Planning your very first school trip and not 100% sure where to start?
We've been arranging school trips for more than 30 years, so you're in good hands! Here are our top tips:
Think about your group's requirements and your learning objectives
The very first thing you need to think about is why you want to run the trip.
What are your learning objectives? What do you want pupils to get out of the trip? And what do you want them to remember of the trip?
Once you've got that firmly in your mind, you also need to think about the specific requirements of your group.
Now, without having students signed up to the trip yet, this may be a little tricky, but you can think about general requirements. How will their age affect the accommodation arrangements, for example? And how many members of staff will you need to take with you?
Start planning as early as possible
Quite honestly, this is the best piece of advice we could give you, especially as this is your first trip. Planning early will make the whole process so much more pleasant for you. For one thing, you should avoid last-minute stresses.
And planning early should actually give you more choice, especially when it comes to things like accommodation and transport. Get the options you want by getting in quickly!
Planning early could also make your tour more affordable and accessible for pupils, as it will allow their families to spread out their payments, rather than having to stump up what for some could be a significant amount of money in a very short time.
Getting your trip approved
Once you've decided on the basics of your trip, you'll need to get it signed off by the powers that be.
Part of this is showing what your pupils will get out of the trip and how that justifies the time off timetable for both staff and pupils (if required). We've put together a guide to help you with this step.
Make sure you book with a reputable operator
The whole point of booking with a tour operator rather than doing it all yourself is that this should make the process less stressful.
Not only should they relieve you of some of the administrative tasks, your tour operator should also offer you support in the event that something goes wrong with your trip.
And what if they go bust? You need to check that your tour operator has the relevant accreditations that mean that you will be able to recoup your money or, if on your trip at the time, that you can finish your tour and return home as expected.
For this reason, we strongly recommend ensuring that your tour operator is a member of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) and that they hold an ATOL licence if you are flying with them. Halsbury have both accreditations and more.
Is your tour operator a school tour specialist?
You could book your tour with any tour operator that arranges group travel. But there are several really good reasons why you should consider booking with a school travel specialist like Halsbury, not least because of their experience in making sure the trip and activities link well with the curriculum.
If you do choose to book with a school travel specialist, there are a couple of accreditations to look for – including membership of the School Travel Forum and the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge. Halsbury holds these accreditations and more.
Consult your finance department
Before you can send letters out to parents, you need to check with your school's finance department how they want them to pay. Can they make payment by cash, cheque or card? Or perhaps your school has an online payment portal they can make payments through?
If they're paying by cash or cheque should they pass this to you, or directly to the finance department?
Your tour operator will have given you payment deadlines too. You'll need to check with the finance department when you need the money from the parents by to make sure you meet these deadlines.
Launching your trip
Promotion to students
So, you're ready to launch your tour. Your tour operator will have quoted you based on an expected number of paying passengers. You need to get as close as possible to this to ensure that the price doesn't need to be revised.
The first thing to do is generate some buzz among your students to encourage them to join you on your trip. We've designed some free materials to help you with this.
Getting parents on board
Once you've convinced the pupils, you then need to convince their parents. It's worth holding an information evening for parents where you can explain why you're running the trip and what the pupils will get out of it. You can also address any concerns they have there and then.
Confirming your booking
Now you've got everyone signed up and collected their deposits, it's time to confirm your booking. If your final numbers are significantly different to that which your quote was based on then your tour operator may need to requote you.
If not, it's time to start planning the finer details! Here at Halsbury, that means that you will be assigned a dedicated Itinerary Coordinator who will assist you with this.
Before you go
Risk assessments are tremendously important for all school trips. They may seem like a daunting prospect, but we've written a guide that should help you navigate this process.
Unfortunately, your tour operator cannot complete your risk assessments for you. Each risk assessment is different as it takes into account the specific requirements of each group – and you are best placed to understand these.
However, you can make your life much easier in this regard by booking with a reputable tour operator, like Halsbury, who is a member of the School Travel Forum and therefore has a strong Safety Management System in place which you can use in your risk assessment.
What to pack
A couple of weeks before you travel, you may very well be inundated with requests from pupils (or, more likely, their parents) wanting to know what they need to pack. Anticipate this and create a packing checklist that you can distribute to ensure that everyone brings everything they'll need.
Prepare for the journey
If you're going to be spending a long time on a coach, you'll want to prepare yourself for the journey.
You may want to prepare some games or bring some DVDs to watch.
It might also be a good idea to bring some emergency snacks and water for those pupils who might forget to pack such essentials for the journey.
And don't forget bin bags to collect rubbish!