The difference between ABTA and ATOL and how your school trip is protected
13 Oct 2021, 15:22 by Kate Moore
How to choose the right school trip provider
It’s been a while since most schools have organised a trip abroad and so it’s not surprising that they are keen to select the right travel company for their next school trip.
In this guide, we explain the different financial protections offered by travel companies and the checks that schools should make when choosing a provider for their first school trip since the pandemic.
Choosing the right school trip provider: three essential checks
- Make sure your school travel provider is bonded by ABTA and ATOL so parents’ money is safe if the company ceases trading
- Ensure your trip is organised as a package so your group has extra legal protection in the event of your trip being cancelled or changed
- Book with a School Travel Forum member and accredited LOtC badge holder to ensure that group safety and learning are a priority
What is the difference between ABTA and ATOL and what do they mean for school trips?
ABTA is the UK’s largest travel association and all its members have to abide by the high standards set out in its code of conduct.
Both ABTA and ATOL provide financial protection to customers in case a travel company ceases trading.
- ABTA’s financial protection scheme covers package trips taken by rail, road, or sea
- ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing) is specifically designed to provide financial protection on package trips involving a flight
All Voyager School Travel’s overseas trips and UK residentials are protected by either ABTA or ATOL so schools can be confident that the money a parent pays for their child’s school trip is safe.
You can check whether your travel company has financial protection in place by searching for their listing on the ABTA and ATOL websites.
What other financial protection is provided on school trip packages?
Travel companies that offer packages, including school trips, have additional legal responsibilities under the Package Travel Regulations 1992 (PTRs) which translate into extra consumer protection for travellers.
Schools who book their trips as a package, as opposed to booking each element such as flights and accommodation seprately, will benefit from additional legal rights and protection under the Package Travel Regulations, including a refund if their trip is cancelled or significantly altered.
Examples of when a school group can legally demand a refund from their travel company under the Package Travel Regulations:
- The departure airport for a group’s flight to Barcelona is changed from Bristol to Birmingham
- A 2-day Broadway acting workshop is removed from the itinerary of a 5-day drama trip to New York
All Voyager School Travel’s overseas school trips are offered as packages and so provide extra consumer protection under the Package Travel Regulations.
What about UK school trips and residentials?
To constitute a package, and benefit from financial protection, travel companies need to organise more than one element of a trip, for example, transport and accommodation.
Most of Voyager’s UK residentials include at least two elements, for example accommodation, coach and insurance, which means that these trips enjoy the same refund protection as a school package trip abroad.
What other checks should schools make when choosing a travel company for their school trip?
As well as ensuring the travel company provides suitable financial protection through ABTA, schools should also consider using an accredited school trip specialist and member of a recognised industry body.
The Outdoor Education Advisors Panel (OEAP) national guidance recommends that schools check that their school trip provider holds the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) Quality Badge as this is the easiest way to confirm that quality and safety has been externally accredited.
The OEAP guidance states that as long as a travel company holds the LOtC Quality Badge - as Voyager School Travel does - there is normally no need to seek further assurances about the safety of their provision.
Voyager School Travel is also a member of the School Travel Forum (STF), the UK’s leading body for ensuring high standards of safety and care for school trips. By booking with an accredited STF member you can be sure that your accommodation, transport, and activities have been checked to ensure they are suitable for school groups.
- COVID-19 Travel Hub
- Jargon-free guide to insuring your school trip
- UK residentials - use a school travel company or do it yourself?