The most requested topics in a conversation class with my older students is travel.
I usually schedule two classes per conversation course on this topic, focusing on different tenses or grammar.
Making the second or third lesson in a course about travel helps the students feel more comfortable with each other and improves speaking confidence.
With a larger group of students in each conversation class, I have a great range of local weekend trips, and long term overseas holidays in exotic locations.
It also means they have experienced a wide range of cultures and the inevitable problems of lost luggage, theft, terrible hotels, missed planes and more.
Warming up – travel vocabulary and verbs
In most of my classes, I like to run a couple of warm up vocabulary exercises to unbury the words from longer term memory. This makes the conversations move much smoother.
1. Vocabulary mind maps – a basic central topic like “travel” is good for beginners. “Travel locations”, “holiday destinations” or “sightseeing” is a better beginning for intermediate students, and “travel problems” is a good upper intermediate topic.
Most of these words will be nouns, so you can extend this activity by adding adjectives to each noun, or adverbs to each verb.
2. Verb-tense brainstorm – as quick as possible, students should brainstorm as many verbs associated with ‘travel’ as possible.
Either pick a good variety of verbs from the list, or, if you have time, use all of them, and conjugate the verbs into the tense you want to use throughout the lesson.
Past tense travel conversation prompts
This is the easiest grammar for beginners. Verb conjugation and forming follow-up questions is easier.
1. Where did you go on your last holiday?
2. How did you travel there?
3. What did you do or see?
4. What was your favourite meal or food?
5. How long did you stay there? Did you want to stay longer?
6. What was the best thing about your trip?
7. What was the worst thing about your trip?
8. Who was the most interesting person you met?
9. Where was the best sightseeing location? Why was it so good?
10. What was your hotel or camping site like?
Present tense travel conversation prompts
These questions are good when discussing travel in general, not about anything specific. They provide a good opportunity for students to give their opinions, and discussions can sometimes become quite lively.
11. Is it better to travel in a tour group or organise your own trip? Why do you feel that way?
12. Do you think that everyone overpacks? How many of the things you pack do you actually use or need?
13. Do you prefer active or relaxing holidays? Why?
14. Are men or women better at reading maps?
15. What is the best way to travel – cars, planes, boats, busses, bicycles, or something else?
16. What are some of the benefits of travel?
17. What do you think about hitch-hiking?
18. What type of accommodation do you prefer and why? (luxury hotels, bed-and-breakfast hotels, AirBnB rentals, backpacker hostels, … )
19. When is the best time of year to travel? Why do you like to travel then?
20. Do you eat more or less when you are on holiday? How do you eat differently?
Present perfect travel conversation prompts
“Have you ever” style questions are great for getting detailed responses. Follow up questions are typically in past tense, so there are good questions for beginners – upper beginners.
These questions can also be done in a class-wide interview style activity, where students ask at least one question of each student (plus follow-up questions).
21. Have you ever missed a flight? What happened?
22. Have you ever been in an accident or emergency situation when you were travelling?
23. Have you ever been to an exotic location?
24. What was the most unusual thing you have eaten while on holiday?
25. Has your luggage ever been delayed or gone missing? What did you do?
26. Have you ever cut short a holiday? Why did you return early?
27. What was the most beautiful place you have ever been to?
28. Have you ever needed help from an embassy? What happened?
29. How many different countries have you visited? Which was your favourite?
30. Have you ever travelled over Christmas or New Year? Where did you go? What was it like?
Future travel conversation prompts
If you want to hammer home grammar in your class, then you can cover the difference been “going to” future for plans, and “will” future for travel ideas that aren’t yet planned. I don’t put much emphasis on the difference in conversation classes, as the main aim is talk comfortably and fluently.
31. Where will you go on your next holiday?
32. What sights are you planning to see?
33. When will you next go to the beach? Which beach is your favourite?
34. Will you use English on your next trip? Are you going to do any extra preparation?
35. Who are you going to travel with on your next holiday?
36. What food and drinks are you planning to consume?
37. Are you going to fully plan your trip or see what happens each day? Which is better and why?
38. What are you looking forward to the most about your trip?
39. How many emails do you think you will have when you get back to work?
40. Are you going to stick to a budget while you are travelling?
Conditional travel conversation prompts
These questions are best left for upper-intermediate classes or higher, the complex sentence structures are easy to stumble upon, and conversations are killed – the last thing you want to happen in a conversation class!
41. Would you have changed anything about your last trip?
42. What other places would you have liked to visit if you had had time?
43. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?
44. If money was not an issue, what type of holiday would you take?
45. If someone were to visit your country and city, what are the top things they should do, see and eat?
46. What would you do if you were on holiday and a natural disaster occurred?
47. If you could work and live in a country you have visited, which one would you choose and why?
48. If you had a time machine, where would you travel to and why?
49. If you were going on a camping trip for two weeks, what would you bring and why?
50. If you could, would you want to travel into space? Why or why not?
Group work activity – planning a trip
In small groups, students plan a week or two-week holiday that they will go on together. They should discuss and decide on a destination, time of year, and type of holiday (transport, accommodation, tours, sightseeings, etc).
Written homework – Tell a story
Conversation classes should allocate no time for descriptive writing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set it for homework.
Writing helps students become more confident in using the correct grammar and improving vocabulary recall – both are important in conversations. That’s why I set (optional) written homework in most of my conversation classes.
- Write a descriptive story about one holiday, or one thing that happened on holiday.
Choose a trip or experience that was funny, exciting or scary, and describe it in detail.
Your best travel questions
What questions have sparked the best travel conversations? Let me know in the comments below.
If you found these conversation prompts useful, please share them!