When to go?
As you consider taking your students on an educational trip, one of the first questions you must answer for yourself and your school is whether or not this trip will be part of the classroom curriculum. For example, we have many schools that bring almost their entire class to the Eastern US, and the history teacher has created many lesson plans revolving around the sites they’ll see and the trip is a direct component and perhaps even requirement in the curriculum. As such, these “academic” trips have the flexibility to travel during the school year while classes are still going on. On the other hand, we have trips organized by a teacher or school administrator that are field trips with no curriculum coordination; they are voluntary and maybe only a fraction of the student body signs up and as such they are often confined to travel outside the school calendar, either at spring break or the weeks immediately after school, which can be some of busiest or hottest weeks to travel. Either way, we can help make the trip a rewarding experience, but assuming you have the flexibility to choose your own season to travel, here are some things to consider.
- Spring is the most popular time for school groups to travel. You can expect heavy school crowds from mid-March to mid-June. Early April is particularly crowded with spring-breakers and cherry-blossom gazers. While temperatures are generally mild, weather is particularly unpredictable in the spring and you should expect a few days of rain on your trip. The trees start blooming the end of March, and the heat and humidity set in around late May. In May and June there are often events, public concerts and demonstrations in the cities, none bigger than Memorial Day weekend in DC. Spring can certainly be a wonderful time, but long lines and congestion has urged many experience teachers to look for a different season.
- The best balance of less crowds, scenery and agreeable weather would be the Fall (October – mid November with late October typically being the peak of fall foliage). We love the fall, and think you will too. But there’s a reason less groups can come then. It’s early in the school year and reduces the time teachers have to plan toward the trip; and it’s often hard to work around sports schedules. If you’re able to do it, we highly recommend the fall, as do many of our seasoned teachers.
- Some groups try to beat the crowds by traveling in January and February when day temperatures linger between 30 and 50 degrees in the Eastern US. Weather usually is not a big deterrent and most kids are excited if it does snow, and it’s nice to be able to waltz into many of the buildings without lines or reservations. The biggest drawback is the outdoor scenery: Many of the fountains in the memorials and parks are not turned on until mid-March. The landscape is more grey with leaf-less trees and the daylight shorter (but conversely, some of our June groups are disappointed that they didn’t get to visit the cityscapes lit up at night when it doesn’t get dark till 9:30).
So, weigh your own schedule with the pros and cons, pick your dates, but even then take nothing for granted and leave room to be surprised. Ever changing weather can thrill and frustrate a trip in turns, but often the serendipity of a moment – a rainbow over a memorial, a celebrity or politician siting, or getting mixed in with a random street festival will make you smile and know you just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
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After years of experience in student travel, we’ve created Discovery Expeditions for all types of travelers and destinations.