School name: Ercall Wood Academy
Destination: Washington D.C., USA
Subject area: Cultural trip offering pupils a ‘trip of a life time’
What was your main aim/objective for this trip?
The main purpose of this trip was to offer pupils the opportunity to go on a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ cultural trip that their families might not be able to afford as a family group.
The idea of this trip was to take pupils to a place that had iconic and recognisable places, buildings and monuments, to give pupils the opportunity to see these places in real life having seen them previously on TV and in pictures.
The other aspect of this long-haul school trip was to allow pupils the experience of travelling far away from home, having that airport experience and flying in a plane as well as visiting a foreign country.
The overriding objective was, of course, to give the pupils a truly amazing experience that left them with memories lasting a lifetime, ensuring it was fun, enjoyable and safe, and offering everyone an overall amazing experience.
Why did you choose this destination?
We have previously taken two schools trips to New York, in 2014 and 2017.
Although New York always gets the interest of pupils, I thought it might be nice to try something different.
However, the ‘something different’ had to be a place that pupils knew about with enough iconic things for them to want to see and, of course, recognise. It had to be a place that would ‘drum up excitement’.
Having looked at the destinations that Halsbury travel to, Washington D.C. caught my eye. I did some research online on the city and found that there were loads of different things to see and do.
Can you briefly describe the visits and activities you participated in during this trip?
I worked closely with Alex from Halsbury (him being the expert!) and listened to his suggested itinerary.
There were periods of time within that itinerary that were left blank for us to use as we saw fit. I wanted to get the absolute most from this tour so I filled up our days to the max.
I found that the Old Post Office hotel leased by Trump had the second tallest tower in Washington D.C. which was still owned by the National Guard and was free to go up, so we added that in.
The pupils were desperate to experience an American shopping mall, so we found one slightly out of town and used the metro system to get to and from it. In fact, it was only a 17-minute train ride away and the pupils had an amazing time there.
We wanted an evening activity and hoped for a sports event or theatre show. However, these were not possible, so I found a moonlight tour of the monuments. This was fantastic and I would definitely work it in to any future tours of Washington.
We visited museums, the Washington Monument (going up is a definite must!), the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the White House, the Library of Congress, the Capitol Building, Arlington Cemetery, and many other monuments. We also visited a local shopping in the centre of Washington and the out-of-town shopping mall.
Why did you choose these visits and activities?
We selected many of the monuments and museums as they were free. The Capitol Building, Library of Congress, the Old Post Office Tower, Arlington Cemetery and viewing the White House were also free activities to do.
I wanted to get the pupils to as many recognisable sites as I could and we most definitely achieved this.
I chose to pay the small amount and pre-book tickets to go up the Washington Monument and I’m so glad I did, as on the day we did this activity so many people turned up and tried to go in but they only have a small allocation of tickets for each day.
We managed to go into three of the Smithsonian museums - the Museum of American History, the Natural History Museum and the Holocaust Museum. The pupils found the Holocaust Museum very interesting but a bit too heavy going so we only stayed just over an hour. I think I would maybe swap this museum for the Space Museum if I were to return.
Did you fulfil your aims and objectives?
The overriding objective was to give the pupils a once-in-a-lifetime experience with lasting memories and we most definitely achieved this.
We were able to see all of the iconic monuments, buildings and places as well as being able to add in extras and listen to what the pupils wanted, fitting in an American shopping mall.
The pupils had a fantastic adventure, they all got on perfectly, loved the food and loved the activities we did, places we went to and things we saw.
The weather (except for the first 3 hours on the first day) was nothing but blue sky and sunshine which just made the experience, as we could get a last bit of sunshine before returning to the UK where we were going into late autumn/early winter.
Each pupil’s feedback was that they had experienced a truly amazing place and a fantastic trip.
What benefits did the students get from the trip?
Four of the pupils had never flown before and two had never left Telford, so they all were able to experience leaving the only place they knew to travel across the world to visit another!
The group bonded so well together, which was especially fantastic as they were from different year groups and so were mixing with people that they might not normally.
The pupils got to develop their independence by being away from home, managing their own money, packing their own suitcases and organising themselves each day.
They had to ensure strict time keeping, meeting for breakfast at a set time each morning and being ready for room inspections.
The pupils were able to learn about American history, and about Washington D.C. as a city. They also learnt a great deal from the three different museums we visited.
What will be your lasting memories of this trip?
I have struggled to find one thing that I liked over all the others as the whole experience was fantastic.
I asked the pupils this very same question and most of them came to the same conclusion as me.
If I were really pushed, I think it would come down to going up the Washington Monument and seeing Washington from up high, and also seeing the Lincoln Memorial.
The pupils did say they loved being able to visit the American shopping mall. And the moonlight bus tour was also a great activity.
Why did you choose Halsbury for this trip?
Halsbury was recommended to me back in 2012 when I first thought about taking pupils to America.
I shopped around for quotes for our 2014 and our 2017 New York adventures but Halsbury both times were able to offer the most for the money and came across as the most professional company.
After the first experience I was so impressed with Halsbury that although I looked for quotes for our 2017 New York trip I never expected to use anyone other than Halsbury.
This time for our Washington D.C. trip I didn’t look elsewhere, I went direct to Halsbury and they worked so hard to meet my needs. Even when we didn’t achieve the number of pupils we were hoping for, they were able to adjust activities and still work something out for us.
I also love the Halsbury loyalty scheme. I like to keep all of my points and use them to take an extra staff member or at least put them towards the cost of an extra staff member because having that extra person is always so beneficial and allows me as the leader to be free of a pupil group enabling me to concentrate on the organisational side of things.
Halsbury’s communication is fantastic. Alex, my tour organiser, always responded within hours, sometimes even minutes - and I emailed a lot! And the trip pack was detailed and had lots of useful information.
How would you describe the experience of working with Halsbury on this trip?
From start to finish and even after the trip Halsbury have been perfect. I initially was so disappointed at the thought of not being able to run the Washington D.C. trip but Zoe worked her socks off to make this trip happen and for a price that we felt was affordable for pupils.
James and Alex took over the trip once we confirmed the booking and again they were always at the end of the phone or email answering all of my many questions.
Alex and I worked well together looking at activities and the itinerary, and he was always happy when I went away and found activities I wanted him to work in such as the moonlight monument tour and prebooking tickets to go up to the top of the Washington Monument.
Overall, I would class Halsbury as a highly professional company who are efficient, thorough and reliable, and always offer a friendly and quality service.
Would you recommend Halsbury to your friends and colleagues?
Having used Halsbury three times now I would not use any other company for the school trips I arrange and I’m soon to look into our next adventure with them.
I’ve shared my experience with colleagues and our Modern Foreign Languages department uses Halsbury on a regular basis too.
I also shared my experiences with the department who organise the annual ski trip and they were also impressed so obtained quotes and ended up using Halsbury for the last trip they took.
I would most definitely recommend Halsbury to any educational setting as they are a trustworthy company that know what they're doing and do it well.