000 per student for a 3 week trip? Has anyone any recommendations at all? It's the first time anyone has tried to arrange anything like it within our school, but I've done quite a bit of travel and trekking and really want to set something up. I am sure there must be cheaper waysof arranging such trips. Some of the companies we've approached seem really pushy and whilst I like the idea of having the students plan their own trip, at the end of the day when they are in the destination they seem to be basically using public transport, booking their own hostels and doing things on a really low budget. I've travelled like that and £3k would last 3 months, not 3 weeks.
    Any suggestions / considerations / companies to avoid / recommended destinations etc would be most appreciated. We're looking for something for next summer - some trekking, perhaps a project, a really different culture - that type of thing.

  2. I am going to Morocco for two weeks this summer using Outlook Expeditions. They have been really helpful and have made the teacher's involved lives very easy.
    Morocco offers the opportunity for trekking, a small project and a very different culture.
    I do tend to think that these kind of things are expensive holidays for rich kids and wait to be convinced of the value of them. There are of course plenty of cheaper ways to go on expeditions and see the world, some of which are open to 16year olds, but would take a bit more initiative for them to organise.
  3. Hi Julie, Hopefully I might be able to help with your question on expedition providers. I run The Specialist Travel Consultancy (www.thestc.co.uk) - we are an independent niche travel agency specialising in school expeditions.
    The short answer is, no you don't have to spend over £3000 to get a quality 3 week expedition.
    Having said that, depending on how you want to approach the trip and the destination involved, it can be very easy to spend that kind of money, and more.
    Some companies, like the ones you have approached already it sounds like, offer what some call a ‘personal development expedition' where students undertake an 18 - 20 month build up programme followed by the expedition itself during which the students are expected to sort and arrange the logistics. They can be expensive, but they also (well, some!) offer a good package if you are after a certain type of experience. That said, they are not right for everyone and there are definitely cheaper ways of arranging things.

    Your comment about it seeming a lot of money for a basic in country package is very valid - that is if you only look at what you get in the destination. However, you have to consider that the expedition company is providing leaders, free teacher places, pre-expedition training & development days and also covering all the risk assessments, safety, back up and emergency response plans. They are also providing you with financial protection. On the subject of which, you should really only be looking at booking with an ATOL protected operator. Other forms of financial protection exist, but where group travel is concerned, the financial ramifications of booking flights separate to a ground package can potentially be catastrophic in certain situations! (see http://www.thestc.co.uk/blog/index.php/2007/02/financial-protection/ if you want the full explanation)
    All in all - it does means that the costs add up. However, there are cheaper options out there without you having to dilute safety, educational experience or financial protection.

    Ironically, some of the cheaper expedition companies actually have a better quality of logistics in the destination. They still provide you with experienced leaders, back up, pre-trip support, safety management, risk assessments, financial protection, free teacher places and all the rest, but they put all their know-how into the actual expedition phase, rather than spending money on the pre-trip elements of team building etc. It means you often get a much better quality of logistics in the country with better guides & quality services, and more often than not a more comprehensive, diverse and interesting itinerary.
    Which approach is right? There is no right answer. It depends on what you want your students to get from the trip. The learning outcomes from both approaches are extremely valid, yet quite different from each other.
    Quite a few of our clients initially come to us leaning towards the student led trip with all the pre-trip training days etc, as they like the personal development aspect of the students organising their own trip. That is until they see the price difference between the two approaches, and realise that adventure and challenge, however you arrange it, results in personal development.
    On a 14 day trip to Morocco, for example, a ‘student-led' expedition including a programme of team building days etc, is likely to be around £1,450 per person. A 14 day high quality ‘expedition only' package but with no pre-trip development days is likely to be around the £1000 mark. On a month long trip to long haul destinations we've seen differences of up to £850 per person between the two approaches. If a school has 30 students sign up for the trip - that's a total price difference on the China trip of over £25,000. That's a fair bit of fundraising!
    Choice of destination
    Aside from how to approach the trip, your choice of destination is probably the biggest factor determining cost. There seems to be a belief that longer trips must take place in long haul destinations such as Peru, Mongolia or Tanzania for instance. Fantastic places, and excellent expedition destinations, but if budgets are tight, don't be afraid to look closer to home.
    Some destinations I would recommend considering for next summer that will offer you a really good value expedition yet remain adventurous, challenging, culturally interesting and feasible weather wise would be:
    • Morocco
    • Egypt
    • Turkey (We've just put together a 24 day multi-activity, trekking and project based expedition here for £2,200 per student)
    A little further afield and a little more expensive would be:
    • China
    • Thailand
    • Kenya
    • Ghana
    Of all of these Morocco is by far the best value. Many schools organise trips here for younger groups (14 / 15 yr olds), but it is also a perfect destination for an extended expedition for older students with world class trekking, great projects and a rich culture - as madchemist1980 rightly points out. 3 weeks could be done from as little as £1,400 depending on the itinerary.
    In summary
    • Pick your destination carefully - you don't need to go long haul to get fantastic adventures in a different culture.
    • Decide whether you want to pay a premium for having all the pre-trip team building and development days. Remember that lots can be done in this respect without having to pay an expedition company to do it for you.
    Anyway, I hope that's been of help.
    Best wishes,
    Adrian Ferraro

  4. Have a look at Schools Worldwide

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