Cheat & Swindle Holidays

If you've got a confident class with a passion for debate this activity could be the ideal way to allow learners to let off a bit of steam, while allowing the teacher to retain relative control over the language used.

Chris Trickett

It is an interaction between holidaymakers demanding a refund, and travel agents determined not to give it.

There is a relative degree of flexibility with Cheat and Swindle Holidays but it is well suited to practice of structures for making complaints. It should also be remembered that while the activity as it is here is stand-alone, best results are likely to be achieved by a teacher using it as a culmination of a series of well-planned relevant stages.


Preparation of materials is minimal. Although the activity can be done by dividing the whole class into two, interaction time is maximised by limiting groups to four or six. Half will be angry tourists, the others defensive travel agents. Class preparation is done in the pairs or threes, therefore it will be sufficient to prepare one role card for each pair/three.


  • Depending on what precedes this activity, a way to get the group focused is to create a list of things that can go wrong on holiday. I find it useful to start them off, e.g. lost passport, falling ill, poor service in hotel etc.
  • Then ask them in pairs to recall any negative experiences they may have had on holiday. As a whole class, students share some of these experiences and similarly any action they took, if relevant. Even if a number of students have experiences to recount, keep the class together, it is not a good time to go back to working in pairs. Keep it brief.
  • Ask the students what they can do if the holiday is a complete disaster? Elicit complain, you will need to go in this direction. Add some more useful expressions e.g. make a complaint, moan, moaner, gripe etc.
  • Review language for making complaints. I do this by giving them a list of expressions to use and asking them to rate their strength. It can also be done on the board. Here are some example expressions for learners to rate from 1-5, 5 is the strongest:
    • What do you think you are doing?
    • Perhaps you would like to consider that ...
    • Now listen here! We want action!
    • We would like to see an improvement in your service.
    • It was absolutely disgraceful.
    • Would it be possible to consider our complaint?
    • We asked for ... but we got ...! Not good enough!
    • We think you can do better.
    • All you care about is money!
  • Divide the class into A and B. Explain that the As have just returned from a terrible holiday and are determined to get a refund from the travel agents. Hand them their role cards and tell them they have ten minutes to prepare their case for a refund. Remind them they can use ideas and language from the preceding activities.
  • Bring the Bs together and explain that they are travel agents due to meet angry customers. Have a look at their role cards with them and check their understanding of the activity. Tell them they have ten minutes to prepare answers to the complaints listed.
  • Monitor and make suggestions.
  • After ten minutes, check that the As have a solid case with good reasons for a refund. Divide them into twos or threes.
  • Repeat this for the Bs and check they have good answers to the complaints listed.
  • Put the class into facing groups of equal numbers and start them off (as you see fit). Closely monitor for mistakes and to be sure that the activities remain balanced.
  • Depending on available time, allow the activity to run its own course, not intervening unless necessary.
  • Bring the whole class together. Ask the tourists if they succeeded in getting a refund. Ask the travel agents why not. This has the dual effect of summarising and concluding the activity.
  • Give feedback on language points.

 Possible supplementary activities connected with this lesson

  • Students choose a holiday from a range of limited options
  • Students plan a holiday
  • Students choose what to take on holiday from a list
  • Students design a holiday for the teacher
  • Students write holiday brochures for their towns/countries
  • Students write postcards
  • Students redesign travel brochures so as to attract different types of people to the same place

Level: Intermediate and above (Also Pre-Intermediate if carefully adapted)


Language Level


Submitted by lamelif on Mon, 08/11/2008 - 17:27


can you show all these activities on here like film in classroom.ı need only visuality.

Submitted by Chris Trickett on Wed, 12/02/2009 - 11:54

In reply to by lamelif


Er, well, I can, but you'd have to come and observe me.

I see your predicament, I'm not given to posting lessons online, besides the school would not accept it for a number of reasons.


Mr T

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