Spring break is peak season for student trips to Washington DC. Educational Discovery Tours has more groups visiting Washington DC this time of the year compared to all other educational trips and locations! We have more Educators, Students, East Coast Program Directors and Tour Leaders on trips to our nation’s capital this year than any other.
We feel it’s the perfect time for us to share a handful of best practices that we have observed that are sure to enhance your student travel experience to Washington DC.
Top Five Washington DC School Trip Planning Tips:
1. Book your Washington DC school trip with Educational Discovery Tours as far in advance as possible.
East Coast Program Directors recommend that you book your Washington DC school trip at least a year in advance, further out if possible. This will allow for the best hotel, tour, transportation and activity availability. Especially if you are going during the peak Washington DC school group tour season which begins at the end of March, continues through April, May and the beginning of June.
Ideally, if your student trip to Washington DC is outside of the peak school group travel season, you’ll experience many benefits including lower pricing, more choices of accommodations and activities, less venue scheduling conflicts due to peak season large volumes of students, and more transportation options both in DC and for travel to the nation’s capital from your hometown.
Did you know that if you bring your students to Washington DC between December and February that you don’t even need reservations and tickets to attractions such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum?
2. Contact your political representatives for a meeting or group tour during your visit.
A meeting, educational experience or tour in Washington DC with political representatives such as congressmen and women, senators or other state politicians will create memories for the kids that will last a lifetime. It could even ignite political aspirations in some of your students.
Once again, the further in advance you request an in-person meeting for your students, the more likely it is to happen. It is not unusual for Washington DC representatives to schedule their calendars over a year in advance.
Also, some tours such as a White House tour or a Capitol tour must be booked in advance through your hometown political representative. The Educational Discovery Tours East Coast Educational Director can help refer you to the appropriate representative for those venues in Washington DC that can only be reserved in this manner.
3. Wear comfortable and sturdy walking shoes. Heels are not recommended.
Because most of our school groups and trip leaders want to see and experience as much of Washington DC as possible while they are here, most days are filled with activity from morning ‘til night. You will find that much of your group’s touring will involve walking from venue to venue as many roads near the Capitol Building and White House are restricted to authorized vehicles only.
Another recommendation for travelers is to bring a small and light backpack for day trips. Most of the venues you’ll be visiting require security checks of bags upon entry so the smaller the better. The less you have in your bag will mean quicker processing and a faster entrance.
It’s also a great idea to pack a light sweater or jacket for the trip as many of the venues are chilly due to air conditioning, even in the fall, winter and spring. Most of the time this is done to protect and preserve the artifacts which are on exhibit.
4. Take advantage of the “Free”.
Some of the best things in life are “free”. We’ve all heard that before but then been disappointed when we found out that the other frequent saying we hear often, “you get what you pay for” was the case. Good news in Washington DC! We know that “free” means “free”. In fact there are so many incredible free opportunities for students that we can’t mention them all, so here are a few of our favorites; all of the Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall* including the Holocaust Museum, the Museum of the American Indian, the U.S. Botanic Gardens,
the National Museum of American History, the African American History and Culture Museum and the National Museum of American Indian History are all free.
The many Monuments and Memorials at the National Mall are also free. These include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Constitution Gardens.
Events scheduled throughout the year including free military concerts on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Building during the summer that begin in June can be found all over the DC area.
Even the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC is free!
5. Don’t Over Schedule Your Days
“Sometimes less is more” is a favorite and often shared quote of our East Coast Educational Operations Director. We all understand that taking a Washington DC school trip is a huge commitment made by both the educator and the parents. Everyone wants the kids to get the most and the best out of the trip. We do too!
But because there are so many activities and venues to see and do in Washington DC, sometimes educators create a trip that leaves their students feeling overwhelmed. We have found that most students that have traveled on an over scheduled trip come home wishing they had more time to absorb and enjoy what they were seeing and learning about for the first time.
A well scheduled itinerary should build in a bit of downtime here and there. Add some free time for your students to explore the area in small groups on their own or to be by themselves for a little while to relax and reflect. Don’t forget that your Educational Discovery Tours Operations Director who is helping you plan your school trip to Washington DC is an expert. She is happy to assist you in figuring out what venues and activities make the most sense for you and your students based on your needs and classroom’s curriculum.
*During peak travel season some of the Smithsonian Museums require reservations and tickets be organized in advance. There is a $3 charge per reservation.