Your essential checklist for your EU school trip

Kate Moore

27 Mar 2024, 09:27
by Kate Moore

Travelling to Europe is different now, so don't get caught out. 

Confused by the new passport validity rules? Don't know your EHIC from your ETIAS? We've got you. Read everything you need to know about organising a school trip to Europe.

Top tips to prepare for a school trip to Europe

  • Check that everyone's passport meets the EU passport validity rules & allow plenty of time to apply for a replacement if required 
  • Be aware that new EU border checks come into force in October 2024 - make sure you allow extra time to pass through the EES passport gates 
  • Students and teachers need a valid EHIC, or to apply for a new GHIC, well before they travel 
  • Get students to check their mobile phone providers' roaming charges

Check the passport validity rules for your destination

Before Brexit, British citizens could travel to EU countries on a passport right up to the point it expired. Now, each EU country sets its own entry rules relating to the validity of British passports.

For most EU countries your passport must

  • Be less than 10 years old when you travel - check the date of issue is less than 10 years before the date you enter Europe
  • Have more than 3 months left to run before you - check the expiry date is at least 3 months after the day you leave the country

To check the passport requirements for your specific destination, visit the Foreign Office websiteYou must allow plenty of time to apply for a new passport if required. 

Prepare for additional EU border checks from October 2024

You may have heard about new EES and ETIAS systems for British nationals travelling to Europe from 2024. Here's what you need to know about the new entry systems:

New EES border system expected to launch in October 2024

  • The Entry/Exit System (EES) will collect biometric data, such as face recognition and fingerprints, at the EU border using booths similar to the passport machines you see at airports  
  • The EES is expected to be operational from October 6 2024 
  • From this date you will need to allow plenty of extra time for your group to have their face and fingerprints scanned, especially those travelling via Dover and Folkestone

ETIAS expected for EU trips from Spring 2025

All non-EU passport holders will need to apply online for an ETIAS from late Spring 2025

  • The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is an online visa waiver scheme for UK citizens, similar to ESTA in the USA
  • All British passport holders, including children, will need to apply online for permission to enter the Schengen area  
  • The ETIAS will be valid for 3 years and is expected to cost €7 for adults, free for under-18s
  • Though no official date has been announced for ETIAS, it is expected to be in place six months after the introduction of the EES border checks  

EES and ETIAS rules do not apply to school trips to Ireland as the UK currently maintains a Common Travel Area with Ireland.

Visa rules for non-UK passport holders in your group

Some EU countries offer their own visa exemptions for third-country nationals (non-UK/non-EU) on a school trip from the UK. You can find a country-by-country list of visa exemption schemes for other EU destinations on the European Commission website (under “2 exemptions Article 6(2)”). Read our understanding of the visa rules for third-country students visiting France.

Avoid collective passports 

Some countries stopped accepting collective/group passports when the UK left the EU.

Looking ahead, it is not clear how collective passports will work alongside the incoming EES and ETIAS systems. To avoid worry at the border, we recommend that groups do not travel on a collective passport.

Check the countries that currently accept groups travelling on a collective passport. 

EHICs replaced by GHICs

The EHIC/GHIC gives holders access to state-provided emergency healthcare for free or reduced cost in the EU and Switzerland and can help reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses in the event that someone falls ill or has an accident while on a school trip to EU. 

The good news is that your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid in the EU until it expires. You’ll be able to replace your EHIC with a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) up to 6 months before your current card expires. 

Applying for a GHIC is free of charge on the NHS website. Beware of unofficial websites that charge you a fee to apply.  

Whether or not you have a GHIC or EHIC, your group will need travel insurance to cover emergency healthcare costs. All Voyager School Travel’s European school trips are fully protected by our specialist School Trip Insurance which includes medical and cancellation cover. 

Don't get caught out by mobile roaming charges

The era of free-roaming throughout the EU is long gone. This means that if your operator has reintroduced roaming charges you may now be charged more for using your mobile device in the EU, Switzerland or Iceland. If you are travelling by ferry, be careful not to connect to the ship's marine satellite phone network, which is even more expensive than standard EU roaming charges.


More school trip planning advice from Voyager School Travel:



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