Your essential checklist for your EU school trip

Kate Moore

18 Jul 2024, 09:27
by Kate Moore

Confused by the passport validity rules? Don't know your EHIC from your ETIAS? We've got you! Travelling to Europe is a little different these days. Read everything you need to know when organising a school trip to Europe.

Top tips to prepare for your 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 
  • 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
  • New EU border checks are scheduled for Autumn 2024 - make sure you allow extra time to pass through the EES passport gates 

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. 

Get European healthcare cover with a GHIC 

Carry a GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) to reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses incurred if someone falls ill or has an accident while on a European school trip. The GHIC gives holders access to state-provided emergency healthcare for free or reduced cost in the EU and Switzerland. 

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

Still have an EHIC? The good news is that your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is still valid in the EU until it expires. You can replace your EHIC with a GHIC up to 6 months before your current card expires. 

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. 

Prepare for additional EU border checks from November 2024

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

The new EES border system - originally planned for 2021 - has been pushed back again. According to the Independent, the Entry/Exit System will be delayed from 6 October 2024 to 10 November 2024, or later. 

  • The Entry/Exit System (EES) will collect biometric data of travellers at the border with Europe, using booths similar to the passport machines you see at airports 
  • The system will apply when entering 25 EU countries (all member states except Cyprus and Ireland) and four non-EU countries (Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Lichtenstein)

Don't worry - when the system comes into place we will allow extra time in the itinerary for groups to have their face and fingerprints scanned at the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel terminals in the UK. It is also expected that border officials will have discretion to wave people through to minimise queues and disruption during the system's introduction.

Once the EES is up and running, all non-EU passport holders will need to apply online for an ETIAS:

  • 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 free for under-18s and €7 for adults
  • 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 requirements for non-UK passport holders in your group

Some EU countries offer visa exemptions for third-country nationals on a school trip from the UK. Read our understanding of the visa rules for students who don't hold a UK passport on a school trip to France.

Collective passports 

To avoid worry at the border, we recommend that groups do not travel on a collective passport. Some countries stopped accepting collective/group passports when the UK left the EU and looking ahead it is not clear how collective passports will work alongside the incoming EES and ETIAS systems. 

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

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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