School Trip Ideas Abroad: The Ultimate Planning Guide


Organising a school trip abroad can be exciting, but also rather stressful. The whole process begins months in advance and there are lots of things to consider and think about. You might have lots of students to prepare, itineraries to plan, and of course you need to consider packing for the school trip—particularly if it’s somewhere exotic like a biology trip in The Galapagos. With this in mind, if you don’t know where to start with arranging and planning a school trip overseas, we’ve got you covered with this ultimate guide to planning a school trip abroad.

Planning a school trip should be full of excitement and the feeling of new adventures as well as educational, right? Unfortunately, planning a school trip can also feel overwhelming and hectic—and just extra work on top of your busy schedule. How do you tackle it?

Kayaking

Elements of a School Trip Planning Guide

We’ve done some of the work for you and compiled this School Trip Planning Guide. Just remember that you may want to consider altering some of the items, depending on the specifics—for example if it is a subject-specific educational trip or you’re going somewhere unique.

1.Gauging Interest In The School Trip (S.M.T)

The first stage of planning a successful school trip is considered the ‘Early Planning Stages.’ This breaks down into three key areas: Students, Management and Timing.

Students

The first thing to consider is which students are you aiming the trip at? This affects important key elements of your school trip. For example, if you’re aiming the trip at just a niche subject, are you going to achieve desired group numbers and, in turn, how is this going to affect budgets? Do you need to consider combining subject areas to make your educational trip a reality? Try and appeal to as many students as possible, so you can excite students for their trip!

Equally important is the age and stage of the students. Is this going to impact on timing elements (more on this below). Try and plan your school trip at a time that is practical for your students. Is there an upcoming exam season? Or perhaps a popular holiday period? These are all vital elements that should be at the forefront of your planning.

Management

OK, you’ve decided that you and your students are ready for the trip to go ahead. Next step, what are senior management going to think? How do you discuss your school trip ideas with senior management?

There are two parts to this point and I can’t stress part 1 enough. The first part is simple: discuss your idea informally with colleagues and Senior Management before formally scheduling a meeting. The last thing you want to do is spend time researching the specifics of your trip and its educational aims, before knowing if this idea is something the school is receptive to.

The second part of this point is to formally schedule a meeting with colleagues and senior management, but this comes a little bit later in the planning timeline.

Timing

You may have an ideal time that you would like to run your school trip, however have you considered any barriers that might get in your way. Try considering the following questions in this order:

  1. When would you like to run the trip?
  2. When will you realistically be able to run the trip?
  3. How far away are you from the departure date?
  4. How much time does that leave you to prepare?

Most school groups plan 12 to 24 months as there is quite a procedure for launching your trip and collating all the various paperwork. However, we’re able to accommodate a wide range of demands for school group expeditions so have often worked with shorter timeframes! If you’re quite close to your ideal departure date, it might be worth giving us a call to see if it is a realistic timeframe.

2. What Are The Aims Of The School Trip? (D.A.T.E)

If stage one has been successful, and you’ve had green lights from all of senior management – then congratulations! You’re on your way to your exciting school trip abroad. There are just a few decisions to be made about the aims of your group trip and then you’re nearly ready to launch!

Destinations

Hiking mountains

Where do you want to go? This is not always such a simple question as it sounds!

Perhaps you’re looking for a science school trip where students can experience a wide variety of biodiversity, in which case The Galapagos or Costa Rica would be ideal school trip destinations. Alternatively you might be looking for more of a physical challenge where students will need to work together to achieve a common goal in which case Himalayan trekking in Nepal or volunteer work in Tanzania would make excellent school trip locations. But perhaps there are other restrictions that come into play, such as the length of the flight, or the temperature of the destination country. These important questions can help streamline your planning phenomenally.

This can be difficult decision, but our expert destination knowledge means we are able to advise you on which location will suit your school expedition best. Our Expedition Leaders are situated throughout the world and this permanent base in many countries means we have local knowledge and can offer advanced educational program suggestions for your subject-specific school trips, your trip aims and budget.

Activities

The final three sections of this part of the planning process really merge into one, and you’ll see quickly that they have a lot of crossover. But now that you’ve given some thought to the destination of the trip, the exciting part of the planning can really kick off. What do you want to do on the trip?

If you’ve decided that you are launching a school trip in Africa, perhaps you love the idea of fitting in a safari in the Serengeti? Or perhaps you have decided to take your school group to Europe, in which case a West End theatre show in London is a must!

But of course, we’re here to tailor your trip and ensure your days are filled with activities that will go hand-in-hand with the theme and learning outcomes of your subject-specific expedition! Which leads to our last two points for this section…

Theme

What is the subject or theme of your trip? Biology, Geography, History—or perhaps a blend of multiple themes? Let us know and our expert team, combined with their comprehensive knowledge of the countries in which they are based, will help you create the perfect educational expedition for your group.

Education

The final part of setting aims for your trip involves asking yourself ‘What are the learning outcomes you want to achieve?’

Ultimately, it is only with this simple question that the success of your trip can be evaluated at the end!

Whale watching

3.Selecting A Travel Company For Your School Trip (P.L.A.N)

The third and final part of our Ultimate Guide to Planning a Successful Trip is without a doubt the most important element. At this stage, you’ve made all the internal decisions about your school group including where to go and what the aims are—now you just need to choose a partner travel company that will make your trip a success.

Below are the four key decision-making factors for choosing a travel company for your school expedition, but perhaps the most important standalone reason to emphasise choosing the right company is Safety and Support. (We’ve written a whole page about Safety and Support).

Preparation

When it comes to choosing a travel company, how much support will they give you in the build up and preparations of your trip? Does your travel company provide a school trips abroad checklist so you can monitor your progress and make sure your preparations are on track?

At Gapforce, your Gapforce Advisor will attend a launch evening, assist with forms, provide an outline portal for kit lists and medical forms, plus follow-up with regular meetings and pre-departure briefings leading up to your trip!

Leaders

Your students will be spending each and every day of their school trip with the travel company’s leaders on the ground, so what do you know about them?

  • Who looks after your group and how are they selected?
  • Where have they trained to become expedition leaders?
  • Are they trained in hard skills such as emergency rescue and incident management?
  • Are they trained in soft skills and do they get on well with people?
  • How are they brief and prepared for the expedition?

Gapforce is renowned for the select team of enthusiastic leaders who run our worldwide expeditions. Our expedition leaders are put through our intense four-month expedition leadership training course and are rigorously trained from the ground-up (literally!) in safety, group education, jungle survival and much more. This truly makes them the best outdoor experts for our group expeditions.

Accomplishment

As with any product or service, when choosing a company to run your school trip, don’t hesitate to ask them who they have worked with before and if they can provide a reference. (If you haven’t already, take a look at our case studies and testimonials from schools and colleges that have gone on group expeditions with Gapforce).

Needs & Wants

After you have worked your way through all of the planning points above, you’re well on your way to running a highly successful school trip in the country of your choice. Along the way, you will have encountered ideas for your trip that you feel will make it even more of a success. We encourage you to share these ideas with your travel company and be sure to ask yourself: “Does this company provide everything we are looking for?”

If there are any areas whatsoever that aren’t covered by the travel company you are considering selecting, don’t settle for anything less than your expectations! You and your students deserve the very best school trip and we wish you the very best in planning it!


School Trip Destination Ideas

So there you have it! Your complete guide to planning a school trip. For further advice on how to make your vision a reality please contact one of the Gapforce team on 020 7384 3028, or browse our website for some inspirational school trip destination ideas.

Beautiful landscape