Tips and Apps for Student Group Safety in the Parks

Ready to Wing It? Deciding if Air Travel is Right for Your Group

As the wife of a former student tour operator, I spent many restless nights worrying. Baseball groups heading to spring training in South Carolina or bands making the long drive to Orlando were often the culprits. While it was cost effective, motor coach travel wasnt always the most convenient option for groups traveling long distances. Fortunately, we found The Air Travel Group and a much simpler way of getting from here to there!

Drama / Theater Trips by Kaleidoscope Adventures

The Air Travel Group books airfare for groups of 10 or more traveling together (think bands, student groups, mission trips, family reunion groups, etc.). They provide custom travel solutions for organizations looking to coordinate flights. The Air Travel Group will get your group a free quote and help with the overwhelming task of booking. Best of all, their top account status means access to private fares and better contract terms for your group.
If you havent considered group air travel before, The Air Travel Group offers some outstanding benefits:

Flexible contract terms
Delayed ticketing
Deposit to hold space
Free name changes
Free add/drop

They truly make booking airfare hassle-free and provide tons of support both pre-departure and during travel when those pesky delays or cancellations pop up.

When planning group travel, air transportation is often not considered because its perceived as cumbersome, expensive and fraught with opportunities to make mistakes. The Air Travel Group virtually eliminates these stressors in a click! The service is completely free and worth checking out. Based on destination, size of group and cost, you may find you prefer to wing it!

Don’t Forget to Include the Class Trip in Your Back-to-School Plans

In teacher speak, the 4th of July signals the end of summer. Any teacher will tell you that once the fireworks are over, the mind jumps back into planning and prep mode for the next school year. The short summer break has refreshed and energized, allowing for a new perspective and excitement toward the coming year. As you prepare for your return to the classroom with renewed enthusiasm, dont forget to include the class trip in your back-to-school plans.

Summer is the perfect time to think about your pending class trip because you have some time! Once the school year is underway, youre swamped with lesson plans, deadlines, activities and more. Those last sweet weeks of summer allow you to focus on the nuts and bolts of the trip. You can choose your destination thoughtfully and take time to research your attractions. Youll have a better chance of those attractions responding to your queries if they arent knee-deep in the student travel season. You can lay out the perfect itinerary, considering flow and timing, proximity of attractions to the hotel and each other, etc. You can search for great educational programs or performance workshops, depending on the needs of your group. You can decide what kind of transportation will work best and secure contracts and rates early. You can think about the best fundraiser for your group or research grant or scholarship opportunities for your students. Finally, you can plan a payment schedule that makes sense for everyone and not scramble at the last minute to pay those deposits.

Kaleidoscope Adventures: Educating Students Through Travel

If you need a helping hand getting started, give Kaleidoscope Adventures a call. As a leader in the student travel industry for more than 25 years and a former teacher at the helm, KA is equipped to handle your every need with ease. Trust the experts at Kaleidoscope Adventures to make your class trip one your students will remember for years to come! Contact KA at (800) 774-7337 or email

If you plan trips on your own, theres a great new resource available that takes you step-by-step through the process. Group Experience was designed with busy teachers in mind and takes the guess work out of putting together your class trip.

As much as we want summer to last into perpetuity, the 4th of July is a reality check. Its time to get back in the groove and start prepping for a fantastic year in the classroom and beyond!

There are Many Advantages to Traveling Off Season

For many (many) years, my husband traveled with students. Our kids learned at an early age that Dad would essentially be gone from March through June each year. Spring is considered high season in the student travel industry. If youve ever been to Washington D.C. in May, you know exactly what I mean! Popular student destinations are teeming with pubescent travelers, and lines and wait times are long. Maybe its time to consider the many advantages to traveling off season.


Speaking in student travel terms, off season is typically considered to be the fall term of the school year. Most teachers arent yet thinking about a trip. Theyre probably focused on fundraising and figuring out where to go!


There are lots of excellent advantages to traveling off season, not the least of which is price. You can score some great deals on accommodations, transportation, attractions and dining simply by traveling with your group off peak times.

Smaller crowds, shorter lines, better seats and less stress- what more needs to be said?

Prime Picks
Traveling off season most likely means better hotels and motor coaches. If youre not competing with countless other school groups, you can choose what works best for you.

Unique Experiences
There are amazing opportunities that exist ONLY when you travel off season, particularly closer to the holidays. If youre heading to NYC, check out the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes. Washington D.C. hosts nightly events with the National Christmas Tree as the backdrop. Disneys Candlelight Processional and Massed Choir Program is a spectacular performance opportunity only available in November and December.



Kaleidoscope Adventures: Educating Students Through Travel


Traveling off season can be an excellent alternative to the usual spring departure. It just takes a bit more foresight and pre-planning to pull it all together. Enter Kaleidoscope Adventures, a leader in the student travel industry. More than 25 years of experience and a former teacher at the helm means KA is equipped to handle your every need with ease. Trust the experts at Kaleidoscope Adventures to make your off season trip one your students will remember for years to come! Contact KA at (800) 774-7337 or email

There are Great Benefits to Booking Your Student Trip Early

Traveling with students can present some unique challenges for the travel planner, particularly when planning on your own. It can be an overwhelming task fraught with missteps and missed opportunities. However, many of these can be addressed simply by doing your homework early in the game. If you plan wisely, you’ll find there are some great benefits to booking your student trip early.

Book Those Buses

Let’s face it, students typically travel to their destinations by motor coach. While we all envision a cushy coach equipped with the necessary creature comforts, that may not be a reality if you book too late. Spring is a heavy student travel season; if you don’t want to be stuck with a motor coach that resembles something from the 1970s reincarnated, book early!

Contracting early with the motor coach company ensures that your school is at the top of the priority list. Barring any last-minute accidents or breakdowns, your bus will most likely have those coveted outlets and Wi-Fi students simply cannot be without.

Guarantee Great Rates and Rides

In most cases, the motor coach is the largest expense of a trip. As the school year progresses and student trip planning begins in earnest, increased motor coach prices are reflected in the higher demand. The earlier the motor coach is booked, the better the price.

The same holds true for securing a highly qualified and respected motor coach company. Simply put, the best companies book the fastest (often 9-12 months in advance). Request quotes during the summer prior to your trip for the best selection.

Prioritize Performance and Workshop Opportunities

Many student groups are looking for the same kinds of performance or workshop experiences, and some of the best festivals or venues are obviously in high demand. If you take the time to reserve your spot early- even before the school year begins- you’ll safeguard the experience for your students. In many cases, booking early does not require a financial obligation, leaving you free to fundraise throughout the year.

Assure Your Spot at the Best Attractions

Regardless of your student travel destination, it’s important to understand that many of the most popular attractions, museums, shows, cruises, etc. are often booked well in advance. They are popular for a reason, after all! These once-in-a-lifetime experiences are must-dos for your students, so be sure to make your group reservations at least 6-8 months ahead of the trip dates.

Lock In Lodging

One final benefit to booking early is locking in great lodging. The best accommodations for your group might be just a few minutes from the attractions you want to visit. If you like it, put a hold on it! If you wait until 5 months from your departure date, chances are good that the property won’t have availability and you’ll be staying at a less desirable place further from your points of interest. Hmmm… more time on the bus with students…. Let’s get this one locked up!


Kaleidoscope Adventures

Booking your student trip early has some great benefits. However, if you feel like you’re in over your head or out of time, reach out to a reputable student travel like Kaleidoscope Adventures to help plan the perfect trip. More than 25 years of experience and a former teacher at the helm means KA is equipped to handle your every need with ease. Deposit by June 30, 2019 and receive one additional complimentary tour at double occupancy at no cost (excluding airfare). To qualify deposit $2,000 or more for your group by June 30, 2019. That’s a great benefit of booking early!

Trust the experts at Kaleidoscope Adventures to make your trip one your students will remember for years to come!

Planning Student Travel in a Time Crunch

The decorations are packed away and the holiday bills are arriving by bulk mail. Happy New Year! If you are an educator, you know exactly what the new year brings a crush of responsibilities and deadlines! The school year is now moving in fast forward, and covering curriculum, completing extra-curricular activities and wading through the multitude of tasks on your desk can be incredibly overwhelming!

If you travel with students, its also time to wrap up (or begin!) plans for the all-important student trip. If you are a seasoned veteran of student travel, you know that deposits have already been taken and it is now time to collect remaining payments, confirm dates with transportation and accommodations providers and work on rooming lists.

Kaleidoscope Adventures: Educating Students Through Travel

If you are new to planning student travel or if the new year has caught you off guard, relax! There is an abundance of travel resources available to make the entire process easier. A great starting point is Kaleidoscope Adventures (KA), a leading student tour operator for more than 25 years. KAs founder and CEO is a former teacher, so the company understands your challenges and time constraints like no other. The team at Kaleidoscope Adventures is accessible, competent and incredibly knowledgeable. They have the inside scoop on the very best student destinations and will work with you to create an itinerary that meets your curricular goals and budget needs. Planning your student trip with KA is so easy and convenient- especially when time is not on your side!

Another valuable resource is the Student Youth Travel Association (SYTA), an organization that exists to promote and support the student and youth travel market. Youll find tips for choosing great travel partners, planning, safety, and more on the SYTA website. Its a comprehensive source for all things student travel.

Finally, you can always tap into online magazines like Teach & Travel or Student Travel Planning Guide. These publications highlight engaging student trips, tips and hacks for travel and safety protocol.

If the new year has taken you by surprise, you can breathe a bit easier when pulling together your student trip. These sites will help you streamline and save time and money. Unfortunately, though, you are on your own with those holiday bills!

5 Awesome Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains

Full disclosure much to my regret and dismay, I have never visited the Smoky Mountains. My husband has been there (many times), my family has been there and my travel industry colleagues have been there. My kids friends have been there and several high school traveling groups I know have been there. I guess the take away from this intro is that everyone I know has visited and fallen in love with the Smoky Mountains. I seem to be the only one who has yet to experience the splendor of this magnificent spot tucked away in Tennessee. I plan to rectify that very soon so that I can write with first-hand knowledge and experience!

Based on discussions with these many and varied groups, it is abundantly clear that Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville are outstanding destinations for families, students, sports groups, performance groups and faith-based travelers. There really is something for everyone in this delightfully appealing region of the country!

Go “Glamping”
Nestled in the heart of the beautiful Smokies is Aunt Bugs Cabin Rentals, a leader in luxury cabins in Pigeon Forge. Cabins range from one to eight bedrooms, and are surrounded by shopping, shows and stunning vistas. Amenities can include jacuzzis, private indoor pools, game rooms, theater rooms or even rock climbing walls- theres a cabin for every budget or group size! I love the outdoors but appreciate creature comforts when planning my lodging- Aunt Bugs definitely unites the two in spectacular fashion!

Dolly Partons Dixie Stampede
If youre looking for a break from the usual vacation dining experience, look no further than Dolly Partons Dixie Stampede. It really is a dining experience! Horses, pageantry, trick riding and a good ole rivalry between the North and South, the Dixie Stampede will keep you cheering while enjoying a fabulous, southern-style meal. Bring a group and salute the red, white and blue!

Defy Gravity
There are two really cool opportunities to defy gravity while in the Smokies- Flyaway Indoor Skydiving and Outdoor Gravity Park. Flyaway Indoor Skydiving lets you experience the freedom of skydiving in the safety of an indoor wind tunnel. There is nothing more exhilarating than the moment you realize you are soaring through the air with nothing more than a flight suit (well, and an instructor, goggles helmet, gloves and earplugs!)

Roll down a 1000 ft. hill in a spaceship-like OGO (wet or dry- depending on the season). Outdoor Gravity Park is the only place in America where you can experience three, unique zorb experiences. Individuals or groups of 3 can roll along zig-zagging tracks or speed down the hill in a ventilated and sometimes wet giant plastic ball. This is extreme adventure like no other!

Take to the Water (or the Trees!)
Whitewater Rafting with Smoky Mountain Outdoors is a great option for groups or individuals looking to raft the scenic Pigeon River. Class III-IV whitewater for ages 8 and up or milder Class I-II river floats for ages 3 and up are available with a professional guide leading you all the way. Experience the splendor of the Smoky Mountains from an entirely new perspective. I will be choosing the float option ????

Start the day Rafting in the Smokies with Class I-IV rapids, or take to the tree tops with a zip line course. You can hike, complete a ropes challenge course, or cross a 150 ft. suspension bridge to a 10-acre Adventure Island and playground. This is family friendly fun at its best!

Titanic Adventures Awaits
The ill-fated voyage of the Titanic holds a unique place in American history. It continues to intrigue and beckons us to explore the stories of its passengers. Now visitors can learn more about Titanic at the immense, ship-shaped permanent attraction in Pigeon Forge. Completely interactive and filled with artifacts, groups can investigate all the museum has to offer, even participate in the Titanics First-Class Dining Experience.

If this agenda doesnt wear me out when I visit the Smokies, the next five awesome attractions will definitely test my travel mettle- read more in my next post about the dazzling and fun-filled Smoky Mountains!


Washington D.C.- A Civics Lesson in Action

Teachers, homeschool co-ops, scout groups, history buffs lend me your ears! If you are trying to inspire, educate or simply love this wonderful nation, consider planning a trip to its capital.
Theres no better civics lesson than a trip to Washington D.C. Of course, there are the attractions with which most people are familiar; a visit to the most prestigious address in the world, a tour of the monuments, or an awe-inspiring stop at Arlington Cemetery to witness the changing of the guards. However, Washington D.C. boasts some hidden gems as well! My goal is to shine a light on both to ensure you dont miss a thing!

National Museum of American History
This Smithsonian is dedicated to the preservation and heritage of American History. View the original Star-Spangled Banner- the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem. Explore the integral role of women in our nations history or delve into our unique religious heritage from colonial days to the present.

National Museum of Natural History
Feast your eyes on the largest blue diamond in the world or explore ancient Egypt (even the remains of a mummified cat!) The National Museum of Natural History is a treasure trove of must-sees.

National Air and Space Museum
The National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. documents the incredible history of flight and aviation, including the 1903 Wright Flyer and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia. Dont forget to rocket over to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for a close-up of the Space Shuttle Discovery!

International Spy Museum
Make it your mission to get to the International Spy Museum, an astounding collection of espionage artifacts that would make Maxwell Smart jealous! Jaw-dropping stories, interactive exhibitsand interviews with real spies- awesome!

The Newseum
The Newseum is a high-tech, interactive museum highlighting the past, present and history of journalism. The Newseum is a must-see in a city of great attractions. Celebrate the freedoms guaranteed to all Americans under the First Amendment.

The Holocaust Museum
The Holocaust Museum is Americas official memorial to the Holocaust. This is an extraordinary and powerful opportunity to learn about and remember both the victims and survivors of the systematic persecution and murder of more than 6 million Jews (reservation required).

The Washington National Cathedral
The Washington National Cathedral is an opportunity to explore a masterpiece of architecture in this active Episcopal Church for all people. Look closely- a piece of the lunar surface is housed in one of the stained-glass windows (known as the Space Window).

The National Archives
The National Archives is a great chance to study how the actions of the Federal Government are based in our Constitution. Participants take on the roles of archivists and researchers completing a very important assignment: providing the President of the United States with real-life examples of our Constitution in action. The National Archives houses the three original Charters of Freedom, including the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Monuments
No trip to Washington D.C. is complete without a visit to these monuments to freedom and sacrifice. Stops at the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, F.D.R. Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial are powerful reminders of those who gave all for every American.

Arlington Cemetery
A stop at Arlington Cemetery allows you to witness the Changing of the Guard, visit John F. Kennedys gravesite and the Lee Mansion and pay respects at the Tomb of the Unknown. Its a somber and incredibly moving experience for visitors.

Fords Theatre
Step back in time and experience history at Fords Theatre the site of President Abraham Lincolns assassination. Tours, educational programs and even live theatre are available in this historic venue.

House of the Temple
Heres a unique attraction that most dont realize should be part of the itinerary! The Masonic House of the Temple offers a glimpse into the secret world of the masons. The building, completed in 1915, is an adaptation of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site
Guided tours are available at this home of famous abolitionist and reformer, Frederick Douglass. Catch a glimpse of the statesmans life and legacy.
Fort Reno Park
Civil war buffs will love this spot, part of the Rock Creek Park and the site of the only civil war battle to take place in Washington D.C. As Rock Creek is a national park, its a quiet escape from the bustle of the city amid majestic scenery. Ranger-led tours are available.

As you plan your trip to Washington D.C., its important to note that many of the attractions are FREE (we all love FREE!) There are very few destinations with so much to offer at such a low price point. It truly is a living history lesson that should not be missed. Call the experts at Kaleidoscope Adventures or email to plan your trip. Time to get packing!




Group Travel Planning- Set Your Travel Timeline

I have the good fortune to be married to a man who LOVES to travel. He has given me two children who LOVE to travel. It seems we are in a perpetual state of planning travel! We learned long ago that the key to a successful trip is planning on a timeline. The same applies to planning your group travel. The fundamental success of your adventure lies in laying it out ahead of time (kind of like packing your suitcase!)

Planning Your Travel Timeline
If you are a seasoned group tour planner or striking out on your own for the first time, youll have lots of questions to answer, lots of details to check off your list, and lots of deadlines to meet. Below are some GENERAL guidelines to follow as you prepare for your departure date. Depending on the unique needs of your group, not all of these checkpoints will apply. For example, some music or band festivals must be booked more than two years in advance or certain museums require reservations more than a year out. Again, think in terms of benchmarks, not specifics!

18 Months Prior to Departure
? Create your attendance list
? Determine the approximate length and dates of the trip
? Begin researching your chosen destination to find out what attractions, museums, theme parks, outdoor adventures, water parks, etc. you would like to attend and the costs associated with each.
? Begin researching transportation, hotels, vacation homes, dining and shopping (if applicable) and the costs associated with each.
? If this is a school trip, request approval from your administration

10 to 12 Months Prior to Departure
? Set firm dates
? If you plan to fly, final pricing may not be available until 10 months prior to departure. Also, arrange transportation to and from the airport once you have secured your flights
? Motorcoach/minibus companies also work 10 months in advance. If traveling by motorcoach or minibus, you should begin requesting pricing (called quotes) and book your transportation company
? Begin searching for hotel/vacation homes and request prices. Once you find a price you like, book it!
? If you decide to include meals in your trip, youll want to remember to choose a group-friendly restaurant or dinner show. Ask for their best group pricing and then book it before the space is gone
? If shopping is on your itinerary, this is a good time to request a meet and greet with the shopping center or store and secure discounts for your group
? If you are traveling with students, determine who will help chaperone the trip. Parents, teachers, sponsors, etc. need time to plan as well!
? Finalize your itinerary.
? Project the estimated/approximate cost per person.
? Begin promoting your trip (including the cost per person) via email, flyers, posters, website, social media, newsletters, etc.
? Set up a deposit and payment schedule for each member in your group as they sign up
? If participating in a music/dance/theatre festival, fill out all paperwork and submit
? If you will offer travel protection (its strongly encouraged), now is the time to research, fill out paperwork and submit

6 to 9 Months Prior to Departure
? Continue spreading the word about your trip via newsletters, social media, emails, meetings, etc., keeping interest alive with those who have signed up and possibly attracting a few more to participants
? If you are a school group, scouting troop, youth group etc., now is the time to fundraise
? If your trip is educational, research and create the curriculum to support your goals
? Distribute a copy of the itinerary to all members of your group (meetings, association, youth group, scouting, religious, reunion, etc.)
? Participants should be signed up and deposits paid
? Confirm all reservations including hotel/vacation homes, transportation, attractions, dining, shopping and travel insurance

4 Months Prior to Departure
? Continue promoting the trip and contact anyone who has shown an interest but still has not committed
? Continue fundraising if needed
? Collect payments per your payment schedule

3 Months Prior to Departure
? Final payments should be paid
? Finalize lists of all participants and choose roommates for hotels (if applicable), seating arrangements on the motorcoach (if applicable), and/or seating arrangements on your flight if flying
? Purchase all theme park, attraction, water park and dinner show tickets and begin making final payments to your chosen hotel/vacation homes, restaurants, transportation companies, etc.

1 Month Prior to Departure
? Schedule a final meeting to confirm the details of your trip including packing lists, travel tips and any last-minute information
? Gather emergency contact, medical and allergy information from each traveler
? Be sure you have all completed permission forms, travel insurance forms, etc.
While this timeline may seem a bit cumbersome, its a great tool for organizing your thoughts and details of the trip. Just as we always manage to get our bags packed and out the door on time, a little pre-planning will help guide you smoothly to your departure date as well!

Next in the Series Finding Stuff To Do!