Home Travel AdviceGeneral Travel School Travel with EF Tours

School Travel with EF Tours

by Bonnie

If you know anything about Grant and me, you know that we are teachers. This is one reason that we are able to travel as much as we do. We spend most of our breaks on the road exploring various parts of the world. For Spring Break, we combined work and play,  spending eight days on a school trip to Italy with EF Tours!

While it wasn’t necessarily a vacation, it was a great trip. On top of enjoying all that we could in Italy, we also were able to share our love of travel with others, further combining our passions for travel and teaching.

Taking a walking tour was a very different experience for us. On the one hand, we learned a lot we didn't know. That said, a group of nearly 40 walking through the streets and alleys of Venice was tough.
Taking a walking tour was a very different experience for us. On the one hand, we learned a lot we didn’t know. That said, a group of nearly 40 walking through the streets and alleys of Venice was tough.

Our school has been working with EF Tours for a while, but this was our first time traveling with them. We’ve been on overnight/out-of-state field trips before and this was by far a MUCH better experience than we’ve had working with other “travel agents.”

If you are a teacher, student or parent, read on to find out the basics of traveling with EF Tours.

(Disclaimer: When we link to places you can buy our stuff or places we stayed, we are using special codes which earn us commissions on the sales at no additional cost to you. Please see our Review Policy  for more information.)

Group Leader

All trips will have a group leader. This is the teacher who organizes everything for the trip. This was NOT us. We were just lucky enough to be asked to tag along as chaperones! I am, however, planning a trip for next year, so I am the group leader for that.

The group leader works with EF Tours to choose the right trip, recruit students and plan trip details. They will also hold meetings to make sure everyone is ready to travel. Group leaders are offered some compensation by EF Tours for the extra work that is involved in planning a trip.

Another perk for the group leader is the preview trip. The preview trip is how EF Tours makes sure you are prepared to lead a trip. Once you have a certain number of students enrolled, you are eligible for the free preview trip. I have not taken my preview trip yet, so I can’t discuss details, but it is something that I am looking forward to.

Chaperones

Part of the student/parent pricing for all EF trips will include costs for chaperones. EF Tours does domestic trips within the US as well as international trips all over the world. The ratio of students to chaperones varies based on the type of trip and your school requirements. 

Anna, Jamie, Kellie, Bonnie and Grant in front of the Santa Croce Church.
Anna, Jamie, Kellie, Bonnie and Grant in front of the Santa Croce Church.

For this trip, we had one chaperone for every six paid travelers. Each chaperone only had to pay the trip insurance, which technically was optional. We had a few additional expenses while traveling – lunch each day, a couple of extra activities that were optional for the group and, of course, souvenirs.

Having a good ratio of chaperones to students gives parents the peace of mind that their child will be well taken care of during the trip. This is also great for recruiting as the chaperones will talk about the trip and encourage more students to sign up for future trips!

EF Tour Consultant

Once a teacher decides to take a trip with EF Tours, they will work with an EF Tour Consultant to plan the trip. The tour consultant will be your one contact with EF. He or she will help you determine which trip is right for you, give tips on how to recruit students and coordinate planning the details of the trip (such as flights and optional excursions).

The tour consultant becomes your best friend as you plan your trip! My experience so far with my tour consultant has been nothing but positive. He has made a point to get to know me personally, understand my travel style and remembers all the details that we discuss.

The tour consultant has answered every question I have had in a timely manner and has been friendly, but professional.

EF Tour Director

The EF tour director is basically the “general” tour guide on your trip. This person meets you at the airport on arrival at your destination and stays with you until you return to the airport for departure. The tour director will ride the bus with you, stay at the same hotel, provide information on your destination and handle all the details while you are traveling.

Bonnie and I enjoying our gondola ride. The gondola was an optional activity that our tour director arranged once we arrived in Venice.
Bonnie and I enjoying our gondola ride. The gondola was an optional activity that our tour director arranged once we arrived in Venice.

The tour director also arranges local guides in each city, dinner reservations and makes sure that all travelers (students and chaperones) have a good experience. Thankfully, we had a FABULOUS tour director on our trip! He really was a big factor in the success of our trip.

The tour director made a point to get to know all 35 travelers – chaperones, students and parents. He answered our questions about trip details, helped us to plan additional (optional) excursions, shared cultural information and asked about our life at home. This is what made the trip personal and not just a big group trip.

Flexible Travel

Our trip was to Venice, Florence (with a half-day side trip to Pisa) and Rome. One important thing to know about EF trips is that they always use flexible planning. This means that your travel days are flexible and the order of your trip is flexible.

We traveled Sunday to Sunday, but we did not know those exact dates when students started signing up. This allows EF Tours to get the best price possible on plane tickets. The group leader will work with the tour consultant to set the travel window. All travelers have to make sure they can be flexible, within the provided window.

"Hark, what light from yonder breaks?" The "Juliet Balcony" is an attraction in Verona which highlights the events of Shakespeare's "Rome and Juliet." Since the events of the play are completely fictional, this is not where Juliet actually stood.
“Hark, what light from yonder breaks?” The “Juliet Balcony” is an attraction in Verona which highlights the events of Shakespeare’s “Rome and Juliet.” Since the events of the play are completely fictional, this is not where Juliet actually stood.

We ended up flying into Milan and out of Rome. We could have done the trip in the reverse order (though I don’t think it would have been as fun). Again, those options allow EF to keep prices reasonable. They will even throw in some extras if time and finances allow… definitely a nice perk!

One of our perks was being able to stop in Verona for a couple of hours on our first day. We flew into Milan, then took a bus to our first official stop in Venice. Since our flight arrived early in the morning, we had time to stop in Verona to see the “Juliet balcony” and have lunch. This was something extra that not all groups get to do!

Local Guides

While our tour director gave us general information on each city and answered any questions we had along the way, we had local guides in each city filling in the details.

In Venice, we did a one-hour walking tour that provided history and information about the city and major sites. Our walking tour included St. Mark’s square, the Doge’s Palace and the Rialto bridge.

In Florence, we took another tour with a local guide through the cathedral, through town to the Ponte Vecchio bridge and past the Uffizi gallery. While we did not enter the Uffizi gallery on the tour, the guide discussed some of the sculptures outside and provided some basic information on what we would find inside.

One of the cool features of the baptistery in Pisa is the acoustics and every hour or so, someone comes in to sing a few notes to demonstrate what it sounds like inside. When you go, be sure to time your visit to the baptistery to hear the demonstration.
One of the cool features of the baptistery in Pisa is the acoustics and every hour or so, someone comes in to sing a few notes to demonstrate what it sounds like inside. When you go, be sure to time your visit to the baptistery to hear the demonstration.

In Pisa, we had a guided walk through Piazza Dei Miracoli (“Square of Miracles”). This is where the Cathedral, Baptistry and (leaning) Tower are located. Our guide made sure that we were inside the baptistry during the acoustic demonstration.

In Rome, we had a guide through the Colosseum and Roman Forum. She provided details on the history of these locations and the various sites within the Forum. Another guide took us through the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica.

One tour director couldn’t possibly be able to be an expert on all of these locations. By providing the local guides, EF ensures that we get as much detailed information as possible. This also allows the tour director some time off to finalize dinner plans or other details.

Group Travel

While Grant and I generally hate group travel, it is inevitable with a school field trip. Our tour provided a good balance of structured tours and free time. This made our experience of traveling with a group of 35 very pleasant.

The local tours visited most of the major sites in each city. Additionally, we had free time at lunch daily to choose a restaurant, visit additional sites, shop or wander the streets. This was a great opportunity for students, parents and teachers to get some time to decompress and choose what they wanted to do – something that is often missing with group travel.

Of course, when traveling with students, we are not going to see or do everything we would when traveling by ourselves and that is ok! This was more about exposing students to the amazing sites and world history than having fun for ourselves.

We missed going to see the glass blowers in Venice the first time, so we were really stoked to see a live demonstration of this ancient Venetian art.
We missed going to see the glass blowers in Venice the first time, so we were really stoked to see a live demonstration of this ancient Venetian art.

We were pleasantly surprised that this tour managed to offer us something new in all four cities that we had previously visited!

Traveling as a group did have a couple of advantages. As a group, we had reservations and were able to skip lines at crowded attractions, like seeing Michelangelo’s David in Florence. As a group, we were able to bring the cost of taking a gondola down to 20 Euros each.

Traveling with EF Tours

I highly recommend EF Tours to anyone interested in school-based travel. Every part of this trip was amazing! Our trip truly was a great experience for everyone involved.

As a teacher, I enjoyed the trip knowing that the details were being handled by the EF employees. Parents are assured that their children are getting a safe, fun and educational travel experience. 

Our group touring the Colosseum.
Our group touring the Colosseum.

EF Tours provides MANY different kinds of travel experiences. Options include tours with a focus on history or STEM to language, service and leadership opportunities. Check out the EF Tours web site and I’m sure you will find something that would fit your interests and curriculum.

As I mentioned earlier, I am planning a STEM Discovery trip to Boston in February 2018. As a math teacher, I am excited to have the opportunity to do something fun and educational that relates to my field!

If you are interested in learning more about travel with EF Tours, you can request information here.  If you have any questions for us about travel with EF Tours please contact us via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or whatever method you prefer! We will gladly provide more information about our experience and answer any questions you may have.

For a detailed account of our trip, click here. For Bonnie’s review of her new backpack and her packing list this trip, click here. For Grant’s review of his backpack and packing list, click here.

Book It!

Find a Flight


Find an RV


Find a Hotel

Booking.com
Our recent experience traveling with EF Tours on a school trip to Italy. Includes details on planning a trip and traveling with EF.
Enjoy this story? Be sure to pin it on Pinterest and share it to Facebook and Twitter!
Share This

You may also like

4 comments

Avatar
Jeanette January 17, 2018 - 9:32 pm

Was this the Bell’Italia trip? I lead that one this summer (with the extension to Sorrento and Capri) this summer. I had a group of 62. I definitely agree with your assessment of EF tours. I’m currently working on planning my third tour with them; I wouldn’t go with anyone else! I’m a few months late to this post (which I found via Pinterest rabbit holes), but If you haven’t gone on your orientation/training tour yet, It’s amazing; I loved mine. I went to Madrid over New Year’s several years ago, and it was a fantastic experience. Not only was it incredibly helpful as I geared up to lead my first tour, but I met some fellow teachers that I’m still in contact with over four years later. Happy travels!

Reply
Bonnie Sinclair
Bonnie Sinclair January 17, 2018 - 10:04 pm

This was Venice, Florence, Rome (I think that is the official name of the tour). We added on Pisa as an extension. Unfortunately, the trip I was planning to Boston did not pan out for a variety of reasons. This trip was absolutely amazing – we really never expected that we could have that good of an experience with group travel. We certainly recommend EF Tours.

Reply
Avatar
WAYNE SNEAG April 27, 2019 - 7:44 pm

You guys should also check out the more immersive and personalized program with Unearthed Travel. Their connection to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is really impressive.

Reply
Bonnie
Bonnie April 28, 2019 - 11:00 am

Thanks for the info!

Reply

Leave a Comment