Frequently Asked Questions
Note: Although many of these questions were written for sports/soccer specific groups, the answers often apply to any traveling group. We start with some narrow soccer related issues and move on to more general group related questions. As always, if you find that you have a specific question or concern about your particular needs, we will be happy to talk with you in person. Please feel free to contact us to discuss your group’s needs and wishes in more detail.
The idea of taking a group overseas can be exciting, intriguing, scary (if you're a coach or chaperon!) and perhaps even overwhelming. Every season, coaches, teachers, parents, and administrators are charged with the task of putting together a schedule of events for the season that will provide the players and the group with the right combination of soccer competition, education, and fun. The goal is to keep the players on a steady progression so that by the time the season has ended, they will be at a higher level that when they first stepped on the field at the beginning of the year. Usually, a soccer season consists of league games, practices on a regular basis, and several tournaments. And, if the right coach chooses the right combination of games, tournaments, and practices, most players will progress simply by participating. Against this backdrop, in which traveling to a Memorial Day or July 4th tournament represents the "big trip" of the season, the thought of taking a group to Europe, for example, can seem to be a bit much. The coach says that he thinks the players can get farther by playing in local tournaments and league games, in combination with the practices; the parents say a trip overseas would cost too much, and reject the idea out of hand; the players themselves, after watching games of foreign groups play on Sunday night cable TV, might think, "Wow, if that's what soccer is like over there, we have no chance!" Well, there are answers to all of these questions, and it's time to shatter these and other myths about traveling overseas with your soccer group. Your dream of traveling overseas, competing against foreign groups, and winning, can come true. And, we at East-West know from experience that traveling overseas is the BEST way to accelerate the development of an American soccer player, and an American soccer group. Why? Let's take a look at some facts, as we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about overseas travel:
What type of competition will my group be exposed to?
One of the advantages of traveling with East-West is that we have extensive contacts all over the world. We've been arranging games for groups since the early 80s, and we have an established track record and reputation. So, the answer is, we can find games for any level of group, ranging from local club level in Europe to National Groups and pro groups. What we try to do is get an idea of what you want before you leave, and match your opposition to your group accordingly. Of course, when tournaments are involved, it is not such an exact science, but we're proud to say that the groups we have sent over the years have never been overmatched by an opponent, and that's because we do extensive research before the trip leaves. Good competition and a stiff challenge, yes, but a total mismatch, no.
What does the group do when we're not playing or training?
Traveling groups should keep in mind that even though the reason you're together and thinking about going overseas is because of soccer, in reality the majority of the time spent on a trip will be away from the game. Yes, you will have plenty of games and practices while on tour, but don't forget that there are 24 hours in a day, and at most, 3-4 are devoted to soccer. That leaves quite a few hours to be filled with other things. We realize this, and that is why every itinerary that we put together includes an appropriate blend of soccer, sightseeing, recreational activities, and "down time." With the input of group leaders and coaches, we can design an itinerary that emphasizes games and trainings, with something every day of the tour if you like, or we can design a less intensive tour, with fewer games and practices. But every tour features sightseeing excursions and cultural activities, and this is something we feel strongly about. You see, our philosophy at East-West has always been one of total player development. Simply put, this means that we are concerned with more than just the on-the-field advancement of the players we deal with. We try and provide a total experience, which is of course why an overseas tour is so invaluable. Exposure to different cultures, ways of life, and the important sights and scenes of the world contribute greatly to the overall development of an athlete, and we do emphasize this on our tours. This is done both informally and in a more structured manner. By interacting with the local hosts, simply walking down a foreign street, an American can get a good picture of what life is like for those who live outside of the US. Formal sightseeing excursions to various points of interest on tour also provide invaluable insights about the local customs, culture and way of life, and we try and include an appropriate mix here as well. We're not talking about a tour of an art museum, which the average American teenager really does not get excited about. But a canal cruise throughout Amsterdam, for example, can be an interesting and fun way to get to know the city.
What type of trip should my group have--Tournaments or friendly games, and should I have a clinic for my group with foreign coaches?
We can't tell you what type of trip your group should have--we don't have any bad trips; they're all great. We can give you some insights about the various different options, and then you decide what is best for your particular group. Tournaments: Every summer in Europe, there are quite a few youth soccer tournaments. These events can range from the very small to the huge, and last anywhere from 3 days to a week. The larger tournaments attract a great many groups from all over the world, and really are quite different from US tournaments. We're talking about hundreds of groups across the various different age groups, from every corner of the globe, all coming together for a few days to play soccer. The result of this is that you have a huge soccer festival, with a tremendous atmosphere and an emphasis on having fun and playing as many games as possible. These events are really a great way to get exposure to various different styles of play (in any one group there may be up to four different nationalities represented), and to see where your group stacks up in comparison to similar groups from around the world. The games are played at magnificent facilities and it is truly a great soccer experience for any American group. All the European tournaments have ongoing events planned for fun while the groups are not playing, such as tournament discos, shops and cafes, and contests. In addition, many tournaments have a consolation round for those groups that do not win their brackets, so groups can get the maximum amount of games. Friendly games: Another great way to expose your players to international soccer is by playing friendly games, or those that are not a part of a tournament or event. East-West carefully screens and selects foreign groups for these games, and because of our contacts all over the world, we are able to find a good match for our traveling groups no matter where they go. One advantage of friendlies is that the opposing group usually hosts some type of event afterwards, such as a barbecue or social dinner. This is a great way for players to get to know each other and socialize in an informal way. The other positive aspect about friendly games is that they can be scheduled to match your own pace as a group. If you want to play a game ever other day, for example, you can do this; if you want a game every day, we can do this. Mini-Camps and Clinics: For the serious soccer group, this is a highly recommended way to improve, both individually and as a group. The clinics we arrange are run by professional coaches from European soccer federations. The European coaches that work with American groups come in and consult with the American coaches, try to get an idea of what areas need to be concentrated on, and together with the your group’s coaches, they design a three or four day "training camp" for the players that offers a different perspective on the game for most American players. These mini-camps can be arranged in most any country, and we recommend that you consider this idea as a part of an overseas tour. As you can see, there really is no wrong choice for a tour. In fact, many groups combine two or three of these trip components to come up with an experience that offers a variety of experiences for their players
Some General Questions That Apply to Any Traveling Group:
What about the cost of an overseas tour?
Let's face it, a trip like this does cost some money, and we recognize that most groups do not have this type of money in their budgets. The days of students asking their parents for the money are fast becoming a thing of the past as well.
But if you look at it in the context of value for money, the cost of an overseas tour, if planned and organized properly, becomes very reasonable. Value for money not only refers to the intangible benefits that your players will receive by traveling overseas, as we discussed earlier, but also to the actual dollars and cents involved. There are a great many travel related companies out there that claim to be able to send groups overseas. If you look carefully, however, you will find that most of these companies have only recently decided to "get into the game" to capitalize on the growing popularity of experiential learning as a way to compliment what is being taught in the classroom. These travel related companies, while efficient, really have no background in the game, nor any special knowledge of what soccer groups want or need while on the road. Other organizations might boast a flashy web site or special celebrity to add legitimacy to their claims, but when it comes down to experience and proven track records with groups, there are precious few organizations that come to the forefront. Although our history is that of a soccer organization built by and for soccer people, we have expanded our areas of expertise over the years, so that now we can say that our track record with virtually any traveling group is second to none. By choosing East-West Global Travel to help you with your overseas tour, you have already taken the first, and most important step in guaranteeing the quality of your experience. At East-West, our mission is to provide the highest possible quality for each and every group that we deal with. A full time office (staffed by people who have actually traveled with groups themselves) works to take care of each and every detail involved with the planning of a tour. In addition, we can schedule visits to your city to discuss the details of a trip with you and your group, so you can have the chance to meet face to face with us and ask any question you want about the trip or the planning process. We'll also provide you with references of people who have traveled with us in the past, so you can talk to teachers, coaches and students who have been where you want to go, and done what you want to do.
What are some of the factors affecting the cost of a tour?
Value for money is the determining factor that governs the cost of an East-West tour. Our trips are priced in such a way that there are no hidden or unexpected costs that pop up while you're on the road. We try and include as much as possible in the trip price, and if something is not included, it's usually because it is easier for the group that way. In any case, we make sure the group knows what is and is not included in the tour cost from the beginning. With this in mind, here is a run-down of the factors affecting the cost of a tour. Air carrier: Charter or regularly scheduled carrier? As you might imagine, the air fare for an overseas flight is the biggest part of a tour price. There are quite a few charter airline companies that offer "bargain basement" pricing for overseas flights. Sometimes the price difference is as much as $200.00 per person. But we have come to learn that the allure of a low price is offset by the reality of flying a charter. For example, charters only fly on certain days of the week, and only into and out of specific cities. This may not seem like a big deal, but if it means added hours in a bus after a long overseas flight, it can make things miserable at the beginning and end of a tour. A second problem with charters is the lack of reliability. While charters are for the most part just as safe as any airline, their on time performance and even last minute cancellations make dealing with them more risky than with a regularly scheduled airline. Delays of up to five or six hours are not uncommon with some charters, and complete cancellations of flights are not unheard of. A final consideration is the comfort factor. Since charters offer the lowest fares available in the market, things like comfort and service are sacrificed. For example, in aircraft that were originally built for six seats across, charters have seven; flights that might have six flight attendants might only have four; flights that normally have movies do not, etc. For these reasons, East-West tours are always planned using regularly scheduled air carriers, unless we receive a request for charters. Quality is important to us, and we feel that it is worth it. Bus: Full time or for transfers only? Another important component of a trip's cost is the bus used for ground transportation while in Europe. At a minimum, all groups are met at the airport in Europe by a privately chartered bus and driver, and transferred to their first destination, and from point to point while on tour. Some groups choose, however, not to have the services of the bus on a full time basis, thereby reducing the trip cost substantially. Often certain large events have shuttle transportation between the accommodations, the main event area and other points of interest in the area. So there are times when a privately chartered bus is not needed. Our experts can help you determine the pros and cons of a private bus for your group, based on all of the variables of your itinerary. Accommodations: Schools, youth hostels, dorms, sports centers or hotels? There is a wide variety of choice available to any traveling group with regard to the type of accommodation at any given destination. The choices range from schools to hotels, and the prices of each vary with the level of comfort and privacy. For sports groups a popular choice at the major European tournaments for groups is school accommodations. Simply put, this means that the groups and chaperons are assigned a classroom (or several rooms, depending on the size) of a school in the area of the tournament, for their accommodations for the tournament. Cots and bedding are provided, and although somewhat Spartan, this type of accommodation can be fun and interesting for many groups, as they will be one of several groups from various different countries accommodated at the school. Shower and bathroom facilities are centrally located, and all schools used for accommodations are safe and secure, with a full time local staff on hand to take care of any and all needs of the group. Youth hostels are available at many locations and tournaments, and this is a step up from the schools. Players and staff generally stay in multi-bedded rooms, often with as many as 6 or 8 sets of bunk beds. Bedding is provided, and the atmosphere is more like a barracks, with limited space for each person to store his or her belongings. Another alternative is university dormitory housing. In this set up, the members of the group are housed in either single or double dorm rooms, with bedding provided. The dorms have shower and bathrooms facilities centrally located in each hallway, and serve meals on site in a cafeteria. This option provides a little more comfort and privacy for the participants, while also offering a chance to interact with other groups that might also be staying at the same place. A great option for a traveling group is the Sports Center or Sports Hotel, a truly European concept. This type of accommodation is designed for traveling groups, and offers soccer training facilities on site. In addition, there are often other facilities on hand for athletes' use, such as weight rooms, video conference rooms, etc. The accommodations are generally not quite as nice as a full service hotel, but are better than a youth hostel. Generally, there are rooms for 4 to 6 people, with shower and bathroom facilities centrally located in each hallway. Of course, it is always an option for any traveling group is to stay at a tourist class hotel, which has all the normal features of any hotel, including private bathroom and showers, TVs, telephones, Wi-Fi, etc. This option is, as you might expect, the most comfortable and also the most expensive. Many groups choose a combination of these options if their trip includes more than one stop. Group Size: The bigger the better. Another factor which affects the cost of the tour cost is the size of the group. The more people that travel, the lower the per person trip cost is for everyone. The reason is that for certain costs, such as the bus, there is one price for the group, and the more people there are to split this cost, the less it will cost each traveler. Destinations: Less traveling means lower cost. One final factor which will have an impact on the cost of your tour is the places you choose to visit. It is best to stay in one geographical location while on a tour, and keep the time and money spent in traveling between destinations to a minimum. This is not to say that we think you should stay in one place. To the contrary, the best tours are those that provide a variety of stops, in more than one country. To the average American it might seem as if staying in one geographical area and going to more than one country is impossible but in reality it is easy to do just that. A trip to Europe can include stops in Holland, Belgium, and Germany, for example, and each stop could be within a 200 mile radius. The same can be said for a trip to southern Europe, with stops in Germany, Italy, and Austria, or a Scandinavian tour with stops in Denmark and Sweden. The idea is to stay in one general region, and this will lessen the transportation costs for the group.
I’m tired of the traditional trips to Europe, are there any special or unusual opportunities for groups that want something more?
While Europe is by far the most popular destination for traveling groups, there is an entire world of opportunity for groups that want something a bit different, something more. East-West Global Travel has been a trail blazer in these types of tours, and there really is no organization better suited to help you put together a special trip. We have taken groups to all corners of the globe, including Australia, South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. Imagine your group in Beijing, China, posing for pictures on the Great Wall, sightseeing in the Forbidden City and playing or performing in front of thousands of spectators. Picture your students staying with host families in Japan or Australia. These experiences have all happened to players on East-West trips, and they can happen for your players, too.
Why should we use East-West Global Travel to help us arrange our trip?
Simply stated, it comes down to quality, value for money, and experience. We know there are lots of companies out there who make lots of claims about what they can do for groups. There are also some people who are not in the business, but who might have some obscure contacts in Europe or the travel business, and therefore claim they can set up a quality trip for a great price. At East-West Global Travel, we have the proven track record of putting together the best possible overseas experiences for groups of all levels since 1981. Since we started out as a premier level youth soccer club, we learned the ins and outs of international travel with our own groups. As a result, all of our tours are put together as if we were taking our own groups on the same tour. Chances are we have done just that. We urge you to shop around and compare various organizations as you begin the process of planning an overseas tour for your group. But we also hope that you will give us a call, so you can see the difference. We will be happy to customize an itinerary outline for your group, to travel to your city to make a personal presentation, and to provide you with a complete list of references, all at no charge or obligation. We will show you copies of the newsletters we send to all of our traveling families to insure that they are up to date with the tour planning process; we'll show you some examples of the comprehensive Tour Handbooks that all travelers on an East-West tour receive. We'll talk to you about our individual family accounting system, our group insurance that is automatically included for every tour, and our fund raising ideas. In short, a truly professional organization that pays attention to detail and quality can make a huge difference in the overall experience for a group. Families and players thinking about traveling and playing overseas are likely to view the experience as a major event in their lives. And in fact, it is. That's the reason you need an organization like East-West Group Travel to help you plan "the trip of a lifetime." We look forward to helping your group achieve the goal of traveling overseas. Although we have tried to answer some of the most commonly asked questions that coaches and group leaders have, we're sure there will be others that may be specific to your own group. If that's the case, please don't hesitate to give us a call...that's what we're here for.