Monday, 6 January 2014

Frugal educational trips

There are so many educational trips that it would be interesting and useful to take but outings are often expensive. There are three parts to this expense:
  • entrance fees
  • travel costs
  • food/drink/other items bought on the visit.
This is a short series about trying to keep the costs of educational visits down. This first post is about assessing the value of a visit.

Before getting to the entrance fees, it is worth thinking back a stage and being thoughtful about the purpose of the visit. Our most useful trips have been those that support the children's learning. For example, a visit to Dover Castle was relevant to Middle Son's history studies but we were able to combine this with the Five in a Row book, The Glorious Flight, for the younger two.
This isn't always easy with children of different ages and isn't an area where I have always succeeded. 
This isn't to say that we never go on trips that aren't immediately connected with learning but particularly, when money is tight it is worth working a visit for all it is worth!

Onto actual visits- these are some questions to ask about the visit.
  • Is this the best place to visit for this topic?
  • Is there somewhere that would be equally good which is cheaper or nearer? This can often be the case with historical visits, here in the UK. 
  • Would it be best to visit this venue with an educational group or as a family? Educational visits often have re-enactors and interactive sessions for children and can often be substantially cheaper or free. A group visit may be less useful if it is only for particular age children or only looks at part of a venue.
  • When is the best time to visit? Some popular places, such as the Science Museum, can become uncomfortably crowded in school holidays. For home educators, visiting in school terms can be ideal. At the beginning and end of term there won't even be many school parties so maximising time spent in interactive parts of museums.
  • Will this visit be helpful for all of my children or just some? Can the visit be altered in some way so that it is beneficial for all? 
How do you plan an educational trip?
Are there other questions that you would ask?

Part 2: Saving on entrance fees.


  1. For me, as an American living in England, this country is a field trip paradise! We've been National Trust members for the past 8 1/2 years, and that's been our primary field trip source (best for our small budget). In nicer weather, we try to go to a NT property every weekend, so I count any of those as field trips,even if they're not related to our studies. My kids have learned so much--British history, science, architecture, art, music, and even literature. I do have some specifically-planned field trips that I try to match to what they're learning. Last school year, my son was studying WW2, and my daughter was studying Ancient History. I planned a trip to London to visit the Churchill War Rooms and the British Museum. We also fit in a visit to Churchill's home (a NT property) on the same trip. One of our favorite field trips was an alpaca farm I found online. We were studying alpacas and llamas as part of a unit on Peru. I emailed this place and asked if they could give us a tour. The price was reasonable, and the owner was so nice and helpful. She let the kids feed the alpacas and told us lots of interesting facts--so much fun. Most of our field trips have been geared toward my older 2 kids, but my youngest seems to enjoy them. Last year, I had planned to take her to a farm park, since we were doing a farm unit, but we totally ran out of money. I still plan to take her, even though that unit is long gone. I'll be reading Beatrix Potter books with her later this year, so we'll go to some favorite Beatrix Potter locations in the Lake District. Last summer, we camped at a Christian retreat near Battle. Since I knew both my children would be studying the Battle of Hastings this school year, I made a point to save some money to go to the battleground. I knew we wouldn't get down there again for at least another year, so I made the most of our trip by including it. Most of my field trip choices depend on money and location, but I'm always looking for places to go. Even when we're back in America, I search for places along our travel routes. Highlights include The Pony Express Museum and a pumpkin patch. Once I made a geography unit to fit a place we went. We visited friends in Netherlands, so I wrote lessons plans afterward and managed to fit it into our schedule. It wasn't in my original plans to do that, but I knew it would be so meaningful since we had just visited. Anyway, I enjoyed your post. You can tell I love field trips, lol. I can't think of any other questions I would ask--you covered it. We've been to Dover but not to the castle--I need to consider that someday.

  2. Debbie, thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I agree that so many useful trips and learning can be fitted in around other travel.

  3. We studied American History the year we lived outside of Philadelphia so there are numerous historical places there. I made a list of all the things in the area and then evaluated based on cost and what we could do or see. We did a number of things. I think my kids remember that as a time when we did lots of outings. We stopped by the meeting house where Benjamin West attended and the house where we lived. We went to Valley Forge for George Washington's birthday celebration. It was easy to get things that matched with what we were learning. In the northwest it has been harder to find outings that don't cost too much and are somewhat educational.

  4. Beth, that sounds like an amazing year. We are starting the Georgian period-there is so much we could do. I like the idea of making a list and evaluating it on cost and educational grounds. A type of cost per educational hours!