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:

  • travel.state.gov/travel advisoriesIf there is a level 3 or 4 travel advisory for your destination, College policy is that the course will be cancelled. In these cases, instructors may 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 a level 3 or 4 travel advisory, it would be highly advisable to invest in trip insurance that covers this situation.
  • www.cdc.gov/travel
  • www.counciltravel.com
    • You should hold an informational meeting prior to the 26 September deadline  for students to submit the travel course preregistration form. (Barb Casey can help arrange for a room and advertise the meeting in daily messages and online.) 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 19, let Barb Casey 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. Barb Casey will take care of letting Donna Denelli-Hess know who's going on the trip; Donna will set up individual meetings with students to discuss immunization recommendations based on their medical history and vaccination record and your specific itinerary.
    • If students going on your trip need to apply or renew passports and/or visas (note: some countries require passports to have an expiration of at least 6 months out), encourage them to apply immediately. Let students know that if they receive aid, they can contact Barb Casey about having some or all of these upfront expenses covered. 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.)
    • Once you know your trip is going, if you don't already have a College purchasing card, you should contact [email protected] about applying for a card. You will also want to discuss whether the normal limit needs to be upped in order to purchase airline tickets, accommodations, etc. Finally, it's important to let the Controller's Office know dates of travel so they can alert the credit card company not to shut down the account.
    • No later than December 1, give Paula Langer, Manager of Student Accounts, a total cost that should be billed to each student’s account. Note: if you are expecting students to have spending money for incidentals (misc. meals, non-group transportation, etc.), those need to be included in the course fee that you submit to Paula. Barb Casey will take care of getting the cash to students in advance of the trip. 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 in the past.) 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.
    • The deadline to make a 'cash advance' request for funds for you to take on the trip is 1 December.
    • No later than December 1, submit a copy of your budget to Barb Casey so she knows what costs are not included in the total cost that you submitted to Student Accounts.
    • 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
      • Remind students of the Honor Code and Code of Conduct (you may even want them to sign a document outlining your academic and behavioral expectations)
      • Make sure passport, and if applicable, visas are in order; remind pertinent students they must have their green card to get back into the states
      • Travel health concerns
      • Require students to carry your trip leader contact number with them at all times during the travel period.
      • 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). All Title IX related issues that occur must be reported directly to Toya Comacho, Title IX Coordinator and Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Equity. You should also familiarize yourself with the College’s Title IX Guidelines.
    • 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.
    • 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 December 15, double-check your itinerary with your travel partners to minimize complications during your trip. Register your trip with International SOS’ MyTrips tool by clicking on this link: https://mytrips.travelsecurity.com

Planning the Trip:

  • Any formal contractual agreements must be presented to the Office of the Vice President of Administration for approval before being signed.
  • It is HIGHLY recommended that you travel as a group to and from your destination. If any of your students are asking about alternative arrangements, please check with [email protected] to see if the student is on financial aid, since it may have implications to their package.

You may want to consider getting a quote from Blank Canvas Tours (local provider owned by Gil Haylon), Four Winds Tours or one of the many companies that specialize in putting together faculty-led short-term travel (EF is a custom-designed travel company that has been used in the past). Using a local travel agent to help you plan your trip is another option: Global Link Travel, Bennington, VT, Squaw Peak Travel, Pittsfield, MA and Berkshire Travel Group, Pittsfield, MA. If you go this route, using an in-country ground supplier will be a less expensive option.

  • If you decide to make arrangements on your own, in general, you’ll get the best airfare prices when you book between four and eight weeks in advance, but there are exceptions. When you start doing some initial research, use price alert tools that are available online (e.g., here’s info about kayak's price alert tool).

    • Many instructors have found that once they find suitable flights online, the most expedient way to book the group is by contacting the relevant airline directly.
    • Consider including a carbon off-set fee.
    • Purchasing trip insurance is recommended.
  • Local options include: College vans, drivers for hire, and Dufour Tours.

    Think about transportation you will need during your trip. You will need to work out details like how you’ll get from the airport to your accommodation, and how you’re going to get around. Is it worth hiring a vehicle? If so, you might need to make arrangements well in advance since minivans and larger vehicles tend to book out quickly.

    Offsite Car/Van Rentals

    If you plan to rent cars or vans, the expectation is that you will purchase the rental company's insurance coverage (typically loss-damage/collision damage waiver, liability coverage, personal accident insurance, personal effects coverage) and also follow their policies.  For instance, all drivers (including students, assuming they meet the rental company's minimum age requirements) will need to be listed on the contract. Since all drivers will also need to meet the college's eligibility requirements, advance planning is important:

    Eligibility to Drive a College Vehicle
    • Drivers license: All faculty, staff and students who wish to drive a College vehicle, or who drive a personal vehicle on College business, must have have a valid driver’s license that has not been revoked or suspended.
    • Driver’s test: All students wishing to drive a College-owned 12-passenger van must pass a driver’s test. Tests are administered Tuesday through Thursday at 9:30 a.m. or 1:00 p.m. Call 413-597-2302 or email [email protected] for an appointment. The test is good for four years.
    • Acknowledgement: At the beginning of each academic year all those wishing to drive must sign an acknowledgement that they have read and accepted the regulations relating to College vehicle use.
    • Driving records: Once each academic year, ALL drivers must go to the Motor Vehicle Record Request webpage (http://facilities.williams.edu/administrative-services/college-vehicles/motor-vehicle-record-request-form/) to notify the College that they wish to become an approved driver and authorizing the College to request and review their Motor Vehicle Record (MVR).

    If you have questions about insurance, please contact Matthew Sheehy at 413-597-4775.

  • Choosing where to stay when you’re planning a group trip is a big decision and can make a huge difference to your travel experience. There’s more to accommodation than hotels, and in fact, they’re not necessarily the best option for a group. Staying in an apartment or house as a group gives you the chance to cook group meals and hang out together without cramming into one small hotel room! You can also stay in some amazing houses, and at more affordable prices than hotels.

    Regarding specific arrangements, we suggest you survey the students going on the trip to determine their comfort level with sharing rooms, whether they are comfortable with mixed gender in a room, etc. The general recommendation is that there is a bed for each student. Larger hotel rooms may be able to accommodate three to a room either with a cot or pull-out couch.

  • Accounting for all potential delays in your schedule makes all the difference when planning your trip. Other tips:

    • 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.
    • Anticipate that students may be tired from travel to your destination, so plan accordingly--especially during the first couple of days away, don't be over ambitious.
    • In general, allow students to have some down time during your trip. Just because you’re traveling as a group doesn’t mean you need to be glued together all the time. Everyone may have different ideas of must-see things or must-do activities.

Financial Procedures:

You were notified of your PeopleSoft account number. If you can’t find the pertinent information, please contact Barb Casey. All travel instructors should have a College purchasing card which you will be encouraged to use for purchases whenever possible.

  • In setting the fee to be paid by students participating in your Winter Study Travel Course, first total the individual cost: flights, baggage fees, accommodations, food, entrances fees if appropriate and  spending money for incidentals (e.g., meals or transportation on their own--Barbara Casey will get the cash to the students in advance of your departure).  Then total the bulk costs: your travel costs, group ground 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. Also, there may be costs for immunizations (if they are administered by the College's health center those fees will automatically be added to the student's term bill), passports, and visas. Refunds can be made to students if the trip costs less than the fee. 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 will cover 50-100% of the posted fee for those students awarded aid, which will be credited to their term bill.

    Be clear in exactly what the course fee covers. If applicable for the destination country, emphasize that, in addition to carrying minimal cash, use of the ATM is the best method of getting cash in terms of safety and exchange rate. The College is not responsible for money or personal assets that are lost or stolen.

  • 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. The deadline to make a request is 15 December. Contact Barb Casey to get details about the process. Note: if you are expecting students to have spending money for incidentals, those need to be included in the course fee. Barb Casey will take care of getting the cash to students in advance of the trip.

    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. Instructors should organize their receipts at the end of each day (ultimately, they need to be organized by “type”—e.g., all meals would be grouped together) to make reconciling their account that much easier when they return to campus. 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

    • Convert foreign currencies to U.S. Dollars.
    • Complete a travel voucher for AP and include your receipts and recordings. (Barbara Casey can assist you with this process.)
    • If you received a cash advance greater than the total expenses, include a check payable to "Williams College" for the difference.

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 30th. 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.

  • 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 traveling. 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 traveling with students is required to register their trip in International SOS via the MyTrips portal. Let Barb Casey know once you've done this, so she can add the students to the trip in SOS.

    Before your next trip please take the following steps:

    • If you choose to forward your itinerary confirmation email to [email protected] mailbox, please set up your MyTrips username by using the same email address where you normally receive the trip confirmation emails. After the one-time registration with MyTrips you can start forwarding the confirmation emails directly to the above mailbox.
    • Once you create your account, log in to MyTrips and fill out your profile details. Provide your personal email address, organization email address and phone numbers, so that we can reach you during an emergency situation.

    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, you have health care insurance through Williams that 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, since they will also take care of coordinating with the health care insurance.

    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.

Pre-Orientation–Preparing Students for the Trip:

Remind students of the Honor Code and Code of Conduct. You may even want them to sign a document outlining your academic and behavioral expectations.

It is also important that each student be made aware of the dangers, discomforts and realities of the trip before any commitment is made to participate.

    • 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.

  • Tina Stoiciu will set up individual meetings with students to discuss recommendations based on their medical history and vaccination record and your specific itinerary. 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; students who receive financial aid should contact Barb Casey); 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.

  • You are encouraged to contact Maria Cruz, the college’s nutritionist, 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.

  • 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.

  • Remind all participants to notify their banks that they will be traveling abroad so that they will have continued access to funds while away. By doing so, the bank is less likely to shut down access to funds due to suspected fraud.

    Consider sharing a packing list specific to the location you are traveling to. Include luggage size and weight guidelines. The Office of International Education and Study Away can help with this.

    Encourage students to inform their families of a possible lack of access to internet or communication if relevant to the place you are traveling to. It is a good idea to have students contact home to let their family know they arrived safely immediately after the group has landed. After that, students should let their families know that they may not be in as regular communication as they might typically. This can be due to time difference, seminar schedule, and lack of access to regular internet. Managing communication expectations can help families tremendously.

  • Faculty who have overseen trips report their biggest challenges are not public transportation strikes, fluctuating currencies or language barriers, but student behavior problems and/or group dynamics. Those who have successfully traveled with students advocate discussing appropriate student conduct and behavior-related problems in the pre-departure orientation as well as upon arrival. The concept of students as “cultural ambassadors” should be reinforced. Ask students to identify acceptable and unacceptable behaviors from which the group can agree upon and create a “contract” that the students sign. In addition to the expected, “don’t be late for bus departures,” ask students to decide on actions to avoid such situations. For example, students can agree to check that everyone is awake at a certain time, or phone a classmate after their alarm has rung. The students may also agree upon consequences and/or group response to repeated offenses. Likewise, students should be informed of the procedure to follow if they experience the consequences (for instance, if they are left behind because they missed the field trip departure). There is no need for complete agreement–consensus should be the desired goal. It may be more important to emphasize what the students should do, rather than what they should not do. If faculty experience excessive complaining, the group could set specific times during the day when all complaining is allowed–then none is allowed throughout the rest of the day. This may seem like an extreme action, but it has been proven to work. An alternate approach is to meet with students one-on-one where they can voice their concerns. Although it may seem like common sense, students may need to be regularly reminded to:

    • Be polite and listen to one another
    • Respect each other, leaders and local people affiliated with the program
    • Honor diversity and differences within the group
    • Attack the problem, not people
    • Look for compromises

    Faculty are encouraged to require students to determine procedures and methods for dealing with personality conflicts which can undermine the atmosphere of the program. It can also be advisable to address sex and dating among program participants as well as with locals. Pre-departure discussion regarding the local culture’s receptivity to public displays of affection, gays and lesbians, and other issues may help to alleviate misunderstandings. Faculty should address any concerns about alcohol misuse and abuse up front. In addition to posing a health and safety risk, alcohol abuse is the primary source of behavioral problems and personality conflicts between group members. By addressing this issue in advance, faculty not only inform students of their concerns, but also alert them to possible past problems that have had a negative effect on the program. To begin this discussion, it is helpful to ask students to discuss the consequences of alcohol misuse, such as the following:

    • Tardiness or poor attendance at classes and activities
    • Negative student interactions as a result of alcohol-induced “bad” behavior
    • Animosity/break down of community among members due to such behavior
    • Poor reflection of group to local community/faculty/contacts

    It can be useful to brainstorm with students on their perception of alcohol use in the host culture, comparing and/or contrasting with alcohol use in the United States, then sharing knowledge of alcohol use in the host culture, comparing and/or contrasting this with the students’ perceptions. In addition, students should be reminded of the difference between alcohol use and alcohol misuse/abuse. Excessive drunkenness in not tolerated in any country, and is, in fact, considered an illness/addiction in most cultures. Lastly, this conversation should be reviewed after arrival on-site. Faculty should be alert to group dynamics and address any concerns they may perceive. Don’t make light of incidents of abuse (such as joking about hangovers). Make sure stated consequences are followed up on. Follow previously stated guidelines if students violate agreed-upon rules.

Follow-up Survey

Student participants in Winter Study travel courses will be required to fill out an evaluation form which will be shared with you, the Winter Study Coordinator and the Winter Study Committee. You are encouraged to develop your own more granular follow-up survey.