Note: I originally wrote this in 2012 for my (no longer active) Houston Field Trips blog.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.
Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.