Self-proclaimed band nerds, Corey and Apryl Black met on a bus during a summer marching drum corps. Corey went on to become a band director, and in 2003, he looked for a Washington, D.C. music festival to travel to with his band. Unfortunately, there were no music festivals that year.
Where others saw post-9/11 travel fears, Corey and Apryl Black saw opportunity; they started Capitol Music Fest, which slowly evolved into today’s Green Light Group Tours. The couple has now been together for 19 years and leads about 14,000 students on 200 tours per year. Apryl gave Associate Editor Cortney Erndt the inside scoop on their experience in educational travel.
Q. What is your favorite student-friendly destination?
A. New York City, hands down. I’ve seen Phantom of the Opera so many times (28), the thought of hearing the music one more time makes me cringe (group leaders — there are other shows), but what never gets old is seeing a student take in the city for the first time. That wide-eye, mouth-open, wow-moment every human gets their first time in New York City — it still gives me goose bumps. I’ll see Phantom again and again if it means more students get that experience.
Travel makes us better humans. It helps us to see our place in this world, to realize how fortunate we are and to gain perspective on how our actions and words affect others. Travel is the greatest gift you can give your students.
Q. What should an educator look for in a tour company?
A. Likeability: Seriously, you have to work with these people for many months and if you like them, it will be way more enjoyable.
Honesty and transparency: What costs are not included? What hotel will you stay in? Where will you eat lunch? Look for specific answers.
Passion, specialty and reputation: We believe in fun, high-value, life-changing, action-packed student group tours. Every tour deserves to be amazing because it may be a child’s only experience in that city.
Insurance and safety precautions: Choose a company that will keep your students and their hard-earned money safe. A tour company should carry at least $2 million in liability insurance. You also want traveler’s insurance with coverage for trip delays and medical needs.
Flexibility: Face it, no two tours are created alike. Just like clothing, a one-size-fits-all tour does not hold a candle to a custom-tailored suit.
Q. What tips do you have for educators who travel with large performance groups?
A. Do it! It will be your No. 1 recruiting and retention tool. Colleges have been chosen, careers have been determined, friendships have been forged and confidence has been ignited tour after tour and year after year.
Your hotel needs one elevator per bus and a breakfast room large enough to seat your whole group. Elect to have one tour manager per bus; they will keep your group movements cohesive. Assign buses and chaperone groups well in advance, and make sure your students know which bus they are on and who their designated chaperones are. Ask the hotel to separate room keys by bus number and hand them out on the buses.
Also, choose restaurants that are accustomed to serving large groups and opt for double-sided buffets when possible.
Last but not least, make travel a tradition. Parents should know what to expect years in advance because they know your group takes a beach trip every even year, a big trip every odd year and an international trip once every four years. This breeds enthusiasm and success. •
For more information about Green Light Group Tours, call 800-490-1820 or visit greenlightgrouptours.com.