The difference between ABTA and ATOL and how your school trip is protected

Kate Moore

8 Jan 2024, 14:22
by Kate Moore

How to choose the right school trip provider

When you're entrusted with organising a school trip, peace of mind is paramount. It's parents and carers who fund school trips so you need reassurance that your chosen school trip company will provide a refund if something goes wrong.

In this guide, we explain the different financial protections offered by travel companies and the checks that schools should make when choosing the right travel partner for their next educational trip.

Choosing the right school trip company: three essential checks

  1. Make sure your school trip organiser is a member of a recognised professional trade body, such as ABTA
  2. Ensure your educational travel partner has suitable financial protection, such as ABTOT, in case the company ceases trading
  3. Book your trip as a package to benefit from extra legal protection in case your trip is cancelled or changed

What is the difference between ABTA and ATOL and what do they mean for school trips?

ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) is the UK's largest trade association for travel agents and tour operators. By dealing with an ABTA member for your next educational tour, you can be confident that your provider is committed to the highest professional standards as set out in their code of conduct. What's more, by dealing with an ABTA member, you have the peace of mind that if something goes wrong with your booking, you can turn to the association to help resolve issues.

ABTA, ATOL and ABTOT all provide financial protection schemes that refund customers if a travel company ceases trading:

  • ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing) specifically provides financial protection for package trips involving a flight - if your school trip includes a fight, make sure your travel company holds an ATOL licence
  • ABTA bonding provides financial cover for package trips that don't include a flight, such as school trips made by ferry and coach
  • ABTOT (Association of Bonded Tour Operators Trust Limited) certification is an alternative to ABTA bonding and provides the same level of financial protection for groups taking non-flight package trips 

Voyager School Travel's school trip packages are protected by ABTOT and ATOL

Schools can be confident that the money a parent pays for their child’s school trip is safe because all Voyager School Travel’s overseas trips are protected by ATOL and ABTOT.

You can double-check that your school trip company is a genuine member of a recognised professional trade body by visiting the ABTA, ATOL and ABTOT websites (links below).

Book a package for the right to a refund if your trip is changed or cancelled

School travel companies that offer packages have additional legal responsibilities under the Package Travel Regulations 1992 (PTRs). These translate into extra consumer protection for your group, including the right to a refund if your trip is cancelled or significantly altered.

To benefit from refund protection under the PTRs your travel company needs to organise more than one element of your trip, for example, transport and accommodation. All Voyager School Travel’s overseas school trips and residentials are offered as packages.

Note that this valuable protection is not available if you organise the trip yourself and book each element, such as a ferry and hotel, separately.

What other checks should schools make when choosing a travel company for their school trip?

Because planning an overseas school trip is different from organising a regular holiday, you need a partner who understands the extra requirements and responsibilities involved in taking a group abroad. To find a specialist school trip provider, look for members of the School Travel Forum (STF) and companies that hold the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) Quality Badge.

More information

External resources


Hellenthal Eifel student love cropped

Get a quote ✅

Receive a no-obligation quote for your group from one of our educational travel experts.

Get a quote

Google Review Widget