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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

On the Road, on the Cheap: Get Around Without Going Under

Teacher travel discounts let you journey lightly -- at least in the wallet.
Sara Bernard
Related Tags: Teacher Development
Credit: Photodisc

You might think, reasonably enough, that being entrusted with the young minds that represent America's future might bring teachers more of a thank-you than a paycheck with little left over for a well-deserved vacation. Alas, reality tends to have other plans for educators. However, all is not lost. A few financial perks exist in the teaching life, and at this time of year the best of these are travel discounts specifically for educators. Although the budget for satisfying wanderlust may be thin, these discounts can help travel prices slim down, too.

Educators Bed & Breakfast Travel Network

Current, former, or retired educators who join this extensive online network qualify for discounted stays at fellow members' bed-and-breakfast establishments. Sign up by paying a $10 initiation fee and $36 in yearly dues, and you and your immediate family become eligible to stay in any of the 6,000 member homes in more than fifty countries for a per-night price of $36. Meanwhile, your home becomes eligible for hosting other members as well (with additional discounts for hosting). Not only can you find comfortable, inexpensive accommodation this way, you'll also tap into a useful educational network, because your "innkeepers" are teachers, too.

Educational Tours

How do you use your teaching skills, continue your own education, and travel free at the same time? Sign on to lead an educational tour. Dozens of tour companies hand out free trips and cash bonuses to teachers willing to share their knowledge with other travelers. The biggest player in this field, EF Educational Tours, lets teachers travel free and even earn continuing education units. EF also offers language schools, cultural-exchange programs, and tours for adults as well as students. For free travel as a group coordinator with Go Ahead Tours, gather six people (including family and friends) who want to take a tour and you travel for free, with cash bonuses for you or discounts for your companions. With the tour company Explorica, you can travel free if you sign on at least six students.

The ISE Card

The initials stand for International Student Exchange, but ISE Cards -- with their great discounts -- are available to teachers, too. Take South Africa's Baz Bus, dive off the coast of Western Australia, tour London, rent a car, or even enjoy a good meal abroad for far less than it costs those unhappy folks who forgot to become teachers. The card also provides up to $2,000 in medical benefits, a toll-free twenty-four-hour emergency-assistance hotline, and up to $2,000 in airline-bankruptcy protection (a handy benefit these days).

The ITIC Card

The International Teacher Identity Card also functions as a freebie magnet. Knock down the cost of flights, accommodations, museum admissions, sports-equipment rentals, cultural attractions, and more by flashing this card -- discounts will quickly pay for the $25 annual cost. Not bad, considering that the ITIC, like the ISE, also provides basic accident insurance when you travel outside the United States. This coverage includes hospital stays, medical expenses, emergency evacuation, repatriation of remains (an unlikely need, let's hope), and baggage-delay insurance (far more likely).

Sara Bernard is a former staff writer and multimedia producer for Edutopia.

Comments (32)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Kelly Convery's picture

Having traveled for 15 years with EF I can tell you that I have sat in the seat as a students and a group leader. Traveling with EF as a student ecouranged me to be independent and appreciate travel, cultural differences and a love for languages. I went on to learn two foreign languages and live/work/travel in Spain, Saudi Arabia, Korea, and Colombia. As a group leader now I support student travel and believe that it creates life long learners and travelers. EF has mastered a formula for affordable pricing and great eduational travel. This is essential since it allows students from all socio-economic backgrounds to have this experience. EF like all good companies is constanlt evaulating its tours and how they can improve based on group leader input and evaluations. The quality of service from the tour consultants (A special shout out to both Garrett and Brian who have been life saviors when I needed them) to the contracting companies that took my students and I white water rafting in Costa Rica after visiting Arenal Volcano have been exceptional and created lasting memories for everyone who I travel with. Edutopia got it right!! EF Tours is number 1 for affordable student travel with a packed itinerary.
Kelly Convery, Dean of Students TX -EF Group Leader

Jacki Williams-Jones's picture

I have been with EF since 1988, and I have to admit that in the early days it was interesting. However, in the past 10 years I have had wonderful trips with my students. Our hotels were often in the city center, but I understand that isn't always possible in some European cities. My tour directors have been knowledgeable, friendly, but also they kept the kids on task - even during free time (which wasn't excessive).

Susan's picture

I take students on an EF Tour every year, and I am very satisfied with the tour directors, local guides, activities, hotels, and restaurants.
EF tries to meet the expectations of the students and parents; that means that they often will book into newer hotels in European cities--hotels that are in the outskirts of the city. But, if a teacher would rather have students stay in hotel in the city center, all she or he has to do is make a request to the EF Tour Consultant.
I have enjoyed many of the restaurants EF chooses. Some meals have been great; some only okay. But isn't that true of restaurants in America? EF does a great job of meeting the needs of a group as best they can.
I strongly recommend EF Tours because they are responsive to the needs of the teachers, students, and parents. Their educational trips are a great value.

S. Rudloff's picture
S. Rudloff
High School Business teacher in Ohio

This post is hard to understand with so many errors.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Hello -

Curious to know what's hard to understand. Are you talking about the article or some of the comments above? I'd be happy to help clarify anything :)

[quote]This post is hard to understand with so many errors.[/quote]

Jan Ricketts's picture

I am within weeks of setting off on my 8th EF tour in 9 years and wouldn't consider travelling with any other tour company. Their prices can't be beat - certainly an important factor in this economy! Many of my students could not afford the other companies. Although I have experienced a few "interesting" hotels, none of them were dreadful. Also, the closer to the city core, the older the hotels - it's a trade off. I stick with EF because their tour directors are unsurpassed! With offices throughout Europe, any problem has always been handled quickly and efficiently. This company is reputable and their tours are a great value.

Ellen Merrick's picture

AS a teacher who has traveled with students and adults to Tibet/China, South Africa and many countries in between, I would NEVER trust my professional reputation to any other educational travel company but EF.
Parents often start with sending one child with EF and end up not only sending other siblings but coming along as well because of the quality provided by EF.
On a trip to Spain, a student became ill and had to be taken to the hospital at 2 am complaining of severe stomach pains. The EF tour director took us to the hospital, contacted the parents and returned to interpret hospital information. The problem was minor and quickly resolved but I felt that we were in safe hands with EF.
I will never travel with any other company.

Paula Somers's picture

In less than two weeks, I will be taking my 7th tour with EF. As an educator, my students and I have never been disappointed in any of our trips. EF does an exceptional job of planning each day so that students see the main attractions in each city and also have some down-time to explore. I think EF offers the best value of all the tour companies I have researched. Sure, we could spend a lot more money for fancier rooms and other luxuries, but why do that when EF does such a great job of taking care of its travelers for a lot less money?

Sandra Richmond's picture

I'm another EF Group Leader who is extremely satisfied with the services I have received from this company. NO WAY would I travel with another group - I have had such outstanding experiences with them! Kids go on tour to see things they would never get to see otherwise - hotels are not high on their list - they are not adults. My kids don't care WHERE they stay. As far as not being centrally located, that's garbage - I am going on tour in 14 days and we have hotels in CENTRAL Edinburgh, CENTRAL London, and Portree on the Isle of Skye. My kids want more free time - EF makes sure the days are full and that you get to see everything, do everything that you want. You can't go wrong with EF, their customer service is outstanding, their tour guides are outstanding and what they offer for the price they offer is outstanding. Travel with EF before you knock them!

Sandra Richmond
Dalhart HS
Dalhart, TX

LauraJane's picture

It looks like I'm a little late in posting a reply to cmoir's comments on EF, as several have already jumped to EF's defense.I have traveled with both EF and another company (one that charged a great deal more) and I have found that EF is, to quote Jeremy George, "the biggest bang for the buck." I teach at a Title I school and my students usually have to work and pay for their entire trips themselves. EF allows my students to travel at a reasonable price and get a fantastic trip. I'm glad that Cmoir has had a good experience with ACIS, but I prefer to stick with a company that I know will work for me and for my students -- and give them MORE than what they paid for.

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