Planning a School Trip Step by Step Guide

The key to a successful school trip is proper planning. Discover how to plan a school trip for an educational experience students and staff will enjoy.

Organising travel and educational activities for a large group of students can be challenging. Whether you’re planning a school trip for the first time, or have planned dozens of trips for schools and colleges over the years, every excursion has unique requirements.

Educational experiences away from the familiar classroom environment are a great way to engage and inspire your students while having fun. The key to a successful day out is careful planning. The process can take months, but will be worth it when you can sit back and enjoy the benefits of your hard work.

We’ve created this checklist for planning college and school trips:

  1. Identify your educational objectives
  2. Determine the budget
  3. Develop a detailed itinerary
  4. Conduct a risk assessment
  5. Arrange transport and accommodation
  6. Speak to parents
  7. Gather necessary permissions and paperwork

Continue reading to get more details on each of these steps!

Why is it important to plan for a school trip?

Proper planning for school trips helps ensure each learning experience is safe, stress-free, and enjoyable for both staff and students. Working with an experienced tour operator can help stress-test your plans to avoid any hiccups and unwanted surprises along your journey.

School trips are a brilliant way to introduce students to new cultures and places they might not have had the chance to without your thoughtful and careful planning.

Our biggest advise to any school who is thinking about taking this trip and is sitting on the fence, is to just do it! To trust that it would be a fantastic experience for their students. Purely because of the way we were treated, the organisation of the trip and how safe we felt running a school trip in another country because of the support of your team. My advise would be don’t worry, just go with it.
Shiplake College Disneyland Paris Netball Festival, 2024

A step-by-step guide to planning a school trip

To guide you through the process, here are seven steps to help you plan a successful trip:

  • Identify your educational objectives

Firstly, align your trip with the curriculum of your students. Consider what part of their learning can be significantly enhanced with an experience outside of their usual classroom and create a goal to form your plans around.

Your goal should be appropriate for the age, learning levels, and key subject-focuses for your students. For primary school students, a day trip to York can increase engagement with history and geography topics. Help secondary school students develop their modern foreign language skills on visits to France, Germany, and Spain. Give sixth form and college students the tools to increase their independence while gaining knowledge for their A-Levels on a science school trip in Iceland.

Share your objective with your SLT, students, and their parents to make the benefits of the trip clear. We’d also love to hear your objectives to ensure we propose plans and activities that will create unforgettable experiences for your students.

  • Determine the budget

Think carefully about your budget and what is realistically affordable for parents. Work with your SLT or EVC to determine funding the school can contribute.

Once you have a good idea of your budget, set aside part of this as a contingency to allow for a little bit of wiggle room. Start planning your trip as soon as possible — you’ll get the best prices the earlier you start planning your trip. Use our payment planner template to stay on top of expenditure and keep track of payments from students and parents.

  • Develop a detailed itinerary 

Whether your trip is one day or involves staying overnight, put together a detailed itinerary for a clear picture of your activity and travel schedule to ensure everything runs smoothly. Use this itinerary to plan key points throughout your day separate to the educational factors, such as arrival times, toilet breaks, and meals. Of course, it helps to allow for some flexibility — while a detailed itinerary is extremely helpful, it can be equally helpful to be ready to move things around if key excursions are already booked up at your planned times.

Our educational travel experts understand how creating a schedule can be daunting, and are well-versed in planning school and school trips. If you choose to book with NGT, we’ll plan and organise an itinerary that meets your needs.

  • Conduct a risk assessment

One of the less exciting but essential parts of planning a school trip is carrying out risk assessments. Every trip is different, so it’s important to consider and calculate risks each time you’re planning an excursion.

Use the resources available to you to ensure all your bases are covered. Reach out to your colleagues who have conducted risk assessments to hear their experiences and ask them to sense-check your plan. Do your own research and find the latest advice from leading school travel bodies School Travel Forum and OEAP National Guidance.

As part of our safety management system, we are committed to ensuring you and students are safe in every aspect of our trips and tours. We’re available to answer any questions you may have about safety to help you put together a thorough risk assessment.

  • Arrange transport and accommodation

Once you’ve decided on a destination and activities, it’s time to find a way to travel there and somewhere to stay if it's overnight. Take the time to do research on different travel operators, considering the costs, travel time, and the service of the operator themselves. 

When it comes to finding places to stay, look for accommodation providers that are experienced with hosting school groups and have facilities appropriate for your students' ages and specific needs.

  • Speak to parents

It’s natural for parents to have concerns about their children on school trips, especially if the child is young, if it’s their first trip, or if it involves any overnight stays. Give parents peace of mind with plenty of advance notice and clear communication. 

Your first step is to distribute a school trip letter to parents to outline the costs, benefits, logistics and the provider you have chosen. These key elements will allow parents to make an informed decision about the trip. It may also be helpful to include a way to contact you for worried parents to ask questions.

  • Gather necessary permissions and paperwork

Before you can take students anywhere, you need written permission from parents to do so. Send the permission forms out as early as possible, as well as a few follow-up reminders just in case any forms get lost at the bottom of a student's bag. 

Just as you would when travelling for leisure, obtain travel insurance for your school trip. This insurance will protect you and students in the event of issues such as lost luggage, delays, and medical emergencies. If travelling abroad, you may need to obtain additional insurance. If booking with a tour operator, make sure the company you choose does offer insurance and check the details of their cover.

When you book with Next Generation Travel, you’re automatically covered by our group insurance so be sure to read our insurance documents carefully to know what you’re covered for.

I just wanted to send the biggest thank you for all that you have done to arrange our visit to the Bay of Naples. The trip has been absolutely incredible! We have loved every single bit of it, everything went extremely smoothly it was all so well organised. We will be looking to book again and would like to do it all again through WST. We really cannot thank you enough and all the team who have worked on the tour for us, our students and staff will remember it forever!
Sir Thomas Boteler Church of England High School Bay of Naples 2024

How can a school trip tour operator help?

You don’t need to tackle the entire planning process alone! Work with a school tour operator who can help take care of your school trip requirements, logistics and planning. 

Choosing to travel with a tour operator can help students to build their knowledge and cultural appreciation for new and unknown places, whilst creating an exciting and memorable experience.

When selecting your tour operator, you should be on the lookout for someone who is a member of the School Travel Forum (STF) and holds the LOTC Quality Badge in order to gain peace of mind when it comes to safety standards. 

Choose someone who is honest with you and that has your learning objectives at heart. You should also select a tour operator who has the important accreditations – ABTA and ATOL (if you are flying) so you can be sure they are financially protected.

Consider an operator with great local knowledge, a thorough safety management system, and a personal tour consultant on hand throughout your trip. They should be able to take care of all loose ends and create a sense of fun, so that teachers can sit back and enjoy the trip just as much as their pupils.

When it comes to requesting prices, make sure you ask for a full written quote from various tour operators to ensure that you are getting the best price possible. 

Top tips to remember when planning a school trip

There are tons of tips for organising school trips your fellow teachers will be happy to share with you to assist with your planning. Here are some of our top tips to consider:

Prioritise educational value

A successful school or college trip is one where students come away with new knowledge or an inspiration to learn more about their subject. Trips should be enjoyable, the number one priority is ensuring the trip offers value to their educational development.

Use your budget wisely

Be considerate of where to spend your budget to reduce strain on the school, as well as parents who may be struggling financially. Stay within your means to ensure your students can all benefit from an exciting, educational trip regardless of their finances at home. School and college trips can still be impactful on smaller budgets — speak to a member of our team to discuss your goals and we can help you find a budget-appropriate option that provides value to your students. If you’re speaking with a tour operator, establish your budget with them early on and they will build an itinerary to suit it.

Make it fun

School trips shouldn’t feel like the classroom has simply been transported to a different location. Rules and structure are still important to keep everyone safe, but the experience should allow students to have fun while learning in new and exciting ways. Our tours are run by educational travel experts who are skilled at engaging students in any subject to create meaningful learning experiences, so you can take a step back from teaching and enjoy the visit alongside your students.

Ask students for their input

Get students involved by asking what they are excited about before the trip and what they hope to get from it. Encourage them to research the locations to help them connect with it in person. When you’re there, suggest students keep a diary or make notes about things they liked or that have had an impact on them. These notes will be a handy referral point post-trip to understand what has stuck in their mind.

Be flexible

Don’t get too attached to your plans early on, as there are lots of factors that can change before booking. Be flexible on your preferred dates, as this can help you get the best price. Select dates that avoid clashes with any other school or college activities to maximise the chances of attendance. It’s unlikely you’ll find dates that work for everyone, but you could suggest a few options and go with the one that works for the majority.


Ready to begin planning your school trip?

Once you have confirmed the details of everyone attending, received your deposits from parents, and got final approval from your EVC or SLT, it’s time for the fun bit. You can officially book your trip! As for the finer details, your tour operator should be able to help with this — leaving you to think about creating lasting memories for both you and your students. Get in touch with one of our specialists today to get started with your trip planning.

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