Monday, 19 February, 2018 - 14:00
A guide to international school excursions

Increasingly, schools are offering international school excursions as part of their wider academic and co-curricular program.

Planning for an overseas school excursion takes time and considerable effort, but the rewards can be broad and far-reaching for both students and educators. This guide to international school excursions will help you navigate the course of mapping out a successful overseas learning experience.

Look at the academic and co-curricular program of many schools these days, and you’ll likely see an overseas school excursion listed – perhaps a cultural exchange, a music camp, a sporting event or a language study program.

The number of students travelling to overseas destinations on a school excursion has risen significantly in recent years. The growth is fuelled by the knowledge that participation in overseas excursions enables students – and their educators – to develop knowledge, behaviours and skills that allow them to become more informed and responsible global citizens.

The benefits of overseas travel and international school excursions are well documented: it gives students greater knowledge and interest in global issues and cultures, allowing them to move beyond stereotypical views and attitudes; it opens their eyes and senses to the wider world; increases their proficiency in the use of another language; and gives them a deeper understanding of their own culture.

The planning involved in organising a group overseas excursion is considerable, and should not be underestimated. There are a number of planning and safety issues for students, families and schools to be considered in the months, weeks and days leading up to departure – and on the excursion itself.

This guide is designed to give educators a broad insight into the planning of an overseas school excursion. However, more detailed guidelines – including legal considerations, forms, check lists and other state or Territory-specific advice - can be provided by Departments of Education in each state and Territory.

Let’s start planning

It’s a good idea to allow at least 12 months to plan for an international excursion. At the very outset, it is recommended you conduct a risk assessment of your proposed excursion and incorporate as many measures as you can to deal with those risks.
Other general guidelines and considerations to plan for in the lead up to your proposed trip include:

12 months before departure

  • Plan the what, when, why and how of your trip. What is the excursion designed to achieve? Where do you plan to go? What time of the year will you visit? Where will you stay? Gather as much information as possible about the area you wish to visit. Your school may have organised a similar tour in the past that you can learn from. Or you might be able to talk to other educators – and schools – who have hosted similar trips. The more information you have the better.
  • Contact your state or territory’s Department of Education to ensure you have the latest Departmental policies relating to your tour. Embed those policies into every aspect of your planning.
  • Check the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website for country-specific travel advice and warnings (
  • Seek out and select a travel agent who has solid experience in your country of destination and, where possible, in dealing with school excursions. (Such a travel agent will know that every aspect of your tour – from the airline that is chosen to the accommodation options selected, travel guides and drivers will need to be experienced and reputable, to ensure the utmost safety and welfare of your students). Remember, also, that the travel company you use must be a registered Australian company.
  • Prepare an overall budget for your trip, from airfares to accommodation, tours and other activities. Work out what the trip will cost each student, including suggested spending money.
  • Organise an information night for students, parents and legal guardians.
  • Start gathering all relevant paperwork for the trip, including consent forms.

Three - six months before departure

  • Ensure that consent forms pertaining to all activities on the excursion (particularly physical activities) have been distributed, signed and returned by students.
  • Ensure that all students have a valid passport that will allow them entry to the country of your destination and re-entry to Australia. Determine whether any student has special requirements relating to visas.
  • Have regular meetings with students to prepare them for the trip. Discuss clothing and equipment requirements, behavioural guidelines, maps and known cultural differences that will be experienced. You will also need to work with students and their legal guardians to ensure that any necessary vaccinations and medical advice is obtained from their local doctor or travel medical specialist.
  • Keep in regular contact with your travel agent. Confirm ticketing and travel Insurance arrangements.
  • Ask students to bring in their family Medicare cards and photocopy them 10 to a page. This will assist when visiting countries that may have reciprocal medical and hospital cover agreements with Australia.

One month before departure

  • Assemble a first aid kit. Include items that are destination and activity-specific.
  • Photocopy each student’s passport – the double page featuring the student’s photo (and those of teachers and adult attendees). Make two copies – one to take on the trip with you, and one to leave at the school.
  • Photocopy each student’s airline ticket(s). Again, make two copies – one to leave at the school and one to take with you.
  • Ensure that all students have appropriate travel and medical insurance. Ask students to bring in their policy. Again, make two photocopies.
  • Finalise your contingency plans, so all adults on the tour know exactly what to do in the event of a student becoming ill or injured. Also speak to students about safety on tour, so that they know exactly who to approach for assistance in a range of situations. It’s a good idea to give students advice in a written form.
  • Take photocopies of each student’s medical history, including a list of any prescribed medicines they may need to take.
  • Organise foreign currency/debit cards to cover educator expenses, and any costs the school is covering on behalf of students.
  • Networks of support need to be established. If students feel unsafe at any time, they should know what to do, how to support each other and who to approach for assistance. This advice should also be given to students in written form.
  • Organise a mobile phone to take on tour – preferably with global roaming. You will need to contact your mobile phone provider to organise global roaming to be available.

On tour

  • At the start of tour, hold a group meeting and re-iterate previously agreed safety and behavioural guidelines that apply on tour.
  • Keep your student information file in a safe place while on tour. Your file should contain:
    • contact details – including emergency numbers – for parents/legal guardians of each student
    • contact details – including emergency numbers – for school delegates
    • contact details for the closest Australian Embassy or consular representative
    • passport details of each student
      medical details of each student
    • travel insurance details of each student
    • airline ticket details for each student.
  • Keep student passports and tickets in a safety deposit box when not required.
  • Ensure your mobile phone’s settings are switched to allow global roaming.
  • Ensure that students know:
    • what to do if they become separated from the group, or feel they are in an unsafe situation
    • how to contact teacher/adult leaders on tour 24/7
    • how to telephone their parent/caregiver if they need to.
  • Retain receipts for official expenses that you or other adult supervisors may need to claim for when you return.
  • Despite all you have to remember and organise, try to relax and enjoy the trip!

Quick Tip!
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