Information for "First Time" Party Leaders

Those of you who are experienced in taking parties abroad, for whatever kind of visit, will be aware of most of the following suggestions. Those of you who are less experienced or are taking a group for the first time may find this article a useful starting point.

INFORMATION FOR “FIRST TIME” PARTY LEADERS.

Those of you who are experienced in taking parties abroad, for whatever kind of visit, will be aware of most of the following suggestions.  Those of you who are less experienced or are taking a group for the first time may find this booklet a useful starting point.

The majority of these notes are aimed towards party leaders of school/youth groups, but other sections are generally useful to adult groups also.  We hope that everyone will find something helpful and of interest.

Teachers who organise school visits have a general common-law duty to act in “loco parentis” to their students.  They also have a responsibility and obligation under their conditions of employment for maintaining good order and discipline amongst their pupils and for safe guarding their health and safety when on school premises and when taking part in authorised school activities.

Obviously the party leader cannot be awake 24 hours a day or to be in all places at all times, and it is therefore necessary to give thought and time to careful planning before the tour begins.  This will allow most pitfalls to be anticipated and avoided, so that everyone can enjoy the tour as trouble-free and memorable.

TOUR PREPARATION: BEFORE YOU GO.

Do ensure that you have enough adults to cope with the numbers in your party and that these numbers conform to the LEA guidelines.

If you are including any non-teachers amongst your adults, remember that they must be acceptable not only to you but your head teacher and it is necessary to ascertain whether they have undergone, or are required to undergo, a police check.  Check too with your LEA to see if there are any rules regarding the use of non-employees and whether you should notify them.

Obviously there will be a variance in the degrees of responsibility assumed by the accompanying adults.  However:

No accompanying adult, whether “paying” or allocated a “free place”, whether a member of staff or not, should assume an attitude of “non-responsibility” and come simply for the holiday. This is not fair to you as the party leader.  The members of your group will view all adults as being in a position of responsibility, and the potential trouble-makers are always quick to identify what they will perceive as a chink in the disciplinary armour. All accompanying adults should be aware of the party’s disciplinary rules. All accompanying adults should be aware of any emergency procedures. All accompanying adults should carry with them at all times a list of party members’ names, the hotel telephone number, home emergency contact number. All accompanying adults should carry with them at all times a list of party members’ names, details, hotel contact number, mobile contact for other members of staff and the home “emergency contact number”. Do not leave a non member of staff, however competent, in charge of the whole group alone for any length of time.  If anything were to go wrong it would reflect very badly on you as the Party Leader. Do make sure that all accompanying adults are clear about their responsibilities well before the trip takes place, so that they can organise themselves. 

PASSPORTS AND VISAS.

Check the passport situation well in advance. Check with the passport office on the current situation regarding identity cards as requirements change frequently.  Do check the place of birth of members of your group – they may require a visa for the country being visited.  If in doubt take advice from your LEA.  The Joint Council for the Welfare of immigrants and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can advise on the re-entry of immigrants to the UK. We generally suggest that travel be made on individual passports rather than a group, particularly where there is a wide age range amongst the group which will enable some to travel on a group passport whilst others will require an individual one. All of this is easily done providing you check it out well in advance.  It is otherwise a very long day sitting in a queue at the Passport Office!! NON BRITISH PASSPORT HOLDERS.

Please note that it is the responsibility of the Party Leader and the passport holder to ensure that Visas and any other documents adhere to current immigration laws laid down by the country you intend to visit or countries through which your group may travel whilst abroad.

With the increased amount of vigilance now shown at points of entry and departure of each country, such travellers must, at an early stage, contact the Embassy of the country who issued their passport.  This may also result in the need for the individual to contact the Embassy of the countries through which the group will travel to ensure the passport is acceptable.

Inspired Travel cannot be held responsible for any situation which may involve a passenger being refused passage at the port/airport en-route to his/her destination.  Should this result in additional costs being incurred for onward or return travel by the individual concerned, Inspired Travel will not accept or pay for any such charges and may have to levy and an administration charge if we have to organise alternative transportation arrangements.

CUSTOMS AND IMMIGRATION.

Make sure that you are familiar with the requirements, and if you have any non-EU members in your group, that a member of staff is on hand to direct them through.

MEDICAL CARE.

Do make sure that you have checked with the parents of all party members as to any problems concerning medication, allergies or special dietary needs.  The latter should be communicated to us so that we can notify the hotel well in advance.  In the unfortunate circumstance of one of your party requiring medical treatment, the doctor will need to know all three. We suggest you ask parents to complete a medical form prior to departure.

EHIC - European Health Insurance Card.

Most EU countries accept an EHIC.  This can be obtained from the Post Office or online and each member of the party should have one.  Attached to the form are notes explaining how to get emergency medical treatment in EU member states.  If members of your party are not going to be in your company at all times we suggest that an EHIC is carried by each member of your party. Online application can be made through www.nhs.uk

In addition you are also covered by your insurance policy, a copy of which is sent to you on confirmation of your booking, if taken through Inspired Travel.  We recommend that you check the insurance provision made by your LEA as these are usually more than adequate, but should include winter sports as appropriate.  You should take this document with you to produce should the occasion unfortunately arise.  We recommend that a copy be given to each party member for reference.  In the event of accident or illness please keep us informed.

VACCINATION AND INJECTIONS.

If in doubt, please read the Department of Health’s leaflet, SA35.

MEDICAL KIT.

Do take medical kit.

Do make sure that you have a list of any party members who:

Need regular medical attentionAre allergic to any medicationAre allergic to anything else. It is a good idea to allocate the responsibility of the medical kit to one member of staff.  In this way total control can be kept of the number of tablets etc given to any pupil.

EMERGENCY CONTACT PROCEEDURE.

Decide upon an emergency contact procedure such as a telephone tree which can be activated by one single phone call by your party.

Make sure that you provide every parent, the Head Teacher (or his/her secretary), school office, staff notice-board and possibly another senior member of staff who is the school contact during your visit with a list of all party members and a contact telephone number for each.

Ensure that everyone knows how the emergency procedure works and that they are clear as to whom they should contact.

EMERGENCIES.

In the case of there being a serious problem, for example the loss of passport, or some incident requiring legal advice – contact the British Consular Office.  We recommend that you keep a record of ALL passport numbers/details.  A photocopy of the relevant page will suffice.

CONSENT FORMS.

Parents should be asked for written consent to their son/daughter taking part. This information should be taken on the trip and include contact details.

POCKET MONEY.

It is extremely helpful to parents if you can decide a minimum and maximum amount of pocket money for your group.  It also serves as a very good “social equaliser” amongst party members.  Where appropriate it is a good idea for a member of staff to be responsible for holding this money, and for allocating a certain amount each day-everything should be recorded/receipted and accounted for.

VALUABLES.

Many group leaders ask parents to ensure that no expensive items are taken on the trip.  However, it is again a good idea to ask a member of staff to be responsible for looking after any valuables that do appear.  It is important to make it clear to parents and/or party members that, although every reasonable precaution will be taken to keep these items safe, in the event of them being lost or stolen, no member of staff is to be held responsible.  We recommend that passports and any other important documents are placed in the hotel/centre safe.

LUGGAGE.

It is a good idea to emphasise the need for prudent packing!  In many cases the coach will be full and luggage space will be limited.  Luggage to be carried in the body of the coach should be restricted to one item per passenger.

GENERAL DICIPLINE AND BEHAVIOUR.

Obviously you want your trip to be enjoyed by everyone and to have a happy trouble-free time.

Make certain before you leave that all pupils and accompanying staff are well aware of any rules that you may wish to impose

It may help to split the group into smaller sections, each with its own member of staff who is responsible for the general supervision of that particular group.

Many Party Leaders also issue the parents with a written statement of the rules and of the general standard behaviour which is expected from their children.

PARENTS.

1.     A list of all participants and their telephone numbers Make sure that all parents have signed the consent form and returned it to you.

2.     Make sure that all parents have been asked about medication, allergies or special dietary needs that their children may require.

3.     Issue every parent with:

An itinerary, making sure that the departure and arrival dates, times and places are very clear The names of all accompanying members of staff. Details on how your emergency contact procedure works and who they should personally contact. 4.     Issue parents with the name and telephone numbers of the hotel, but request that they do not telephone except in emergencies – their children can always phone them.

5.     Issue parents with a list of your rules, including pocket money and valuables and a statement of the general standard of behaviour expected of their child.     

6.     Make sure parents know that only one item of reasonably sized luggage is expected for the storage space and that there is one item per person inside the coach so that they can pack accordingly.

MAKE SURE YOU TAKE WITH YOU.

Individual passports/collective passport as appropriate.

Photocopies of individual passport details in case they are lost.

A copy of the insurance policy (sent on confirmation of booking, if taken through Inspired Travel)

Any other insurance policies which you may have taken out.

EHIC medical card for every member of the party – with a record of their individual numbers.  The cards are carried by each individual.

Consent forms signed by the parents of all party members.

A Visa/ Access/ American Express or similar credit card with high credit limit still available.

Some Euros.

A list of all party members and their contact telephone numbers.

An “emergency contact” telephone number

Your itinerary.

Name, address and telephone number of your hotel

Name and address of any contacts we have given you.

Medical Kit.

Inspired Travel telephone numbers.

 

YOUR JOURNEY.

Remember that on all forms of transport, you are responsible for the behaviour for the members of your party.

COACH.

Make sure that you restrict the amount of luggage taken on the coach.

Provide numerous litter bags along the coach and ensure that they are used!

Make sure toilet facilities are not abused.

Make sure members of your party, wear seat belts at all times, do not move around or kneel on seats while the coach is moving.  This is a health and safety issue.

FERRY.

There is a lot of opportunity on a large ship for party members to “roam”.

It is sometimes a good idea to:

Divide the party into smaller groups, each under the supervision of a member of staff.

Re-iterate the party the general rules of politeness, etc to be shown to other passengers on board.

Establish a meeting place and decide upon a staff rota, so that there is a member of staff on duty there throughout the crossing.

Take register before you leave the deck for the vehicle decks.

Make sure that all party members know the deck and entrance to the vehicle bay so that they can find the coach in the event of becoming separated from the remainder of the party.

Point out the ferry’s “emergency” drill to your party.  This is displayed at various points throughout the ship.

AIR TRAVEL.

Increasingly, more groups are choosing to travel by air.  Many of the considerations for ferry travel, with regard to the organisation of a group in an airport terminal also apply.

Please ensure that your group listens attentively to the safety advice give by the air crew no matter how frequently they may fly.

GROUP CONDUCT AND BEHAVIOUR.

We pride ourselves in building a high reputation with hoteliers and centres abroad and of working with well behaved groups who conduct themselves in an exemplary manner whilst travelling abroad.

However there has been the isolated instance when this has, regrettably, not been the case and it has become necessary, therefore, to warn Party Leaders of their responsibilities as to the standard of group behaviour.

Although we do not want to impose a specific condition, please remember that if the behaviour of any party member is considered likely to cause offence, danger, damage or distress to others, we may have to reserve the right to cancel or terminate the holiday/tour completely.  This may result in the group having to make their own return travel arrangements at their own expense and no compensation would be forthcoming.

We have never had to implement this action and would hope that this situation would never arise, but all Party Leaders are asked to remember their responsibilities for the behaviour of the entire group whilst travelling abroad.

INSURANCE.

All clients are covered by a comprehensive insurance policy built into the cost of their tour, either by Inspired Travel or the LEA.   The group policy is sent to the Party Leader when the tour is confirmed, if taken through Inspired Travel.  It should be noted that in many cases existing conditions are not covered on the policy. These should be notified as soon as possible as emergency treatment may not be guaranteed.

HOTEL/CENTRE or APARTMENT ACCOMMODATION.

Inspired Travel prides itself upon using quality Hotel/Centre accommodation on all its tours.  Full details of your accommodation will be sent before the commencement of your trip.

HOTEL.

Make sure that everyone is clear as to the hotel/centre fire regulations and emergency procedure.

Make regular checks on the fire escape routes, making sure that they are not obstructed and the doors are unlocked. Ensure that group members know this to be the case.

ROOMS.

As a general rule, hotels/centres regard “children” as aged 15 years and under.  As result of this, children in this age group may, in certain circumstances, be allocated bunk beds.  Children aged 16 years and over are generally considered as “adults” and will be charged and accommodated accordingly.

If the composition of your group changes after booking, ie. more adults than previously foreseen, please be aware that this may lead to an increased tour price and that you must advise Inspired Travel as soon as you know of any changes.

Approximately 12 weeks before the tour takes place, the party will be asked to provide details of the rooms required together with a full passenger list.  In consultation with the Hotel/Centre abroad a rooming list will be compiled and the Party Leader will receive final details approximately 7-10 days before departure.

Please note that individual beds are offered on all our tours, but in some instances it is common for two single beds to be enclosed in one frame (normally separated by a wooden base partition) each having separate bed linen.

Important note: It is the responsibility of the Party Leader to ensure that the passenger list referred to above, is correct on the day of departure and a copy must be given to your coach driver who will present this to the Port Authorities.

Upon arrival at your accommodation, please check the rooms that have been allocated and advise the management of any breakages or damage: do not leave this until the end of your stay as the hotel/centre/residences will reserve the right to charge for any damage/breakages incurred.

HOTEL/CENTRE/APARTMENT COMPLAINTS.

Of course we very much hope that there will be no cause for you to complain about your accommodation, food or service during your stay but in the event of this happening, the following should be noted.

It is essential that complaints are made to the establishment in writing at the time.

Please make your grievances known to the Centre Director, Hotel Manager/Owner as little can be done to rectify the problem after your return if no record was made at the time.

If you or your group are worried about any aspect of the tour, then you should place a reverse charge call to any of the Inspired Travel emergency telephone numbers which you will find as part of you final travel documents – we want you to enjoy your tour and want you to travel with us in the future.

HOTEL/CENTRE or APARTMENT MEALS.

All our hotels/centres or apartments offer our guests a good standard of food.  However, they do not provide an “a la Carte” menu and, with best will in the world, it is not possible to please all of the guests all of the time.

Please remember that tastes vary from country to country, and some complaints, especially from first time travellers may simply be that the food is “different” rather than of a poor standard.  In particular, the cold meats and cheeses served on the continent can vary from the ones served in the UK and there may be fruit served with meat as part of the main course.  Nevertheless, please encourage members of your party to “have a go”!!

If, however you have serious problem with regard to meals, please ask to speak to the Hotel Manager, Centre Director or Restaurant Manager who will do his/her best to comply with your request, providing of course that they are of a reasonable nature.

Breakfasts can vary from country to country and region to region, but normally are of the “continental” type comprising tea, coffee, croissants/bread rolls, butter and preserves.

Lunches are of the packed type and will mainly be rolls, butter, meat (possibly cheese) plus a drink and fruit. Hot lunchtime meals will be a light meal served at the hotel or a mountain restaurant.

Evening meals are usually served hot and comprise a main course and dessert.

Drinks with meals are not included in your tour cost, unless stated, but can be purchased from your hotel/centre/restaurant.  Water is not necessarily placed on tables due to the variety of hygiene standards concerning local water supplies.  Please check with your accommodation as to water quality and be prepared to purchase bottled or mineral water.

For our guests staying in apartment accommodation it is not anticipated that meals will be cooked in the apartments but that meals will be taken in a nearby restaurant on the same basis as outlined above.

SPECIAL DIETARY REQUIREMENTS.

If any of your party members are vegetarians or have special dietary requirements, it is essential that we are advised of these well before the tour takes place.  It is important that we receive a list of food which cannot be eaten so that this information reaches your destination in good time before your arrival.  We will send you a form for this approximately 10 weeks before departure.

This form is for advising Inspired Travel of dietary needs on health, religion or other moral grounds and not for simple food preference likes and dislikes.

Important note: Many of our tours are based on full-board terms, ie based on breakfast, packed lunch and evening meals.  However, some arrangements only include half-board terms ie breakfast and evening meal.  It is important to check the meal arrangements.  In some cases it is possible to book the meal basis of your preference; this should be declared at the time of booking.

PASSPORTS – INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE.

Every traveller abroad must hold a passport.  School parties have the option of holding a collective certificate or individual passports.  In our experience individual passports are easy to administer, but outlined below are the details for application for a collective certificate.

A collective passport is valid for 12 months and may be taken for a group of ten juveniles (minimum) and up to fifty juveniles (maximum). Age limit is 17 (under 18 on the scheduled date of return). 

For larger parties, two or more collectives may be used with two different nominated leaders each holding their own individual passports.

Only British citizens can be included on a collective passport.  Other nationals must carry their own individual passport, with or without a visa according to the requirements of the country to be visited.  The Party Leader should check well in advance of the departure date that any foreign nationals travelling with the group have a valid visa for every country travelled to or through during the tour, as visa applications can take a long time to be processed.

It is necessary for the leader to make an application for a collective passport.  This is obtained from one of the British Passport Offices.  The leader is responsible for the subsequent clerical work, which can be quite considerable.  Initial authority must be obtained from the LEA and a supporting letter from the Head Teacher is usually required when the application is made.

HOW AND WHERE TO PAY.

The completed form, fee and supporting letter should be sent at least 6 weeks before the date of travel to your area passport office as listed below.

LONDON:        United Kingdom Passport Agency (UKPA), London Passport Office, Clive House, 70-78 Petty France, London SW1H 9HD

LIVERPOOL:    UKPA, Liverpool Passport Office, 5th Floor, India Buildings, Water Street, Liverpool, LS1 0QZ

PETERBOROUGH:  UKPA, Peterborough Passport Office, Aragon Court, Northminster Road, Peterborough, PE1 1QG 

WELSH PASSPORT OFFICE: Olympic Office, Upper Dock Street, Newport, NP9 1XA                                        

SCOTTISH PASSPORT OFFICE:   3, Northgate, 96, Milton Street, Cowgardens, Glasgow, G4 0BT

NORTHERN IRELAND PASSPORT OFFICE:  Hampton House, 47-53 High Street, Belfast, BT1 2

NON BRITISH PASSPORT HOLDERS.

Please note that it is the responsibility of the Party Leader and of the passport holder to ensure that Visa and any other documents adhere to current immigration laws laid down by the country to be visited or countries through which your group may travel whilst abroad.

With the increased amount of vigilance (?) now shown at points of entry and departure of each country such travellers must, at an early stage, contact the Embassy of the country who issued the passport.  This may result in the individual having to check with the Embassy of the countries through which the group will travel to ensure the relevant passport is acceptable. 

Inspired Travel cannot be held responsible for any situation which may involve a passenger being refused passage at the port/airport en-route to his/her destination.  Should this result in additional costs being incurred for onward or return travel by the individual concerned, then Inspired Travel will not accept or pay for any such charges and may have to levy an administrative charge if we have to organise alternative transport arrangements.

One year visitor passports have been withdrawn.

All passengers travelling by air must consider travelling on individual passports.  A collective certificate is not usually acceptable. Ryanair does not accept collective passports as it is not recognised by the online check-in process.

From October 1998 it has become no longer possible for a child to travel on a parents’ passport.  Where such a passport was issued before October 1998 children may travel on their parents’ passport as long as the parent is travelling with the child.  From October 1998 it is no longer possible to obtain a new passport of this type.

PAYMENT CARDS.

Inspired Travel will be pleased to provide all group leaders with individual payment cards for their party.  These will be supplied on request and are free of charge.