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

Kate Moore

20 Sept 2023, 15:22
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 and because it tends to be the parents and carers who fund school trips, you want assurance that your chosen school trip company has adequate financial protection.

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

Choosing the right school trip provider: three essential checks

  • Make sure your school trip organiser is a member of a recognised professional trade body, such as ABTA
  • Ensure your educational travel partner has suitable financial protection in place in case 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

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

It's likely that you have heard of ABTA, 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 ABTA's 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 ABTA to help resolve issues.

ABTA also provides one of the three financial protection schemes that safeguard customers in the event that a travel company ceases trading:

  • ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) and ABTOT (Association of Bonded Tour Operators Trust Limited) provide financial cover for 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

What financial protection is provided for school trip packages organised by Voyager School Travel?

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 ABTOT and ATOL. 

You can double-check that your school trip company is a genuine member of a recognised professional trade body by visiting the websites below.

You can check our ABTA membership by entering our company name or ABTA number Y0554 (Y ZERO FIVE FIVE FOUR) on the ABTA website:

You can check our ABTOT certification by entering our ABTOT number 5483 on the ABTOT website:

You can check our ATOL accreditation by entering our company name or ATOL number 9817 on the CAA website: 

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 separately, will benefit from additional legal rights and protection under the Package Travel Regulations, including a refund if their trip is cancelled or significantly altered.

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 School Travel’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?

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


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