- PLAN EARLY
The earlier you plan your ski trip, the easier it will be and more importantly, it will give you a much better chance of securing your preferred resort and give you a wider choice of hotel. Finding yourself a reputable Tour Operator specialist early on will save you valuable time and trade you invaluable advice. Many teachers book their ski trip at least a year in advance, with some booking up to 15 months in advance when considering a trip to the USA. Earlier planning and booking will also allow your students to pay more favourable installments, if this is one of your main considerations. You should also consider getting the relevant approvals at your school, depending on how it is run and whether you need approval from a Board of Governors for example, or whether any of the potential students going will need additional support or applications for funding.
- GROUP REQUIREMENTS
If this is your first time organising a ski trip then you will need to give some early consideration to the group dynamics before you book. What is the experience of the group? What might their budget be? It is also worth considering your staff to student ratio at this stage too. Here at Max Ski, our usual free staff to student ratio is 1:10 if you’re flying or 1:8 if you’re travelling by coach, but this can always be discussed in more detail to better reflect your needs.
- FINANCE PLANNING/BOOKING
You will need to speak to your Finance department early on; every school has their own unique way of collecting money and invoicing parents etc. Many collect automated payments and set up payment schedules, which should make your life easier, but it is best to establish the arrangements early on. You will also need to discuss with your Tour Operator what the payment terms and conditions are, and ensure that your planned payment schedule matches and meets the needs of the company
- LAUNCHING YOUR TRIP
In order to gain momentum with getting students to sign up to your trip, you may wish to try a multi-strand approach to get it off the ground. This is key if your school hasn’t run one before, or for some time; regular, annual trips are much easier as ‘word of mouth’ would already have played a large part in securing interest for the following year.
The best way to initially launch your trip would perhaps be to do an assembly on it, if your school allows. This could then be followed up by posters/other promo material around the school, digital messages on TV/screen displays, emails to parents, sign up sheets (electronic or paper), and a Parents’ Presentation Evening. Here at Max Ski we can assist you with all of the above in order to generate as much interest as possible.
There will be certain elements of paperwork which will require your early attention, if everything is to run smoothly. Our top tips would be to check the passports of your group very early on, not just for expiry dates but also for any passport stamps which could potentially inhibit travel. This is particularly pertinent if you plan on going to the USA as any passport stamps which fall into the US
Administrations Proscribed List of Countries will be denied entry into the USA, or at the very least involve interviews at the US Embassy. Additionally, visas will all need to be checked carefully and verified for many European destinations. If you plan on travelling on a Group Passport, then this process can also take up to 12 weeks, so be sure to leave yourself enough time.
Undoubtedly your SLT and/or will want to see evidence of Risk Assessment Planning, Trip Provider credentials and such, which can seem daunting at first. This needn’t be a big issue however, as a good Tour Operator should be able to help you with everything you need. Here at Max Ski, we will have all of this on hand and will happily help you with anything you need.
You will need to check your school’s insurance policy straight away in order to ensure that it offers you and your students sufficient cover for winter sports whilst you are away. If you need to advise parents that they will need to take out additional insurance, then as much notice as possible would be a preferred option. It is also advisable to check the small print of your Tour Operator quote in order to be reassured as to whether insurance is offered or not (which has to regulated by the FSA). This would also be a good time to start checking on the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) status of your group too (only required for European destinations).
- COMMUNICATION & INFORMATION
A list of email addresses and contact details might be a good idea for a ‘group email’, so you can keep in contact with parents and students. Pre-emptive emails are often a good idea in order to prevent many emails asking the same question.
Collecting information from students with regards to ski fit information can often be a time-consuming process, so start early. The easier you can make your life with this, the less stress all round! Here at Max Ski we are all about making our Trip Leader’s life as easy as possible, so we will build an electronic Google Form for you and work with you to collect everything you need. We can also build you your own webpage which will centralise all the trip details and give you essentially a one-stop-shop option for checking what all your travel arrangements are.
Some people like to create a Trip Handbook, which is something you may want to consider doing. You can the distribute this at a Parents’ Evening as a reinforcement for all the information they will receive about the trip on the night. Don’t forget that we will happily present and attend your Presentation Evening if you so wish.
- GROUP MANAGEMENT
Once you have your list of names in, it is worth having a meeting with those other staff you will be taking on your trip. Here, roles and responsibilities can be discussed – as well as any other early delegation activities. Remember, you don’t have to do it all yourself! Clearly defined roles and expectations are a must for a smooth trip, as is letting other staff members have some input with ideas and suggestions. Several follow up meetings are also a good idea nearer the time too, for obvious reasons. .
It is a good idea to split the whole group into specific Travel Groups; this makes for much easier management when on route to the airport/ferry etc. Having groups in coloured trip hoodies is also an increasingly popular way to identify and manage groups whilst on route. Never underestimate the importance of continual head counting too! It’s amazing how easily students can get lost in the airport!
Contact cards are an idea to consider – in whatever format you choose. These can then be given to individual students to carry with them at all times, and with instruction on them as to what to do in certain likely scenarios.
- CONTINGENCY CASH
Your Tour Operator will give you a price for the trip, however before you tell the students and parents what the cost is, consider building in a contingency fund which will give you some flexibility whilst in resort. Additional cash can then be used for taxis (if there’s an injury for example, and a staff member needs to accompany/return to/from hospital), extra instructors, medals, additional prizes, presents for ski instructors etc. It could also be that if there’s any money left at the end of the trip, you could use the money to buy them all a pizza/ice-cream, or just return it. Whatever you decide to do with it is up to you, and how much you ask in addition to the quoted price is up to you, but it is an excellent idea and will give you peace of mind.
- SKI WEAR & EQUIPMENT
The earlier you book the trip the better, for a number of reasons. Ski wear can be very pricey, so you can often grab great bargains at the end of the season where prices are slashed. Ski equipment lists should be distributed quite early on for this reason. If your group is also mostly a beginner group, it is likely that they will not know what to look out for in terms of ski kit, so consider a presentation from a ski wear hire company (this can often be done at the same time as your Parents’ Evening, although it doesn’t have to be done that way). Here at Max Ski, wee can arrange this for you, as well as provide you with a suggested kit list, should you nee done