For 11 years, Barb Mock was a high school band director who loved traveling with her students. Mock saw the value in providing opportunities to students as a lasting impact on their lives. Not knowing that there were companies that provided youth travel opportunities, she set the arrangements herself.
“I enjoyed being the teacher and I enjoyed being the travel planner, but it was a heavy load to do both at the same time. As I neared the end of my teaching tenure, I thought, ‘Somebody should organize trips for these students!’, and Travel With Barb was born,” she said.
More than 20 years later, Travel With Barb, based in Omaha, Nebraska, continues to work to offer life-changing opportunities to as many students as possible.
Q. What about the youth travel market appeals to you?
A. Providing travel opportunities to students fills my heart and soul. Many of these young people have never had the chance to leave their county boundaries. Imagine traveling to Chicago with a group of students from a small town in the Midwest — these are the biggest buildings they have ever seen. Students get a chance to embrace new opportunities, like riding the subway, or learning about what a crosswalk is since some don’t have a crosswalk in their town. They come home a changed person. Travel impacts lives no matter what the age, it brings us pure joy to help provide those life-changing opportunities to youth.
Q. The past couple of years have been challenging for the entire travel industry; how have tourism trends impacted your work with student groups?
A. Phew … it has been a journey, right? We have listened hard to what our clients want and need. We have a new passenger registration and payment portal that makes the process easier for everyone involved. We work hard to provide a variety of opportunities for our student groups, as changing travel protocols emerge. We have done many cancels, rebook, re-writing, etc. At the end of the day, we are committed to doing what it takes to help provide these opportunities to students. We feel fortunate to partner with vendors and educators who feel the same.
Q. What advice would you give to group travel planners wanting to work with the student travel market?
A. I would advise that setting up an itinerary for a student trip is far different than setting an itinerary for adult travel. In general, the goal for student groups is to keep them busy all day so they sleep well at night. Many of our student groups go at a quick pace so they can see and do as much as possible. It’s also very important to choose attractions and venues that are student friendly, and keep the pace geared toward a teen.
Q. Who typically coordinates youth travel? How do you market to them?
A. Typically, the teacher contacts us and works with our team directly. Sometimes the teacher has a specific idea of where they want to go and what they want included. Other times they do not have a firm idea, so my team consults with the teacher to figure out some options that will fit their needs. Music performance groups are the bulk of our business; however, we do work with dance and cheer groups too. We try to stay visible and relevant when reaching out to our data base, which is not too hard since nearly 100% of my team used to be teachers who traveled with their own students.
Q. What are your best travel tips for educators and parents?
A. Please stay on top of the deadlines set forth by your travel planner for payments, rooming lists, airline lists, etc. The communication BEFORE travel between the tour planner and the educator is crucial to having a successful experience. And don’t ever overlook the value of travel insurance.
Q. Tell me about your favorite tour and what made it special.
A. The trips that are most memorable to me are the trips that allow unique opportunities. One tour that comes to mind is a teacher who taught special needs students, ages 18–21. She took them on an annual trip to allow them a chance to travel without their normal caretakers from home. Those young travelers embraced every opportunity with such enthusiasm! Things we sometimes take for granted, they found to be exciting and wonderful. They had a great time and grew as humans through their experiences. We grew along with them through the lessons they taught about finding the special meaning in simple moments. I think travel is the best way to impact lives, and future leaders in our world.