Navigating an Overnight School Trip- 5 Key Steps to Success
By: Tracy Burkhart, Head of Intermediate School
As wonderful as traveling with our families is, the opportunity for our children to travel without us is an opportunity we should cherish. An overnight school trip experience is the ultimate “beyond the classroom” experience. Preparation is the key to getting our children ready so we can feel comfortable letting them embark on their “solo” adventures while gaining independence and interacting with the world around them.
Organized school group travel involves much advance planning by educational professionals that is thorough and begins long before the extended trip takes place. There will be paperwork to fill out, packing guidelines to follow, trip payments, and ample meetings to ensure all information and guidelines are communicated.
But for your own piece of mind, there are key steps parents and participants should think about during the planning process.
These involve managing money, packing, safety, health, and communication.
- Ensure personal money management skills—Begin working with your child months in advance on how to manage their spending money for the overnight school trip. Work together to determine average amounts of money needed for meals (if needed), potential amounts for souvenir purchases, and any additional expenditures given by the trip leaders. Students could begin using a debit card and learn to balance their account. Also, most banks offer prepaid debit cards that are reloadable. Of course, some cash is always needed; budgeting this is crucial. Will some children make mistakes and possibly not budget correctly? Sure, but what a great life lesson while surrounded by educator chaperones to help them through the process and still not go without. Preparation and learning at its best!
- Pack light and right—Most of us love to try to fit most of our closet and house into our luggage for an extended trip. While this may offer us a sense of security, it’s not always practical. Efficient packing can actually help to make the trip more enjoyable and less stressful. Your trip leaders will certainly offer a packing list detailing how many pieces of luggage are allowed (whether bus or airplane travel), additional carry-on/snack bags allowed, particular clothing items needed, and the appropriate electronics for the trip. As always, it helps to plan accordingly for general supplies to pack, such as, toiletries, contact lenses, cellphone chargers, etc. Also, be sure to check the weather forecast prior to departure to make sure needed items are packed. Your child will be tasked with managing all their belongings, so it’s best to pack efficiently, leave any expensive items at home, and label several items with their name.
- Ensure your child knows the trip safety protocols —As parents and educators, we want each moment of an overnight trip to be memorable, yet with the utmost safety.This is a wonderful time to review in advance all behavior rules and safety protocols set forth by the trip leaders. Parents will be required to supply emergency contact information, informed of the safety protocols for traveling to the destination, informed of the rooming arrangements and nightly security checks, and informed of the group/ buddy system utilized during trip excursions. Students are supervised by a dedicated faculty chaperone and will have direct access to them at all times if any unforeseen need arises.
- Stay Healthy—It’s not enjoyable to think of potential health issues that could arise during a trip, but preparation and notification will lead to peace of mind. Be sure to thoroughly fill out all medical documentation required by the school/trip leaders. If your child is prone to motion sickness, this is an opportune time to prepare for this over-the-counter medication too. Additionally, most children with allergies and food sensitivities know what to avoid while dining and should be comfortable with discussing their allergies with their peer group and chaperones if help is needed. Trip leaders will carry first aid bags, have a medical professional to aid with dispensing some medications, and ensure all trip personnel have emergency contact information.
- Ensure Lines of Communication—Sending your child away on an extended overnight school trip is one of many bittersweet milestones for parents. We long to see them gaining their independence, but it’s difficult to let them go. We’re so fortunate to live in a time where there are so many available ways to communicate with one another. With that being said, many students get caught up in the excitement and activities of the trip and they forget to communicate their learning adventure with those back home. The most important thing to remember is that your child can be having the most amazing time even if there isn’t a shred of photo or text proof.Trip leaders and chaperones will encourage student participants to communicate with their family members, share special moments with you, and potentially have photo sharing sites or blogs to keep everyone informed. With that being said, it’s also natural for some students to become homesick or have some not so stellar moments on an extended school trip. When your children are out of your sight, it’s hard to gauge their complaints and mini-dramas. Use your best judgment, of course, but know that the chaperones are super busy ensuring the best trip possible for each child, but they will have a constant line of communication with both you and your child—and all will be well.
So, you packed, you prepped, and you’ve endured the days without your child and have witnessed their growth through the experience.
The last thing to prepare for is to welcome a different child (in a good way) to come home to you— well done! They will have matured, learned self-reliance, broadened their knowledge of the world, and ensured their love of experiencing new adventures with their peers for years to come!