For teachers wanting to take their students out of the classroom to experience some hands-on learning, field trips and school excursions can be one of the most rewarding ways to do this. Behind a 5-day excursion, there is a fair amount of administration, risk assessments and now COVID safety plans that goes into managing these trips.
It’s no secret that more and more schools are turning to school travel specialists to manage logistics for them, especially if you are looking at a very popular destination like Canberra.
Considering the current climate, it is especially important to plan carefully, in advance and have a contingency plan in place. Taking a large group of students on an excursion can be a complex task, and a significant amount of planning needs to be done to ensure it’s a success.
COVID19 has dictated that many schools have had to cancel much of 2020 and now 2021 which means more schools are travelling, booking and planning their 2023 and 2024 trips in advance.
A school travel specialist can add tremendous value to planning an excursion; they can manage your bookings, meal plans, dietaries, rooming, expedite changes, and now because many attractions have capacity restrictions and COVID safe protocol, a school travel agent can manage these requirements and timelines for you. If anyone has tried to correlate all these documents before, you will know that it is hugely time-consuming, and time is not a luxury many teachers are afforded these days.
A planning summary may be useful in the initial stages as there are many factors that either directly or indirectly impact cost, availability and experience outcomes. The amount of planning, how far in advance you book accommodation and attractions depends on your several factors.
Location is often the most dynamic element of an excursion and Canberra has proven to tick many boxes on the wish list. The unique educational attractions on offer suit all year levels and the nation’s capital civics and citizenship engagements enhance and reinforce curriculum goals.
Over 160,000 Australian students visit Canberra each year and given that many schools have had to postpone their biannual and annual excursions due to COVID19 this has increased the number of travelling schools visiting Canberra. With more schools looking to make up ‘missed trips’ in the past 18 months the demand for accommodation, transport and key pacer attractions has made planning a little more challenging.
Top Tip! Remain flexible with your travel dates. Often the best deals are planned around shoulder season dates or departing on certain days.
The Time of Year
Choosing the right time of year not only impacts cost but the weather is a big factor to consider. If you are planning a botanical garden visit or walking tour in Canberra, July may not be the best time of year. If you are planning a snow play day in July it’s best to book ahead of time as Perisher, Thredbo and Corrin Forest open up bookings up to a year in advance. A school travel specialist is a great service to consider their consultants' plan and manage these seasonal factors into every itinerary and can often get the school a good value for money deal by planning your trip around supplier specials.
Regarding budget, it’s important to know in advance how much students will be spending as some schools need to incorporate rebates into their budget. High or low season travel dates determine the cost and planning ahead can be very helpful in predetermining these costs and help to factor in any subsidy considerations.
Top Tip! Pre-Planning means you have the advantage of securing your preferred dates and choosing an accommodation that best suits your group rather than your dates being determined by limited availability.
The Educational Opportunity
The destination or learning environment is often where the excursion value lies. The very popular destinations will see greater demand, regular bookings and require deposits in advance. Planning helps you think about the essentials that you may need, and good preparation means outcomes are clearly communicated to both the students’ parents and supervising teachers because a successful excursion with meaningful outcomes is very much a collaborative effort.
Top Tip! Many attractions offer downloadable educational resources and forward planning and using these templates can help to maximise the experience.
Why 2 years in advance?
Well, many schools work within a set time frame and consider calendar events such as NAPLAN, athletics carnivals, examination dates etc so it’s reasonable to assume many schools have very similar travel dates in mind and certain weeks are free from mandatory commitments. The process of finalising the itinerary, promoting and enrolling students and managing parent permissions can take some time, so it is best to start planning your trip at least 24 months in advance.
Top Tip! Take advantage of pre-trip site inspections, this is a great way to take the anxiety of managing a group of students in an unfamiliar location. Teachers who can pass on that experience when excursions are planned well in advance and follow similar educational objectives is priceless information. The ability to pass on a well-planned and articulated itinerary to the next excursion coordinator is a fantastic way to maintain continuity and build on the educational value each year.
Ultimately you want the excursion to be a positive experience and stress-free not only for the teachers but for the students participating. Planning can help do just that, by saving you time, getting all the specific attractions and services you want to include and maximising the overall experience.
Lastly, if you decide to work with a school excursion travel specialist, take your time in finding the right school travel agent, one who understands your school cultural environment, one that works with your specific needs and above all an agent that works alongside the school as a partner, not a booking agent. A trusted consultant who is available when things don’t go so well and one that offers support to the teachers on the ground beyond the normal 9-5.
For more great ideas for school excursions, school camps and school incursions go to schoolactivities.com.au
Claudine is a people connector with a passion for bringing together communities and organizations for good through travel. With a degree in global business, she left her home country to travel full time with her family while working remotely, designing educational programs and marketing content for international niche markets. “Seeing the positive change that travel inspires in young people is what I am passionate about sharing, adventure has a unique way of teaching you something new”