Being in charge of booking a school group trip to Orlando can be complicated. The good news is that we’ve brought you a simple checklist to follow to ensure you’ve got all your ducks lined up in a row. While this list won’t cover every aspect of the planning, booking, or touring process, it will cover the major things you won’t want to forget.
A month before your trip
- Permission slips and waivers. Your school will likely have a number of permission slips and waivers that must be signed by the legal guardians and carried with you on the trip. Make these due well before the trip so you don’t end up refusing someone entry to the charter bus or plane because they don’t have the proper documents.
- Payments. Depending on how you book your trip, you’ll have various payment due dates before you actually get to Orlando. For example, if you’re booking vacation homes you can pay as little as $50 down with the remaining balance due 15 days before your trip. Once again, make the final payment date well before it’s actually due to avoid a last minute panic as families rush to get their checks to you.
- Create a rooming schedule. You’ll have kid bunking with other kids, and chaperones thrown into the mix. Create a detailed list of who will be rooming with who and make sure the kids know before the trip. This allows you to adjust well before the trip if there are any conflicts.
- Buy your theme park tickets. You want to avoid lines as much as possible, so get your theme park tickets well in advance. This will allow you to skip the lines on the day you visit the parks – plus you’ll get a sizable discount.
- Figure the food out. Will you be bringing your own food from your vacation rental, or eating in the parks? Do you plan to grab a quick bite or sit down for a leisurely meal? There are plenty of nice restaurants in and around the parks, but most do require reservations. Your food plan can be as general or specific as you’d like, but do make sure you have your reservations in order if a sit-down meal is in your plan.
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The week of your trip
- Make a packing list and hand it out to all students. Some students will have been on plenty of trips before and know exactly what to pack, while others will be traveling for the first time. Don’t assume they know what to bring. Create a detailed packing list that includes swimming suits, sunscreen, medications, etc.
- Don’t assume students will follow your packing list. While you do want to keep the, “I forgot it!” to a minimum, you should expect that some students won’t follow your list. Bring extra sunscreen, band-aids, and other minor first aid supplements.
- Create a detailed itinerary and give it to both students and their parents. Likewise, you shouldn’t assume that students and parents communicate as well as you’d like. Make sure your itinerary includes information on flight or bus times, arrival and departure dates, and where you’ll be spending each day. Give a copy to the students and either mail or email one to every parent.
- Make a list of the details you need. The itinerary you give to the parents may be detailed but it shouldn’t include all the information you’ll need. You’ll have dozens of reservation numbers, phone numbers, and addresses to keep track of. Get them all on one document and print it out. You should also keep a copy online with a quick link to grab off your phone.
- Call to confirm. The sooner you can ensure everything is up to speed, the more relaxed you’ll feel. Call to confirm your accommodations, reservations, flight or bus information, and anything else you’ve reserved.
During your trip
- Keep the chaperones informed. Make sure every chaperone knows exactly which kids they’re in charge of and the specific plan for each day. Print this information and hand it out so you don’t have to deal with questions all day long.
- Remember – you’re here to have fun! The process can be so overwhelming that you forget it’s supposed to be fun! You’ll have to fight the urge to pack as much into every day as possible and instead focus on what the students want. Do they want to ride a ride 6 times in a row? Let them – just be sure they know what they’ll have to skip as a result.
- Take group pictures. Your students will surely have their own smartphones and cameras, but don’t let their pictures with their best friends take the place of plenty of group pictures. You can ask Disney Cast Members to take photos for you in front of all the main attractions. You may hear some grumbles as everyone lines up, but they’ll cherish these pictures for years to come.
- Keep the parents informed. Many parents will worry about their kids so many miles away from them, so send quick email updates to let them know how the trip is going. Attach a few pictures so they can see for themselves what everyone is doing great and that all are having a magical time.
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Upon your departure
- Double and triple check your rooms. The students will tell you they’ve already checked their rooms and left nothing behind. Check again anyway. In fact, have another chaperone go in after you and check a third time. You never know what could be hiding in the rumpled blankets.
- Do you owe any tips? Depending on where you’re staying, you may owe a tip or two to housekeeping. The right tip will vary based on your group, how long you were there, and how often they cleaned. You can also tip daily if you have daily cleaning service.
- Get all the documents together before you leave for the airport or bus terminal. If you’re flying back, go through and check every student to ensure they have their ID out and ready for Homeland Security. The last thing you want is to have a student turned away at the airport because they left their wallet in the hotel room.
There’s a lot to think about as you plan a school group trip, but this check list is a great place to start to ensure everyone has a fantastic time – and to keep your worrying down to a minimum.