Travel Agencies and Itineraries: A World Geography Activity

Charles R. Beck

While I was teaching at American schools in Europe and Asia, I often referred to my travel experiences to introduce world geography. Whereas students who live and travel overseas develop a global awareness, students who grow up in the states often find it difficult to grasp the location and distance of faraway countries and continents. Before upper grade elementary students study foreign cultures, it seems appropriate that they should be able to locate these countries by understanding some basic geography skills, such as using latitude and longitude coordinates, mileage scales, compass rose, and time zones. My major objective was to stimulate the students’ interest in world geography by simulating the experience of a travel agent planning a worldwide itinerary. The students worked in small groups to gather information for their simulated travel to foreign countries. Because locating cities, countries, and continents involves measurements, this lesson provided an opportunity to integrate geography and math skills.

To simulate the experience of designing an itinerary and operating a travel agency, students acted as agents and clients. Both parties had to work together to plan a detailed itinerary that included flight information and information about physical and cultural features of the country visited. In the role of agents, the students researched foreign countries using web sites and CD software, and as clients, they engaged in hands-on measurements using globes and wall maps.


Procedures for Creating a Worldwide Itinerary

• To begin, we set up six continental travel agencies with each one representing a different continent. (We omitted Antarctica because we wanted to focus on continents with interesting and frequently visited human cultures.) Each agency consisted of a table, four or five chairs for seating a pair of agents and clients, a globe, a computer, and a wall poster of the continent. If the classroom is not equipped with a set of computers, a computer lab can serve as the travel agency.

• The class was divided into agents and clients: a pair of travel agents assigned to each of the six continents and six groups of clients. The clients were divided into teams of two or three depending on the size of the class.

• We placed a folder or large envelop on the table. Each contained two pictures from different countries on different continents. To add an element of mystery, the names of the countries and their respective continents were missing. Each team was asked to pickup a folder, examine the pictures, and try to determine which countries and continents they represented. Most of the pictures contained geographical and cultural clues that suggested a continent, even if a specific country was difficult to identify. For example, workers in paddies in a tropical setting suggest a country in Asia.

• After deciding which two continents were probably associated with each country, each client team visited travel agencies seeking confirmation. The travel posters helped to connect the pictures with their continents. Each travel agency had a picture key that identified each pictures content with a country. The picture key also indicated which countries the clients would be visiting. To avoid repetitious research, the two pictures represented different countries from the same continent, except in the case of Australia. Because each itinerary began and ended with the United States, the North America destinations included Canada and Mexico. The teacher equally distributed the twelve pictures among the six continents, so that each agency only had to service one client team at a time.

• Each client team received a “Worldwide Itinerary” form from each of the two agencies (Part 1, page P3). Each team had to complete two itinerary forms because each form was designed for one country and continent. The agents worked with the clients to answer the questions on the form. Generally, one agent helped the clients locate physical geography information on the globe, while the other agent used CD software to locate physical and cultural information not available on the globe. Although the agents helped the clients gather information, the clients were responsible for recording the information on their itinerary form. The agents switched the responsibilities when the second client team visited their agency.

• Each client was asked to visit the “Passport Agency” table after completing the two itineraries. Completing a passport form emphasized the importance of having an official identification document for international travel (see Part 2).


Additional Activities and Material Sources

The travel pictures can be obtained from a variety of sources, including travel brochures and magazines. To make each of the classroom travel agencies more inviting, colorful, and exotic, posters can be obtained from actual travel agencies, poster shops, and school supplies facilities, such as Social Studies School Service ( In addition to commercially produced posters, students can design their own posters using a collage of pictures representing a variety of cultures.

Examining and identifying foreign stamps or paper currency (bank notes) is another technique for stimulating student interest in foreign cultures. Stamps and bank notes interest children because they contain illustrations of famous people, monuments, historical scenes, and geographical and cultural features. To determine the value of foreign currency, students can examine exchange rates printed in the travel or business sections of newspapers. Place the notes in clear plastic holders. Students can examine both sides and the watermarks for hidden pictures. Foreign stamps and currency are available in stamp and coin stores, and foreign currency can also be obtained through banks and web sites, such as

There are some educational CD software products and Web sites available for researching physical and cultural world geography. In the case of software, Eyewitness World Atlas1 and Mindscape World Atlas & Almanac2 provide a wide array of maps and photographs. Most national Web sites have links for travelers and scholars who wish to conduct geographical or cultural research.3

Each travel agency should have some of these references available to help the agents and clients complete the itineraries. Travel brochure and children’s atlases should be placed on a reference table4. The reference table should also include books with a multicultural emphasis on children5 and cultural activities.6

Each agency should have a globe available so that the clients can play an active role in gathering “Flight Travel Information.” The students should realize that globes provide more accurate measurements of distance than do wall maps because flat projections distort the curvature of the ear. In the case of 12” globes, the teacher can provide ribbon measures, with each 3/4” representing 500 miles.

A large world wall map serves several useful purposes: students can use it to plot coordinates, identify physical sites, and note the change in time zones. It can also be used to plot each client team’s intercontinental journey. The journey can be represented by a triangular pattern when students connect the United States departure city with the foreign countries with a piece of yarn. If each client team attaches a triangular flight pattern to the map, students can compare distances and locations (using the map and a globe). Occasionally, a client team might discover that departing from the opposite coast could have shortened the trip. For example, it is closer to fly from New York to India across the Atlantic Ocean than to fly from Los Angeles to India across the Pacific Ocean. Clients and agents should compare flight distances from east to west coasts when they design itineraries. (The teacher could point out great circles, which provide the shortest distance between two points on a globe.)

The students can also attach country flags, and mileage markers, and hang pictures on pins at each destination. Children’s’ atlases often contain illustrations of foreign flags. The students can design their own world wall map by using an overhead projector to project a world map transparency on tagboard. For each of the continents, students can collect magazine pictures for their world wall map.7

The travel agencies are designed to promote interactive and cooperative learning because the agents and clients work together to complete the itineraries. To become acquainted with countries from six continents, the students will need a set of lessons, each lesson introducing a client team to countries on two continents. Finally teachers will want their students to take turns playing clients and agents, giving them practice with a variety of geography skills.



1. Eyewitness World Atlas CD Rom (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1998).

2. Mindscape World Atlas & Almanac CD Rom (Novato, CA: Mindscape, 1995).

3. Adams, Cynthia, Exploring the World on the Net (Chicago, IL: Good Year Books/Glenview, 1999).

4. Boyle, Bill, My First Atlas (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994).

5. Kindersley, Barnabas & Anabel, Children Just Like Me (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994).

6. Graham, Leland, and Brandon, Traci, A Trip Around the World (Greensboro, NC: Carson-Dellosa, 1993).

7. Peterson, David, Continents: True Books (New York: Children’s Press, 1998).

Charles Beck is a professor in the Department of Education at Framingham State College in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Part 1: Worldwide Itinerary Destination Information Form 

Directions: Each client team must complete two of these forms—one for each foreign city, country, and continent that you visit. Your travel agent will help you locate information about your destination and determine how to get there.


Flight Information (Outgoing)


1. Departure: City Country Continent
(If you are departing for your first destination, you must depart from a major east or west coast city, such as New York or Los Angeles.)
Destination: City Country Continent
(The destination city must be a national capital or major city in one of your two foreign countries.)

2. Distance from Departure City to Destination City ___________________________
(Use the Mileage ribbon on a 12” globe and round off to the nearest 3/4” mark. Each 3/4” mark represents 500 miles on the globe.)

3. Flight time in hours _______.
(Assume that you are on a direct and non-stop flight that averages 500 miles per hour. Divide the distance by 500 for the flight time.)

4. Difference in time between departure and destination city _____________.
(Count the number of longitudinal lines between the two cities. The difference from one line to the next is 15 degrees, which equals a one-hour time zone. For example, from Los Angeles to New York is a little less than 45 degrees of longitude. Los Angeles is three time zones from New York.)

5. Flight direction from departure city to destination city. __________________
(Assume a direct and non-stop flight. Check the compass rose and select one of the following: north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west- or northwest. Use a map with a Mercator projection.)

6. List physical features you will fly over ____________________________________
(Use a globe or wall map that shows oceans, seas and mountain ranges.)


Physical Geography


Directions: Use a globe, wall map, or atlas to answer the following questions. If you have trouble finding the information to answer questions 3, 4, and 5, ask your agent to search the CD software.

1. List bordering countries and bodies of water __________________________

2. Determine the geographical coordinates of the capital city __________________
(Include degrees north or south latitude and east or west longitude.)

3. Give the approximate population and land area in square miles) _______________

4. List appropriate summer or winter clothes _______________________________
(Remember that the season south of the equator is opposite to that north of the equator.)

5. List several geographical sites to visit _________________________________
(Include notable mountains, lakes, rivers, seashores, national parks, etc.)

Cultural Geography


Directions: Ask your travel agent to help you answer the following problems:

1. List the major language(s) and religion(s) _______________________________

2. Describe the traditional clothing ___________________________________
(Traditional or native clothing is often worn on special occasions or holidays.)

3. Describe popular types of food _____________________________________

4. Name several national holidays and commonly held celebrations ___________________________

5. List several cultural sites and events _________________________________
(Include festivals, museums, historical sites and places of entertainment you would like to observe.)


Flight Information (Return)


If this is the second destination you have visited, you need to complete the information below for your return flight to the United States. You must return to your departure city. Locate the following information on a globe or wall map. Use a globe for question 2, a Mercator map for question 3B.


1. Departure: City_____________ Country _________________

2. Distance from second city to home city _________________

3a. Flight time in hours ________________ 3b. Flight direction _________________

4. Difference in time between second city and home city _____

5. List physical features you will fly over


Part 2. Worldwide Passport and Visa for Visiting Two Countries


These documents allow you to visit two foreign countries. Your total travel time is 15 days. You should allow three days for travel (flights, transportation to hotels, and check in at airports and hotels). When you complete the entry and departure dates in the visas, allow for a six day visit in each country. You cannot enter or depart a country without this document.