Taking Students Abroad: Preparing your itinerary

It’s highly likely that you won’t know the true meaning of balance until you try to prepare an itinerary for a school trip abroad.

You’ll have to create a schedule that has the correct amount of educational activities, recreational things to do and down time.

It’s important to be aware of the best ratio of activities to free time when constructing your itinerary, and ensuring that this is adhered to throughout the itinerary. Simple, huh? Don’t worry – this blog post is here to help you plan!

The Crucial Things to Consider Are:

How many days will the trip be

The learning outcomes and the attractions which benefit them the most

Any secondary attractions that could be beneficial

How long will you allocate for getting ready in the morning and meals

Free time for students during the day

‘Down time’ in the evening

Any recreational activities that would be a fun addition to the trip

How many days?

You might have a definitive answer already from the school board regarding how many days you can take students away for. The optimum length of time varies depending on the destination and trip purpose – it can be anywhere between two days to a week or longer.

If your time is flexible, it’s a good idea to jot down the places you want to visit and how long you would ideally spend at each. Then consider whether this is doable (considering budgets and student/ teacher energy levels!) and work out the number of days from that.

Drafting your schedule

Firstly, think about the inevitable times when students will be occupied – they will need to sleep and eat, no matter how exciting the trip is!

Set a time for students to wake up each day and a ‘lights off’ time. It’s generally best to make sure students are free for an hour or two before bed so they can wind down, read, talk to parents or socialize.

Next, consider how long meals will take and make sure you have the allotted time for this in each daily schedule.

Once you have the shell of the schedule, allot time for the main attractions.

Main Attractions

These are attractions that directly benefit the learning outcomes. If you’re visiting Bangkok to learn about Buddhist culture, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a must-visit. Make a list of these attractions first and consider how much time you want to spend at each one.
Add these to your itinerary first – if your timeframe allows, it’s a good idea to only do one main attraction per day. Doing this will allow each main attraction to be the main focus of the day and help students remember what they’ve learnt.

Secondary attractions

There will probably be numerous other secondary attractions at your destination which could give the students contextual information about what they are studying. Using the Bangkok example, you might want to include a trip to the National Museum of Thailand to learn more about Thai culture and history.

Again, write down the amount of time you want to spend at each attraction and maybe give it a 1-5 ranking in terms of priority.

Start working your top priority secondary attractions into the itinerary. Whether or not you can fit all of them in depends on the amount of time and number of main attractions you have. It’s a good idea to leave your lower priority attractions out of the itinerary for now – you can always add them on at the end if there’s still room!

Free time for the students

How much free time will you allow the students at different attractions? As the main priority is educational, this will be minimal. But there are some attractions which are best for the student to explore alone – you might want to allow them some free time to stroll around Khao San Road, for example.

Recreational activities

These might not be on every overseas school trip itinerary, but your students will definitely appreciate a treat after all the hard work, so a recreational activity or two might be a great idea. If you’re visiting Bangkok for example, cooling off in one of the city’s best waterparks might be a great addition to your school trip!

Once you have your trip essentials drawn into your plan, pencil in any free time and down time that you need to include, and maybe see if you have space for a recreational activity too.

Timetable Clashes

On each day, it’s a good idea to have a range of big and small attractions; and it’s best not to have two similar attractions on the same day.

Take care to not combine tiresome activities – make sure to only include one activity a day that includes a considerable amount of walking and split up attractions that require intense brainpower from the students!
You might need to redraft your itinerary a few times, to ensure that there are no clashes and be wary of packing too much in.

Also, do remember that things can happen beyond your control that may affect your itinerary. You have little control over traffic or people getting sick; but it might mean that you can’t do absolutely everything in your schedule. Prioritize the main attractions – this might mean scheduling them for the first few days so you can always reorganize the itinerary.

Once your itinerary is drawn up, re-visit your learning outcomes. Do you think they will be met during this school trip? If the answer is yes, you’re likely onto a winner!


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