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How to plan a school trip to the USA

The USA is an ideal destination for a school trip offering experiences to suit everyone. Here's how you can successfully plan a school trip to the USA.

1. Define your learning objectives for the trip  

The USA is an ideal destination for a school trip offering experiences to suit everyone, whether that be exposing your art students to the splendours on display at MoMA and the Guggenheim in New York or visiting Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area with your economics pupils. When planning a school trip to the USA, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the destinations on offer. The best place to start is by first defining the goals of your school trip.  

Planning your trip around a set of learning goals means your students will clearly understand what you are trying to teach them, and what you expect them to get out of the trip before you even leave the airport tarmac.  If you're not sure how to start outlining your learning goals, ask yourself the question “What is it my students should be able to do after the trip that they cannot do now?”  

2. Choose one coast and stick to it  

Once you have defined your goals for the trip, the next thing to consider are the destinations and experiences on offer in the USA that align with your goals. The USA is the world's third largest country by land area, and it's essential during the planning phase to consider travel time between destinations. Flight time from the East Coast to the West Coast in the USA takes around five hours, and that’s not including time in transit and airport transfers. The easiest way to ensure you get the most out of your time the USA is by localising your school trip. We recommend choosing one coast to visit and stick to it.

This might sound limiting, but don't be fooled. With a plethora of experiences on offer on both sides of the country, you won't be short of things to do!

The West Coast offers guaranteed good weather and the opportunity to explore bohemian cities offering some of the best modern art and underground music scenes in the world. You can also include a visit to the notorious federal prison, Alcatraz, the home of technology start-ups, Silicon Valley or head to a Lakers game. The East Coast of the USA is the West Coast's more traditional cousin. Book your school trip around the seasons to enjoy a New York autumn or a beach summer in Orlando, Florida.

The USA offers experiences to suit all subjects, with hot national parks, the iconic Museum of Modern Art and Broadway in New York, and comprehensive learning workshops on offer at NASA and Universal Studios in Florida.  If you're stuck for ideas on what to do in the USA, check out our destinations page for inspiration.  

3. But, fit in 'The Big Apple', if you can  

This is self-explanatory!

4. Consider offering a combined trip

When planning a school trip to the USA, one thing to consider is partnering up with another teacher or department to run a combined trip.  A combined trip is an excellent option if you want to offer the opportunity to more students and avoid competition with other school trips that are potentially being considered.  

As a bonus, you'll have an extra pair of hands to help during the planning stage and while away on your school trip.  

5. Start planning early

Planning and executing a school trip to the USA is a lengthy process. You’ll need to consider what the learning goals are, what experiences you want to offer your students, whether you can combine the trip with another subject or department, and have your trip approved by your school. You'll also have to address health and safety concerns, get buy-in from students and parents, and then coordinate the flights, accommodation and itinerary for your trip.

While school group travel companies like EA School Tours can help with most of these activities, if you're wanting to run a school trip, you need to start planning well in advance. Having a plan and pre-trip checklist will help you stay on top of planning your trip and avoid any last-minute surprises.    

6. Consider going on a preview trip

As mentioned above, planning a school trip to the USA is a lengthy process, and unlike a personal holiday, it requires meticulous planning, research and execution. There's almost no margin for error, and you can forget about 'winging it'.  

If you’re serious about planning a school trip to the USA a pivotal activity to include in the research and planning phase is a teacher preview trip. A preview trip will give you the opportunity to check out the experiences you have planned to ensure they're appropriate for your school trip. A preview trip will also give you the chance to speak with workshop facilitators about your specific learning goals, undertake any health and safety assessments required by your school, and ensure any potential kinks that may arise are ironed out.  

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