Massachusetts-based School Administrator
Field Trip Guide – From Transportation Permission Slip to Travel
The logistics of field trip planning
Planning for field trips involves many moving parts, which can sometimes feel like they are a bigger pain to run than the payoff of getting the experience. The amount of logistics involved from locating a venue, creating a transportation permission slip, to ensuring final headcounts is enough for even an experienced trip coordinator to become overwhelmed. However, once all of the necessary components are in place, usually field trips can go off without a hitch.
Trip planning breakdown
From idea to execution, this guide will help you plan an off-site field trip that runs without a hitch! Some trips require more advance planning than others but almost all field trips have the same requirements:
- Reserve trip venue/location
- Book transportation
- Coordinate chaperones
- Spread the word and collect necessary information
- Final counts, submit payments and collect forms
- Enjoy your trip!
This outline is intended for individuals planning trips that have already received the appropriate authorization and funding needed to run the trip. Once you have secured that you CAN have a trip, follow along below to make it actually happen!
Reserve trip date
To begin, I have found it is best practice to book transportation and reserve your venue before moving forward with any of the other steps. Venues book early and while some, like museums, national parks, or amusement parks can accommodate hundreds of guests a day, others may have very strict guest counts like theatres, interactive play spaces, and campgrounds. When contacting venues, it is a good idea to have an ideal date and a couple of backup dates in mind, this will help limit the number of times you have to contact the venue before you actually reserve a date that works! Make sure you are able to confirm how many chaperones they expect you to bring, as well as how many buses, or other vehicles, are able to park on-site.
Once you know when and where you are going – book your bus! It is almost never too early to reserve transportation, and in today’s climate there is a huge shortage in available buses and drivers. Booking with a reputable company will help save you from cancellations and other hassles down the road.
Tip: Make sure you stay on top of your deposits and payments for both your location and transportation company. Some will book without a deposit, many will not. If you are paying with a credit card, confirm the amount and dates of the charges so you keep your credit limit open and you don’t face billing issues. If you are paying with a school or organization Purchase Order (PO), make sure you submit any deposits and understand your payment terms, as they can vary.
While you are budgeting and planning for the trip, it’s best to work out as close to a final head count as you can in advance. This will help secure the correct number of “seats” at both your field trip location and on the buses. However, sometimes this cannot happen until you are much closer to your trip date. In any case, planning on both how many and the physical “who” of your chaperones is an important part of the trip planning.
If you are going with veteran chaperones on an established trip, this planning can take place as little as a week before your trip is set to occur. However, if you are new to the planning process, or if you are taking students to a new or particularly challenging location supervision-wise, it might be worth having a planning meeting early in the planning process – as soon as you have identified who your chaperones will be.
At a minimum, chaperones should be expected to:
- Closely monitor their assigned students/travelers from their departure, on the bus and at the field trip location(s), back onto the bus and until they have safely returned
- Carry and keep track of their groups’ permission slips
- Stay in contact (via phone or other means) with the other chaperones and the trip coordinator for the planning and duration of the trip
- Be prepared and willing to administer any emergency medication as directed by the medical needs of their group
- Depending on the requirements of your group – complete a background check and submit fingerprints
Finding people who are willing and able to be a trusted chaperone can be a difficult task – speak with your group’s leaders to get a sense of who might be up for the challenge. If you have a contact that previously ran field trips for your group, see if you can get in touch with them, as they may be a highly valuable resource!
Spread the Word and Collect Information
Your trip is planned – now it is time to get people to attend it! Depending on the type of group and the frequency you meet will determine when to share this information. For schools this might be a month or a few weeks in advance; for groups that meet on a weekly or monthly basis, you may want to begin this process 2-3 months out.
Items that should be provided to the group traveling include:
- Information about where they are going and why
- Transportation permission slip and/or standard field trip liability release
- Any requests for additional chaperones can be disseminated at this time if you are planning on having parents or caregivers attend as well
- Due date(s) to return permission slips and any required fees for the trip
About a week before your trip, make any necessary notifications to departments that will need to know that you will be offsite. For schools, this may include front office staff, nurse’s office, cafeteria staff (for meal planning), etc; for other groups, this may include the staff at the location you meet, other local groups that you interact with, etc. Make sure to let them know how long you will be there, what time you are leaving and returning, and what to do if someone arrives looking for you while you are not there, like a late traveler or a parent who comes for an early pickup and forgot about the trip – it happens!
Final counts, submit payment and forms
Depending on your field trip location, they may expect a final head count about a week before you plan to travel. Do your best to collect all the paperwork and fees, if applicable, in enough time so that you can track down any late submissions and still follow the venue’s protocol. For trips with ticketed entry, count and double count your tickets if you receive them in advance, you will need to let them know immediately if you didn’t receive the correct quantity. If you are picking up tickets at the location, make sure you have the correct count before leaving the ticket window!
If your bus company or venue requires their own liability or transportation permission slip for students, make sure to have those organized and ready to pass to them on the day of the trip. If your permission slips are multiple pages or if you have a large number of students traveling, it may help to alphabetize them and keep them in a binder or other secure location.
If any of your vendors require a payment day-of, make sure that you have that in hand and ready to give to either the driver or the venue when you arrive. Don’t forget petty cash if needed for parking lot fees or other incidentals.
Enjoy your trip!
On the day of your trip, hopefully everything goes off without a hitch! You will be grateful for the planning and leg work that you did ahead of time so that the day of your trip you can grab your permission slips, corral your travelers, and go!
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