Keeping your School Group Healthy When You Travel
International travel is the highlight of the school year for many lucky students. Whether it is a summer trip, volunteering or an educational experience, trips abroad can be the most memorable of a student’s academic life. And while it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of traveling someplace new, it is important to have a plan in place to keep your school group healthy and safe when traveling.
Safety Advice and Health Tips for School Groups
There are other things that can be also be done to ensure your school group stays healthy and safe when traveling:
- Pack smart: Be sure to familiarize yourself with the weather of the country you are traveling to prior to departing for the trip. Students should be supplied with a packing list outlining mandatory items as well as what not to bring and what they definitely should bring i.e., if your group is traveling to a hot climate, be sure everyone packs sunscreen to avoid sunburns and if your group is traveling to an extremely cold destination make sure everyone packs gloves and a hat to avoid frostbite.
- Make sure vaccinations are up to date: In addition to making sure all vaccinations are up to date, everyone traveling should also inquire about any new vaccinations that may be needed for that specific country. Some countries require visitors to carry proof of certain inoculations. Ensure you have the documentation necessary so that if a student falls ill you will not be turned away at a hospital due to incomplete or missing information.
- Implement a travel buddy system: Have each student be accountable for another student. They can work together, eat together, and do certain activities together. When group attendance or roll call is being taken the buddies can look for one another and then if someone is missing their buddy may know more about their whereabouts. If an accident occurs in which someone is injured, one travel buddy may be able to communicate what happened at the time of the accident if the other cannot.
- Carry a first aid kit: It seems simple enough, but when traveling abroad knowing where to find a bandage may not be as simple as stopping into a local pharmacy. Carrying a first aid kit with you at all times means you have basic medical supplies available to your group at all times. Luckily, first aid kits come in many sizes, including travel sizes. You can even encourage each student to carry a travel size first aid kit with them at all times and pack one as part of their mandatory items.
- Make a note of allergies and ask questions: Make sure all staff, parents, and volunteers who are traveling with your school group are aware of each student’s medical needs, especially pertaining to allergies. Ensure students with terminal allergic reactions carry their EpiPen on them at all times, as well as jewelry or other allergy identifying information that specifies what it is they are allergic to.
- Organize a phone tree: A phone tree is a network of people who are organized in such a way that they can quickly spread information amongst each other. Phone trees are useful for international travel because they can communicate urgent information quickly and easily. Setting up the phone tree will take some planning and should be tested prior to trip departure, but once in place, the phone tree network could be used for more than one trip. For international travel, this could mean using the parents or each student’s emergency contact as well as school staff.
- Set rules prior to departure: Prior to leaving on an international trip it is important to familiarize all students and other group travel members to any and all areas of the country or city that you are traveling to that should be avoided. Explain why these areas need to be avoided and make it clear that students are to remain with the group at all times unless otherwise stated. Setting clear rules prior to departure and reiterating them throughout the trip will ensure everyone traveling knows the rules.
- Carry necessary documentation: Along the same lines as the above point, travelers should carry with them at all times the contact details of the American embassy in that country. If your country does not have an American embassy, find out which other country’s embassy will be available to help in the case of an emergency, such as the Canadian embassy. Travelers should also keep a copy of their passport, as well as medical documentation, and all other important documents in a safe place.
- Know where to find medical assistance: Should a student or staff member fall ill while traveling, having a pre-determined list of medical facilities that are known to be safe for travelers is not only handy but saves time. A quick search online should give you this information, but if you are unable to find relevant medical facilities or hospitals listed, contact that country’s embassy prior to departure and ask them for assistance.
Remember, regardless of how safe a country is, accidents still happen. Having a system in place and ensuring that the students, staff and everyone traveling have all necessary medical and travel documentation with them, reduces stress on everyone during a crisis.
- Insure your Group: Finally, make sure your group has a comprehensive and secure student group travel insurance. Student group insurance provides peace of mind to everyone involved in a trip abroad – including those left at home. Insurance will cover medical expenses or any other unexpected costs that may arise during the trip. There are several types of group travel insurance a student group needs, including:
- Medical Coverage: For unexpected medical issues and reimbursement for doctor and hospital bills. See: Travel Medical Plans
- Emergency Evacuation: For a safe and planned medical evacuation when a person otherwise cannot be moved in order to receive medical care.
- Trip Cancellation or Interruption: You never know when a student might need to fly home for a family emergency. Trip cancellation coverage will give them the means and funds required to book a flight home and to return to their destination.
- Document Assistance: Assistance with replacing important documents like passports and credit cards if they are lost or stolen.
- Emergency Medical Reunion: Covers the funds needed to transport a family member or friend to a student’s bedside in case they are hospitalized while abroad.
Insurance Plans for Youth and School Groups
It is also important to make sure your student group travel insurance is purchased as soon as possible prior to leaving for an international trip. Our team works with multiple carriers and can provide quotes from three or more providers. Simply Request a Free Quote and our team will provide multiple quotes and walk you through the enrollment process.
More Advice for School Groups Traveling Abroad
- Tips for Students Traveling Abroad
- Study Abroad Safety Tips
- Ways to Stay Safe while Studying Abroad (USA Today)
- Save Money while Studying Abroad
- Educational Trips to the USA