Tips for Planning a Group Trip

Note: I originally wrote this in 2012 for my (no longer active) Houston Field Trips blog. -Rachel

Our family has enjoyed trips, events, and classes organized by others.  In the last few years we’ve coordinated campouts, field trips, seminars, and classes within the homeschool community.  We’ve been blessed with the wisdom that others have passed down and learned a few lessons ourselves.

Select a trip.  This might sound rather easy, but not all places are suited to the “field trip” mentality.  Many don’t offer any discount of their regular prices for groups or are not very homeschool friendly.  Some require a group so large and the trip is so specific that you’ll have a difficult time achieving the enrollment needed for decreased rates.  Visit these places, just don’t cause more work for yourself and your friends by “coordinating”.

Choose a place YOU want to go to.  Sounds silly, but nothing causes more stress than planning a trip your family isn’t all that excited about attending.  When you start coordinating trips, people will come to you with numerous places they’ve always wanted to go to.  If it’s an activity you think you would enjoy ~ fabulous, make it happen.  However, don’t hesitate to protect your “time budget” for trips that you prefer.  If someone really wants the other, they’ll make it happen.

Know your audience.  Be very clear in your description to others what the target age group is.  Ask the venue lots of questions about any minimum ages, availability of wheelchair & stroller access, bathrooms (I was surprised once to learn a park locked the bathrooms during the week!), etc.

Prepare to invest.  Yes, with a group rate you are often saving a significant amount of money (our last trip saved us $45 over list prices!) ~ but keep in mind that there is work involved in communicating with the venue and all your attendees.  Consider whether the savings is worth the “sweat equity” you’re going to put in.

Set Deadlines…and stick to them!  When does the venue require all the information from you?  Set deadlines a few days before then.  This gives you time to organize all the information.  Additionally, this is life – stuff happens.  If you only allow yourself a few hours to process registrations & submit them, you’re increasing the likelihood of mistakes or missing your deadline.  Use your judgement about allowing registrations after the deadline.  It’s OK to be firm to protect your time and sanity.

Require Deposits or Payment in Advance.  Unfortunately, there will be families that will sign up for free events and then fail to respect the time & effort by both the host organization and the volunteers coordinating.  For our homeschool group, we require a check be made out to the group for $15 before any registration is made.  If the family no-shows or cancels without finding a replacement, the amount is donated to the organization that is hosting us.   If the event has a cost, require all participants pay by the registration deadline or lose their spot.  This is especially important when receiving group discounts.  We had the unfortunate experience of showing up to an event which had barely enough to meet the minimum registered.  One family did not show and we ALL lost the discount, causing a significant increase to our per person cost.

Communicate.  I probably lean on the side of giving too much information, but it’s helpful to have everything gathered in one place.  Communicate by e-mail so that you have a record of what you have sent and what others have asked.  This is especially helpful for noticing trends of requested information or issues that commonly arise.  Which brings us to…

Learn from your past.  Each group comes with it’s own personalities.  Make notes of what went well and what you wish you could change.  Feel free to tweak processes and policies to better suit your needs and those of your group.

For more ideas on making your excursion enjoyable, see How To Have A Great Family Trip. Wondering Why Take Field Trips?


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

How to Have a Great Family Trip

Note: I originally wrote this in 2012 for my (no longer active) Houston Field Trips blog. -Rachel

At the time of this post, our family has been traveling, camping, and enjoying field trips with our children for over 12 years.  We’ve found two things significantly contribute to the “success” of a trip.

1. Being Prepared

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff & just enjoy the adventure.

Be Prepared

Know all you can about the event/location.  Where is it?  When is it?  Where is the parking?  Is there a cost or time limit for parking?  Are there bathrooms?  What is the target audience?  Is there a place inside or nearby to picnic?

Can they accommodate any special needs you have?  Can you bring outside food?  Is it appropriate for strollers or wheelchairs?  Is there an area for diaper changing or nursing?

Prepare your children for the event.  I’m not talking about “schooly pre-test” here.  Just have conversations with the children about the plans for the day.  It’s an excellent idea to cover proper etiquette for the venue.  Practice your “museum voice” together.  Discuss any family rules about distance from the parent (holding hands, arms reach, line of sight, etc.)  Plan where they should go or who they should talk to if you’re separated.  If applicable, let them know of any specific times for presentations, snacks/lunch, exploring or at least the order of events.     If it’s a family-led tour – sit down together & discuss what they’re most interested in seeing.  If there will be “extra costs” once inside that you’ve decided to skip (like the midway games at the fair), be clear with your children that it isn’t in the budget this time around.  Oh, and our kids’ favorite, “How long is the drive?”

Stock the car.  Nothing dampens a trip (and everyone’s mood) like having to leave because you ran out of diapers or the 4-year-old spilled his drink & doesn’t have another shirt.  Depending on how much room you have in your vehicle, consider keeping these things on-hand all the time.  If you’re tight on trunk space, prioritize on what is most important (or most likely to be needed) and be sure to bring it along.  We regularly bring: medication, first aid kit, change of clothes (even an extra shirt for Dad & Mom), extra snacks, picnic blanket, rain ponchos, camping chairs, Kleenex, a roll of paper towels, beach towels, and a collapsible wagon.  For longer car trips we also bring books, magnetic games, BrainQuest decks, and Audio Books.

Set a budget.  If you plan several trips a month, this will help you prioritize which trips you want to take and still stay within your means.  On more than one occasion we’ve been sad to have to cancel an event we really wanted to do because we “jumped” at other events in the meantime & spent all our Field Trip money.  Some questions to help you decide: What is the cost of the event for the family?  Do you have to prepay?  Do they accept cash, checks, &/or credit cards?  Are there any additional costs for extra activities/experiences once there?  What are the fuel costs?  Will you be bringing or buying snacks & meals?  How much do you have to spend on souvenirs?   Are the kids allowed to spend their own money?  Consider keeping envelopes for each event & putting the cash needed as well as what it’s for inside.  We have a separate checking account and a running ledger of what the money put aside is for.

Enjoy the Adventure

At some point, decide that you are as prepared as possible and you are just going to enjoy yourselves.  Don’t stress over small hiccups, be flexible, and keep the attitude that everything is a learning experience ~ even if it doesn’t go as planned.

Wondering Why Take Field Trips? or interested in Tips for Planning a Group Trip.


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Why Take Field Trips?

Note: I originally wrote this in 2012 for my (no longer active) Houston Field Trips blog. -Rachel

No matter how your family approaches homeschooling, Field Trips have a great deal to offer!

As Unschoolers, we don’t have a set “curricula”.  Some of our trips correlate to an interest our children are currently exploring.  However, many provide the impetus to further explore a topic they have yet to engage.

Families utilizing other homeschooling approaches have also found Field Trips will enrich their studies.  A trip to the Civil War Reenactment complements a unit study on Abraham Lincoln.  Visiting a local Pioneer Farm brings Laura Ingalls Wilder books to life and gives literature-based based families hands-on experience.  Spending the day at the local state park is an excellent way for Charlotte Mason families to expand nature study beyond their own back yard.  The Houston Gem & Mineral Show enhances an online Geology class.

Many factories and businesses only offer the “behind the scenes” look to organized tours.  We have been blessed to see ice cream made at Blue Bell Creamery, hot dog buns at Mrs. Baird’s, and grocery store management at H-E-B.  Children (and adults) benefit from learning the ingredients and processes that go into their food.

I have to be honest, it grieves me a little to hear people speak of Field Trips as inferior to classroom or textbook learning.   Particularly, kinesthetic and visual/spatial learners benefit the greatest from time away from a desk (or dining room table).  Even while reading books, our son HAS to be moving in order to grasp the material.  Forcing him to sit still and face forward would be the equivalent of plugging his ears and masking his eyes.

Equally concerning is to “schoolify” a Field Trip with a litany of pre/per/peri/post- worksheets and tests.  It was disconcerting to watch a mom pull her son away from a hands-on demonstration, tap on the boy’s clipboard, and hear her say, “We’re not here  to spend all day at booths, just answer the question on the worksheet and let’s move on.”  He missed the opportunity to watch Civil War Era camp set-up so he could circle “none of the above”.

Have you ever had a huge family event (wedding, birth, vacation, etc.) and years later everyone remembers it differently?  You sit around and talk about what was special to you and what you remember best.  One person can distinctly remembers the music playing, another the food, another architecture, while you remember a special conversation you had.   Does that mean that others experienced it wrong?  No!   It’s wonderful that we each carry a unique impression and we compliment each other so well.  Consider blessing your children with the opportunity to observe, explore, and participate uninhibited.

Ready to get started?  Check out some tips for planning Family or Group trips.


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.