Chaperoning field trips is a fun way to see your kids as the rest of the world sees them versus the way they behave at home. But it’s also a huge responsibility. From managing cell phones to managing other chaperones, these 10 tips from a former teacher and youth group leader will help make your field trip go more smoothly.
As a former teacher and a youth group leader, I’ve led my fair share of field trips. Some have been short school field trips and others have been longer overnight trips. No matter how long the trip is, lots of work goes into planning and keeping kids safe. After planning and chaperoning lots of field trips, I’ve come up with a few survival tips for your next trip whether it be for a school band trip, a traveling sports team, or traveling with school group. Check out my favorite tips to make your school field trip enjoyable even for the chaperones.
10 Survival Tips for Chaperoning Field Trips
1. Have all paperwork signed and on hand
Most school districts, sports teams, and organizations have a standard waiver/ liability form that parents need to sign. If your organization doesn’t have one, make sure to ask your program director to get in touch with an attorney who can make sure you have a proper liability form that will hold up in your state.
Once you have waivers signed, make a copy of them. Keep one copy at home and take one copy with you. You might need this information in case of an emergency. It’s always best to be prepared for the worst.
2. Get contact info for parents
Get phone numbers for all of the parents. Make sure to get parent names and match them to the correct kid, since many kids have different last names than their guardians.
Create a document with all the parent contact information. Google spreadsheets works really well for this because you can easily share it with your other chaperones.
3. Be smart about transportation
Strongly consider taking a charter bus rather than a school bus or having individual chaperones drive kids in their own cars. There are several reasons for this. First, it takes liability off of you for driving. Second, it ends up being surprisingly affordable when you take into consideration most schools have to pay for school bus transportation. Depending on how far you go, it’s less than paying for gas for carpooling.
Lastly, a private bus rental is much more comfortable for everyone. Chaperones can spend time monitoring kids instead of focusing on the road. And tour buses have bathrooms! No stopping every single time a kid has to go to the bathroom!
If driving by bus, make sure to disperse chaperones throughout the bus. Don’t have them all up front. This doesn’t mean that chaperones have to sit next to kids. It’s OK to have two chaperones sit together so they can have adult talk. Bottom line is that there should be no kids at the “back of the bus” getting into trouble!
If you are carpooling, make sure all drivers are aware of the liability that comes with transporting kids. You may need a separate waiver or permission slip to drive kids. You should also have drivers contact their insurance company to make sure they are covered to drive other people’s kids.
4. Manage chaperones well
Keep your chaperones informed during all aspects of the trip. I’ve found that group text works really well because you can discuss an issue that a kid might be having without having to talk about it out loud in front of the other kids.
It’s OK to divide responsibilities with other chaperones. Part of being a leader is to delegate responsibilities. Feel free to ask chaperones to take on a roll, such as counting kids each time they arrive to a new location. Or have one chaperone in charge of updating parents via text or email.
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5. Set clear expectations from the very beginning
Kids naturally thrive on routine and structure. Make sure to go over all rules and expectations before leaving on your trip. Prepare the kids so they know what they will experience and how you expect them to act. For example, if you are going on a trip to an art museum, your expectations for behavior will be different than if you are going on a sports-related trip.
TravelingMom Tip: Set meeting times for 15 minutes before you actually need to meet because someone will be late.
6. Think about safety
Take a group photo as soon as you arrive at your destination each day so you know what each kid is wearing. This way if you lose a kid, you will have a picture to show authorities. Plus the parents love seeing pictures like this one we took on an overnight trip to Disney World.
7. Be a prepared guardian
Basically, you will be acting as these kids’ mom or dad during the field trip. A short field trip is easier, but if you are going on a long one, you need to be extra prepared.
Here’s what I always have on hand just in case: extra snacks, extra water, sunscreen, and a small first aid kit. You might want to carry a backpack for all these extra things!
I like to keep kids in groups and have one chaperone in charge of each group. This way each chaperone can carry some of these items too.
8. Set cell phone expectations
Make sure you set cell phone expectations from the very beginning. Everyone has a different opinion on how to manage cell phones on field trips. Here is what has worked well for me:
I take away cell phones for the commute. This allows kids to get to know one another better and have good conversations with each other.
I give cell phones back for the actual trip because I want them to check in with me often. One way to get kids to check in with you is to give them a photo scavenger hunt and have them send you selfies with everyone in the group. This way they are constantly checking in with you.
I share my cell phone number with all the kids. If you don’t want to share your personal number, set up a Google Voice number free of charge.
It’s a good idea to bring enough extra chargers or cell phone bricks for each group to have one.
9. Prepare yourself (and parents) for drama
Kids of all ages have drama. It’s a fact of life.
If you are allowing cell phones, make sure to prepare the parents for drama. At some point, a kid will feel left out and will text her mom. This means you will get a text, phone call or email from that parent. Most likely the kid will have already forgotten about the drama, but the parents won’t! Just remember that they are away from their kid and they feel nervous. Be ready to calm down those nervous parents!
10. Do extra preparations for overnight field trips
Overnight trips require even more work. My favorite tip is to get extra hotel keys for each room so you are prepared when they lock themselves out of their rooms. Find even more overnight field trip tips here.
Follow these tips for chaperoning a field trip and you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself more! A well-prepared chaperone is a happy chaperone. On that note, make sure to enjoy yourself in front of the kids. They can sense when you aren’t having fun, and they are more likely to enjoy themselves if you are doing the same.