How do you make time to organize your tours?

Jennifer: In all honesty, the night before I left for my first trip I was like, “I'm never doing this again. I don't have the time.” But being on tour and experiencing the benefits—seeing what the kids got out of it, how much fun I personally had, and the great time we all had together—it made traveling a priority. So once I returned, I knew that the time it took to organize the tour was well worth it.

Now, to make the time commitment manageable, I have a routine and follow a set schedule for organizing a tour. I also keep templated emails from previous years. That way, whenever I'm sending out an email to recruit or request passports—or anything else—I know all the information that needs to go into it.

How long do you give yourself to plan your trips?

Jennifer: I personally prefer at least two years to get the word out because different families have different financial situations. At the early stage, I let them know about the trip, what we are doing, when it’s happening, and the information about available payment plans. Then about a year and a half in, I start setting deadlines and begin heavily promoting the opportunity.

What would you tell a teacher who is worried about lack of interest from students?

Jennifer: To get our program started, we mailed a letter to parents saying that their child had been selected for an opportunity to join us. This wasn’t to exclude anyone, but to make it feel like students were receiving a special, personal invitation. So, I’d suggest that teachers contact students and their parents individually. I think that was the key to our success for the first few years.

By this point, however, we have a lot of pre-built excitement around our travel program. Because we’re a K–12 school, we have a lot of siblings who usually stay here for their entire academic careers. So, the program has thrived via word-of-mouth. And if I do need a little help, I usually reach out to the parents of children who have already traveled and ask if they’ll spread the word. They are happy to help and very supportive of the program.

How do you approach financial concerns?

Jennifer: I used to be afraid students wouldn’t be able to afford the tour, but when I talked to parents they kept saying “We want to give our children these opportunities. You have to make this available. Thank you for doing this for us.” Parents are so excited to give their kids these kinds of opportunities. They really do find ways to afford it—especially if you plan far in advance there is a payment plan available. Some parents will also say to their kids, "You have to pay for half of it." Students literally go get jobs at fast food restaurants to pay for half of the tour because they want it. And the beauty is, the trip always means so much more to those kids who earned it themselves.

Students also get their own fundraising pages, where friends and family can go contribute to their trip. I position it as an option for birthday gifts, holiday presents, graduation, or any special occasion.

How do you address safety concerns from parents?

Jennifer: Once you're experienced, your ability to manage safety issues kind of speaks for itself. I also really rely on EF’s history and everything it has in place, which is why choosing a reputable travel partner is so important. I speak about the system EF has to make sure groups are safe. I also share personal stories, such as when someone got sick and we were immediately at a clinic. I also mention that we have 24-hour assistance.

What parting advice would you give to a first-time Group Leader?

Jennifer: Listen to your Tour Consultant because they're very helpful. Also, all of the pre-tour work is all worth it.

Make sure that you prepare for your pre-departure meeting(s)—being face to face with the parents and having everything organized as far as communication, money, etc., goes is crucial to you having a smooth trip once you get there. The kids need to be prepared, and the parents need to have set expectations. And again, I want to reiterate that it's all worth it. Plus, the more trips that you go on, the easier the planning gets, while the reward stays incredibly high for every trip.