When my oldest child left for his first week of sleep-away camp, I worried. I worried that he wouldn’t eat well, that he would get a sunburn or be sick, or that he wouldn’t change his underwear (turns out that I had good reason to worry about that!) As parents, we worry incessantly when our children are out of our protective reach. As you plan your group travel, it’s a strong possibility that you will be traveling with students- many of whom will be on their own for the first time ever!
Safety When Traveling with Students
It’s a bit daunting to realize you are now responsible for the health and well-being of a group of poor decision-makers- I mean, students- once you leave the relative safety of home or school. In an age of cell phones and instant communication, parents often know when something goes wrong before you might! A solid safety plan and open communication are the keys to a successful student trip. We can’t guarantee that nothing bad will happen as you travel… after all, Mother Nature doesn’t always care that we have plans, buses occasionally break down, students get sick, and so on. The good news is that excellent safety resources are available to help inform you as you create a safety plan for student travel.
The Student Youth Travel Association is a superb place to start. This organization is committed to providing student and youth travelers with “safe, rich and rewarding travel experiences.” A Safety Resource Guide and Safety Tips Brochure are available to download at no charge and offer some thoughtful suggestions for student group travel planners.
As you are preparing your safety plan, you may want to consider including the following suggestions…
Think about using a communication app like Remind to reach students without using personal numbers
As You Travel
Cover any emergency evacuation procedures if traveling by motorcoach or airplane
Encourage a teacher or chaperone to remain close to TSA in the event that a student requires personal screening during air travel
At the Hotel
Distribute room keys to students in a private area away from the general public
Decide where chaperones should be stationed throughout the property as students move about
Clearly identify the areas of the property where students are permitted as well as expectations of behavior
Provide clear instructions for security guards or nighttime chaperones (i.e. don’t ask students to open doors, etc.)
Determine nightly room check procedures and communicate clearly with chaperones
Provide emergency evacuation procedures to the group and establish a safe meeting place 300 feet from the building
Emphasize the importance of communicating any illness, dizziness or bleeding to a chaperone (look out for your roommates!)
At the Venue
Register your group at first aid upon arrival at amusement parks or other large venues
Be sure to have a weather emergency plan available for outdoor attractions
Steer clear of large exiting crowds (i.e.- stay seated until the bulk of a crowd clears out and exit the venue together)
Ensure that students and chaperones know meeting locations and times
To reiterate, these are SUGGESTIONS for establishing a student safety protocol. It would be wise to check with your district for any additional policies that may already exist.
Creating a clear safety plan and method of communication will go a long way in helping to alleviate that all-encompassing anxiety associated with student travel. Parents will breathe easier knowing there’s a strategy for dealing with the unknown and students will clearly understand the safety procedures. The only thing to left to worry about is that smelly laundry when they return!