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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

Heidi's picture

I have used this program now for three years...and I love it! It allows me to be able to spend money at more interesting city attractions and museums instead paying so much for a place to sleep! They have educators all around the world that participate in this program, it does take a bit of luck on whether the other person has an open schedule but worth it.

Linda Blake's picture

As an educator who has traveled with students on tours under the auspices of different educational tour companies, I would absolutely recommend EF. I have currently led 34 tours with EF and have found them all to be amazing experiences. It's true that the tours are economical, but I have not found this to reflect in the service. Our accommodations and meals have been excellent, and I cannot say enough about the high quality of EF's tour consultants before departure or their tour directors on tour. In my tours to Eastern and Western Europe, including Russia; China; Australia and New Zealand; and Costa Rica, I have found the quality to be very high. They must be doing something right because each year I have nearly one-third of my groups made up of repeat travelers. Try EF, you'll like the experience.
Linda Blake
English teacher and satisfied EF group leader

Dan's picture

To respond to cmoir, I've traveled with students for several years and would recommend EF to any teacher or student interested in travel. I've never been dissatisfied with the quality of hotels or food, and much prefer the cheaper price since it is more accessible to students. The quality of tour directors and general tour production (lots of included activities) that you get with EF can't be matched dollar for dollar by anyone. The level of support that EF offers teachers and students is really amazing. I think it's great that EF is featured in this article. Well deserved!!

Samuel Harris's picture


I've used EF Tours for 7 years. If anything that you said was remotely true I would not continue to use EF Tours. If you are going to advertise for ACIS I suggest re-assessing your comments for spelling AND factual errors.

G Holmes's picture

I think the number one concern of parents looking to send their children abroad on an Educational Tour is safety. As a teacher taking large groups of sutdents yearly, my number one concern is support from my company. In EF I have never been disappointed. The quality of the experience is great but more important the support when something happens is unparalleled. Last year one of my students became severely ill in Brindisi Italy. She required an extended hospital stay. While my group went on with the tour director and other chaperones, I stayed in the hospital with my student. EF provided me with a one on one tour director to make sure all of our needs were met. They called continuously from Boston Rome and Athens to make sure I had everything I needed to get clear communications to the parents back home. If you want to really find out about EF, you should talk to those parents. I will never travel with anyone else.

Steven Vernon's picture

In response to cmoir, to echo other teachers who have travelled with EF, I have been with EF for 20+ years and they are great! I would not use anyone else. Over 20 years, have I never had a problem? Of course not. But everything was supurbly resolved those few cases. Their support is wonderful both pre-tour and on-tour. Go EF!

jeremy george's picture

EF has an amazing record of delivering on behalf of the students and adults who travel. With EF, you know what to expect. Everything but lunch included. Good hotels - site seeing the major areas, local meals and great tour directors and guides. In regards to the hotel location - come on people - if you have traveled at all and you are "on tour"; it is not about the hotel. The hotel is for sleeping - not for hanging out and lounging at. If you want that - for a lovers trip or something - then book it yourself. This is group travel we are talking about. EF has been nothing but good to me as a company and one on one on the ground in Europe and Asia. The prices cannot be beat and the rewards for teachers cannot be matched. I know that my students and parents want the best price. The price is the bottom line - and EF more than meets the bottom line and delivers on a great tour experience. When my students get home - they are not talking about the hotels - they are talking about the amazing historical sites they got to see.

Jeremy George
Springfield, Missouri

Bob Reif's picture

In response to cmoir, I have to say that I've been traveling with EF Educational Tours annually since 1993, and I've enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive relationship with them. Potentially problematic situations and (the inevitable group travel) glitches have been minimized and dispatched by friendly, competent EF representatives, and the tour directors with whom I've dealt have been brilliant. My students never had more free time than they needed or could handle, and the quality of hotels and meals has done nothing but improve from year to year -- a clear indication to me that EF acts upon the reviews and feedback they solicit from the teachers and kids who travel with them. I would absolutely recommend this company to any educators seeking to enrich the lives of their students through travel.

Mary Jackson's picture

After years of travel with EF Tours, I couldn't be happier with the results; my students and parents feel the same.
I've taken my students to such far away places as Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and many Central European countries. EF provides me with accurate, useful pre-tour information and does an outstanding job of delivering all that is promised. We've had exceptional tour guides, good hotels, and have enjoyed each and every tour. I might add that I am very picky and border line retentive about things being as perfect as possible. While these standards often leave me disappointed with much of human nature, this has not been the case with EF - they are simply the best in student travel!

linda piccolo's picture

I am really surprized to see a negative comment on EF Tours. I began travelling in 1994 and am making my 21st tour with Ef this summer. I totally disagree about the standards and the service. I have found their employess and especially their Tour Directors to be excellent, caring and highly educated people. Their tours are always educationally based with safety and comfort in mind. Students never get too much free time, if anything, they are kept so busy that they have littel free time. No one company will give you better service, higher quality and more educatioanl content than Ef.

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