Student Group Travel: Little Things and Life Skills

Over the last six months Ive had the opportunity to meet with many of the students and directors who travel with Kaleidoscope. While I tend to ask them all the same questions about their trips and the experiences those trips provide, I am always amazed at the rich variety of answers I receive. One thing I have come to realize is that, while it can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for students to visit major theme parks, perform at a national monument, or view their very first Broadway show, sometimes there are other thingsmuch smaller thingsthat become lasting memories from a student group trip.

Percussion students from Orlando's Freedom High School check out some snow in Central Park

Percussion students from Orlando’s Freedom High School check out some snow in Central Park

There are the moments that we take for granted in our daily lives that can be surprisingly unforgettable experiences for someone else like Florida kids getting their first touch and taste of snow, or Midwestern kids discovering what its like to dip their toes in the ocean, or kids from anywhere getting out of their state for the first time in their lives. At an age when social interaction is of utmost importance, the opportunities provided by student group travel to create memories and harvest new experiences alongside friends is invaluable.

Then there are the parts of the travel process we dont always think about that may be brand new experiences for students. They might be taking their first plane ride, or traveling without mom and dad. Such milestones will be a part of that student forever and help shape the adult they ultimately become.

A student trip may provide middle or high school students with their first ride on an airplane.

A student group trip may provide middle or high school students with their first ride on an airplane.

Henry County Middle School students dine at Planet Hollywood.

Henry County Middle School students dine at Planet Hollywood.

Student travel is full of mundane opportunities that can make a trip a valuable life and learning experience. Without mom or dad along to pay for all their meals or okay their souvenir purchases, students find themselves in the position to manage and budget their own money, perhaps for the first time. There may be occasion for students to have their first experience with tipping — from learning how to calculate a suitable amount to discerning where and when a tip is appropriate. While traveling with a band, dance, or sports group, students must manage and look after their own equipment, wardrobe, or instruments, all while adapting to a new environment and possibly even unforeseen challenges that are a part of taking the show on the road.

This performance by students from Southern Dance Theatre required many elaborate costume changes.

This performance by students from Southern Dance Theatre required many elaborate costume changes.

New weather experiences can also create opportunities for students to grow and adapt. The Florida kids meeting their first flakes of snow have to understand how to plan their wardrobes for sub-freezing temperatures. On the flip side, kids heading to a warmer climate need to be mindful of sunscreen application and drink plenty of water.

Then there are the challenges of negotiating within a group. With only so many hours in a day, but plenty of attractions to see and a strict schedule to keep, compromise becomes an important lesson put into practice. If five kids are in a group at a theme park and all five have different priorities, the students must work together to see that they all get the most out of their day. Or, when four teenage girls are sharing a hotel room and theres a 7AM departure time, the ability to effectively manage and moderate bathroom time becomes the most valuable of skills.

When you think about all of the experiences and memories a student trip can provide, some of these may not come to mind as quickly as the world famous museum or performer they saw, or the excitement of an attraction they visited. These are little thingsmere details within a fun-packed trip itinerarybut they are not insignificant, and they stay with a person. Most importantly, organized student group travel gives students the opportunity to exercise these skills, and experience these firsts, on their own, but still within the safety of a trusted school or extracurricular group.