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Group Leaders FAQ

FAQs

Can you custom design a tour that suits my class? Absolutely. We encourage group leaders to customize their itineraries so it best fits their group's interests.
Will our group be subject to additional tour costs and fees? We have no hidden fees, so you can enjoy your trip without worrying about the price tag. Your trip package will include a list of all the costs that are included with your tour. It's important to note that if there is a change in participant numbers, your trip price will be affected. If your number of participants change, talk to your Sales Consultant about options on how to best accommodate your group.
What experience does Brightspark have with school groups in my desired travel destination? We have over 40 years of experience planning student travel with a team of experts when it comes to planning a trip of a lifetime, partnering with schools across the country to send students to destinations around the world.
Will I have access to a detailed itinerary? Yes! You will be working with a Sales Consultant on your detailed itinerary, which will include everything from activities to meals and hotels. Your group will also receive a final itinerary confirming all the reservations made on your school's behalf 60 days prior to travel.
Will we have a tour leader? Of course. We know that a great Tour Leader can make an even better trip, so we make sure each Tour Leader has over 50 hours of training so they can bring all the fun, education and excitement to your trip.
Does Brightspark offer trip insurance? As a TICO licensed company, we are obligated to offer travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive insurance package provided by Travel Guard. It includes medical coverage while on tour, trip interruption, cancellation as well as cancellation due to a school board ruling. Details can be found here.
Can I be provided with references? Yes! We are happy to provide you a list of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of schools that have traveled with us, so you can ask for their first-hand experience with our company.
What if the Principal or school board cancels the trip? All school sanctioned trips have the right to be cancelled by the school's principal or school board for any reason. In this case, you will be subjected to our cancellation policy unless you have purchased the Travel Guard insurance. Travel Guard insurance will cover the trip cost in the event the trip is cancelled by the school or school board for any reason. Please refer to the Travel Guard booklet for more information on their policy.
What happens in the event that my school's tour is cancelled due to a major event? In the case of a major event, we will try to reschedule your tour on a different date, or will plan an alternative tour to a different destination.
What happens if we don't reach our numbers? Is the trip cancelled or are we expected to pay more? All decisions on how to move forward will be made with the approval of the Group Leader (i.e. the teacher or principal). Every situation is different, but based on what's most important to the school, we will discuss if any fundraising can be done to offset any price increases due to lower numbers or, we will adjust the program slightly to make it work for the group.
How many Tour Leaders will there be on the trip? We assign one Tour Leader per bus travelling unless otherwise specified by the school. For example, if all students fit all on one bus, there will be one Tour Leader present for the duration of the tour. If there are two buses travelling, there will likely be two Tour Leaders assigned, one to each bus.
Is the Tour Leader considered a chaperone as well? No, the Tour Leader is not part of the chaperone count. Because they are facilitating the tour, it is their responsibility to lead in some guided tours, facilitate team building activities and games and liaise with our vendors and suppliers to make sure everything is running smoothly on tour.
How many buses will there be? How many people does it hold? The number of buses/coaches a school needs is determined by the number of participants attending the trip and may vary depending on special accommodations. A standard coach (for Domestic Canadian trips) holds a maximum of 56 passengers, although capacity for each coach may vary.
Do you offer overnight drives to and from a destination to save cost? Overnight drives are becoming more of a risk to safety, especially because the driver needs to switch their sleeping pattern mid-trip. Because of this, we no longer provide overnight drives on our tours.
Can payments be made online? Yes. We have an online portal where parents and families can make payments directly to us.
Is there a post-tour survey? Yes. We value your feedback and want to hear all about your tour! You will be emailed a tour survey on the final day of your trip. Your Sales Consultant will also follow up once you return for a full debrief.
What happens after the tour? Your Sales Consultant will review the trip together with other members of our team and make notes for future tours. Your Sales Consultant will then connect with you to review and plan for future travel.
Will we need any vaccinations in order to travel abroad? The requirements vary for each individual and depends on health status, destination, trip itinerary, and length of stay. Talk to your doctor to make sure your student's routine vaccines are up-to-date and to receive any necessary travel vaccines. Find more information on required travel vaccinations from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers at www.iamat.org/country-health-advice
How does the rooming work? Are students required to share a bed? How big is the bed? It's common practice to have students share a room on school trips for two reasons: cost and availability. Because overnight school trips are very popular especially in the spring time, hotel and accommodation availability is very limited if everyone were to have their own room or bed. For this reason, there are usually 4 students per room and each student shares a double bed with one other student.
What does night security look like if the hotel has to divide our group onto two floors? The number of Night Security is ultimately chosen by the Group Leader. However, we recommend one Night Security personnel per bus travelling (ie. if the school has 1 bus, 1 Night Security is recommended). If the school is a one bus movement and needs to be on two floors at the hotel, the Night Security will alternate between floors throughout the night. If another guard is requested by the school, we will work with the school on the best solution and request a second guard if possible.
How are the chaperones chosen? All chaperones are chosen at the school's discretion.
How are payment dates set? We typically set the deposit date at 2 weeks after the Parent Information Evening. The remainder of the balance is split into interim and final payments. The final payment is due 60 days prior to departure for domestic trips and 90 days prior to departure for international trips.
Why should we purchase the Travel Guard Insurance being offered? Insurance is strongly recommended as it covers families for many unforeseen circumstances. In addition to this, the school board can cancel the trip for any reason and your trip cost would be covered.
Is the deposit refundable? The deposit is non-refundable. Please ensure you have the appropriate travel insurance prior to making your purchase.
What is your cancellation policy? Deposits are non-refundable and non-transferrable. All payments up to the full cost of the trip are non-refundable and non-transferrable between 60 days and the date of departure for Canadian and US destinations, and between 90 days and day of departure for international destinations. Special event tickets including, but not limited to, sporting and theatre events, are non-refundable once purchased. We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance at the time of deposit to protect your purchase.
Will I need to carry a passport? On international tours, all tour participants need to carry a passport. If your child does not currently have a passport, be sure to apply several months before the tour departs. For Canadian citizens, the passport needs to be valid for at least six months after returning home. Non-Canadian citizens need to carry a non-expired passport and a multi-entry visa. Verify all requirements with the governing agency of the tour destination.
How do I apply for a passport? For all passport information, including how to apply, please visit the Government of Canada's Website or the governing agency of your home country.
Are visas needed to travel abroad? Visa requirements depend on the country or countries your child is visiting, the passport you are traveling under, and the length of the trip. Contact the embassy for each country your child will be visiting as soon as possible to make sure you have time to secure all necessary paperwork.
Do you have any fundraising efforts? We have a great step-by-step process in our fundraising blog here.
Is there Wi-Fi on the bus or hotel? Wi-Fi is available with certain coach companies for an additional fee. Please speak to your Sales Consultant about adding this. As for the hotel, most hotels provide complimentary Wi-Fi.
How will the group be divided at the hotel? Each hotel configuration is different, but we typically request that hotels keep each group on a minimal number of floors (with boys and girls separated). If necessary, please speak to your Sales Consultant about alternate arrangements.
Can my child forgo participation in a part of the tour? Students are expected to participate in all activities scheduled in the tour. There is no reimbursement for any activities in which a student decides not to participate. Any arrangements to shorten or extend your child's tour should be coordinated with the Group Leader. Please note that no discounts will be provided for a child that joins a tour after the initial departure or ends a tour early.
What will flying be like?

If you are flying to your destination, each airline we work with has slightly different processes and protocols to respond to COVID-19, and we recommend you check the website of your airline for the most up-to-date information. Airlines are deep cleaning, and may be reducing the number of people on each plane, and requiring face coverings while on board. Additionally, food service on the plane is either not available or pre-packaged, and so we recommend packing a meal and snacks, particularly if you are flying around a meal time.

You can read more from some of our top partners here:

Will we need to wear masks?

Brightspark will provide disposable masks for our participants, as well as reusable masks for our staff. Masks will be required in all enclosed spaces and when social distancing is not possible. You will need to follow any local, state, provincial, or national guidelines, and also follow any site-specific requirements for face coverings, including on the airplane and inside any cultural site or venue. For groups performing (playing musical instruments or singing), we’re actively monitoring discussions in the scientific and music education communities to develop options that are appropriate for your ensemble.

What would happen if a student has COVID-19 symptoms while on tour?

If a participant feels ill with symptoms of COVID-19 (which include fever, chills/aches, shortness of breath, coughing), our team will immediately facilitate movement of the participant to a location where they can safely be separated from others, while simultaneously engaging our Doctors on Call or a local medical facility to consult on the next steps, testing, and treatment. We would then, as required:

  • Establish and coordinate communication with the participant and the family
  • Facilitate transportation for the participant to a local medical facility
  • Coordinate quarantine arrangements for the participant, in consultation with local health authorities
  • Arrange for transportation for a family member to join the ill traveller
  • Provide guidance to the group to reduce the risk of additional exposure and coordinate testing

Brightspark will provide the resources necessary to facilitate the recommended treatment, including an isolated, chaperoned location for the participant to recover and arrangements for a new itinerary to return home.

How will our group dynamics be impacted?

We may make adjustments to reduce each individual's daily exposure to other people and allow more flexibility in meeting COVID-19-related requirements. This could include changes to keep groups from mixing or adjusting the size of a group (i.e., 7th and 8th grade classes may be kept in separate touring groups rather than mingling during sightseeing activities). These changes will be made on a case-by-case basis and communicated in advance.

What are the best activities for students to do in Ottawa?

After every Brightspark Tour, we ask students about their favourite activities and attractions. Here is a list of the top 5 most popular attractions in Ottawa, as voted by students:

  1. War Museum. Make a visit to Canada's national museum of military history to see artifacts from their three-million-item collection and nine permanent exhibitions. A great way to immerse your students in Canada's military history.
  2. Gala Evening. What better way to wrap up this memorable class trip than with a dinner and dance gala evening. Our DJ will get your students out of their seats, playing games, and dancing the night away.
  3. The Heist. Your class will work together to solve the crime of the missing sapphire as they search through the Canadian Museum of Nature in this Brightspark Exclusive activity. 
  4. Indigenous Experiences. Guides will show your class what it was like to live in the area with a tour of the village, after which they will watch a traditional Pow Wow dance. 
  5. Lefleche Caves. This activity is educational and fun. It gets your students outdoors for the afternoon as they explore a 20,000 year old cave.   
How do I eat in Ottawa on a student-friendly budget?

Downtown & Byward Market

  1. Tucker's – Tucker's Marketplace's buffet is a student, teacher, and parent favourite! This restaurant has great service, a huge menu, and options for allergies too!

  2. Gibson's on Queen – A wide variety of food options including vegan and gluten-free options. Their fajita lunch buffet is a definite must-try! 

  3. Fish Market – Freshly baked bread and butter on the side of delicious, fresh fish! Enjoy this meal in the heart of Byward Market. 

  4. Grand Pizzeria – Another great spot in the Byward Market. Dig into these delicious pizzas! Got allergies? The restaurant offers gluten-free and cashew cheese alternatives! 

Gatineau

  1. Fun Junction – Florescent lights, laser tag, and dinner? Grab a table with your class and experience a memorable meal at this arcade spot!

  2. Buffet des Continent – An all-you-can-eat buffet offering Asian, Greek, Italian, American, Mexican cuisine and more!

  3. Au Vieux Duluth – A great place to enjoy a filling Greek meal! Enjoy a plate piled high with delicious steamy Greek food, with sides of rice and salad. 

Should my class stay at a hotel or a residence?

Hotels are a great choice if you have a flexible budget and want all the amenities! If you are looking for a budget-friendly alternative, consider staying at a residence! University of Ottawa and Algonquin College offer student-friendly accommodations at lower price point. Students will stay in suite style rooms with full kitchenettes and common areas that will give them a taste of post-secondary living.

What can I do for free on my educational tour to Ottawa?

Here are a few free things students can do in Ottawa! 

  1. Legislate This! - A Brightspark Exclusive that transforms your class into a government. They will elect a Prime Minister, debate, and then pass a bill into a law that will effect the tour! 
  2. Bank of Canada Museum - Experience the world's most complete collection of Canadian currency! Learn about money in interactive exhibitions that explain your role in the economy, and Canada's role in the world economy.
  3. RCMP Stables - Take your class to see where horses are trained for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Free guided tours are offered year round. 
  4. "Discover Bytown" - Enjoy a walking tour through Bytown like you've never seen before. Let a Brightspark Tour Leader showcase the history of this neighborhood.  
  5. Rideau Hall - Visit the state room where the Governor General works. You can also see many works of Canadian art and tour the scenic grounds.  
What are the best cheap or free things to do in New York ?
  1. Visit High Line Park
  2. Tour the 9/11 Memorial and Oculus
  3. Take the Staten Island Ferry
  4. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
  5. Explore Central Park
What are the best attractions for high school students in New York City?

New York offers a lot of activities for students, but here's a list of the top 5 picks as voted by teachers and students

  1. Top of the Rock. Travel to the observation deck to enjoy unparalleled views of the city. A definite must-do on your trip! 
  2. Baseball Game. Watch a Yankees or Mets game and be swept away by the energy of the crowds.  
  3. Broadway Show. From Hamilton to Lion King, experience the excitement of live performances of Broadway musicals. 
  4. NYC Bus Tour. Enjoy the streets of New York on a guided bus tour. A great way to take in the bustle of this massive city. 
  5. Art Gallery. Make a stop at leading contemporary galleries like The Met or MoMA and be inspired!  
How do I eat in New York on a student-friendly budget?
At Times Square
  1. City Market - A trendy spot with a variety of food options, from Sushi to Tacos. The Market is an upscale, open-concept food court with amazingly affordable options. Bring your friends and enjoy a delicious dining experience!
  2. Shake Shack - For thick, savory, delicious burgers on a budget, Shake Shack delivers the best! Replace the bun with gluten-free or lettuce for a healthy, allergy-free alternative. Veggie lovers, dig into the 'Shroom burger, Garden dog, and in a few locations, the new Veggie Shack burger!
  3. Naya. A great shawarma shop with a few creative dishes-- like pumpkin kibbe! If you're looking for delicious halal & vegan options, make a visit to Naya!
At Rockefeller Center & 5th Avenue
  1. Magnolia Bakery - If you've never craved banana pudding before, you've never had it at Magnolia Bakery! This bakery also offers delicacies like cupcakes and brownies, but Magnolia's have made a name with their famous pudding!  
  2. Lenwich. Enjoy a New York staple with a stop at this bagel shop. Nutritional & allergy guide also available online.
  3. 2 Bros. Pizza - Eat like a New Yorker and make a quick stop at this $1 per slice pizza place. 
At the Financial District
  1. Stage Door Delicatessen - Looking for a classic bodega deli? Stage Door offers up delicious sandwiches for a great price and an absolute go-to if you want a traditional New York deli experience.  
  2. Go! Go! Curry! - A thick curry over fried pork or chicken cutlets makes for a savory and filling dinner! Although vegetarian options are offered, it would be important to note that the curry has pork in it. 
  3. Nish Nush - Kosher and vegan shawarma options that are both delicious and affordable! 

 

What are the best neighbourhoods for students to visit?
  1. Chinatown: Enjoy a variety of Chinese delicacies from dumplings and tea, or explore these busy, narrow streets filled with vendors, temples, and more! 
  2. Little Italy: Visit this historic district and sample cheesy calzones, cannoli, and espresso in this Manhattan neighbourhood! 
  3. Theater District: Experience the bustle of the entertainment district, the neon signs, and everything Broadway has to offer.  
  4. Times Square: Take in the bright lights, tall advertisements, and huge establishments that are iconic to New York. 
  5. Midtown - Chelsea: Explore this beautiful art district and be sure to grab a bite to eat!
What are the top 5 best selling European cities for school groups?
Paris Eiffel

Eiffel Tower, Paris France

The London Eye in London England

London Eye, London England

The Acropolis Carytids in Athens Greece

Acropolis Carytids, Athens Greece

 

  1. Paris – There’s something for everyone in Paris! Feeling daring? Soar to the top of the Eiffel Tower for breathtaking views of the city. Or stop in at the Louvre to see the world’s most iconic works of art. This is also a great jumping off point for tours of the rest of Europe!

  2. Rome – Local tour guides will take you through Baroque and Ancient Rome to see the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, imperial palaces, and more! And be sure to enjoy a delicious meal in the Trastevere district.

  3. London - Explore London's great neighbourhoods like Soho, Covent Garden, and Notting Hill for a real taste of London life. Stroll among the city’s famous parks, tour a world-class museums, take in the spectacular views from the famous London Eye, and get up close to Shakespeare’s Globe. See the ancient side of England with a trip to the Roman Baths and the mysterious Stonehenge.

  4. Barcelona -  You will see a mix of modern architecture, medieval streets and Spanish food. Marvel at the dramatic settings while enjoying the sunny weather in this beautiful city.  

  5. Athens - From panoramic tours of the Acropolis to a tour of the Agora, the financial and political hub of ancient Greece, be immersed in the culture of this city. A trip to the Monastiraki flea market brings the country’s wonderful sights, smells, and sounds to life.


Which are the top must-see attractions on international student trips?
  1. The Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

  2. The Parthenon in Athens, Greece.

  3. The Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

  4. Gaudi Architecture in Barcelona, Spain.

  5. Big Ben in London, England. 

What are the best hidden gems to add to our student tour?
Petanque playing balls in France

Pétanque playing balls in Paris

Platform 9 3/4 on the Harry Potter walking tour in London England at Warner Bros studios

Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Station, London

Barbary Macaque sitting on the rock of Gibraltar in Spain

Barbary Macaques in Gibraltar

  1. Pétanque in Paris, France. With origins in Ancient Greece, this sport is popular in Paris. The goal is to throw hollow metal balls as close to a wooden target ball as possible. Your students will bond, while working as a team in this sport that’s easy to pick up and fun to play!

  2. Harry Potter Tour in London, England. Your students will discover the filmmaking magic of Harry Potter on a tour at Warner Bros. Studio to see the film’s props, sets, and costumes.

  3. Grotte des Demoiselles in Nimes, France. These large caves in southern France are rich in stalagmites, stalactites, and columns. The natural formations will fill your students with with wonder and curiosity.

  4. Campo Bravo Bull Farm in Seville, Spain. Take your class to this bull farm to learn about the history and practice of bull fighting from a professional bullfighter. On tour, your students will travel by horse and buggy to see the  cow, bull, and Andalusian horse enclosures. Students will also be able to see a demonstration of doma vaquera, a traditional Spanish form of horse riding.

  5. Barbary Macaques in Gibraltar. When your class arrives at Gibraltar to enjoy the exceptional views, they will also be greeted by monkeys! You and your class can enjoy the rare experience of seeing the only place in Europe with wild monkeys!

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