5 Questions Parents Should Ask About a School Trip
If you had asked us a year ago what the three most common concerns parents had before sending their students on a school trip, I would have said affordability, what’s included, and security. It almost seems like last year was an entirely different world.
Nowadays, when a teacher announces an upcoming field trip, most parents begin asking “Is it safe to travel?” Parents, more than anyone, want to make sure it’s safe for their kids to begin exploring before sending them out on trips again.
Here are five questions parents should ask about school trips and why it is important to know the answers.
1. How will they get there, and how will they stay safe in transit?
There are many ways students may travel to their tour destinations. If you’re attending an afternoon trip to the zoo, a yellow school bus is all you’ll need. If you’re participating in a multi-night school trip to the Historic East Coast, you may ride on an airplane or motor coach with fellow travelers. Depending on your destination city, some groups choose to travel by public transit, ferry, or even bike!
Former trip leader Julie recalls one situation when she learned the importance of being prepared the hard way:
I once had a student break down into tears as we boarded a dinner cruise on a school trip to Washington, D.C. because she was deathly afraid of being on the water. If I had known ahead of time, I would have been more prepared to help her cope or to make alternative plans.
Whether your child has asthma, motion sickness, or other health conditions, it’s important to let the trip leader know before departure. Most schools require an adult to carry all medication and parents to sign a medical release, so make sure you know the procedure if you’re planning to send any medication.
Many parents shared their concerns with us about travel safety after a pandemic. Our team has been researching how to best keep travelers safe and healthy while on tour, using resources from the CDC and local health authorities in our destination cities. Since March 2021, we have been leading tours all across the east coast with zero cases of Covid. Here are a few tools we’ve used to keep travelers safe while touring:
- Choosing the Right Travel Partners – We have very close relationships with the vendors we use while on tour. All of the hotels, restaurants, and bus companies we work with strongly emphasize safety and hygiene. In fact, we have a whole video series with Shane Lauler, the Vice-President of Starr Tours (a premier motorcoach company) about new hygiene practices onboard our buses. If you don’t have time to watch the interviews, you can read about them here.
- Staying Distanced – While on tour, travelers move and operate in smaller “travel pods.” The students who share a room at the hotel also sit together on the bus, eat meals together, and travel with the same chaperone each day. The group as a whole does its best to maintain distance from travelers from other groups while traveling through the city. We’ve been equipping our tour groups with headsets that allow them to listen to their Tour Guide over a private channel, allowing them to stay farther apart while walking through museums, monuments, and historic sites.
2. What activities will be offered, and will capacity restrictions change attraction visits?
Traveling allows students to experience new cultural contexts and apply what they’ve already learned to their daily lives. Tour Operators plan, book, and finalize the itinerary on your trip leader’s behalf. If you travel with NationsClassroom, your itinerary is customized to meet the needs of the group. Whatever the focus of your tour, your students will be part of incredible hands-on learning experiences everywhere they go.
While states and cities continue to enforce social distancing, attraction visits may look a bit different. If a museum is only allowed to reach 50% of its normal capacity, groups may split and alternate museum visits. Your itinerary will likely still stay the same, but you may visit attractions at different times.
Since we began touring again in March, most attractions on the East Coast have reopened to full or partial capacity. We have run tours to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Colonial Virginia, Charleston, and Florida. You can see an up-to-date list of open attractions through the Historic East Coast here.
3. What will they learn?
In our recent interview with the Vice-President of Starr Tours, Shane Lauler shared how she believed student travel would be one of the first travel sectors to make a comeback after the Covid-19 pandemic. She attributes that belief to her experience with parents and as a parent herself:
We feel that in any time of crisis…parents and students really rely on the extra experiences that they get by traveling and extending their curriculum on the road by seeing things and learning in person. There’s just nothing like it. We know that parents, of course, are always going to do what they can to commit themselves to getting students back on the road. Even though we are in some financially challenging situation for many people, folks will always go back to invest in their kids and try to get them back first.
It doesn’t matter so much where your students travel, but what they learn while visiting. Whether they tour George Washington’s Mount Vernon, ride the elevator to the Top of the Rock Observatory, or walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, travel allows students to learn new and exciting things outside of the classroom.
Here are a few posts about the many things kids can learn on an educational tour.
- Stronger Test Scores, School Engagement, and Social-Emotional Skills
- Exceed Curriculum Standards With Your Student Trip
- 3 Unexpected Things “Your Kids” Will Learn On A School Trip
4. Who is responsible for the student’s safety?
Now more than ever, parents are concerned about the safety of their students. Before this year, parents were typically more concerned about general safety but now turn their attention to health and hygiene.
Have you heard the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child?” The same can be said of student travel. From the moment the tour planning begins until all travelers are safely back home, dozens of people behind the scenes make sure everything runs smoothly. Here’s a quick rundown of the main people in charge:
- Trip Leader: The trip leader is the teacher (or parent) in charge of your student’s trip. They contact the tour operator, collaborate on the itinerary, and communicate with parents.
- Chaperones: Chaperones are usually teachers or parent volunteers selected by the Trip Leader. The chaperones are usually responsible for keeping track of their group, carrying emergency medication, and conducting room checks before lights out every night.
- Tour Operator: The company that collaborates with your trip leader and organizes everything from travel arrangements, overnight security, cash allotments, and tour guide assignments. If you travel with NationsClassroom, they’ll also manage your trip registration process and payment plans.
- Tour Guide: Your Tour Guide will meet your group when you arrive in your destination city and stay with you until you begin your trip home. They will ride on the tour bus with you, lead you through crowded cities, and teach your students about the different landmarks and historical sites you visit.
- On-Site Coordinator: The On-Site Coordinator (OSC) manages your itinerary from behind the scenes. They will typically be at the hotel when you check-in, and will give the trip leader daily packets at breakfast with tickets, cash allotments, and printed itineraries.
There will always be someone watching out for the students and keeping them safe. While we continue to fight off Covid-19, all leadership roles will remind students to wash their hands, wear their masks indoors, and social distance from people outside the group.
5. What are the expectations, and are there any dos and don’ts?
There will usually be a behavior contract students have to sign before the trip’s departure, but specific rules around dress code or technology use may vary between schools. The most important rule for students to follow while traveling is to always listen to their Trip Leader. If your students listen to the Trip Leader and stay with the group, they’ll have a fantastic time on tour.
As stated above, students will also need to follow any state or city-specific guidelines regarding health and safety. Your Trip Leader will let you know if your student needs to pack a mask or face covering, and it’s always a good idea to pack some hand sanitizer or wipes for daily use.
Our Tour Guide Manager and Student Travel Expert, Erika King, shares what daily life will look like on tour in an interview with us, including some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind while traveling.
Even though the world continues to change, we know that travel can be one of the most influential experiences in a student’s life. If you have questions about planning a student trip, leave us a comment or reach out to one of our Student Travel Consultants.
Originally published October 2017, rewritten and updated July 2021.