1. You are going to read what I have to tell you and think that I am CrAzY! That's okay, I probably am a tad bit crazy, but sometimes craziness comes in the form of being over-prepared, so that we can put our minds at ease that our first day of tour is going to be smooth sailing!
2. This may or may not be an issue for you. If you are traveling with a tiny little group, you probably wont need this information. For my last tour, there were 48 people and I needed a system to keep us all organized.
3. It takes 45 minutes for anyone in my group to get to the airport, and a forgotten passport can be very a very stressful thing, if someone needs to go home to retrieve it.
So, departure day. Let's talk about it...
I like for my groups to meet at my school, long before our flight, so that I can make sure that everyone (and their passport) is accounted for. I'm not one who likes last minute surprises, so we meet ahead of time to make sure that we have everything and everyone, and then we travel to the airport together. I realize that is not the best route for every group leader in the world, but it is what works best for my groups. Plus, my parents really like it, not having to possibly take off work to take their child to the airport. I usually arrange for a bus or shuttle to take us to the airport, and have even had a group of parents do a caravan carpool.
I have my group meet several hours before our flight at the school (or some other location), and I have them "check in", similar to how they will at the airport. I enlist the help of my chaperones to get everyone checked in. Here is how it works:
- I have my group meet at our school several hours before our flight.
- Ask to see each traveler's passport (to make sure that they didn't forget it!)
- Chaperones help weigh each traveler's checked bag with a luggage scale. (Most airline's limit it at 50 lbs).
- Check each carry-on bag for for any items that might get confiscated at security (liquids, pocket knives, etc). See the TSA 3-1-1 advertisement for assistance on this.
- Give each student a copy of their passport, and a security card that I created. It has all the hotel phone numbers and addresses, plus my phone number and EF's Emergency Contact Number. Use my template to make your own security card!
- I will have a last minute meeting with the group, and carefully explain the process at the airport and what to expect when we land. Many students have never flown on a plane, so explaining the basics about the airport really helps. I explain that they will have to take their shoes off, and liquids out of the carry-on bag, etc.
- Before we load the shuttles to the airport, I have my students find their "pairs and squares", or travel buddies just to practice, and then I give everyone about 5 minutes to say "good bye" to their parents. Click here to go to the On Tour page, and read more about "pairs and squares."
- One last passport check.
- Head count on the shuttle bus to make sure that we have everyone, and then we are off to the airport!
I know that it sounds CrAzY, and a lot of extra work, but it gives me the piece of mind that once we are at the airport, the hardest part of my job is over. I just wait to land and let my Tour Director take over, and I get to enjoy the tour!
For a full run down of my Departure Day tips, visit the Departure Day Page for even more tips! Do you have any good ideas or suggestions to improve departure day? Comment below!