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Student Travel Teaches On The Go

Students that hop a plane or step onto a motorcoach and travel as part of their education should count themselves lucky. They might explore the United States, experience new people and cultures, or bring a bit of themselves to another region in a performance format.

No matter what age the students are or where they’re going, tour operators are paving the way for student travel.

Elaine Moulder, director of student and youth tours for Sweet Magnolia Tours in Nashville, Tennessee, said student trips have the power to change lives.

“It makes all their lessons come alive, but more than that, it gives them new ideas for careers,” she said. “Sometimes, it gives them hope and a better focus when they get back to school.”

For middle school students, Moulder said, Washington, D.C., is a tried-and-true destination. A high school group from Michigan visited Nashville recently, and the itinerary included a zip-lining excursion and a Broadway-style show.

The college market may involve serious study and research. A popular package with this age group is a civil rights tour that starts in Atlanta; continues to places like Selma, Alabama; and concludes in Memphis, Tennessee.

Now in its 30th year, Carr’s Holidays handles many student musical groups. Owner Mike Guidi said they perform and compete at festivals or simply provide entertainment with no competitive pressure. He recalls setting up one student show at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center.

Another trend is College Discovery Tours. Middle and high school students visit college campuses to glimpse what their lives might be like in a few years.

“Many fifth-grade curriculums encourage travel to either Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia for history lessons,” Guidi said. “The group number almost doubles because many schools want one parent to travel for every kid.”

Guidi also noted that advancements in technology and motorcoach design have made long drives much more pleasant for today’s students than for previous generations. Many buses now have Wi-Fi, DVD players, refrigerators, galleys and leather bucket seats.

In the heart of Disney country, Denise George is co-owner of Receptively Yours, a receptive operator specializing in Orlando, Florida.

“We work with travel planners who don’t do as much Orlando volume as we do,” George said. “We get their hotels, meals and attractions at discounted rates.”

The Disney Youth Education Series is offered at all its theme parks and gives students and teachers hands-on education adventures.

“Disney does a brilliant job of allowing them to enjoy the theme park while learning,” George said. “Facilitators are all young and have a great rapport with the kids. The programs are two hours long — not too bad.”