It’s so exciting when you get to bring your students on an international trip: Just think of the sights they’ll see, the foods they’ll try, the experiences they’ll have! But along with that excitement, there may be some nerves … and while some of that is related to fear of real emergencies like passport disasters or medical problems, other times it’s because kids simply mess up. Teachers know that better than anyone, right?

There are plenty of rookie mistakes students make when they travel abroad. These are the ones we recommend keeping an eye out for — and how you can try to prevent them from happening at all.

Rookie Mistakes Students Will Make on School Trips Abroad

School Trip Mistake #1: Overpacking

suitcase pack trips

One of the major mistakes students make happens before they even board the plane. Plenty of kids find it hard to envision what they’ll actually need traveling — and that leads to suitcases packed with way too many outfit changes and unnecessary appliances. Create a clear and thorough packing list to avoid this issue.

School Trip Mistake # 2: Blowing The Budget
using euros foreign money

Hey, we’ve all been dazzled by souvenirs before! And it’s not just the desire for gifts to bring home — when you’re abroad you’re tempted to spend money on delicious food, too. Plenty of students will find themselves reaching for their wallets all too often, only to eventually end up empty-handed. Give parents and students a budget to stick to. Plus, this will help teach them fiscal responsibility!

School Trip Mistake #3: Sticking to the Chains

Middle school teen summer tour Italy Venice pizza

It’s not unusual for a student to be a picky eater, or deal with food allergies, or have dietary restrictions. Maybe they simply want to combat homesickness with a stop at McDonald’s. But missing out on a country’s food means missing out on part of what makes the destination special. Encourage your group to try new foods while you’re out! Also, make sure you gather any food restrictions beforehand so you can pick cafes and restaurants with offerings for everyone. The idea of trying to find great local restaurants that can fit your entire group stressing you out?

Consider using a tour operator like Travel For Teens who can take care of all the meals and already know the best local places!

School Trip Mistake #4: Bad Travel Etiquette

A major travel no for everyone, not just teens and children, is ignoring local customs. Research societal norms in your destination before you visit so you’re prepared to avoid any cultural faux pas. After all, manners matter everywhere!

School Trip Mistake #5: Not Picking Up the Language

No one expects a person to come back fluent in another language from a quick school trip (and if they do you can be very suspicious of them), but a few useful phrases? Absolutely! Not only does it show students made a good faith effort to interact with locals and the culture, learning a new language is such a useful skill. Maybe teach your students phrases like “thank you” before you even depart, and encourage them to converse with people once you arrive. You’ll find locals often love sharing their language with visitors.

If you are specifically leading a language trip with your language students this is especially important!

School Mistake #6: Not Learning About the Country

Similarly, sometimes students don’t make much of an effort to engage with the destination. They miss important takeaways from tours and don’t speak to any foreigners. It’s important to encourage students to be present during the daily activities and to interact with others. That way, they really are getting the most they can out of this experience!

School Mistake #7: Not Wearing the Right Gear
Teen traveler exploring switzerland alps

We absolutely understand the desire to have the perfect outfit for your travel Instagrams: Lots of people are going to be clicking the “heart” on those photos! But sometimes, it’s just not realistic to go with the cute boots or the light jacket. When you’re walking a lot, you are going to want to wear comfortable shoes, and when the weather isn’t ideal, you’ll want to be dressed for it.

Side note: Don’t forget the sunscreen! It’s a travel mistake that will haunt you for the rest of your trip. Trust us.

School Mistake #8: Focusing on the Phones

Sure, cell service is going to be very limited for many members of your group. Still, students may find themselves sucked into focusing on photos or texting friends back home about their travels. These are understandable impulses, but when you’re looking down at your phone you’re not looking at all the wonder occurring around you. We recommend reminding the group as a whole of this issue!

School Mistake # 9: Overconfidence … and Lack of Confidence

Teen encounters an ostrich during summer service and adventure program in South Africa.

Sometimes, students are convinced they know exactly how to get around and exactly how to interact in a foreign country. And, well, they’re wrong. That can lead to bad situations. On the flip side, students can sometimes struggle with self-confidence in unfamiliar situations, so they don’t completely engage with the trip. Keep an eye on your group and talk to anyone you think needs a nudge. At Travel For Teens, for example, our staff is very familiar with what works to get children out of their shells or following the rules.

School Mistake #10: Setting Unrealistic Expectations

International travel has such a sense of allure: There’s almost a feeling that when you go to a new place, you can become a new person. And while travel is a genuinely transformative experience, some may feel let down if it doesn’t quite match the expectation they built in their head. Just ask anyone who’s seen the Mona Lisa: Certain aspects of traveling and foreign destinations don’t always live up to the hype. Before you leave, set personal expectations with your students so they have a way to really measure the value of the trip and their own growth.

Now that you are familiar with the most common rookie mistakes you can look out for, get ready to organize your trip! Check out our handy teacher travel guide here.

Get Started Planning Your Trip Today!