Promoting Your Tour
Almost forty years of experience traveling with Brightspark has convinced me that the absolute best way to promote my tour is to consistently provide fun and educational experiences on our middle school trips to Washington, D.C. and Springfield, Illinois. The real foundation for maintaining and growing participation is satisfied customers spreading the word, and families who make sure that each of their children has an opportunity for the same high quality experience. However, I do have some other suggestions.
We begin planning and promoting the next year’s tour immediately upon the completion of the current tour. We urge the students to wear any souvenir clothing that they purchased on the trip to school the first day we return, creating a buzz about the just completed trip, which is noticed by younger students. I always immediately distribute a simple post-trip survey to all participants, asking for input on each part of the trip. The results help us to plan the next trip, and also allow me to state that our tours are “student certified.” Photographs from the trip are posted on the school website and have a dedicated page in the school yearbook. Large group photos are displayed in classrooms by the chaperones. Most years I contact the town newspapers and offer a photo or two from the trip and some highlights for a brief story. They love having student quotes to include.
I make sure that the dates for next year’s trip are promptly placed on the school calendar. Since our trips are not school sponsored, we always travel on weekends. It is important to not interfere with tournaments, concerts, or service projects if you want to maintain goodwill with your school district. I also check to make sure that we aren’t going up against any community wide events that would affect our age group and prevent some students form participating. To make sure that parents are keeping the weekend open, I contribute small articles to the parent newsletters in the Spring, announcing the dates for the following year, features of the trip, and even the estimated cost. Advance notice helps families to save and budget for the trip. I always include my email in the articles, in case parents have questions. When they do, I offer to send them a copy of the pre-trip packet from the previous trip, which includes not only the itinerary, but also rules and procedures that we insist on.
When we are back to school in the fall, I once again use the parent newsletters to publicize the trip and include a reminder on the school website that registration forms are being sent through the mail, making sure that it is clear that it is not a school sponsored trip, but that it is sponsored and chaperoned by teachers who are again available to answer questions.
At our school, the social studies teachers are among the main chaperones for the trips. That allows us to often mention in our lessons that, “You’ll be seeing the changing of the guard in Arlington Cemetery if you go to D.C.” or “Wait until you see how they have honored Dr. King at his memorial.” When we have occasion to show photos of historic DC sites as part of the curriculum, we make sure that it shows our students as well.
We like to get registration materials out early to parents and students, hoping to create excitement for the trip. As sign-ups hit a lull, we then begin to have students create their roommate combinations. Two things happen when we do that. Students who have been “on the fence” decide to sign up, fearing they will miss out, and those already registered begin to encourage their friends to join them in their rooms. Usually that final “rush” assures us that we have reached out to every student and family that we possibly could.