Parents, I am sending some information from EF’s website. I am also including some of my ideas—listed in red. EF Information—from website Hotels A good night’s sleep is important, so count on superior tourist-class hotels with private baths. And rest assured, we inspect every hotel personally to ensure it’s comfortable, clean and safe.. Some common differences from North American hotels:
Rooms and beds are usually smaller and have single and/or shared double beds.
Shower pressure tends to be much weaker and, in some countries, the showerhead may be a
Rooms seldom have air conditioning or televisions. Last summer all the hotels had air. Not all European hotels have elevators. We had elevators in most hotels. detachable, hand-held device, directly above the toilet or sink. Few hotels have shower curtains.
Many European hotel bathrooms do not provide face towels. Students may want to bring their own. I took one last time, but didn’t need one. It just depends on hotel. I took an old one and left it behind.
Meals Travelers should expect food and portion size to be different than what they are accustomed to at home. Breakfast typically includes cereal, bread or rolls, jam, juice, coffee and tea. Lunch is the chance to make culinary discoveries of your own – ask your tour director for recommendations. Included dinners will either be familiar dishes or local specialties. We will receive a huge breakfast in London—hey we love those Brits! Advise your group that they will be expected to pay for soft drinks and other beverages at dinner. Table water is always provided free of charge; bottled water is provided only in those countries where deemed necessary by locals (e.g. Egypt). Due to the challenges of serving a large group, you will usually receive a pre-set meal rather than ordering from a menu. Speak with your tour consultant prior to departure to verify which meals are included and to confirm any specific dietary requirements. Remember that students will be responsible for paying for lunches. We are usually allowed free time and each group of students finds its own place to eat. It won’t be a problem to find a place; restaurants are everywhere.
Tour pace Students should bring comfortable footwear. Many sightseeing tours are on foot, so you will do a lot of walking. In addition, the use of public transportation often involves a lot of stairs and walking to and from the train platforms. Remind your travelers--both students and adults--that our educational tours are generally fast-paced. We certainly do move fast, then slowly, then fast.
Optional excursions and activities Your tour will offer optional excursions that take place during free time. Optional excursions can be purchased before tour for a discounted price (deadline is 50 days prior to departure) or purchased on tour. However, keep in mind that certain excursions must be pre-booked. In the My Tours section of you online account you can view the optional excursions offered on your tour. Optional excursions are based on a
minimum of 20 paying participants. If possible, we will combine you with other tour groups to achieve this minimum. In addition to these excursions, your Tour Director may also offer special activities (i.e. gondola ride in Venice) while on tour, based on the interest of your group. These activities may only be purchased on tour with cash. We have prepaid for all the optional excursions—Yipeee.
Punctuality No matter where you travel, there is a tremendous amount to see and do – and a limited time in which to cover it! For that reason, most EF itineraries are packed with activities. It is crucial that everyone makes punctuality a priority; for wake up calls, sightseeing tours, meeting times etc. It takes just one person showing up late to throw off a whole day’s schedule. Please remind your students how important it is that they follow instructions and tell them to wear watches if possible. We had to leave a mother and her child behind one day because they were extremely late. The bus HAD to leave to make our next appointment. (Mother and student were fine of course—just missed the tour that day.) On the tour, I have the front desk call me, and I set my alarm, and then I call all the kids. Please stress they must be ON TIME.
Transportation Inform students that flights may consist of multiple legs and, if you are a large group, everyone may not travel on the same itinerary. Our group will be together. Public transportation is more commonly used abroad than it is in many parts of North America. To travel to local activities or free-time options, EF groups generally find it easy to use public transportation. Your tour director will help you to learn the maps and routes. In our free day in Paris and our free afternoon in London we can take the subway.
Exchanging money We recommend bringing the equivalent of $50 in the currency of your destination for expenses upon arrival. Do not bring travelers’ checks since they can be difficult to cash. ATMs are the most convenient way for cash withdrawals since they accept a wide number of bank and credit cards. All travelers should check with their banks to ensure that their cards will work abroad. I plan to take a great deal of my money already exchanged because my bank will exchange the currency for free—most places do not. However, if I lose my money, I am greatly out of luck. I will use my debit card if I have to, and I will place most things on my credit card that I don’t have cash for—we get money back on our credit card.
Spending money We recommend telling students that they should plan on approximately $40-$60 per day for spending money, depending on where your group is going. The guidelines below are divided by region. The lower amount covers enough for lunches, soft drinks, postcards and stamps, while the higher amount covers some museum entrances during free time and souvenirs. These recommendations do not cover optional excursions or gratuities. Europe
This is us of course. If you know they want souvenirs for all the family, they will need more money than this. And of course, we may decide to see a play, go to an extra museum….
Australia, New Zealand, Africa
China and Asia
Mexico, Central/South America
We advise buying optional excursions pre-tour and discussing with your tour director which extra activities you’d like to fit in during free time. Your tour director can give you a good indication of the cost for such activities.
Tipping While all non-discretionary gratuities are included in the EF Program Fee, it’s customary to tip the tour director and coach driver as a token of appreciation at the end of the tour. We recommend:
$6 (€4) per person per day for the tour director If the guide is great $6, good $5, okay $3. $3 (€2) per person per day for the coach driver
$10 (€6) per person per day for the cruise staff (if applicable) Not applicable to us
Many group leaders also tip local guides for half-day sightseeing tours. On a full-day excursion, giving a small tip to both the professional local guide and the day’s driver is typical. We recommend using local currency for tipping as it is difficult for tour directors to cash traveler’s checks or Visa gift cards. We suggest you deposit the tip money into your bank account and withdraw it in local currency at the end of the tour, then present it to your tour director and bus driver in tip envelopes provided by EF.
Last year I took up the money before hand and had it ready to give the guide at the end of the tour. I would like to handle the tips this way again. So, either before school is out or at the airport, please have your tip money ready for me.
happy to have American currency—any currency really. We will be with our tour guide nine days: $45 dollars. We will be with a bus driver (different ones) seven days: $14 We will have a tour director for Versailles: $2 We will have tour director Paris, London, Munich $5 Roughly $65 all together.
Packing Your group members should pack as lightly as possible; as much as will fit in one suitcase and an EF back pack. Please make it clear to your participants that they will be responsible for loading their luggage on and off buses and trains and into hotels. They are so, so telling the truth here. Pack lightly. YOU will be carrying your own luggage—EVERYWHERE. I have luggage that rolls. Of course this doesn’t work going up and down stairs!! I have also heard that bed bugs are becoming a problem while traveling and that the US is beginning to have a problem again. If you have hard sided luggage that doesn’t weigh a ton, pack it. Also have kids put luggage in the bathtub at hotel. Bed bugs hate porcelain.
There are only so many things a person can stuff into a suitcase—and even fewer things that will be needed on tour. Keep in mind that EF travelers are responsible for carrying their own luggage, so packing light is a plus. Here’s a list to make sure that no essentials are forgotten.
Clothing Travelers should be conscientious of cultural differences and pack accordingly. Keep in mind that some religious sites require that shirts cover the shoulders and arms, and do not allow short skirts or flip-flops.
Comfortable walking shoes and one pair of nicer shoes forget style, you need comfort
Shirts (short and long sleeved) I’m packing both Socks Shorts/pants/jeans Bathing suit (if applicable) Last year we did have a pool in Rome, but I’m not sure the weather will be warm enough this year.
Dressier outfit (reserved for a special night out)
Lightweight nylon jacket or warm-up top (rather than bulky sweatshirts)
Raincoat and/or umbrella I took a clear light-weight stadium poncho (it’s died since then though…) Please have your child or at least someone else besides me take a watch. Students are used to having their cell phones as clocks, but they won’t have them in Europe.m
This year students are a year younger than the group I took last year. How do you feel about having your child venture on his/her own with a group of three without me? Or how do you feel about having your child venture out with another teacher in the group? Once the students make friends, I allow other group members to go out with our group. Sometimes my students will want to follow another teacher’s group. If you allow your daughter to travel without me, I will have to have it in writing. I am sending a form as an attachment. Please have your child give this form to me. Toiletries
Toothpaste No liquid over 3 ounces in size will be permitted on the plane. You must
have all these different bottles inside a quart ziplock bag ready to show at customs.
Hairbrush/comb Any medications (in addition to a copy of prescriptions) The medicine must be in original bottles to get through the airport.
Spare set of contact lenses/glasses (if applicable) Nylon cord and 8 to 12 clothespins (for drying clothes in the hotel room) I don’t take
ATM card (call the bank prior to departure to alert them of the trip; foreign purchases sometimes result in a hold on bank accounts)
EF Visa Travel card or personal credit card
At least $50 converted to foreign currency of the first county that you’re visiting. Pouch for storing money and passport under clothing
An alarm clock (many hotel rooms won't have one) An adaptor/converter (available at travel stores) Some American-made hair dyers should work overseas, but you will still need an adaptor. If you are taking something electronic, make sure you get an adapter for Great Britain and Europe. They don’t have the same outlets.
Camera with ample batteries (batteries can be expensive abroad) I am bringing my cell phone with international charger. Some cell phone businesses will loan you one if you do business with them—IF your child has to have his/her cell phone. But you must have your company upgrade your phone—usually $10 charge for a couple of months until the bills go through. But the EF phone card is really the way to go—cheap, cheap.
Passport—it is required on all EF Educational Tours. Remember to bring a couple photocopies of it (in case it is lost) and leave one copy at home I have the two copies for your passport. I will keep these at all times.
Visas (if applicable) Not needed.
A list of important phone numbers and addresses to send postcards home
A copy of the tour itinerary I sent this to you. Copy of any prescriptions (Customs officials may want to verify that a container's contents match its label, so all medication should be carried in its original container.)
Carry-on bag The EF backpack is a perfect carry-on bag. Here’s a short list of things travelers might need on the first day of the trip. These should be packed in the carry-on in case the checked luggage is delayed.
Money Toothbrush and toothpaste (remember, toothpaste needs to go in a one-quart ziploc bag, and can't be bigger than 3 oz)
A change of clothes (in case luggage is delayed)
Contact lens case/glasses (to sleep comfortably on the plane) Medication
Flight check-in For international flights, you should meet your group at the location previously arranged by your group leader two to three hours before the departure time (this gives ample time for check-in, security, etc.). Most EF travelers will get e-tickets, which means you only need to bring your passport to the airport for check-in. Please check with your group leader to find out if you have e-tickets or not. International flights Most eastbound international flights are overnight. Use the time to rest; you’re going to be walking all over the place the next several days, so the more energy you have, the better. Your flights may consist of multiple connections and carriers. If you are in a large group, everyone may not travel on the same itinerary due to space restrictions. When you land abroad, you'll have to go through immigration (this is where they stamp your passport) and customs. On the way back into the United States at the end of your trip, you'll have to fill out a special landing form, which they'll give you on the plane and explain to you how to fill it out. Upon arrival in the first city of the tour, the tour director or an EF representative will meet your group once you pass through customs. Health and Exercises Here are some helpful tips to make your flight more comfortable so you’re more rested when you arrive: It's dry on an airplane; drink a lot of water or juice. Speaking of dry, take out your contact lenses before you board to keep your eyes from drying out. Move around a bit. Get up and take a walk down the aisle every now and then. When sitting in your seat for a long time, try rolling your feet, lifting your legs, clenching your hands, and rotating your neck--it helps to get the blood moving. Most airlines have recommended exercises in the magazine in the seat pocket in front of you.
Free time On some tours, there will be a little free time when there's nothing planned. This is your time to explore the city with your friends and group leaders. Check out a museum, sit at a café and people-watch, buy souvenirs, take pictures, go on a hike…the choices are endless. Just get together with some people in your group and take it all in. If you need some help figuring out what to do, your EF Tour Director will point you in the right direction. Depending on your destination, get a start on thinking about free-time activities before you go by checking out recommended walking tours with TourCasts, exciting downloadable content for your iPod!
International phones You can save up to 70 percent on international roaming rates when you use EF’s ekit Global Mobile. Choose from a range of discounted international cell phones that provide convenient, low-cost calling from over 120 countries around the world.
Phone cards EF eKit phone cards are a really great way to keep in touch with those at home. EF will mail you a calling card about a month before you leave. All you have to do is add money and activate it. Find out more and purchase an eKit phone card. You will receive an ekit phone card in the mail approximately 60 days prior to departure. The card will come with five minutes of free talk time so all you’ll have to do is contact ekit and recharge your account before you go. You can do this by visiting eftours.ekit.com or calling 1-888-310-4168. Always check with your hotel to see if they charge any connection fees, since they can be very expensive. It is usually better to use public phones. EF TourLink While you discover some of the world’s greatest treasures, your parents can go online to track your tour group’s adventures with EF TourLink! EF Tour Directors carry real-time GPS locators that pinpoint each tour group’s location at various points throughout the tour in the countries where TourLink is available. Tour directors also record activities in a trip log, making it exciting for family and friends to follow along from home. Power conversion Other countries use different voltage standards, so you don't want to plug anything (iPod, hair dryer, phone) into an outlet without a converter and an adapter. Here are some basic voltages in use around the world: U.S. 120V European Union 230V Mexico 127V Costa Rica 120V China 220V Australia 240V You will need to buy a converter that has both Great Britain and European plug adapters—this is important. Great Britain does not use the same type of outlets as the rest of Europe. General safety tips So we’re going to sound like your parents here. Sorry, but we have to. No matter where you are—home or abroad--being safe is a matter of common sense. Here are some tips to make sure you don't run into trouble: Don't wear expensive-looking clothes or jewelry. You’re not Paris Hilton; the labels can stay at home. Don't walk around alone; stay with your group or several friends. But you knew that already…Right? Stay off dark streets and alleys. Do we need to warn you about this? We really hope not. Be aware of your purse/wallet and keep your money in a safe place. We know it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new city, but leaving your purse or backpack dangling off your arm is asking for trouble. Travel pouches that you wear under your clothes are a better choice.
Rules of the Road In the spirit of successful travel, here’s a list of regulations you MUST stick to on tour: All scheduled activities are obligatory. If you’re sick or have a physical ailment, you must tell your group leader, who should notify the EF Tour Director.
If you want to visit friends or relatives in a destination country, your group leader must be told BEFORE the tour begins. Upon request, EF will provide a form to be completed by your parents, giving authorization for the visits. Give the form to the EF Tour Director upon arrival.
Visitors or group members of the opposite sex are not permitted in your room. Your group leader and EF Tour Director may establish a curfew (usually 11:30pm). You’re expected to respect the nightly curfew for your own safety and security. Room checks will be conducted each night.
Smoking is not allowed on buses, during meals, in hotel rooms or in any other shared, enclosed space.
Hitchhiking and the driving or renting of any motor vehicle is strictly forbidden for all travelers.
The consumption of hard liquor is strictly forbidden. Your parents may sign a consent form at your group leader’s discretion, giving permission to consume wine or beer if you’re under the age of 21, on occasion and under supervision, in countries where you’re of legal drinking age. Excessive drinking of wine or beer by anyone in your tour group will result in disciplinary action, including dismissal from the tour at the participant’s expense. You can get a copy of this form in Forms and Resources under My Tours. All students traveling this time are too young to drink—even in Europe.
Shoplifting, possession of illegal drugs and all other illegal activities will not be tolerated and are punishable by immediate dismissal from the tour. All costs to return home are at your expense. If the local authorities are involved, you will be subject to the laws of the country you’re visiting.
You’re required to pay for any phone calls or incidental personal expenses incurred at hotels. These will be payable the evening before departure at each hotel.
Compensation for damage done to hotel rooms or to buses is the responsibility of you.
If you don’t conform to any of these regulations, you risk disciplinary action and possible dismissal from the tour, returning home at your own expense. This decision is reached in consultation with group leaders, the EF Tour Director, and your parents. If you don’t conform to any of these regulations, you risk disciplinary action and possible dismissal from the tour, returning home at your own expense. This decision is reached in consultation with group leaders, the EF Tour Director, and your parents.