Travel Instructors--Trip Leader Preparation

If you still have questions after reading through this information, please feel free to contact [email protected].

General Travel Information:

Planning the Trip

Planning your trip will be a much easier process if you utilize a travel agent who specializes in trips to your destination. Any formal contractual agreements must be presented to the Office of the Vice President of Administration for approval before being signed. For those travel instructors whose plans have not been finalized, the College has contracted with Egencia, business travel agent; more information can be found here: http://vp-finance.williams.edu/travel/ Please contact Nicole Pedercini in the Controller’s Office, 413-597-4412, to set up an account with Egencia. If you are traveling abroad, booking your travel through the Egencia-Williams College on-line portal will provide the College the ability to provide better assistance in the case of the emergency and respond accordingly.

Purchasing trip insurance is recommended.

  • Itinerary

    Accounting for all potential delays in your schedule makes all the difference when planning your trip. In preparing your trip's schedule, find out about any state or national holidays that may cause many places to be closed during the course of the trip. Keep in mind that weekends may have the same effect. Allow plenty of time for banking, as banking hours are limited in many countries and even simple transactions can take a considerable amount of time.

    You can minimize disruptions in the schedule by arranging to leave daily notes at the front desk of the hotel or on a bulletin board nearby with crucial times and expectations, making sure that students will check.

    Shopping time should also be considered when developing your schedule. Keep in mind that carrying around items that are too heavy and/or too bulky can seriously hinder individual and group travel. Everyone should plan for feasible carrying. It is helpful to send gifts home.

  • Financial/Administrative Procedures

    You were notified of your PeopleSoft account number by the Winter Study Committee. If you can't find the pertinenet information, please contact Barb Casey.

    Account

    Your account number should be included on all invoices, which should be directed to Accounts Payable (AP).

    All expenses will be drawn from your account, which ideally will balance out to zero or have a surplus which can be refunded to the students.

    Before

    You may request a 'cash advance' for funds to be taken with you on the trip. Contact Accounts Payable to get details about the process.

    Winter Study trips are part of the normal billing and collection process at Williams; students with unpaid balances may not be permitted to participate.

    Contact AP if you need to pay bills to parties in the destination country before you leave; the College can obtain foreign drafts in the appropriate currency.

    During

    The ATM--if available in the host country--is the best source of cash during travel, in terms of safety and exchange rate.

    Keep all receipts. Keep a log of expenses when a receipt is not available. Record the date of the expense, name of person or business paid and amount of payment.

    After

    Complete a travel voucher for AP and include your receipts and recordings.

    Convert foreign currencies to U.S. Dollars.

    If you received a cash advance greater than the total expenses, include a check payable to "Williams College" for the difference.

  • Student Fees and Finances

    In setting the fee to be paid by students participating in your Winter Study Travel Course, first total the individual cost: flights, hotels, food and immunizations. Then total the bulk costs: your travel costs, group transportation, speakers, etc. Divide this total by the number of students and add the resulting amount to the individual cost. Finally, increase each fee by one or two hundred dollars in case any unexpected expenses are incurred or a student decides not to attend. Refunds can be made to students if the trip costs less than the fee.

    Financial Aid will cover a minimum of 10% of the posted fee for those students awarded aid (those with greater financial need can receive up to 100% of the total cost), which will be credited to their term bill.

    Be clear in exactly what the course fee covers and advise students on how much they will need in addition. If applicable for the destination country, emphasize that, in addition to carrying traveler's checks and minimal cash, use of the ATM is the best method of getting cash in terms of safety and exchange rate (VISA's website has an excellent global ATM locator. If not available, a VISA credit or debit card is useful for drawing cash in most large cities. The College is not responsible for money or personal assets that are lost or stolen.

  • Registration

    Winter Study Travel Course registration takes place early in the Fall Semester, about three weeks in advance of regular Winter Study registration. Upperclass students who want to participate in a WSP travel course submit the travel form--the deadline is Thursday, September 28th. By submitting the form, the student agrees to be responsible for any expenses associated with the trip, even in the event of withdrawal from the course after the deadline. This early registration should help determine early-on in the Fall Semester the interest level in a particular travel course, and ultimately the financial feasibility of going forward with the trip.

  • International SOS: Emergency Resources

    The College also maintains specialized services with International SOS that provides our community of travelers with access to security alerts, country specific medical advice and information, and general in country advice about places you may be travelling. International SOS functions as our security and emergency concierge. They should be consulted with all manners of emergencies when abroad and can direct you to the nearest and most appropriate facility for support. Any faculty or staff member travelling with students is required to register each participant’s itinerary with International SOS via the MyTrips portal.

    Before your next trip please take the following steps:

    When your trip is registered with International SOS via MyTrips, you will be provided all the necessary contact information for the nearest International SOS support center to contact in case of an emergency or to consult with about trip concerns.

    While traveling out of the country, your primary healthcare insurance is what provides you coverage in an emergency. Once again, coordinating any health care needs you or your travel party might have while out of the country should be done via International SOS.

    If you have any questions about International SOS or general insurance questions while traveling out of the country, please contact Shelby Walden at 413-597-4243 or Matthew Sheehy at 413-597-4775.

  • State Department Travel Warnings

    If there is an active state department travel warning for your destination (list can be found here ), College policy is that the course will be cancelled. In these cases, instructors can make a formal request to senior staff for an exception to this policy. For instructors traveling to countries where it’s very possible there may be an active travel warning, it would be highly advisable to invest in trip insurance that covers this situation.

  • Follow-up Survey

    Have a follow-up survey of trip that focuses on health and safety issues (vs. academics). Similar survey for instructors so that the College can continue to improve Winter Study Travel.

Preparing Students

It is important that each student be made aware of the dangers, discomforts and realities of the trip before any commitment is made to participate, during trip preparation, at the onset of the trip, and onsite as needed. Provide orientation to the students prior to and during the trip.

  • Reality Check

    Dangers: violence, disappearances, health risks, traffic dangers
    Cultural issues: appropriate clothing, behavior and manners; legal and religious considerations
    Discomforts/inconveniences: weather and climate, travel, long waits, available sanitary facilities, available vegetarian food
    Potential Disappointments: planned visits disrupted, speakers/contacts not coming through, locations not being as nice as they seemed
    It is particularly important that as soon as students show interest in the trip, you provide them with health and safety information so that they and their families can make informed decisions regarding participation, preparation and behavior while on the trip. The websites of the State Department and the Center for Disease Control  are helpful in this area, as is the advice of an instructor who has led a trip to the country previously. If there is a travel advisory in place, indicate this to the students along with the grounds on which you have determined the trip to be a viable activity. You should formulate emergency response measures for any problems that could potentially arise due to the above risks and dangers.

    If an approved trip includes travel to a destination that is on the State Department's list of "Travel Warnings," the College Administration reserves the right to cancel the trip. An instructor can appeal the decision at that time.

  • Immunizations

    Donna Denelli-Hess will set up individual meetings with students to discuss recommendations based on their medical history and vaccination record and your specific itinerary. In cases where students will be traveling abroad, she will also confirm that they have insurance coverage. The Health Center provides immunizations at cost, however, they do not have access to all that may be recommended. They can write a script for yellow fever, but they will have to go to the Bennington Travel Clinic to get the immunization (cost $200 cash); it needs to be done at least 10 days in advance of travel.  While the health center can’t release student health information without student consent, it’s perfectly reasonable to encourage students to share pertinent information with you.

  • Food and Water Quality

    You are encouraged to contact Maria Cruz, the college’s nutritionist, if if you have students with particular dietary needs. If applicable, you should tell students that only water obtained in sealed containers should be consumed, and no ice. Also warn of food quality issues, indicating what is to be avoided. For example: raw fruits and vegetables without peels may not be trustworthy; some places are safer for eating than others (e.g., restaurant vs. hotel food); avoid buffets and the use of old, stale and cold frying oils as they likely contain harmful bacteria. Acidophilus tablets or a serving of yogurt each morning are helpful for enhancing the tolerance of foods.

  • Personal Safety

    Everyone in the group should be conscious of personal safety during the trip. Carry valuables-including cash, credit cards, passport and traveler's checks-on the person and not in a carried bag. Wallets should be kept in the front pocket or, alternatively, a moneybelt can be worn. It is also important that everyone keep track of receipts with credit card numbers.

    Offer tips to prepare the group for the possible physical harassment of women. Women should be prepared to speak extremely firmly, but not rudely, or to push a hand away. It is in everyone's best interest to maintain an alert and confident bearing that indicates that they know where they're going when out walking.

    Students should be made aware of the possible scam tactics that they will encounter during the trip. Indicate some of the bogus lines that may be heard, for example: "Why do tourists never talk to the local people?", "I was forced into an arranged marriage...", "Can you carry this package back to America for me?", etc.

Timeline/Checklist

More details about the timeline:

  • ASAP, all travel instructors should contact [email protected] in the Controller’s Office about applying for a College purchasing card. It’s also important to let Abby know dates of travel so she can alert credit card company not to shut down account.
  • Hold an informational meeting prior to the 28 September student deadline to submit the travel course preregistration form. STUDENTS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN YOUR WINTER STUDY TRAVEL COURSE MUST PREREGISTER; PLEASE REMIND THEM THAT THEY CAN ONLY PREREGISTER FOR ONE WINTER STUDY TRAVEL COURSE.
  • No later than October 20, let the Registrar’s Office know who you have admitted to the course. Enrollment caps for travel courses are set based on a formula that takes into account a number of variables. With that in mind, it’s extremely important for instructors to stick with their enrollment cap that was set by the Winter Study Committee.
  • No later than October 27, give Mary Kate Shea in the Bursar’s Office a total cost that should be billed to each student’s account, including out-of-pocket expenses to cover miscellaneous meals, spending money, etc. You can give the monies to the students prior to departure so they can deposit into their own ATM accounts and draw against it while they are on the trip. If you do this, you should keep a ledger and have students sign that they received these monies. Instructors are urged to overestimate the cost of the trip since it is far easier to process a refund on the student’s account rather than adding charges to a student’s bill later in the year. (In particular, baggage charges and travel to and from airports and within and about the destination location has been underestimated this past year.) Here’s the budget form to help you with the process of determining the costs that should be billed to the student’s account. Financial Aid reimbursements will be applied automatically to pertinent students’ accounts.
  • No later than October 27, give Richard Davis in Financial Aid a more detailed breakdown of costs, including the cost of immunizations and out-of-pocket expenses that are not included in the total cost that you submitted to the Bursar’s Office.
  • No later than December 15, submit a detailed itinerary, including flight numbers and a way to get in touch with you at all times in case of emergency (submit via this form). Note: The College requires instructors to provide some reliable way to get in touch with them at all times, whether that be by cell phone, email, or other contact. If rental of an international phone seems to be the best option, the College will cover the costs.
  • No later than the last day of fall classes, hold a required presite orientation to go over:
    • Student responsibility
    • Safety and Security
    • Destination country laws, and local conditions, customs, cultural and culinary differences
    • Trip itinerary and what to bring
    • Williams Code of Conduct
    • Passport and Visa requirements, if applicable (The value of making sure students’ passports are in order early on to allow for time to reapply if necessary was noted. Some countries required passports to have an expiration of at least 6 months out. Instructors should feel free to direct international students to Ninah Pretto, Assistant Dean of International Student Services. Worth noting that if you are traveling through another country to your final destination, this may impact a student’s Visa.)
    • Travel health concerns
    • Distribute a written crisis communication plan in case of accidental separation, a student or instructor becomes ill, etc. Regarding the latter, you should have a back-up plan (i.e., who will take over your responsibilities?). If you don’t have a co-teacher, possibly designate one student with travel experience as an alternate go-to person if you are not available/reachable. Possibly establish a policy that the course will not continue with its itinerary without ALL the group members or until the crisis is resolved. Worth noting that any incidents, even petty crime, should be reported back to the Dean’s Office (for more urgent matters during off hours, contact security who will contact the Dean on Call).
  • No later than December 15, double-check your itinerary with your travel partners to minimize complications during your trip. Remind pertinent students they must have their green card to get back into the states. Require students to carry your trip leader contact number with them at all times during the travel period.
  • No later than the last day of fall semester, if your group will be away from campus for at least 10 consecutive days, students can apply for a board rebate.