1. Get travel company advice from teachers who have previously hosted trips.
Most teachers who have traveled with students can easily tell you what they like and/or don't like about different student travel companies. Listen with an open mind and choose one whose "cons" you can tolerate. Some travel companies are great but throw you on flights with a million layovers. Others have great flight plans but the hotels leave a bit to be desired. Others have itineraries that leave too much down time, but are more affordable. It all depends on what your expectations are for the trip and your ability to impress those upon your students.
2. If this is your first time, choose an itinerary that is shorter and cost-effective.
Companies like BrightSpark even have 3 day itineraries that focus on Latin culture within the U.S. If you just want to get your feet wet, this might be a convenient way to do it. Other itineraries that make sense for your first time traveling with students are trips to places like Puerto Rico. Your students won't need passports and there is not as much red tape, plus it is still a beautiful country with great target language experience.
3. Hand pick the students that will travel with you.
Many student travel companies require a certain number of student travelers to cover the cost of the teacher/chaperone. If students enroll early, or if you hit a certain number of enrollees, the company may offer you a free trip or other incentive. As a result, sometimes teachers try to get tons and tons of sign ups without really considering that they will be responsible for these students once on the trip. There is nothing worse than being stuck with a kid (or several) that is going to try to be sneaky or irresponsible when out of the country. Unless you plan on not sleeping for a week, there will be times when your students are not being directly supervised by you. You need to trust them to not do anything that will get them (or you) in trouble. No free trip is worth the flack you will take if a kid decides to sneak out and get a tattoo, get drunk, or magically gives birth 9 months after your trip.
4. Take other teachers as chaperones before parents.
When you are recruiting students for trips, many parents will ask about their ability to accompany their children on the trip or help with chaperoning. Generally speaking (and of course this varies from parent to parent), I have found that having other teachers as chaperones is much better than having parents. Many times parents are uncomfortable setting limits for other people's children, where as teachers are used to setting limits with kids on a daily basis. Parents can also be in it more to share the experience with their own child rather than help you with the supervision of the other students on the trip. If you do take parents, sit down with them and find out what they are comfortable with in terms of helping you with these things.
5. Set ground rules.
Most student travel companies have their own rules for students, but that doesn't mean you can't set some of your own. Think about how you will (or will avoid) dealing with the issues of alcohol, curfews, and free time. Will you let students who are 18 drink with parent permission? You don't have to just because the travel company allows it. After a day of activity, will you allow your students to hang out in each other's rooms, or only in common areas? When they have free time, how often must they check in with you? How many people must stick together?
I also like to set some unofficial rules that will make the trip more productive for their language learning and cultural understanding. Here are a few...
1. Do not eat at any restaurant or fast food place that you could go to in the U.S. - no McDonald's, no KFC, no Hard Rock Café, nothing!
2. Try a food that you have never had before at least once a day
3. Go to a grocery store or corner store and buy a snack and/or drink to enjoy in your room at night
4. Make at least one friend (usually there are students from other schools on the same trip with you)
5. Use an ATM in the target language
6. Say please and thank you to everyone (in Spanish of course)
7. Keep your ears open and discover a song that you would like to download to your iPod
8. Watch at least 1 hour of television, in Spanish, daily
What advice do you have for teachers who may be traveling with students? Leave them in the comments below!