One of the highlights of homeschooling is a fun and educational field trip. Why read about something in a book when you can go experience it firsthand? In the past, I’ve shared some of our all-time favorite field trips and even some dream field trips.
Going on a field trip can be fun. Being the organizer behind the trip, however, can be stressful. It doesn’t have to be. Following are five tips for planning a successful field trip that have helped me, and other moms in my local homeschool group, plan stress-free field trips for our group.
Plan for Convenience
It’s impossible to find a date and time that will be convenient for everyone, so it makes the most sense to plan your event at the time that is most convenient for your family and invite others to join you. That may sound selfish, but why add to your stress, as the coordinator, by planning an event at a time that doesn’t work for your family?
One of the most time-consuming aspects of planning a field trip can be answering questions and emails. A simple way to free up a lot of time is to post the pertinent details in an easily accessible local – a group newsletter or forum, for example. Make sure that you include:
- The date
- The time
- The location
- Where payment should be sent
- What will happen in the event of cancelation or inclement weather
Cover your expenses
If you are arranging a field trip to a place requiring a minimum number of participants, it is advisable to ask families planning to attend to mail you a check, made payable to you, due at least one week prior to the outing. This ensures that you are not put in the position of being held responsible for the entire cost of the trip if people cancel. You might want to consider things such as:
- Will you issue refunds for anything other than the entire trip being cancelled?
- Will substitutions may be made (i.e. a family of four who has paid for the outing cannot come, but another family of four would like to take their place)? If so, who will reimburse the original family – you or the family taking their place?
- Will you issue refunds for those who have paid, but are unable to attend if doing so doesn’t affect the total cost of the trip?
- Will you allow payments after the due date if minimum numbers have been met?
Know the details
Brainstorm to try to ensure that you have asked all questions that you or families attending will need to know. This cuts down on follow-up phone calls or emails with your venue contact person. Think about the variety of families who may be attending. Their kids’ ages or abilities may differ from those of your family, which will bring up questions you may have overlooked.
- Are minimum or maximum numbers of participants required?
- What is the cost? For what ages? Is payment required for kids under a certain age?
- Are there any grade/age/skill level requirements?
- Is there ample parking or should families carpool?
- Are there any hazards or restrictions?
- Can accommodations be made for kids – or adults – with special needs?
- Are there any food allergies that need to be considered? (We have toured a grocery store that gave out food samples and a radio station that offered the kids candy bars that contained peanuts.)
- Will the group need to be split up? If so, how? Age/skill level or just by a certain number of kids?
- Can adults participate?
Plan for questions
You know that inevitable moment when the guide asks if anyone has any questions and you can hear the crickets chirping? Prepare for that by encouraging parents to talk with their kids ahead of time. Discuss where you’re going and what you might see. Encourage them to make a list of things they hope to learn or questions they hope are answered. Then, if questions are answered, they’ll know what to ask.
Although it’s out-of-print now, I really like Gregg Harris’s book The A-Z Guide to Homeschool Field Trips. It contains tons of suggestions on places to visit, along with ideas for questions to ask while you’re there, and follow-up activities for when you get home to make the most of a field trip as a learning experience.
What tips would you offer for planning a successful homeschool field trip? What have been some of your family’s favorite field trip destinations?
Updated and expanded from a post originally published October 2011