Planning a Trip to Europe for 45 people

Above the sky

When I received an email telling me that I had been selected to be part of the committee that would organise a trip for students, I was ecstatic, because it meant I would go too, right? Wrong. I was part of the group planning a trip to Singapore and Malaysia but I was not part of the group that went. That is not the trip I want to write about. The second email informing me that I was part of the committee again, came about a year later. This time I would get to go. Even better, this time, it was a trip to Europe. And to say I was excited would be the understatement of the century.

Planning trips had been something I had done before but that had been a few of my friends. The trips were always to the coast of Kenya and the logistics were pretty simple. Find a hotel, book it. Look for the best bus company to use, book it. That was about it. When you are planning a trip for 40 students, everything changes. This time you have to be extremely careful. There are 40 parents and guardians entrusting you with their kids for an entire week in another continent. And a school system that sets you up for failure.

I was put in charge of the hotel booking. Our school had recently come up with a policy that boys and girls were not allowed to stay in the same hotel. This meant that I was supposed to look for 6 hotels. We were staying in three cities. We would land in Zurich, Switzerland on Monday, move to Saarbrucken, Germany on Wednesday, and finally go to Paris, France on Saturday where we would take the flight back home on Sunday.

On top of the separate hotel rule, there was also one that stated that the hotels had to be 3-star and above. You’d think that it would not have been an issue, but it was. See, the students had already been told what they needed to pay for the trip, therefore, everything we planned was restricted by the budget.

I ended up getting the hotels, and all was well. Until we got there and were reminded yet again that pictures can be deceiving. In an unfortunate coincidence that seemed unfair, all the girls’ hotels were fine, the boys once, on the other hand, were pretty bad. There was no way I could have known in advance. I selected the hotels the same way, look at pictures online, check the price and book.

The planning also included many other things like places to visit, transport, health insurance and visa application. I was in charge of organising places to visit in Germany and health insurance. There weren’t many issues with this. For transport within, we decided to use a bus all through which turned out to be one of the best decision we would have made during the entire planning. Turns out taking the subway with 45 people is a manmade disaster.

The disaster

The Visa application was another story. To start with, due to late application, the appointment was set for 23rd January, yet we were supposed to leave on 3rd February. That was cutting it pretty close. So on the fateful Wednesday morning, 44 people gathered in the school bus heading to Germany embassy. Surprise! Surprise! We were late. The Germans don’t play. If you show up 30 mins late to your appointment, you and your bus full of people get booted.

So there we were, a bus full of people, parked in our nearby sister school and the one question in our minds were, “What the fuck just happened”. Only with a possibly varying degree of profanities. Mine was just constant “Fuck! Fuck! Shit! Damn It!” Why? I was supposed to travel to Tanzania the following day. So two things would happen, we fail to get a makeup appointment. and the trip get cancelled (which now I think about it would have been a weird situation). The other was to get another date, which was most likely going to be as soon as possible.

As fate would have it, the appointment was rescheduled for Friday the 25th. That was a day after I was supposed to go to my competition. I contacted the organisers and they let me go when the event was halfway. At least, all was well in the end though (not that that trip was entirely smooth). I lost my ID :'(

All in all, planning a trip to Europe for 40 people is an absolute nightmare. Especially when you don’t have the final say or control over the finances and payments or anything else for that matter. A simple process goes like this. Find a place -> present to committee -> get department approval -> send finance the quote -> get department head approval for payment -> finance makes wrong payment -> handle that -> go to the place and find that its awful. If you have worked anywhere before, you know exactly what shenanigans goes on in between those seemingly simple tasks.

In the end, everything did work out (we got home in one piece) despite all the issues we faced along the way.

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