In November, I had another opportunity to chaperone a student trip to NYC. Who would say no to a free overnighter in NYC with amazing students? Sign me up!
Since GEAR UP is a college readiness program, our trips always include college visits.
Veteran’s Day is the perfect time to take students on such trips because high school students have off, but the colleges are open for business!
While I did not plan this trip, I have planned and chaperoned enough trips in the past four years to know what works and doesn’t work.
Here are a few tips on organizing a student trip.
Find a Tour Organization
This obviously depends on funding and the planning process can be done without a tour organization, but having one makes the planning and traveling experience 10x easier. We have used a few groups, but Gerber is our favorite. They are organized, reliable and helpful! The two trips we took with them, including this past one, went smoothly. Even with a few glitches in the planning radar, the organization worked with us to ensure that our needs were met.
You should know your students well enough to know who can handle a trip away from home. Aside from that, we also include an application process. Usually this process involves some form of college research and a few essay questions, asking students to tell us why they want to go on the trip. The ideal situation is to have a small group of adults who know the students get together to read the applications and make the executive decision. However, the GEAR UP team differs in their approach to planning college visits. I suggest having a team review and discuss applications. We try to choose students interested in the colleges, students who demonstrate leadership and/or students who might not have the opportunity to experience a trip outside of Utica.
The “Roomie” Situation
This is where things can get pretty dramatic, especially with the girls. My best advice is to put students in a room with at least one of their friends. The unpredictability of this is that girls may be besties one day and enemies the next. It happens, but kids need to learn to cope with these situations. We try not to intervene unless there is a risk that someone is in a very bad spot.
Also, the ideal situation would be for the girls to be on one floor and the boys on another. We have had couples go on our trips with us before. We tape the doors and keep a watch out. In NYC, however, the hotel arrangements were a bit of a mess. Students were placed on several different floors and not all the chaperones were strategically placed. I was on the first floor right next to the front desk. I woke up at 2 am, after a very long and tiring day, to loud voices and cackling. I stepped into the hall, thinking some students snuck downstairs, but it was the hotel staff! Also, I was right next to the ice machine, so I heard ice dropping all night long. The next morning, I voiced my opinion to the front desk about placing chaperones in the loudest room in the hotel, away from the students. Not cool!
Food for Thought
So food can be a bit of a pain, but it just takes some planning. If you go through a tour organization, it is a bit easier. If you are going on a college visit, try to fit lunch into the college experience. In NYC, we ate at John Jay College while touring the campus. This gives students an opportunity to sit with other college students and/or get the experience of campus living. Also, it is paid for ahead of time, so you don’t have to worry about carrying money around.
For other daytime meals, we usually just give students cash based on the per diem of the college that our grant runs through. So students get $10-15 a meal. Usually the hotel we stay at has a continental breakfast, so that takes care of one meal. Also, we choose restaurants that can accommodate big groups. Hard Rock is one of those places. We ALWAYS hit up a Hard Rock Café. The food is not great, but they efficiently serve a hungry group of students in no time at all. In NYC, we also visited the Playwright Tavern. This was a pretty cool place right near Times Square. We had a room to ourselves and the food was really delicious. On past trips, we visited Dallas BBQ which also accommodated a big group. These restaurants have a fixed price and menu, so you can pay ahead of time.
Planning Other Cultural Activities
Too many college visits in one trip can be daunting. It is important to introduce students to some cultural experiences that they might not otherwise have. While in NYC, we took students to the Broadway play, Kinky Boots. They didn’t know what to expect, but they LOVED it! We also visited the Freedom Tower. These were both two very different cultural events, but it provided students with an opportunity. Both activities can be planned through the tour organization or you can plan them on your own. For group tickets to Broadway, visit: http://www.broadway.com/groups/
Planning a trip with students might be stressful and terrifying if you have never done it. As an adult, however, it is amazing to revisit these experiences through the eyes of the students.
It REALLY is worth it!